2017-19 Batch of Students – Part 2

Mayank – VNIT, Nagpur – 2016, Directi

“I graduated in Computer Science and Engineering from VNIT Nagpur. With 1 year of work experience in descriptive analytics using technologies such as SQL, Hadoop, OLAP Cubes, I wanted to transition to predictive modelling and stochastic processes to impact organizations providing actionable insights.  With a brief introduction to business processes at IIM C in the pre-semester module so that the concepts learned at ISI can be applied to solve a real world problem, PGDBA has so far been a roller-coaster ride. In addition to the excellent course structure and the faculty, the ever-rising demand of analytics industry indicates the exciting times we are living in.”

 

Abhi – BITS Pilani, Goa – 2015, Media iQ Digital

“I graduated from BITS Pilani, Goa Campus in the year 2015 and then worked as a Display Advertising Campaign Analyst at Media iQ Digital for 22 months. While working in the company, I realized the potential of big data in solving business problems. All the industries are utilizing data analytics to improve their business processes and decisions. Data Analytics being an industry in its nascent stages, has tremendous potential of growth in coming years. The PGDBA course is well designed to train students on Statistics, Computing and Business acumen, which are the three pillars of any data-driven business problem. In my free time, I like to paint and play musical instruments. I have a diploma in painting and was coordinator at the Arts Club of my college.“

 

Preethi – Sri Venkatesawara College of Engineering, Chennai – 2014, ZoomRx

“I graduated from Sri Venkatesawara College of Engineering in 2014 and I have worked for three years in the analytics domain. I started as a trainee decision scientist at Mu Sigma, where I worked on database querying to pull out relevant data to address the business question at hand. As an associate consultant at ZoomRx, I specialized in healthcare analytics – used statistical techniques to gauge MD behavior and form prescriber segments, provided insights on sales rep performance to fortune 500 Pharma companies. I wanted to thoroughly understand and utilize the various techniques available to build models on data and provide valuable insights. As I have always wanted to build my skill set across the three domains – math, technology and business, I believe that this course, with the right blend provided by experts in respective domains, would help me further excel in my career path.”

 

 

Tajendra – IIT Kanpur-2015, Grail Research

“I completed my graduation in Material Science and Engineering from IIT Kanpur in 2015. Post that I worked at Grail Research, a market research and strategic consulting firm, as a Business Analyst for close to 2 years. I was a part of the squash team at IIT Kanpur. I enjoy playing badminton, watching football (die hard Man Utd fan) and I am a FIFA game enthusiast. During my time at Grail Research, I came across various business problems and the importance of data analysis in arriving at a solution for these. I joined this course with the thought process that it would enable me to build upon the knowledge acquired during my work-ex and add to it the required skill sets which I can utilise in answering data driven business problems and become a successful data analytics professional. The course experience till now has been really enriching, as we get to learn new things every day. Hoping to have an enlightening journey in the next two years as we learn to unlock the real meaning of data. “

 

Namit Agarwal – NIT Allahabad-2013, Centre for Development of Telematics

“I did my B. Tech in Electronics and Communication from NIT Allahabad, after which, I worked for 4 years as a Research Engineer in Centre for Development of Telematics. I was a part of Cricket and Dramatics teams in college as well as in my organisation. I was also a part of the Community Development Cell of my college. I like travelling, reading books and watching movies and TV series.
Throughout my childhood, I have been passionate about Cricket. I also have a keen interest in electronic gadgets and Mathematics. Through PGDBA, I want to blend together both these interests. My short term goal is to get into a sports network and long term is to head one.
The best part about PGDBA is its course structure. It’s perfect for an engineer and it just fits the skill set and interests of an engineer. Interest in technology and mathematics is a major factor that drives most people into engineering and one needs exposure to business knowledge post that for their career growth. PGDBA provides the perfect blend of all these aspects.
The transition from a government job to this super hectic course has been both fascinating and exhausting. The position of CR has added an extra exciting element to it. I expect to draw the maximum amount of learning that I can from the 3 best institutes with best faculty and one of the best peer groups of this country.”

