It is intriguing when you get to know about the perks and privileges a data scientist gets. But do we know what it takes to become one? In order to know their side of the story, every week we get in touch with some of the top data scientists from the industry and try to take a look at their journey.
For this week’s ‘My Journey In Data Science’ we got in touch with Khaleeque Ansari, Data Scientist at ZB.io. Ansari has more than 5 years of experience in the field of data science. Before joining Zb.io, he worked with some of the well-known names from the industry such as MakeMyTrip, SirionLabs, GrownOut and PropTiger.com, among others. With extensive knowledge and practical experience in machine learning, statistics, NLP, deep learning, recommendation systems, etc., Ansari has built scalable machine learning systems from scratch over the years.
A computer science and engineering graduate from IIT Delhi, Ansari always had a great inclination towards mathematics and coding — he even scored pretty well in mathematics in JEE. And with time, his love for these two things was just getting stronger.
But talking about when he fell in love with data science, Ansari said that he did a course in IIT called “Intro to machine learning” which he found very interesting. He soon realised how important it is to have good coding skills and analytical thinking. “This is where my journey in Data Science started,” said Ansari.
To gain more knowledge of the domain and to stand out, Ansari did a few courses at IIT where he learnt more about machine learning. But later, the IIT Delhi grad moved to self-learning — through Coursera, Kaggle competitions, Fast.ai and research during his jobs. He says that he is inspired by Jeremy Howard, a celebrated data scientists who’s also the founder of Fast.ai.
Ansari started his career in data science with PropTiger. He was the first member of the company’s data science team. During his tenure at PropTiger, he built a user analytics dashboard for the company to improve customer retention. “I used and learned a lot of cloud-native technologies to work on this data science project,” said Ansari. “It was a really good experience from him, building everything from scratch.”
While Ansari shared his first job story, we asked how he prepared for the interviews and he said that he did a lot of practice by modelling on open datasets. Later, the strategy was to look for companies that had a good amount of data or had the vision for making their business decisions data-centric. And when he managed to land his first data science interview the interview was pretty stats heavy. “There were a lot of questions about probability, in-depth working of machine learning algorithms,” said Ansari. “The also asked coding questions, basic computer science algorithms and also, gave a real-world problem and discussed an approach to solve it.”
Ansari’s Take On Rejection
Setbacks, rejection, imposter syndrome, the never-ending learning and studying process etc. are pretty common with data science professionals. And to know how a data scientist deals with them, we asked Ansari about it. The Zb.io data scientist believes that rejection is a part of life and one should take it as constructive feedback and prepare well for the next round. There is no shortage of opportunities in this continuously expanding data science field.
Talking about the learning process, just like other data science professionals even Ansari feel that the learning process never stops — you always feel the need to keep learning new and latest stuff. He believes that machine learning is always evolving and there are new things coming in every day — it’s an ever-expanding field.
When asked about the strategy to thrive in this domain, he said, “the strategy is to keep learning about the latest research happening in the field. Keep yourself updated with the latest machine learning algorithms.”
His Happy Moment As A Data Scientist
Almost every data scientist has their personal favourite project or moment, and we wanted to know the same for Ansari. So, when asked about one of his most successful projects, he said that the current chatbot for MakeMyTrip is the one that really excites him.
“The chatbot is called Myra and I guess its pretty amazing. It is already serving more than a million requests on a weekly basis,” said Ansari. He also added that soon Myra will also be able to work on speech input. Meaning, customers will be able to book or cancel tickets using their voice — just by talking to Myra.
Advice To All The Aspiring Data Scientists
When you are starting your data science journey, make sure you are not just studying but also gaining a strong grip on the basic machine learning models and also understanding the mathematics of the model. Talking about learning resources, there are a lot of courses available online such as Coursera, fast.ai etc.
Furthermore, make sure you build a strong portfolio (including LinkedIn and GitHub pages ). You can either work on personal projects (using open data sets that are available) or Kaggle competitions. And most importantly, be confident when you are going for your data science interview.