My journey from being an IT engineer to Head of Analytics
Background – when sufficient is not enough
I was an engineer working with an MNC in a pretty cushy job. It would have been a pretty happy life for people, but I had some other dreams. I wanted to do an MBA from outside India. Unfortunately, the plan didn’t work out – there were issues on the financial and personal fronts – and eventually I figured that maybe my ambitions were somewhat unrealistic.
The Analytics Adventure
Although my MBA plan had fizzled out, I realized that I needed to chart out a new route. I researched the internet and discovered a new field called ‘Analytics’. I had no idea about Business Analytics at the time and neither did I know much about the programs available for formal training. A deeper study convinced me that Analytics was an interesting domain but it was complex as well. It was evident to me that in order to make analytics as my career I had to devote substantial time to learning it.
I therefore sought a full-time classroom program and discovered Praxis (courtesy a banner on Analytics Vidhya) – a comparatively emerging business school but a kind of pioneer in formal, full-time teaching of Business Analytics. Praxis had a pretty comprehensive curriculum, an impressive set of professors and a growing bunch of alumni. Convinced that this was the career I wanted, I applied to Praxis and fortunately got selected.
I was thus far used to taking the tried and tested route to a career option. This was the first time I was trying to do something ‘different’. Obviously, it was not going to be easy.
The first change was adapting to a different kind of academic environment – one that encouraged debate, discussion and critical thinking;
The second challenge was to grapple with a variety of subjects that were all new for me. Though I had pursued an engineering degree, I was never a numbers or tech geek. When I joined the program, the scope and range of the course, with subjects as varied and complex as advance statistics, data mining, machine learning, econometrics, visualization etc. along with tools like SAS and R was quite intimidating at first.
However, the presence of the professors and my peers made sure that the learning, though rigorous, was effective and enjoyable.
The program at Praxis was intense to say the least. The program design combines classroom lectures with case-studies, labs and projects; there is continual assessment in the form of quizzes, assignments, exams and project presentations. Some of the courses were entirely taught by industry experts.
We all spent multiple sleepless nights solving assignments with midnight deadlines, doing projects and preparing for tests that tested and rewarded thinking. I got a new sense of confidence by solving various problems and completing projects on new subjects.
Knowing that this was all in preparation for the professional world of my choice and liking made the exertions substantially sweeter.
My first break
The year spent in studying analytics set me up for a career in this domain. My first job (that I landed through the campus placement program) was 3i Infotech. They were building an analytics team at that time and we were some of the initial members. We used to work mainly on Excel and R to create project demos for clients. The 3i journey was interesting, but it ended abruptly when the Head of analytics decided to leave the firm and work on his start-up.
Learning through different roles and Executive program
My next assignment was with Nabler Bangalore and they promptly sent me to the USA to work on building a product recommendation engine for a Fortune 30 company called ‘Lowes’. This was a golden opportunity and thanks to some wonderful colleagues, I managed to work hard and learnt a lot. The work culture and practices at Lowes helped me grow as a professional and I was ready to lead a team.
During this year, I also did a 1 year Executive program in Business Analytics and Intelligence from IIM Bangalore to help me transition smoothly in to the senior management roles that I was aspiring to get in to.
CarDekho was building their analytics team and I joined them as Senior Manager – Analytics. The role was quite different – plus you had to be intrapreneurial – you had to dig down and conceptualise a project, take it to the CEO, get it approved and implement it – kind of on your own. Also, I was actively involved in hiring and managing people.
Head of [email protected]
Eventually, I moved to Yatra.com as Head of analytics. The stakes were high and so were the expectations. It took me some time to settle down and understand the system, the product, the people and of course the data. We have a dedicated dashboard team which builds executive dashboards for C level executives and business heads.
We have a data warehousing team which collates the data from different sources i.e. booking data, CRM data and web data and stores it in a usable format. Then we have a predictive analytics team which is involved into long term projects such as customer churn analytics, cross-sell and recommendation engine based on Machine leaning concepts. My role involves end to end delivery of the projects, from the conceptualization to implementation. A good chunk of my time also goes into project and people management.
Reflections on the journey
From the time I graduated with a qualification in Analytics in 2013 to my taking up a leading position as Head of Analytics at Yatra.com in 2016, it has been a remarkable journey. I attribute this success to the following factors:
- Realizing that I needed to do something other than the IT job I had landed post my engineering and actively seeking a more ‘suitable’ career option,
- Backing my instincts and taking the plunge by enrolling for a full-time course in Business Analytics to transition to this field
- Choosing my institute with care – Praxis has certainly played a critical role in setting me up for a sustained career in this field – and making sure I made the most of the opportunity to maximize my learning at Praxis
- Engaging with passion, never ceasing to learn while working and making a few well-timed career moves.
Life comes back a full circle and I am sharing this journey at the same portal where it all started! I am sharing this story so that people like me – who want to do something ‘different’ and out of box can see what it takes and how to go about planning their career.
If you have any question, feel free to ask questions in the comments below.
Ritesh is an adroit professional more than 8 years of work experience in the area of Analytics and Product management (Statistical analysis, Social Media/ Digital Marketing), Strategy, Product development and Marketing and served various domain such as BFSI, Technology, Education, IT & FMCG.
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