Data science and analytics are multidisciplinary in nature, making it an open-field for working professionals and aspirants from across domains. That said, some academic experts believe the commodification of data science education contributes to creating a demand-supply gap in the industry.
To dig deeper, for this week’s data science career interview, we spoke with Dr Hemachandran K, Professor – Department of AI & ML at Woxsen University. In this interview, Dr Hemachandran sheds light on how the COVID pandemic spurred data science education, how governments and corporations participate etc.
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AIM: What’s the current data science education market look like?
Dr Hemachandran K: The outlook of a job in the field of data science and analytics is always excellent. But the COVID pandemic has definitely given a facelift to the field of data analysis and data visualisation. And, graduates in these fields have pretty much always been excellent. If we compare with somebody who studies the history of data visualisation with the history of epidemiology, we can find many parallels.
Today in the situation of this pandemic, we see that many public agencies are able to disseminate data about the spread of coronavirus. It’s more important than the information is presented in a way that is easy to understand for a common man. The worldwide consumers of data are really discovering the value of well-executed visualisations of data. The technologies that we teach at Woxsen University, whether it be applied analytics, predictive analytics, data mining, big data analytics, data visualisation, along with artificial intelligence and machine learning) programmes are specifically designed and more relevant to the industry right now.
AIM: What are the challenges universities face while designing a data science and analytics course?
Dr Hemachandran K: The most significant challenge for a university to augment data science and analytics education is the availability of skilled professionals. The management of Woxsen University believes the learning platform of the student is based on the skill of the teacher who teaches it. Department of artificial intelligence at Woxsen university is fortified with high configured NVIDIA GPUs, miscellaneous tools such as Raspberry PI, Arduino Boards, IP Cameras, Motion detector sensors, iPads, Amazon Echo’s, etc., along with qualified, passionate professors. The methodology they opt accelerates the students’ dream to attain a secured job in no time.
AIM: What are the major obstacles the data and analytics education space is facing in India?
Dr Hemachandran K: The major obstacles in the space are — ensuring the flow of data, which is essential for big data analytics. Alongside, poor connectivity, poor internet, poorly integrated data systems make the situations even worse. It is difficult to access data with poor data systems, and one can only be productive if we can correct these problems.
It is also a challenge to educate and train educators, which is not only tiring and time-consuming but also sometimes unproductive. The availability of qualified teachers and mentors has to be ensured. Plus, necessary actions need to be taken to bring all teachers and mentors to a mindset to cooperate and show curiosity.
AIM: How can governments and corporations encourage data science education space?
Dr Hemachandran K: Educational data mining and learning analytics are used in research and to build models that can influence online learning systems. Analytics helps to detect whether a student in an online course is going astray and he/she needs a correction in the course. It helps to identify the boredom patterns and redirects the student’s attention. The government can offer data analytics courses for students with lucrative scholarships.
The government of India can also offer internships in some of their agencies and can give scholarships to do internships abroad. They can develop MOUs with various universities within the country and outside for encouraging student exchange programs. The government, along with some agencies like the Ministry of Human Resource Development, All India Council for Technical Education, can popularise data science and analytics courses rurally by offering short term, instructor-led courses with a duration of 10 to 15 hour. This can help many to explore the field of data analytics.
AIM: How does an industry partnership add value to the data science courses?
Dr Hemachandran K: Moving beyond theoretical concepts of simple data analysis, it’s important to equip students with technical knowledge and business acumen for translating complex data sets into meaningful information. These insights are vital in making intelligent business decisions. Industry connection creates an opportunity to engage top-notch students in the leading industries, which helps them become new business leaders. To engage the rising stars of the analytics field and add value to their business, hands-on experience with industrial leads are indispensable.
Connecting students to the industry helps to revamp their skills and knowledge required to cater to the needs of the industry. This, in turn, helps bridge the gap between the students and the cutting-edge knowledge required by the industries. This formulates the student to prepare themselves for their future and equip themselves for better careers.
AIM: With a lot of online courses and MOOCs available, how does a professional degree make a difference in the long term data science career?
Dr Hemachandran K: Professional degree courses provide you with in-depth knowledge on data science, real-time analytics, statistical computing, SQL, parsing machine-generated data and the domain of deep learning in AI. It also helps to leverage big data analytics with a spark of data science.
AIM: What’s your advice for aspiring data scientists/or similar roles?
Dr Hemachandran K: I believe in — “Success is a journey, not a destination”. The values, lessons, challenges learning in the process of becoming great is what makes the process worth following. A data scientist solves business problems using statistical, mathematical and data techniques. The values that one needs to learn, to embrace and focus on are all in the mindset.
Anyone who possesses a bachelor’s degree in data science or from a related field can start a career as a data scientist. A certified course in data science will be preferable. A background in mathematics and statistics will be an added value. Expertise in any of the programming languages, like R or Python, will be beneficial.
According to inputs from Glassdoor, data scientists make an average of $116,100 per year, making data science jobs lucrative, now more than ever. So this is the right time to pursue a career in data science and analytics.
Some of the key things to remember in your data science journey are —
- Structured thinking
- Understanding the problem
- Planning is critical
- Divide the work plan into segments
- Execute it