Industry Transition Spotlight: Satrajit Chakrabarty
Industry Transition: An interview with Satrajit Chakrabarty, PhD, Data Scientist
1. What is your name, your full job title, and the name of the company you work for?
My name is Satrajit Chakrabarty. I work as a Data Scientist at a Swiss telecommunication company called UPC.
2. What is your favorite part about working in industry?
My favorite part of working in industry at my current company is the team. I am part of the Advanced Analytics team in the company. The team consists of like-minded, motivated people who like taking on challenges that in the end enables the company to make well informed data driven decisions. It also helps that 5 out of 6 of us have PhDs and our line manager goes out of his way to ensure that we are happy with our work.
3. What does a typical day at work look like for you?
A typical work day starts at 8 am. We have our separate projects and sometimes a couple of us work on the same project. So there are both planned and spontaneous meetings. Often when demanding analyses is required, we get help from the more experienced team members. An important part of my job is to align with internal stakeholders. We use the results of our models to help them strategize or react to developing situations besides carrying out regular analyses. We also work on projects pro-actively, which means we develop proof of concept projects in anticipation of work that might come to us in the near future. Besides this, we all have our self-development plans, meaning we are allowed to use work hours to work on courses that will benefit us as individuals and also the company. Finally, we wind down work between 6 and 7 in the evening.
4. How is your current industry position different than your academic postdoc or experience as a graduate student?
The current position is different from my academic background in a lot of respects. Firstly, the end goal of the two sectors are vastly different. In academia the end goal is to publish papers while in industry you have to make sure that the company is continually making a profit. I was an experimental physical chemist. Even though some programming and a lot of data analyses were essential components of my academic career, there were also a lot of hands-on aspects that are obviously not there anymore. There are a lot more meetings, especially when working on big projects that involve lot of internal stakeholders.
But perhaps the biggest difference is in the work environments. Focus is really on getting things done within fixed and strict timelines. That means in a company, people have more realistic expectations and it may not always be possible to delve into all the nitty-gritty details of a problem. People in industry are more professional in how they interact with their colleagues and there is definitely a greater emphasis on work-life balance.
5. If you could go back in time, to before you received your job offer, and give yourself one piece of advice or encouragement, what would it be?
I would advise myself to have more faith in my abilities.
6. What was the most important thing you did during your job search that enabled your success?
The most important thing I did during the job search that I attribute to my success was not to react emotionally to rejections or whatever happened during the interview process. I focused on the parts that I could control and stopped worrying about the rest. I had to learn that it takes more than a few rejections to reach a certain level of stoicism. I used to play a lot of cricket and table-tennis at one time. I had to revisit the lessons that I had learnt when I had lost important matches.
7. What is the most memorable moment for you (so far) as a Cheeky Scientist Associate?
The realization that I was not alone. Countless others face the same difficulties which made me realize that certain aspects of the current academic setup is broken.
8. What do you see as the next step in your career?
In choosing to work as a Data Scientist, I have stepped into somewhat uncharted waters when I compare my current work to what I was doing before. Therefore I am still in an exploratory phase while I continuously familiarize myself with the necessary technical tools. It is certainly fascinating to see how mathematical models can predict customer behavior. I would like to eventually work on projects where I can also employ my know-how from my academic days.
9. How can the Association and the Association’s members help you continue to achieve your career goals?
It is always encouraging to read about members that are overcoming difficult situations to land new roles. Moreover, the opportunity to network with members who have transitioned and learn from their experiences is an added advantage.
10. Now that you’ve spent some time working in industry, what is the biggest piece of advice you’d like to share with those Associates who are still executing their job search?
I would like to share these 3 lessons:
- Never lose faith in your abilities and the transferable skills. Once you have decided to transition, go all out. It will be a difficult phase of your lives but you will emerge out of it stronger.
- Do not fret about the parts that you cannot control. I received verbal confirmation of a job once, only for it to be withdrawn the following week. Commit to the process, not so much to the end result. It is easier said than done, but once I was able to get into that frame of mind I was far less perturbed by failures and rejections and was able to objectively analyze what I could have done better.
- Be open minded. Think of your first job as a stepping stone, it may not be the dream job. But it will be a step in the right direction. This is especially important for people like me who have worked on obscure fundamental questions that are a lot of fun to work on but unfortunately have no relevance outside academia.
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