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2017-19 Batch of Students – Part 1

With the PGDBA course three years young now, another batch of 53 students has embarked on an adventurous journey from the IIM Calcutta Campus in June 2017. A month of introduction to the business side of the course at IIM Calcutta and two months of statistical learning at Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata have already given an idea of how enlightening but at the same time challenging and rigorous the course is going to be.

The batch is an amalgamation of students from various backgrounds and industries like Analytics, IT, Oil and Gas, Electronics, etc with an average work experience of 25 months. Let us present to you, a glimpse of the personal journey of a few of our batch-mates till now:

 

Ravi – IIT Bombay – 2016, Deloitte Consulting

“I am a chemical engineering graduate from IIT Bombay (2016 Batch). I have 10 months of work experience as Business Analyst at Deloitte Consulting. My first project at Deloitte included some data analytics and coding. I enjoyed the project and wanted to do similar but more challenging projects. I started looking for programs in data analytics and got to know about PGDBA. I looked at the course list and decided to appear for the exam.
After completing the program, I expect to have a solid foundation of statistical knowledge along with expertise in coding, and understanding of business problems to be solved.
So far, the course has offered more than what I thought. The professors are very good at IIMC and ISI (I expect the same from IIT KGP). In my free time, I play football. I represented IIT Bombay in Inter IIT Sports Meet 2014.”

 

Abhirup  – B.E.-ETCE, Jadavpur University, PGDM-IIM Lucknow-2016, Cognizant

“I graduated from Jadavpur University Electronics & Telecommunications and worked as a BPM programmer in BFS domain in CTS for 3 years. After that I completed my MBA from IIM Lucknow in 2016 and joined the IT industry again as a senior business consultant. At this time, I realized that the IT industry is undergoing significant transformation and data analytics is soon going to create competitive advantage for the employee as well as the company’s services to its clients. In fact, in the age of automation it is a wise move to try to get into new roles in data science and big data for those who have inclination towards mathematical stuff or coding even after MBA.
But, since this field is highly technical and also immensely competitive, a generic MBA alone cannot help making this switch unless one has significant relevant experience or a strong mathematical background. This course ensures that people are equipped with both technical and business problem skills in one go due to its unique tri-institute structure and can directly join the higher managerial levels in this lucrative sunshine field of data analytics/data-science without first going for entry level roles to get experience and moving up the ladder slowly.
From my classroom experiences so far, I would say it is neither too specialized nor too generalized and is made exactly to fit with industry requirements.”

 

Shubhank – VNIT Nagpur – 2015, Fractal Analytics

“I graduated in Electrical & Electronics Engineering from VNIT Nagpur, batch of 2011-15. I have nearly 2 years of work experience as a Consultant at Fractal Analytics. Here, I have mostly worked on Retail Analytics for Global Market (majorly in APAC region) providing Insights on Brand Performance and analyzing Key Business Drivers using Linear Regression Model. Apart from this I have also created & automated some of the reports/dashboards with help of data harmonization and visualization tools such as R, Spotfire, KNIME & MS Excel (VBA included).
These projects were mainly focused on the end results with some set standards but I wanted to know the statistics behind it and learn more advanced techniques. PGDBA’s Curriculum provided a perfect solution to this which motivated me to join this course.
My experience till now about the course is way better than my expectation mainly due to well-planned curriculum and the interaction between the peers and professors which any online tutorial cannot provide.”

 

Palvika – NIT Jalandhar – 2014, Samsung Heavy Industries India

“I am Palvika and I graduated from NIT Jalandhar in 2014. Post that I worked as an instrumentation engineer in oil & gas sector in Samsung Heavy Industries India. The projects that I worked on mostly included technical ones but post that, I came across oil and gas analytics and started exploring it. Analytics is an immensely growing, dynamic and challenging field, so, I wanted to make a career switch into this field. That’s when I came to know about PGDBA and I decided to appear for the exam.

Till now, I have had a glimpse of business problems and how they can be solved through statistical tools and techniques. After this course, I expect to have an expertise in statistical knowledge that will help solve business problems along with sticking to basics of these areas.”

