Ruble Joseph is the Head of Center of Excellence for Data Science, Analytics and Consulting at eClerx. He is recognized as 40 under 40 data scientist by Analytics India magazine. He is also a Coach and mentor at Board Infinity. He is involved in multiple industry award winning solutions in the analytics space. He was also associated as Ex- Mu sigma leadership.
In the conversation below, he shares about his journey in the field of analytics, the wave of analytics, the demanding skill sets and many more.
- How did you decide to be in the field of analytics?
Like millions of youngsters in India, I followed the herd to do Bachelors in engineering and then take it from there to figure out what to do. The initial desire to have a successful career made me buy books to prepare for GRE (Admission examination to do a masters in Engineering from US) right in the first year. By the end of second year, I sold them and bought books for the MBA entrance exam. My friends who know me from college would know how I crawled through my engineering because I was busy enjoying my youth, playing cricket, travelling. I was so pathetic that most of the professors or even my classmates were unaware of my existence because of my rare attendance in classes, which later led to me not being eligible for campus placements by the big names in IT. I still consider this as the biggest blessing in disguise. I got serious about doing an MBA, which was mainly driven by the curiosity to understand how key decisions like marketing spends, supply chain planning, customer engagement are made and hence to become a management consultant driving these decisions. Enter Mu Sigma – never heard of the company before, never heard of the term analytics or data science before. A salary that was marginally higher than what the IT firms were offering was enticing enough to make me research a bit before the campus drive. That was the icebreaker for me and I still define analytics and data science this way – A more intelligent way of management consulting and decision making using data, technology, and logic. Mu Sigma was pretty much still a startup when I joined. The journey from a fresher business analyst to Analytics Engagement Manager being part of what was called the key guys leadership team was phase 1 of my analytics journey and an amazing one to say the least. Today, at eClerx , heading the center of excellence for Data science, analytics and consulting for last two years has presented me with ample opportunities to grow towards becoming a leader in this space
- What are the unique challenges you find when hiring entry level talent in analytics?
I see most young analytics professionals considering analytics as the end goal vs thinking of it as a means to achieve something bigger – decisions. Mastering how to code in R or Python, building a complex accurate machine learning model, developing a jazzy UI will make you a rockstar today but not necessarily take you up the ladder. Problem solving is what matters the most. Another observation about successful folks is that they are more 360 degree well rounded professionals – As they say a data scientist or analytics professional can code better than a statistician, understand statistical algorithms better than a business consultant and understand business processes better than a coder. The more breadth you cover across business, math and technology the better you become. Going in depth in one area limits your growth potential.
- How do you overcome these?
I look for core skills, which can be groomed. These are folks who are problem solvers, fast learners and more importantly open minded to say I don’t know but I can learn and learn successfully because I have so and so base skill sets like good understanding of statistics, good programming skills, good understanding of business processes. This is critical because the field is evolving so fast that I cannot rely on a particular thing that you are an expert at today. It might not even be relevant tomorrow.
- Any specific initiatives within the company to help bridge skill gaps?
It’s an industry wide problem that there is a dearth of skilled analytics professionals across levels. So we are treating it in different ways
I. Upskill folks who are from related backgrounds like business intelligence, data management, programming etc
II. Conduct focused training sessions and work shops
III. Launch train and hire programs
IV. Continuous learning initiatives through various mechanisms
- What are the skills anticipated for hiring in future?
Given where AI is headed, many of the tasks that are relevant today, for example building a base regression model, or a forecasting model is going to get automated and hence obsolete. Sooner or later it is just going to be as simple as “Hey Alexa or Hey Siri, build me a regression model”. Not saying you do not need the core skills, but the way you use them is going to be key – It will not be about execution, it will be about innovation. If I were to name top 3 skills, it would be Python for programming, statistics all the way from probability, regression, clustering, classification to advanced machine learning and deep learning. Knowing the core concepts is critical - not just executing a model blindly. Finally, great visualization and storytelling skills for business insights and actions. Again, these are means to solve a business use case, otherwise they will just end up producing jazzy and cool eye candy stuff without value. Hence these core skills need to groomed to be applied to solve real world business problems like marketing performance measurement, customer targeting, revenue attribution, network planning to name a few.
- Hiring time frame?
Given eClerx is an analytics services provider, hiring for this talent pool is a rolling process for us. There has been no hiring freeze, only shortage of folks in the last 2 years. The shortage is in terms of both quantity and quality and at entry level as well as senior levels. We have always been open to folks who can bring value and been open to make it work in the best way possible for the candidate and the company - be it working around things like notice period, salary negotiations of course because of the competitive market. And looking at the roadmap we are going to need plenty more in the next 1 year for sure.
- Is your company focused on big data and predictive analytics?
The data science analytics and consulting program is a complete practice within the larger company eClerx which is the big data and predictive analytics wing. All the work we for leading fortune 500 clients across the globe in the space of big data and predictive analytics id driven through this program and at a lot of pockets we are competing and beating the best in the business in providing these services to our clients.
- How do you currently hire talent at the entry level?
- Campus visits
- Lateral referrals from existing employees
- Profile hunts on portals
- Dedicated drives for specialized skill sets
- Train and hire programs
- Do you believe that non engineers can perform well in analytics?Absolutely. I have many examples of folks coming from non engineering background and excelling in analytics. Obviously given the education system in India, engineering is the closest that come to analytics. The basics of mathematics and statistics, the basics of programming and coding which for the core for analytics are taught best in engineering probably. However if a statistics graduate can pick up programming and match that with gaining knowledge of business domains, or if an economics graduate can pick up better understanding of complex algorithms, or if a computer applications graduate can pick up deep statistics knowledge, I do not see a reason why they can’t be at par with anyone else.
- Is your company focused more on analytics services or products?
The right way to describe it would be service as software, the new SaaS. What that means is we do not sell off the shelf products. We sell services but we have platforms that we call as shells to deliver these services in a way that the end customers can use it effectively. So it is more managed services enabled with high speed, efficiency and scale through customized solution platforms and deliverables.
- What are some of the interesting projects happening in your company?
Being at the center of innovation and development, the list of interesting projects that I can name happening at eClerx would be a long laundry list. To name a few, there are projects happening around speech analytics, computer vision, leveraging AI for customer support, leveraging machine learning to augment traditional marketing analytics solutions.