If you had to take a guess, what would you consider a vital attribute for making Analytics India Magazine’s prestigious 40Under40 Data Scientists list? Analytical genius, perhaps? A track record of educational excellence? A burning ambition to harness machine learning to solve mind-bogglingly complex data challenges for the world’s leading companies?
For Hyderabad-based Sibanjan Das, who recently received the award, the answers are: yes, yes and yes.
But there’s something equally potent driving this passionate Data Scientist’s seriously impressive trajectory, which already includes achieving a Master of IT in Business Analytics, authoring two published books and managing multiple career pivots: love. A surprisingly irrational input in a world of reason and logic!
“I think love at work is embedded in ServiceNow’s DNA,” says Sibanjan. “Without question, my tech love is Machine Learning and AI, which is underpinned by my love of knowledge and the immense power in sharing it. What I love doing most when I’m not in the office is connecting Like Minds to Light Minds, which is an initiative my friends and I started to provide underprivileged youth with the tools to access knowledge.”
We asked Sibanjan to share his thoughts on the role of mentors, the future of data science and what’s driving the next phase of his career…
Q. Has your career path always been linear?
SD: Actually, it’s been more like a roller coaster ride! I started as a developer right after my Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science Engineering. A couple of years after, I became a consultant for Order to Cash applications, helping my clients to implement and derive value out of their systems.
A year later, I decided to leave my job and pursue a Master of IT in Business Analytics from Singapore Management University. Then, for a brief few months, I worked as a Procurement and Finance Analyst. I finally hopped onto the Analytics and Data Science journey in late 2014.
Q. What’s been your favorite work better moment at ServiceNow?
SD: With every achievement, there’s a work better moment attached to it. There’s an ‘introspect workflow’ attached to achievement – that constant drive to question what we could have done better to make our delivery best. However, it’s always a buzz to see people using and getting benefits from our predictive models. The kind of response we received from our Marketing team on our Hot Prospect Analytics product was one of our triumph moments.
Q. What brings you passion when you’re buried in the day-to-day?
SD: That’s simple: passion for serving our customers and colleagues every day, creating easy solutions to their problems and making their life effortless.
I think love at work is embedded in ServiceNow’s DNA. It’s evident not only from our products and services, but internally from our amazing workplace environment, completely stocked pantry, and excellent operational support.
Q. How important have mentors been in your career journey?
SD: I believe mentors are critical to be successful, be it life or career! They help you navigate through the tunnels of your journey and shine a torch when the options seem dark. I am fortunate to have mentors, such as Brian Hoffman and Karthik Krishna Jonnalagadda, who provide me with career guidance, emotional, and motivation support.
Occasionally, some mentors don’t always know they’re mentoring you; in fact, the most powerful mentors can be the people we work with. In our team, we have the privilege of a great leader who inspires us with his thought leadership, crisp presentations and ability to push our creativity.
In saying that, we also learn a lot from our surroundings and this plays an integral part in shaping us. We find what works and we continue to build on these personal anchors as we evolve; likewise, there are some lessons learned that we shouldn’t repeat.
Q. What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with aspiring data scientists?
SD: Technology is changing so rapidly and this transformation is only going to accelerate. The best we can do is to learn, unlearn and relearn. It’s painful sometimes, but the hard work always pays off in one or the other way.
Knowledge is never going to die; it only expands. I love the concept that energy can only be transferred and knowledge is also transferrable. Utilising the knowledge that you’ve gained and cross-pollinating those skills is always going to benefit you personally, and your organisation.
Q. What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received?
SD: Perseverance is the path to success.
Q. Which ServiceNow values resonate most for you?
SD: Diversity and inclusion - as we have this right, all other values follow. I feel involved to achieve my vision, staying hungry to innovate and execute to make ServiceNow’s customers successful. And it keeps me and my team humble enough to try doing this right every time.
Q. Where would we find you when you’re not wearing your data scientist hat?
SD: Firstly, I think I’m always wearing my data scientist hat! Outside the office, I’m easily found my family or writing technical pieces.
What I love doing most in my spare time is connecting Like Minds to Light Minds. Let me explain: my colleagues and I were lucky enough to be educated, had scope to build our careers and earn to live a life better than many others.
There are many talented students in India who struggle. They can’t afford a notebook - forget about private tuition or higher education fees. Many of our local schools don’t have the necessary infrastructure to support the needs of their students.
The flip side is, many of us have idle resources, like old textbooks and unused laptops. There’s also a huge appetite from those of us who ‘have’ to provide educational basics or low-cost infrastructure for those who ‘don’t have’.
A couple of years back, my University friends and I decided to bridge this gap by providing a platform to connect these great young minds with people like us who want to donate idle resources.
We don’t support any financial transactions; instead, we encourage our friends to send the products directly or provide mentorship to the beneficiary. We’re now supporting a few schools and students in our local areas and plan to extend our support to many others in coming years.
Q. What does the future of Data Science look like from where you’re sitting?
SD: Over the next decade, the field of Data Science and AI will become increasingly valuable to mainstream society. As business starts adopting and believing in the AI outcomes, it will open the doors to more challenging problems to solve using AI.
The less explored areas of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will be mainstream very soon, and our current challenges may be a part of automated Machine Learning pipelines. However, the goal will remain the same: to solve problems that make life easy for our customers and employees, providing tangible benefits to the companies we work for.
Q. What’s your next career ambition?
SD: I have my sights set on becoming a leader in Enterprise Systems and Analytics, serving organizations and customers to have the best possible experience from their enterprise applications.