I was always good at computers and spent a lot of time on it since I was a child. Despite having this keen interest, I went into the Commerce stream in Senior Secondary School and later got a Bachelor’s degree with Economics as one of the majors and a Master’s degree in Economics. I was happy that I studied Economics but the child in me had some dreams unfulfilled.
During my Master’s degree program, I had a knack for mathematical and statistical methods. Econometrics was however, a little challenging. As a requirement of the program, I had to complete a compulsory internship after the second semester. The professors at St. Joseph’s College (Bengaluru, India) were very helpful and approachable. One of my professors in the Economics department shared an internship opening at a development research institute named Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR), Mumbai. I applied and was selected. It is during this internship that I got a hands-on experience with datasets. (I had learnt some basics using SPSS before but this was more intense.) These were large national datasets. I was assisting a professor at IGIDR on his empirical research related to the Industry sector, with intensive use of Excel and Stata. Later in my Master’s degree program I was also required to complete a Dissertation, the area of which I chose as Behavioural Economics. During this Dissertation, I learnt a lot about research methods like review of literature, data collection, Econometric methods to analyse data and interpretation of that analysis in the context of Economics.
Over time, I realized that I really liked working with datasets and that a knack for problem-solving. I wanted a career in which I could work with data and maybe also where my knowledge of Economics could be useful. Around this time, the demand for data scientists and data analysts in India were on the rise. There were articles written about it often and advertisements of several courses offered by different institutes and educational websites flooded the internet.
So, I did a little research and found that getting into data science required a good understanding of computer programming logic and a certain level of ease dealing with Statistics. Both the child in me and the adult me were happy to finally find something that could connect both. I joined a Post Graduate Diploma program offered by upGrad in association with the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore. The program was offered online, it was well-structured, included live sessions, regular assignments (both individual and group), had an exclusive discussion forum, had assigned student mentors and Career support. It was a complete package for getting into a Data Science career.
The course focused mostly on R as the language used for explanations and assignments but they did have additional optional modules on Python too. As I progressed in the course, my affinity towards programming logic and knowledge of Statistics and Econometrics helped a lot. In fact, many concepts like Inferential Statistics, Hypothesis testing, Linear Regression, Time Series and Data Sourcing were quite familiar. Even though I had a good understanding of programming logic, I didn’t really code much before apart from some basic programming languages, C/C++ in high school and in a paper on HTML in college. But even this meagre knowledge helped me to learn and work on R and code naturally. Overall, the difficulty level of the Data Science program was moderate for me – familiarity of Statistical Concepts and unfamiliarity of programming experience.