Listen to this story
American financial services giant PayPal’s approach to implementing and leveraging data science is driven by the growing demand for personalised customer experiences as it helps in predicting customer actions and streamlining payments, while data analytics provides valuable insights into behaviour and preferences, enabling tailored experiences.
“We put this through features such as faster checkouts, preferred modes and currencies, saved payment methods, real-time updates, and diverse pricing options that detect fraud and protect sensitive data,” said V. Chandramouliswaran, Vice President of Data & Site Leader for PayPal India, in an exclusive interaction with AIM.
PayPal originated from the birth of Confinity in December 1998 by Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, and Luke Nosek, initially focusing on security software for handheld devices. After an unsuccessful venture, Confinity shifted its emphasis to a digital wallet, launching the first version of PayPal in 1999.
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Join our editors every weekday evening as they steer you through the most significant news of the day, introduce you to fresh perspectives, and provide unexpected moments of joy
In March 2000, Confinity merged with x.com, an online financial services company founded by Elon Musk in March 1999. Musk, optimistic about Confinity’s money transfer business, clashed with Bill Harris, who left the company in May 2000. Musk decided to refocus x.com on payments in October of that year, with Peter Thiel replacing him as CEO.
Renamed PayPal in June 2001, the company went public in 2002, generating over $61 million in its IPO listed under the ticker PYPL at $13 per share. Since then, the company has been heavily investing in cutting-edge technology to provide better solutions to customers.
PayPal is seeking qualified individuals for three distinct roles within the team – data scientists in product analytics, paid marketing and data scientists (managers).
First, in the role of data scientists in product analytics, they will conduct comprehensive data analysis, delving into large, multi-dimensional datasets to derive valuable insights. The ideal candidate should possess three to five years of experience in this capacity and demonstrate proficiency in SQL, Excel, and visualization tools like Tableau or Qlikview.
Additionally, expertise in a statistical programming language such as R or Python is preferred. Specialised knowledge in payments or other consumer financial products, along with experience in product analytics and experimentation (A/B testing), is highly desirable.
Simultaneously, they are recruiting data scientists in paid marketing, seeking individuals with a background in analytics, data science, or management consulting, or an equivalent blend of analytical and project management expertise.
Candidates should have hands-on experience with Python, SQL, and BigQuery, and be accomplished contributors capable of managing high-performing data scientists and quantitative analysts. Specific experience in tracking and measurement within paid media is a key requirement for this role.
Finally, Data scientists and data scientist managers should have proven analytical skills, demonstrating proficiency in SQL and data visualisation. They should excel in leading cross-functional collaborations, and effectively coordinating among multiple stakeholders. Their expertise extends to understanding business considerations, enabling them to enhance decision-making methodologies.
What’s Cooking inside PayPal’s AI Kitchen
“We are developing AI models and generative AI products for both internal use and customers,” said Chandramouliswaran, boosting the daily operations. The company is committed to democratising financial services’ access to everyone by relying responsibly on AI and automation.
As for generative AI, PayPal is actively exploring various use cases such as leveraging co-pilots for faster software development, creating internal and external chatbots that use their own data ecosystem to predict customer needs, engaging in compliance-related activities for a deeper understanding of consumers and sellers, and strengthening defenses in both the risk and cyber space.
Acknowledging that generative AI presents both opportunities and challenges, especially in security programs enabling malicious actors to create fake identities and sophisticated malware, Chandramouliswaran commented, “On the flip side, firms can use generative AI to enhance defense by deploying automated threat detection systems and adaptive security protocols,”
“The core to our hiring strategy for data science roles lies in functional skills and business acumen,” said Chandramouliswaran.
PayPal seeks candidates with strong problem-solving skills for real-world data science challenges. Key functional skills include expertise in machine learning, OpenCV, and deep learning, with a preference for experience in payments, banking, risk assessment, customer management, and marketing.
While a foundation in programming, statistics, economics, and mathematics is important, logical reasoning, data interpretation, and a programming-oriented mindset are crucial. The team values experience and exposure over specific educational backgrounds, as long as they understand the significance of their contributions and believe in a collaborative approach to work.
“Our aim is to bring in individuals who consistently challenge and inspire us, propelling us to innovate on a daily basis,” he commented.
When it comes to what the company will help the candidate with, they can expect an inclusive and diverse work culture where practical problem-solving skills, curiosity, understanding of business objectives, and teamwork are valued. Alongside, alignment with PayPal’s core values is essential for candidates, contributing to the company’s mission.
However, candidates often make a common mistake during their interviews –
Often they approach it with a narrow perspective, fixated on a specific tool or method, “a hammer and looking for a nail,” in the words of Chandramouliswaran. Instead, they should prioritise understanding the “why” behind a problem, and its significance, understanding the potential benefits for the company, and then strategically delving into the “how” to address it.
Responsibilities for data scientists include problem structuring, data preparation, model development, validation, and collaboration with business and product teams. Comfort with ambiguity is expected due to the complex nature of challenges, and the ability to define impactful problem statements is considered a differentiating factor.
PayPal’s Global Technology Centres in Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad constitute the company’s largest facilities outside the US, with India-based employees playing a crucial role in advancing their global mission. Teams in India have made significant contributions across various domains, leading to over 300 patent applications.
The work culture prioritises the collective responsibility of employees in realising the company’s mission and culture. Innovation, a core value, is fostered by providing a secure environment for learning, skill enhancement, and experimentation.
The company is committed to creating an inclusive, diverse and engaging work environment by actively listening to employees, expanding the talent pipeline, crafting immersive experiences, and promoting well-being.
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) connect diverse employees and allies, fostering cultural change while Community Impact Teams, locally-led, strengthen relationships between PayPal offices and their communities through volunteering and grantmaking.“We differentiate ourselves through this approach,” said Chandramouliswaran.
Another interesting pillar of PayPal promoting innovation is through their Global Innovation Tournament, aligned with their three-horizon approach. The tournament involves multiple phases, including business plan development, prototyping, and pitching to PayPal’s leadership. In the 2022 edition, nearly 540 submissions were received, with two of the top three finalists originating from India. The tournament serves as a learning platform, encouraging employees to hone new skills in a secure environment.
“PayPal’s global presence empowers businesses and individuals to give better control of their finances. Our success is driven by a purposeful mission and a commitment to developing its employees as a key competitive advantage,” concluded Chandramouliswaran.
Click here to apply.