Taking initiative leads to rewards for this young data scientist


This post is part of our Young Data Scientists series, featuring the motivation, work and advice of the next generation of data scientists. Be sure to check back for future posts, or read the whole series by clicking on the image to the right.

This July, the inaugural Academic SAS Viya for Learners (VfL) challenge program was launched. Students went through the entire analytics lifecycle and learned how to build and deploy machine learning models in SAS, Python or R using SAS Viya.

The challenge was hosted on Kaggle platforms and 44 students played the game for seven days, all hoping to be No. 1 on the leader board at the end. The winner was Pragathee Velraj from the University of Queensland. We recently caught up with Pragathee to find out more about her experience.

Pragathee Velraj from the University of Queensland

What motivated you to take part in the SAS Viya for Learners program?

I recently completed the Machine Learning and Statistics course at my university as a part of my postgraduate program. I wanted to test my skills and ability to solve data science problems, and was looking for a way to validate my knowledge outside of the academy.

What were your key takeaways from this challenge?

The challenge allowed me to benchmark myself and test my skills against like-minded individuals. The scoreboard system motivated me to come out on top. I found out that I couldn't rest on my laurels -- I had to proactively solve problems. It was a fun, valuable experience and I encourage other data scientists to try it -- regardless of what your results might be.

I got to explore how SAS is used for exploring, validating and analyzing data -- and I learned how implementing machine learning would help achieve the desired results more quickly.

I was working with SAS APIs, SAS code, which provides programming for languages in R and Python. I've also learned how to build a variety of machine learning models from the base model, which allows you to compare different model results more effectively and optimize them more quickly.

Has this challenge affected your thinking about what you will do once you graduate?

It's painted a clearer picture of how interesting a data science career can be, and what it truly means to be a data scientist. I also gained insights into the wide range of job opportunities and roles one can have as a data scientist. My goal is to become SAS certified professional, and I'm looking forward to shaping my career with the help of SAS Viya.

Have you taken any SAS courses at your university?

After participating in the SAS Viya for Learners program, I found out that I have access to the SAS Academy for Data Science. I can choose either SAS Certified Big Data Professional or SAS Certified Advanced Analytics Professional as an elective to earn credit equivalent to one of my university courses. I look forward to undertaking and completing one of these courses in my upcoming semester, and am eager to make it into the global SAS Certified Professionals Directory.

What advice would you give to other university students thinking about participating in the SAS VfL or learning SAS?

Have an open mind and be ready to take up opportunities when they arise, especially as a university student. One never knows what doors the SAS VfL or learning SAS can open. Taking initiative indeed leads to rewards.

Where are you now in terms of your career journey?

I have completed undergraduate studies and will be working with Tata Consulting Services, India as a Systems Analyst for a year. My first assignment is to provide business intelligence support for Westpac Bank. This has helped me gain valuable knowledge in SQL, ETL, building schema-related models and managing BI reports and dashboards. To help further my career, I started pursuing my postgraduate degree in data science and will complete my Master’s degree in November 2021.

What would encourage you to continue your journey from studying data science to making it your career?

Always stay in touch with current trends and development in the field. Rapid technological developments may bring in changes, and staying up to date ensures that you learn new skills that are built on a strong foundation of concepts.

What qualities are the most valuable in aspiring analytics professionals?

I think it would be persistence, patience and a "never give up" attitude. These qualities have been nurtured further while pursuing my Masters in Data Science degree -- which provided plenty of interesting challenges.

For more advice from young data scientists, check out other posts in this series, and check out SAS Viya for Learners.


About Author

Jelena Stankovic

Content and Communication Lead, CEMEA

Jelena has been working at SAS as a Content and Communication Lead for CEMEA region, focusing on SAS Platform and Data Science. She is communication professional with over ten years of experience, passionate about technologies and discovering ways to make complex world of analytics understandable for everyone. She earned M.A. degree in Chinese Language and Literature from Belgrade University.

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