The next story on women in analytics is that of Dr. Madalasa Venkataraman who is the Chief Data Scientist At TEG Analytics. A researcher at heart and a contrarian by nature, Madhu brings a unique perspective in leveraging the vast knowledge of statistical concepts and analytical techniques to solve complex business problems.
With 18+ years of experience across marketing, finance, insurance and urban governance, her current role at TEG is centred around developing solutions around data harmonisation, traditional analytics solutions, marketing mix models, semantic/text analytics, recommender systems, forecasting, fraud analytics and pricing analytics across multi-functional industry domains.
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A Fellow from IIM Bangalore, she has worked in academia and corporate sector, she drives the culture of innovation at TEG and encourages the team to challenge status quo. As she self admittedly says “I like the ‘researchy’ feel to the work that allows me to experiment and innovate to combine pure theoretic principles of data analysis to achieve real-time impact oriented results.”
Apart from being an analytics leader, she teaches finance and economics courses at IIMs and other prestigious universities. She is also an avid columnist and her publications are frequently seen in academic and policy journals. When she’s not torturing data to confess to its deep, dark secrets, Madhu de-stresses with mind-numbing pulp fiction. And if you ever want to tickle your funny bone, checkout her morning posts on TEG buzz.
Here are her responses to the questions on her journey in analytics, career in analytics for a women, challenges of being a women leader in tech, and others.
Q. What does the career in analytics/data science looks like for a woman?
I don’t perceive the data sciences field as being different for women compared to men- this is not a field that implicitly or explicitly encourages gender disparity. Across co-workers, clients and industry expertise trumps gender every time. I see this field as an interesting domain led by great creativity, solid expertise and precise communication, and both women and men have the potential to do excellent work.
Q. Why did you choose this field as a career option?
Working with data is so much fun. Data is the lens to the truth, and my job as a data scientist is to get to that story, what worked, what didn’t work, and why. It’s technically demanding, but highly creative; identifying and stitching data into a story is one of the most fulfilling things in data analysis. Data shows why honoured strategies fail, where the break points are- and identifies the right ingredients to the secret sauce that makes businesses tick. There’s an opportunity like no other, to make a real impact on the world, across sectors- social, government or corporate.
Q. How has been your journey so far?
I’ve been in the education sector for very many years, I have mentored talent, worked with businesses, and honed my math and research skills. I feel I’m in a great place to harness all that learning right now in my current role as Chief Data Scientist at TEG. I have learnt a lot, am still learning, and think that’s going to be a never ending process.
Q. Do you struggle to maintain a work-life balance?
This question is difficult to answer, because I believe one should aim for work-life congruence, rather than work life balance. Work and life are not opposing events to balance – they do bleed into each other, and juggling these different priorities is required, and they need to sync in the long term to do justice to both. Having said that, I have, at no point in time felt that either aspect is getting shortchanged. TEG has a supportive environment (what I like is that mothers take off for kids exams for half days 😊), but my teammates, spouse, kids and support network have been exemplary in helping me maintain this congruence.
Q. Your thoughts on incorporating more women in new tech sectors.
Diversity brings different kinds of intuitions to any data analysis. And women bring a lot of diversity and POV’s to the table. This area is exploding with opportunity for men and women, youngsters and the young-at-heart alike. The market is not holding them back – it is truly interdisciplinary in its thinking, and gender bias is not an issue. Women need to build in higher courage and self-confidence in their abilities from the school levels up, and women in senior positions need to take their mentorship role seriously.
Q. What are the key changes in education/career choices that could change the current scenario?
There are three aspects that would empower people in this ecosystem
- Focus on solving problems rather than identifying issues;
- Focus on business understanding rather than just systems and technology
- Foster an interest in lifelong learning.