Senior Data Scientist Yeshwanth Babu talks about his experience of providing Data Science Consulting to Tech and Retails giants in Silicon Valley


Yeshwanth Babu,
Senior Data Scientist – Global Consulting
Fractal Analytics
MBA’ 13

Find out more in the interview below, where he talks about his experience of providing Data Science Consulting to Tech and Retail giants in Silicon Valley.

Q&A

  • Please tell us about your typical day at work as Senior Data Scientist.

My typical day at work starts with me looking at my project tracker – a simple document where I keep track of my short and long term projects. At any point in time, I am working on one long term project and one or two short term analysis type projects. I am also responsible for the performance of my team of 4 Analysts.

Steps in my work involve:-

  1. breaking down an abstract problem into actionable sub problems with goals
  2. extracting and cleansing the data
  3. doing extensive Exploratory Data Analysis (EDA)
  4. writing optimized and scalable code to build models
  5. measuring performance or arriving at inference
  6. finally presenting the results to business stakeholders
  • You have been working in Data Science Analytics consulting field from past 8 years. What advice would you give to students aspiring to work in this field?

Data Science consulting gives you opportunities to work on diverse set of problems. In my last 4 years, I have almost worked with most of the tech and retail giants in the Silicon Valley. You get to work with the best minds in their respective domains, but here is the catch, you are always expected to bring something new to the table. In my experience, I always felt that many a time clients hired one of us so we could provide them a fresh perspective. As a consultant you are paid by the hour, hence you always have to be on your toes, be extra prepared for the meetings. All in all you always have to be a step ahead than the rest of your product team members.

Last 4 years consulting for 10 different fortune 100 companies and 3 different emerging and high potential start- ups in the bay area taught me three great mantras-

  1. Fail Fast → Philosophy of incremental development. Cut losses when something isn’t working and quickly pivot to something new.
  2. Move Fast → Let’s say a particular problem deals with 5 lines of businesses (LOB’s) and let’s say lob A and B alone account for 85% of the business and lob A alone accounts for 60% of the revenues. I / My team would immediately go after LOB A, let’s say building a forecasting model to predict demand – supply in that lob or building an inference model to understand the $ value of a customer moving through different funnel stages in that lob. My point being solve for that 60% module, validate and report results. So that the business stakeholders have something to hold on to or plan for at least for that lob in the short term while you try to figure out the entire problem and solve for the same.
  3. Ask the right questions and always question the status quo.
  • How is working in US different than working in India?

I get to work with a diverse set of people in the US. Diversity in a team / company has huge benefits. I have been on projects where data scientists and behavioral scientists have worked together. I had the opportunity to have worked with a head chef on scenario planning regarding which cuisines the culinary team should go for on which days of the week to maximize coupon sales in the office kitchens. So to summarize in one word – Diversity.

  • What role did Great Lakes play in shaping your career?

I owe a tremendous lot to my Professors at Great Lakes. Every single class in the curriculum, right from Statistics to Economics to Ethics to Risk Management was important. I specifically want to thank a few of them whose classes I enjoyed thoroughly.

  1. Prof. Bappaditya Mukhopadhyay – Bappa sir as we call him. I adore him for his simplicity, he instilled in us one important thing – “Learning from First Principles”. First Principles thinking enables you to discover unconventional insights based on fundamental truths. We basically boil things down to fundamental truth and then reason up from there.
  2. Prof. T.N. Swaminathan – When the startup I joined post my graduation was going through some tumultuous times. I wrote to Prof Swaminathan saying I was finding it difficult to go after the positions / roles I aspired for, because my work experience was less. He immediately opened up his contacts. That was a pleasant gesture from him. He didn’t have to personally vouch for me but he did, getting the right opportunity at the right time is very difficult many a times, Prof Swaminathan gave me one and I utilized it to the fullest then.
  3. Prof Veeravalli’s class on Entrepreneurship was important at many levels. If your client is a startup or a new strategic business unit in a big firm, many a time you don’t have huge volumes of data. Your thinking needs to be a bit different in these scenarios. The metrics you go after for optimizing or predicting become much more basic. His classes already taught us these things so I didn’t have to learn it the hard way.
  • What advice would you give to Great Lakers?

I would advise them to go after the roles one desires or the ones that give them immense pleasure instead of just looking at the pay-packet size. The lessons from the curriculum and the experiences you earn will always come in handy both in the short and long term.

  • What do you do in your free time?

I developed an interest for Chess late in my life. I am currently ranked around ~1950 levels in rapids. I also play tennis on the weekends.

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