How Can A Non-tech Professional Move to Analytics? Harsh Gujrathi Shows You How.

Mumbai is called the city of dreams for a reason. It’s a place where thousands of people move in here with hopes and dreams as diverse as the city. It’s a place where the transportation system is not just a medium of commute but a messenger of dreams and ambitions. Fast, swift and dynamic, the city is all alive with its bustling crowd. But you know what? Sometimes, dreams and careers in this city could also stand stagnated as its peak-hour traffic. This is the journey of one person, who fought a stagnating career path and raced ahead into a rewarding career.

Harsh Gujrathi is a typical Mumbai working professional. After completing his B. Tech in Computer Science, he got an MBA in marketing, where secured a 95 percentile on CET. Post this, he his career in market research with companies like Neilsen, TNS and Hansa.

After spending over 5 years in the field of market research, Harsh realized that he was stuck in a stagnating career path. The realization spurred him to explore other career options. Harsh soon honed in on the field of analytics.

This sector of IT appealed to his quantitative side. Being one of the fastest growing fields around the globe, it offers a rewarding and challenging career – exactly the kind of thing Harsh was looking for.

Over the next 12 months, Harsh embarked on a journey to work on the latest analytics skills and make a mid-career shift into a field with much brighter long-term prospects.

Earlier this month, Harsh managed to achieve his goal by landing himself a job as a consultant in Bristlecone. If you didn’t know, Bristlecone is a subsidiary of Mahindra.

In this interview with Dhananjay from the marketing team at Jigsaw Academy, Harsh shares the story of his journey – the pain, the wait and finally the coveted reward in the end. He shares his experience as someone who made a shift from a completely unrelated domain into analytics mid way in his career. He talks about the challenges he faced, how he overcame them and finally some tips for others who have similar ambitions.

We hope this interview will be a useful resource for any mid-career professional who is looking to shift into the field of analytics, data science, big data and machine learning.

Here’s the excerpt from the interview.

Dhananjay: First of all, congratulations on securing a job as a consultant with Bristlecone. And thank you for agreeing to share your experiences. So, what prompted you towards analytics?

Harsh: I had been working in the field of market research for about 5 years. One of the things I used to hear consistently from my colleagues as well as leaders was that market research was starting to become a little stagnated. I could see this for myself as well.

Our business was not going anywhere and one could always feel the pressure. I realized that I have a long career ahead of me and I did not want to invest my time and effort in a field that was stagnating. That was when I started looking for other career options.

Analytics came up as an attractive and relevant option. The field was growing at a break-neck pace and I could also leverage some of my statistical skills from MR in analytics. I spoke to friends and peers and they confirmed my choice.

Dhananjay: After having decided on analytics as your goal, how did you go about it from there?

Harsh: The first step was obviously to re-skill my self. I needed to work on the right skills that would make me an ideal hire for potential employers. As a first step, I enrolled in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). I did get to learn a few things but I realized that if I was serious about making a shift, I needed to put myself in a more structured learning environment. I started looking for academic and training institutes that specialized in analytics.

Dhananjay: How did you identify the right institute for yourself?

Harsh: There was a lot of online research involved. I scanned websites of many companies, read their reviews on Google and Quora and of course spoke to them on the phone. I must have spoken to the Jigsaw counselor at least 5 times (each call was 30 to 45 minutes). He gave a lot of useful information and most importantly he was very patient with me. I finally went with the institute that gave me the highest comfort.

Dhananjay: Describe your journey in the structured learning environment.

Harsh: It wasn’t easy (laughs). There were long hours of slogging involved. Analytics is a vast field. There are hundreds of algorithms and platforms to choose from. I think a well-designed course helps you in cherry picking the most relevant skills and focusing on learning the right stuff.

Analytics also requires hands on learning. I think well-crafted assignments that force you to think really help. The capstone project at the end of my program was very useful.

I had to work on a large data set and there was a lot of data exploration that needed to be done. The capstone project helped me understand the application side of my learning. In the end, I got a certificate of appreciation which was a good confidence booster.

Dhananjay: What aspects of the program were really helpful in your experience?

Harsh: As I said, the capstone project was very helpful. Jigsaw also organized a data contest for its students where we got to work on a real world problem. I got a letter of appreciation from the company whose problem we were solving. What was more exciting was that I also received a letter of recommendation from Pexitics. This was also one of the most interesting phases in my analytics journey because I was also part of the winning team at the HerTech Hackathon at PayPal (sponsored by Analytics Vidhya, PayPal and GoDaddy).

All these diverse exposures instilled a lot of confidence. We got help in tailoring our resume for analytics. I also went through one mock interview which was useful preparation for the actual interviews. To be honest, I wish I had done more than one mock interview.

Dhananjay: What other resources did you find useful outside of the program?

Harsh: Google can help you find almost any information on the net. I used SAS extensively for SAS codes. I used r-blogger and stack overflow for help on R coding.

Dhananjay: What plans for the future?

Harsh:  Analytics is a vast field and things keep changing at a rapid pace. I want to keep learning. I want to focus on visualization and story telling next. Maybe some advanced machine learning after that.

Dhananjay: Finally, please share some useful tips with our readers.

Harsh: Happy to do that.

  • Analytics is not an easy field to get into. It requires a combination of skills that is hard to find. You have to learn statistics, you have to learn programming, you need to have a business understanding and more.
  • I think if you are serious about re-skilling yourself, be prepared to spend 20 to 30 hours a week for up to a year. Short-cuts don’t work.
  • Analytics can only be mastered through a lot of hands-on practice. Jigsaw’s program had a lot of case studies and gave me access to the SAS and R platforms for practice. Make full use of this.
  • Also, make full use of the faculty.  I used to ask a lot of questions to the faculty and they were very helpful and informative.
  • Don’t just re-skill yourself. Re-brand yourself as well. Add relevant skills to your resume as well as your LinkedIn profile.  Participate in industry contests like the one Jigsaw organizes. Take part in hackathons. All this helps you differentiate yourself from the herd.
  • Writing articles is one thing I never did but I know it helps. Participate in community forums, discussions on Linked in etc.
  • Changing your career mid-way is a hard thing to do. You have to make a lot of sacrifices. You have to put in effort. And if you have someone like Jigsaw Academy to guide you and mentor you through this period, it helps a lot.

Dhananjay: Thank you, Harsh. Really insightful takeaway for our readers I must say. Well, thank you once again for your time and we wish you all the very best for your future endeavors.

Harsh: Thank you, Dhananjay.

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