Interview with Soumen Manna
Assistant Professor of Big Data Analytics
GIM, Goa, India
Q1. Please share your educational and professional journey with us?
I did my Bachelor in Mathematics from Midnapur College and Master in Applied Statistics & Informatics from IIT Bombay. Right after my Master, I joined Cytel Statistical Software company as a Statistician. My job was to develop a statistical software for clinical trial experiments. I got a good exposure there to learn advanced level coding for software development. I then took admission for the PhD program at IIT Bombay. In my thesis, I worked on design of choice experiments for market research. After completing my PhD, I joined INSOFE as a senior Data Scientist and worked there for 3 years. Then I totally shifted my career in academics and currently working as an Assistant Professor of Big Data Analytics at Goa Institute of Management (GIM).
Q2. What is the main role of Big Data Analytics in any organization?
Data contains all the information about the performance of an organization. More data means more information. Computers are capable enough to process trillions of operations per second. Big data Analytics process a large amount of data to uncover hidden patterns, correlations, market trends, customer preferences and other insights in a very less timeline. It projects the consequences of every move that the organization would like to take. It opens up new opportunities, and thus organizations can make smart move with the help of Big Data Analytics.
Q3. You worked as a Data Scientist earlier and now is in academic domain as an Educator. Which stream do you like most and why?
It was always my aim to become an academician. Academic gives you freedom to work on something that really matters to you. Therefore you never feel bore here. You have sufficient time to excel on any subject in much deeper and broader manner. You can generate new ideas and can work with students to test the merits and prospects of those ideas.
You are always surrounded by a group of young individuals who are seeking knowledge and have the courage to try new things. The environment here is all about possibilities. You have enough opportunities to enjoy indoor and outdoor games that keep you physically fit. Each academic campus has ample of trees and gardens and free spaces for relaxing with nature. The green campus and green minds always keep you green and young.
That is why I really like academics. However, I feel that working as a data scientist for three years made me much more mature and sensible with the real-life problems. I can understand the value and prospects of data in our daily life. I understand how data mining helps each business to grow. Therefore I can say working as a Data Scientist helps me to become good Educator.
Q4. What exactly is Data Science?
Data is the new oil in today’s world. It is believed that over 2.5 quintillion bytes (2.5 e+9 GB) of the data is created every day, and this number is increasing. Interestingly, it is said that over 90% of these data are collected within just the past 5 years. The untapped potential of this data is limitless. The tools and techniques that help us to extract meaningful information from this huge amount of data to solve real life problems in a better manner, is called Data Science.
Q5. What is the role of Mathematics and Statistics in Data Science?
Both Mathematics and Statistics are the backbone of Data Science. To understand why and how a mathematical model along with the help of data predicts a real phenomenon so well, you need a comprehensive knowledge of Mathematics and Statistics. Mathematics provides an analytical framework to represent the real phenomenon and Statistics helps you to test the reliability of that framework. The knowledge of Calculus, Linear Algebra, Optimization, Multidimensional distribution, Sampling distribution, Estimation and Hypothesis testing are the pre-requisite criteria for a data science program.
Q6. How do you excel students in their academics and career?
Swami Vivekananda said “No one is ever really taught by another; each of us has to teach himself. The external teacher offers only the suggestion, which arouses the internal teacher, who helps us to understand things”. I strongly believe and follow the same while teaching.
I try to build an environment through story-telling and fact-checking, so that students get interested in the subject and participate in the discussion. I also provide environment for peer learning. I don’t value much for examination but do value for classroom discussion. I believe, if the fear of examination is moved away from their mind, they can freely participate in discussion and learn the most.
While teaching a course, I mention what types of interview questions can be asked from that subject. For analytical understanding, I provide case studies and small projects that mimic the real-life problems. A proper feedback and guidance are given to the students for their improvement. We provide broad ideas of everything that are happening in industry so that they get confidence enough to face the real world.
Q7. Online Course are running very well on Data Science. How do you see these online courses comparing to traditional offline approach?
There are both pros and cons about online courses. It is not possible for everyone to enroll himself at the best university for a data science course. But, through online classes they can easily learn it from the finest professors around the globe. However, in online mode, students lose one-one interaction with the teacher. From teacher’s perspective, it is very difficult to understand how much a student is getting from the class. I find, the effective learning per student is significantly low from the online classes than the offline.
I think, for the traditional basic courses one should go to the institutes with offline mode and for advanced level courses where much qualified teachers are not available; one can go with online mode. For working people online mode seems to be best for upgrading their qualifications. So, I belief, both online and offline mode of learning should go hand in hand and it is the learner, who will decide the mode according to his or her needs and circumstances.
Q8. Which one skill do you like most about yourself?
Thinking. I can think very deeply and widely. It helps me to understand the fundamentals of any idea. I can connect the dots and understand why there are multiple solutions exist for a given problem.
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