Data Science Diaries – Nischal HP and Raghotham S

Nischal HP
Co-Founder, Lead Machine Learning Engineer at Unnati Data Labs

  • Previous experience – Springboard, RedMart, SAP
  • Educational qualifications –
    MS, Software Engineering – BITS Pilani
    BCA, Computer Science – National College
  • Specialization areas – Software Development, Machine Learning, Python
Raghotham S
Co-Founder, Lead Data Scientist at Unnati Data Labs

  • Previous experience – Springboard, RedMart, Global Touchpoints Inc., SAP
  • Educational qualifications –
    Masters in Computer Software Engineering – BITS Pilani
    Bachelor of Computer Applications – PESIT
  • Specialization areas – Machine Learning, Python, Software Development

Data Science Diaries – Nischal HP and Raghotham S

Manipal ProLearn recently got the opportunity to catch up with the energetic data scientist duo, Nischal and Raghotham, who shared their industry experience with us.

Manipal ProLearn: Data science is a relatively new career field. How did you learn about it?

Nischal: I started working in the data science field in 2011 when I was a part of the R&D Team at SAP Labs India Pvt. Ltd. I worked on building an algorithmic trading platform there.

Raghotham: My data science journey kick-started during one of the hackathon sessions at SAP Labs Pvt. Ltd., where we built a system to predict energy production from wind farms, in the year 2011.

Manipal ProLearn: How will you explain your job role to a non-industry person in one line?

Nischal: I always try and tell non-industry people how we use data to predict fraud. This helps them understand what I really do.

Raghotham: I usually talk about automobile when explaining my job role, by specifying how I use data to help increase the efficiency of vehicles or to predict failures. It helps them relate to the topic easily.

Manipal ProLearn: How did the idea of forming Unnati Data Labs come up? Tell us more about your journey so far.

Nischal & Raghotham: Having had the experience of building data science and engineering products, we saw a huge gap in the data science industry. We noticed that data science products were not being engineered, but built in silos. That is when we decided to build a company, which would help businesses establish well-engineered data science platforms.

It’s been one year since we started Unnati Data Labs and our journey has been adventurous. During the past year, we have helped a bunch of businesses to minimize their risk and maximize their revenue with custom-built data science platforms. We have invested a lot of time during this year to educate professionals and businesses about the potential of data science and the process to harness this power with data.

Manipal ProLearn: One book or movie that you think every data scientist should watch/read or could draw some inspiration from.

Nischal & Raghotham: I think one of the very good movies that show great power in data science is Moneyball. We also recommend reading The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver.

Manipal ProLearn: What are the three qualities or traits that are a must-have for data science professionals?

Raghotham & Nischal:

  1. Willingness to understand the theory and fundamentals of the math behind data science techniques.
  2. Attitude to get your hands dirty to implement data science concepts with real-world data.
  3. Mastery of software engineering practices to take data science projects to production.

Manipal ProLearn: What do you enjoy the most about being a data scientist?

Nischal: As a Lead Machine Learning Engineer, I get to work on real-world problems that have a direct impact on businesses. It ensures that I am at the top of my game not only with data science techniques, but also with software engineering principles. It further helps ensure that I always look at the big picture of data science systems. The scale of these problems and building systems to handle this brings me a lot of joy.

Raghotham: As a data scientist, I enjoy the wonderful world of mathematics taking form from equations to actual systems that have a big impact on businesses. With data science, we can build systems that were only a part of our imagination in sci-fi movies of the past, thereby showcasing the enormous capabilities of computational systems and the power of data.

Manipal ProLearn: Name an industry leader who has been an inspiration to you, and why?

Raghotham and Nischal: Having been a part of the global data science community for some years now, we look up to a lot of people who have had a great influence on our data science careers.

If we need to pick two, we would pick:

  1. S Anand – CEO Gramener – S Anand is not only a great visionary, but also a complete hands-on data science guru, who showcases not just the serious side of business, but also the fun side of building systems around data. His thought process, skills of presentation and engineering baffles us every single time we meet him.
  2. Andrej Karpathy – Research Scientist at OpenAI – Andrej Karpathy’s work in the field of deep learning is fascinating. He has a beautiful way of articulating them via his elaborate blog posts. His work has helped us understand deep learning systems and his storytelling skills take us on a beautiful journey every time we read his posts.

Manipal ProLearn: If not a data scientist, what would be your alternative career path and why?

Nischal: If not a data scientist, I would have been a photographer, as I truly love capturing moments. Photography has helped me understand the different techniques that can be mastered only with time and patience, thereby keeping me grounded all the time.

Raghotham: My alternative career path would be that of a Chef, as I love cooking. I also feel cooking is similar to data science, where you can get exceptional results with limited access to resources. Also, I love the joy it brings when you see people relishing your food.

Manipal ProLearn: Can you share a few activities that can help data science professionals hone their skills? Or something that you like to do to sharpen your analytical skills?

Nischal & Raghotham: Some of the activities that we do, which help us hone our skills as data science professionals are:

We build a lot of open source projects using real-world data. It helps us showcase our work and also get a lot of inputs from people in the industry.
We share our knowledge at global data science conferences. It allows us to go that extra mile to learn different aspects of data science thoroughly.

Manipal ProLearn: Share the biggest challenge you have faced so far in the field of data science.

Nischal & Raghotham: A two-tailed challenge of transforming complex math to real-world systems & simplifying the same for business understanding.

One of the biggest challenges we have faced in the field of data science is, building a real-time predictive system with limited infrastructure, but exceptionally high velocity and volume of data. To accomplish this, we built an optimized data ingestion system, distributed machine learning models and designed a high perform-ant analytics data warehouse.

Manipal ProLearn: Which was the last book you read/last movie you watched and why did you like/dislike it?

Nischal: The last book I read which I really liked was, The Hard Things about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. It is an exceptional read for budding entrepreneurs like me. He talks about the varied challenges businesses throw at you and the decisions he made during those times.

Raghotham: The last series (haven’t had the time to catch a movie, recently) I watched was Narcos. I loved the cinematography and how they have adapted the history of the protagonist in this series.

Manipal ProLearn: If you had the choice to be one fictional character for a day, which one would it be and why?

Nischal: I would love to be Marty McFly, Jr from Back to the Future series as I would get to time travel in the DeLorean.

Raghotham: I will always choose to be Iron Man, simply for the love I have for gadgets!

Manipal ProLearn: If you ever have a movie made on your life, whom would you want to play your role and why?

Nischal and Raghotham: Taking this question on the light-hearted side, we would love Will Ferrell and John C Reily from the Step Brothers fame to play our roles, the simple reason being, they are lunatics like us in some way! 😀

Manipal ProLearn: Describe yourself in three words.

Nischal: Traveler, data nerd, joker.

Raghotham: Masala dosa lover, sleepaholic, technology evangelist.

Manipal ProLearn: What changes do you expect to see in the ever-evolving data science world in the next few years?

The shift to use AI in every field is an amazing change we are looking forward to.

Nischal: With self-driving cars becoming a reality, there will be less traffic jams and fewer accidents.

Raghotham: With AI & medical sciences coming together we can change how we detect diseases, prevent epidemics and build better assistance systems for the differently-abled.

Manipal ProLearn: What is your message to budding data scientists?

Nischal & Raghotham: Practice, practice, and practice more with different tools, techniques and real-world data. Start small with data in CSVs, move to DB and then think of large-scale systems. There is no shortcut to mastery in the data science field. As a wise man once said, Data Science is not a 3-month course, but a 30-month dedicated practice.

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