 

Darshan – B.Tech, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Technological University – 2015

“I have completed my B.Tech (Civil Engineering) from Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Technological University. During my graduation, I was a part of NCC, camping and trekking are some of my interests.  PGDBA is a unique course and knowing about the increasing importance of Analytics the course offered me great opportunities and this was my reason for joining the Program without any prior work experience in the analytics field. The course will help me to have in-depth knowledge of various data analytics techniques which is going to be helpful while working in the Analytics sector. The course till now has been amazing and I learned a lot of great stuff related to statistics, data computing, management and hope to learn more amazing stuff in the upcoming months.”

 

We will soon update you with another article giving you details about a few more students and other information about the course.

 

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PGDBA 2016-18 Interview Experiences Part-2

This is in continuation with our previous blog post, adding some more interview experiences from the batch of 2016-18.


Adhikari Vushesh Babu – Dual Degree ( B. Tech. + M. Tech.) in Information Technology, ABV IIITM Gwalior, 2016

Duration: 40 mins

  1. HR question about the following scenario- Let’s assume many companies are willing to visit your college this year and you are made the placement representative for your batch. What Steps would you take so that you will get all the credit for your batch placements and not placement season? List some of your initiatives which you think will help you in taking that credit.
  2. Having completed post graduation in Information Technology from IIIT, why do you want to pursue Career in Business analytics?
  3. Questions in core engineering part- Merge sort or Quick sort and in what cases would they work better with examples, also explain their worst case complexities. Explain Dijkstra’s algorithm with an example.
  4. Questions in probability and statistics part-If I were to toss an unbiased coin 10 times, how many heads should I expect? If the coin is biased and the probability of head appearing is 1/3, then how many heads do I expect in 30 trials. Explain Taylor’s series and its uses. Where are complex numbers used in real life?

SUGGESTIONS – Just brush up your knowledge on probability, Statistics and your engineering mathematics. Have a look at sorting and search algorithms. Also be prepared to answer why a career in Analytics.

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Shubhodeep Dey – B.Tech, Chemical Engineering, NITK, Surathkal, 2013; 33 months of experience in Petrochemicals, Reliance Industries Limited

Duration: 20 mins

I had done a lot of projects during my job so they started with what is the most innovative thing you have done. As soon as I started with my answer, they started asking me random questions on the assembly line (petrochemical industries don’t have anything related to assembly lines). I was able to answer some of them. Then they drew a curve on the sheet and asked me what is the covariance between the data points. I had a good idea about this concept so I could deliver. They moved on to probability and wanted me to visualise a binomial distribution for the number of defectives being produced by a lathe machine given a probability of finding a defective. I could satisfy them by writing down the equations. Some more probability questions followed on coin tosses. My interview ended with a concluding question – what are the major oil producing economies which are not a part of OPEC?
All in all, it went fairly good, I got stuck on few of their questions but they were kind enough to guide me. You don’t have to know everything, what they are looking for is the approach to the problem. Confidence and clarity of thoughts are key factors. The written exam had a heavy contribution in the final selection.

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Parag Bhandarkar – B. Tech. in Electronics Engineering, VJTI Mumbai, 2014; 23 months of experience as a Software engineer, Diebold

Duration: 20 mins

  1. Describe your work experience. What are the skill sets learnt during work experience? Domains worked on? Who are the competitors for my company (Diebold)? How will you use Analytics for ATM Industry? What is the reliability in Software domain? What factors affects it? Which affects more – Software / Hardware? and why?
  2. 2 basic mathematics questions-Based on definite Integrals of some box function, Integration of some trigonometric function

SUGGESTIONS-I think admission committee looked for a balanced profile. It was also written on the website that they will look for Academic, test score and interview performance. As my academic performance was very good, despite “only-good” performance in test and interview, overall weight got balanced.

