Dr. Srinivas Padmanabhuni

Chief Mentor – Data Science and AI at Tarah Technologies

Previous experience – Infosys Labs and ACM

Educational qualifications:

PhD, Computing Science – University of Alberta

M Tech, Computer Science and Engg – IIT, Bombay

B.Tech, Computer Science and Engineering – IIT, Kanpur

Specialization areas:

Machine learning, AI and data science, technology architecture

Manipal ProLearn had the privilege to interview Dr. Srinivas Padmanabhuni, who shared his industry experience with us.

Manipal ProLearn: Tell us about your journey, your endeavour with data science. How did it all start?

Dr. Srinivas: I have a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence (AI) from the University of Alberta. I have spent a significant portion of my life in R & D roles. And I have developed and deployed data science and AI-led solutions for IT services automation and analytics while at Infosys research.

Further, I successfully brought the discipline of analytics to software services. And I created successful solutions broadly in the area called ‘Mining Software Repositories’, where analytics are applied to large software repositories in enterprises. That’s where I developed my first industry grade solution using data science for solving significant software problems. For example, history of bug fixes was used to identify which files were more problematic than others purely by data analytics rather than code analysis. Such is the power of data.

While going beyond Software Analytics, I delved deeper into applying AI and analytics for automation of IT service tasks in software maintenance and BPO services. And ever since I left Infosys, I have been offering data science and AI consulting as well as training for Tarah Technologies. Further, we have worked on interesting problems spanning multiple domains using data science.

Manipal ProLearn: You have been in the industry for a long time now, but is there something that you wish had shaped differently in your career?

Dr. Srinivas: I strongly believe the whole IT industry did not take full advantage of the data it had all along. Along with code, there is a lot of data lying around like check-in check-out data, comments, log data, bug repository data, version control system data, issue tracking data etc. Probably all this data has a huge potential and can be used to obtain valuable insights.

Also, there have been several problems in software maintenance and testing, where the approach has been to throw a whole bunch of engineers to solve the issue. I feel a data science-backed approach in such cases probably could have altered the trajectory of IT services itself.

Manipal ProLearn: What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Dr. Srinivas: Our biggest challenge at Tarah Technologies has been in selling the benefits of data science technologies to business. Because we always have to talk to customers in terms of business problems and business benefits, then trace it back to the technology and data science stack.

Manipal ProLearn: One book or movie that you think every data scientist should watch/read or could draw some inspiration from?

Dr. Srinivas: The movie ‘Ex-Machina’ shows the technological possibilities of future. I also enjoyed watching ‘Money Ball’, which is about navigating a real-life data science application. While being extremely entertaining, these movies can probably inspire all youngsters.

Manipal ProLearn: Three qualities or traits that you think are vital for data science professionals.

Dr. Srinivas: First of all, a sense of exploration and inquisitiveness – Because without these, it is difficult to motivate yourself to be a data scientist.

Logical reasoning – A sense of cause-effect relationships. Since causal reasoning is rather the simplest form of logical reasoning.

Finally, a quantitative aptitude – Because dealing with numbers is a crucial part of the profession.

Manipal ProLearn: What do you enjoy the most about being a data science professional?

Dr. Srinivas: The constant need for dealing with numbers keeps me excited. Hence, I love my profession.

Manipal ProLearn: Tell us about any interesting project that you worked on.

Dr. Srinivas: Tarah Technologies has been involved in a multipartite consortium of Indo and Dutch entities including Indian academics like IISc, Indian industry, and Dutch academics like the University of Amsterdam, apart from other global universities like ITMO Russia. Also, this project is a concerted effort funded by the Indian and Dutch government to develop early warning systems for crowd disasters.

And as a part of this project, Tarah Technologies worked with the team in Ujjain in April-May 2016, where the Simhastha Kumbh Mela was held. Kumbh Mela is one of the largest human gatherings in the world. In this once in a twelve-year event at Ujjain, the whole consortium set up a base camp and collected diverse data including information of people traveling, their base location, their trajectory of traveling from one ghat to one temple etc.

Additionally, several pieces of video and sensor data were captured for crowd analysis because the goal of the project was to develop a simulation model or set of models for crowd movements in large gatherings and provide an early warning system for a stampede. Since, it has the potential to save lives in several scenarios including religious occasions, football matches etc, it is a very interesting to work on this project.

Further, at Tarah Technologies, we studied several interesting analytics including the geographic spread of visitors to Kumbh Mela. Consequently, that adds a lot of diversity to the interesting and impactful project.

Manipal ProLearn: The data science industry has grown rapidly over the past few years. What changes have you witnessed closely in this regard?

Dr. Srinivas: Today, the number of techniques used in data science has moved beyond conventional statistical techniques, to a broader spectrum of techniques borrowed from data mining, machine learning, statistics and artificial intelligence. Hence, data science industry is evolving really fast.

Manipal ProLearn: What would you call your most significant accomplishment till date?

Dr. Srinivas: I think there are miles to go before I name one. I have just started making a small dent in this field. Also, I believe the Kumbh Mela project I mentioned earlier, is a great one with a lot of potential. Hence, I would name that for now.

Manipal ProLearn: What are the self-employment opportunities in the data science field?

Dr. Srinivas: Today there are innumerable opportunities for entrepreneurs in this area. Whether its core technology, competency development, or domain-specific business applications, several startups are waiting to be incubated.

Take healthcare, for example. In preventive healthcare, personal health history and data analysis of the same is crucial to provide a preventive approach. On the high-end side, data science based on AI is taking care of the whole work or nearly entire work (90 percent and above) of radiologists. Hence, these developments open up a whole new set of possibilities for startups focusing on healthcare analytics.

Likewise, in the context of manufacturing, several new possibilities are opening up with the growth of IoT and analytics to enable preventive and predictive maintenance of machinery.

Manipal ProLearn: Do you think data science is the next big thing? If yes, why?

Dr. Srinivas: The amount of data generated is growing every day. Further, there is a realization that data is vital to generate the key differentiation for a business. Hence, combined with IOT, where a huge amount of data is getting generated, it is safe to say that data science is here to stay. Seems like, Data Science is already the big thing.

Translating data to business insights is crucial for businesses to get a competitive advantage. Consequently, data science is going to provide a transformation from a classical process-centric enterprise to a data-centric enterprise.

Manipal ProLearn: Name one industry leader who has been an inspiration to you.

Dr. Srinivas: I have deep respect for Prof. Geoffrey Hinton, Machine Learning researcher at the University of Toronto, and at Google. It is because his perseverance in his work has revived the entire field of deep learning and paved a path for the revival of AI and advanced analytics.

Manipal ProLearn: What do you do to ensure your growth as a leader?

Dr. Srinivas: I constantly read forums like datasciencecentral.com. Also, I follow academic data science conferences, primarily KDD conference and assimilate the latest knowledge from kdnuggets.com

Manipal ProLearn: Your advice to young data scientists.

Dr. Srinivas: Have a keen sense of exploration of data and put on an analytical hat. If you are in a room full of people, do a rough analysis of the colour of their clothes, and draw a simple conclusion. Most noteworthy is a keen sense of observation with a perspective on data insights is essential for data science professionals.

Also, don’t wait for the perfect data to arrive. And don’t expect anybody to give it to you on a platter either. There are several data sets on the internet, like those at http://www.kdnuggets.com/datasets. Begin with any of them to hone your skills.

In addition to that, you can also look at international government data with open data repositories like data.gov from the US government and data.gov.in from the Indian government to improve your skills.

Manipal ProLearn is thankful to Dr. Srinivas Padmanabhuni for taking out time from his busy schedule and sharing his knowledge with us!

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