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Prem Krishn –  B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering, IIT BHU, 2011; 54 months of experience in Tata Steel (Manufacturing industry)

Duration: 25 mins

  1. Based on my design experience in 3D modelling of Electricals at Tata Steel, they asked about my work in detail, then they gave the equation of a solid geometry and asked what does it represent exactly,
  2. Based on a certification I had in Data Science and SAS from Jigsaw Academy,
    What is p-value? (Some questions to test that I really know it), What is the lacking point in R? (I told about memory issues.)
  3. They asked about my role model, some Current Affairs questions about him.
  4. They seem to focus majorly on my prior knowledge about Analytics, genuine interest in the course and balanced answers.

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Anshuman Roy – B.Tech. in Electronics and Communications, Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College, 2011; 4 years of experience in TCS (IT industry)

Duration: 15 mins

  1. Why do I want to go for analytics field after 4 years of work experience in IT? Which technologies and programming languages I worked on?
  2. General formula of permutation and combination with their meaning and explanation with example.
    Draw as many dots on a sheet of paper and asked how many triangles can be drawn in that many number of dots.
    How many lines joining 2 dots can be drawn in that many number of dots.
  3. Those days state elections preparations were going on in West Bengal. So I was asked 3 popular political parties of West Bengal, Delhi and Punjab, what are the major issues affecting people in these states, what was the issue going on among Kejriwal, Punjab and Haryana related to the water supply to Delhi.
  4. Questions related to programming as I had programming background. He wrote few numbers and asked me what will be the best algorithm to bring 6(a number which was in the middle of the series) to the second position. It was a question on sorting. They asked me to write down the algorithm.

SUGGESTIONS – I guess they are judging your willingness and enthusiasm for this program. How much you can think to get to the answer. Sometimes they also look for your thought process instead of the right answer.

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Swapnika Vajrapu – B. Tech. in Chemical Engineering, IIT Kharagpur, 2014; 2 years of experience in Analytics in Banking sector, Crosslink Analytics

Duration: 25 mins

  1. Questions based on my project at workplace which was related to predictive analytics like-
    What were the dependent variables considered and what were the trends noticed? What was the mathematical equation used? Which tools were used? What algorithms were used? (Detailed description of the whole project)
  2. Some basic questions related to machine learning algos which I told I was aware of. Mainly linear regression. What does the SAS output of linear regression model indicate? What’s the difference between causality and correlation?
  3. 1 basic question related to geometry- if you move 5 km towards North, 5 km towards South-West and so on, finally where would you be as compared to the starting point?
  4. SUGGESTIONS – They don’t expect the final answer to be correct always, they see the thought process involved in solving a problem. Be very confident about the projects you have mentioned, mainly which are related to analytics.

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Shrey Manish – B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering, NIT Allahabad, 2015; 1 year of experience in finance (trading), Futures First

Duration: 40-50 mins

  1. Why PGDBA over other things?
  2. On my work experience in the trading industry, I was asked about the specifics of the products I traded, the different types of derivatives and how to take a buy/sell decision for an option class given a hypothetical scenario.
  3. What are some probability distributions you know? Explain the Poisson and Normal distribution.
  4. A couple of questions on linear algebra were asked which included solving a system of equations.
  5. Discussion on the JNU row, wasn’t asked anything objective.
  6. I was asked about the HR policies at my workplace and which of these were liked/disliked by the employees.

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Sakshi Agarwal – B.Tech + M.Tech. in Biochemical Engineering & Biotechnology, IIT Delhi, 2014; 2 years of work experience in Analytics (CPG sector), Fractal Analytics

Duration: 20 mins

The interview started with a brief introduction about myself.
Questions on work experience:

  • What projects did you work on?
  • Can you specify few important variables in the data you used in this project? How did you use these variables? What variables, you think, can affect sales of a company?

Questions on Statistics and Maths:

  • Do you know basic statistics?
  • What is hypothesis testing? Type-I, II errors? Test statistic? significance level? How do you define risk and decision making?
  • Given a signum function, discuss its limits and continuity, differentiability.
  • Some basic puzzle

In my opinion, they were mainly concerned about the confidence and clarity in the mathematical concepts and the reasoning ability of the candidate.

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Mukul Sonker – B.Tech. In Electrical engineering, IIT(ISM) Dhanbad, 2016

Duration: 20-25 mins

There were 3 questions from statistics:
What is CDF? At a given point what will be the pdf? Can you derive standard deviation?

They asked most of the questions from maths after knowing my interest in mathematics. The questions are (not necessarily in order):
1. What is the differentiation of X!?
2. One question from definite integral.
3. Differentiate log X by first derivative method.
4. Integration of log X ( I was also questioned for a particular method to find the solution).
5. Sketch the curve of log X+1 with steps.

Few questions on current affairs: Currencies of different countries . About maps. US elections?
They asked a few HR questions as well – why we should not select you? Why I am not going for a job? My final year project.

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Gunja Agarwal – B. Tech. in Computer Science, Jaypee university, 2015

Duration: 35 mins

  1. Tell me about yourself. Do you have other interview calls?
  2. A puzzle was given to solve – there are 3 bottles and a coin, so the probability of choosing a bottle is 1/3 but you have to get this probability by flipping a coin. What is the method to achieve the desired result?
    Answer: flip the coin twice and assign each bottle a unique id i.e TT, HT, TH, HH. But there are only 3 bottles, so create a dummy bottle and assign HH to it. Whenever while flipping a coin HH comes, you need to flip it again till a bottle is chosen. This way we can form an infinite GP series.
  3. Opinion on JNU event
  4. Questions on Computer science subjects like- what is deadlock and some famous problem which is yet not solved? Name the layers of networking in order? What is a graph and difference between a graph and a tree? I was asked to write the pointer program in C and was also asked to explain it in detail

Feedback: In my case, I think my higher secondary school marks in mathematics and graduation marks help me to grab some brownie points. Also, I was able to crack the puzzle confidently that they asked in the beginning.

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Kaustubh Daware – B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering, COEP, 2015; 11 months of experience in FCA (Automobile industry)

Duration: 20 mins

  1. I was asked about my work as testing and validation engineer in my company. They tried to relate statistics with my work.
  2. Panel had given me a riddle and I was asked to calculate the probability of the event specified in that riddle.
  3. I was also asked to solve a problem on limits.
  4. The interview panel asked me about my hobbies. When I told them that I like reading books, they questioned about my favourite books and what are they about. I was also asked that why am I pursuing PGDBA instead of masters in electrical as I had published few IEEE papers in my undergrad.

FEEDBACK: According to me, a fair idea on probability and calculus would suffice in cracking the interview.

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Harsh Kumar – B.Tech. in Chemical Engineering, IIT Delhi, 2016

Duration: 15 mins

  1. What is linear regression?
  2. What is the complexity of Dijkstra’s algorithm?
    What is BFS (Breadth first Search) and its complexity?
  3. Why do you want to be in this course?
    One particular thing that you like the most and why?
    Tell me something about you that is not mentioned in your CV?
  4. What is the pattern of variations in oil and natural gas prices? (Based on an economics project which I did during my B.Tech.)
  5. Their major focus was on my knowledge of data structures and algorithms and some knowledge in economics.

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Sidharth Kumar – B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering, NIT Patna, 2015; 2 months of work experience in Accenture (IT Industry)

Duration: 10 -12 mins

  1. What’s your position and responsibilities?
  2. Warm-Up Questions – Expand CBSE, NTPC
  3. Questions on Mathematics – 2 Puzzles(simple ones), Questions on Complex numbers (gave an equation to solve having complex roots), functions and differential equations (Gave a weird function to plot and then determine its tone with intervals)
  4. Current Affairs were asked as well – Current Transport Minister, Defense and External affairs
  5. Any extra -curricular activities done?

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Ranjit Kumar Malloji – B.Tech. in Computer Science, VNR VJIET Hyderabad, 2015; 1 year of work experience in CA Technologies (IT industry)

Duration: 25 mins

  1. As I was from Computer Science background, there were few questions related to the same. They asked me to choose a subject which I think I’m good at and I chose Database Management Systems. They asked me to explain different joins; how each one is different from the rest and asked me to write few queries ( 2, as far as I can remember). They also asked me to solve a problem on Bayes’ theorem which we discussed for 10 minutes.
  2. Based on work experience, few questions about my role at workplace and the technologies I was working on.
  3. Few questions related to my hobbies, I told them that I am a gaming enthusiast to which they asked me what games I play.

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Sumit Kalaskar – B.E. in Computer Science, Pune University; Freelancer

Duration: 35-40 mins

  1. Future of SAP ERP systems and impact of analytics on its design. Analytics in SAP and other ERP systems in the industry. What were the challenges faced during my assignments?
  2. How can Statistics be useful for a programmer?
  3. Which is the worst managed City in India according to you and why?
  4. Why analytics? Some random questions like tell me about your weekend plan.
    You appear to be friendly, is it possible to be friendly and still be an introvert?
  5. Questions on NBA, Lebron James (basketball)

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Here are the links to the interview experiences of the first batch of PGDBA:
PGDBA 2015-17 Interview Experiences – Part-1
PGDBA 2015-17 Interview Experiences – Part 2

Wishing you all the best for the final round! 🙂

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PGDBA 2016-18 Interview Experiences Part-1

This is a compilation of the interview experiences of the PGDBA 2016-18 students along with their profile, so as to help the aspirants in their preparation for the entrance.

There was a panel of 3 interviewers – one from each institute.

Himanshu Goyal –B.Tech. in Production and Industrial Engineering, 2011, IIT Delhi; 5 years of experience in BFSI, Global Analytics

Duration: 20-25 mins

Questions that were asked:

  1. Tell us about your achievements
  2. Why do you want to join PGDBA
  3. Write equation for linear and logistic regression (was asked due to my background at work)
  4. A puzzle which used the property of mean
  5. A question on odds ratio and probability

Experience and Review:

  1. Why PGDBA? or Why should we take you? needs to be very well prepared. You should be able to show that you are serious about this course and are making an informed choice. Everyone has a reason of their own and you will have to find one for yourself as well which you can pitch.
  2. In case you have work experience, you should be able to explain your roles and responsibilities in a comprehensive and confident way.
  3. My interview didn’t go well and I remember not being hopeful after it but my written test had gone very good which must have had a good impact.

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Waqar Sarguroh – B. Tech. in Chemical Engineering, IIT Roorkee, 2014; 25 months of work experience in Oil and Gas (Refinery) and EdTech Startup

Duration: 20 mins

  1. Asked to explain the product of the EdTech startup that I worked for. Discussed customer segmentation based on usage of app.
  2. Asked to explain classification and clustering and explain the difference. The interviewers were very helpful as I had only an elementary idea about the concept. They walked me through the thought process by asking guiding questions.
  3. An algebraic expression of positive integers to be maximised given a constraint. (Using AM > GM)
  4. What is BRICS? What is the economic situation of BRICS countries?
  5. Did you write CAT? Why not an MBA?

SUGGESTIONS-The main focus was on the ability to think through a problem. Building on ideas and communicating your thought process appropriately.

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Anushree Parsai – B.E. in Electronics and Communication, BITS Hyderabad, 2014; 2 years of work experience at ARM

Duration: 30-40 mins

  1. As my interview questions were mostly centered around current affairs, I feel the interviewers were looking for students who were good at academics and also kept track of current events of national and international importance. They asked me following questions – Which states will be having elections this year? Do you know about GST bill? How will it help? State 3 major achievements of Narendra Modi so far? Factors responsible for Syria conflict and views on it?
  2. Based On Work experience: How are defects identified in electronic chips? Define defect and differentiate it from from fault.
  3. There was one basic question on mathematics as well on finding continuity of a function.

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Naveen Mittal – B.Tech. in Computer Science and Engineering, KNIT Sultanpur, 2016

Duration: 20-25 mins

  1. Most of the questions related to Computer Science such as complexities of algorithms, sorting, searching, N-P hard problems, etc. Also, questions from management subjects in B.Tech curriculum such as IM, IS, IP were asked.
  2. Problems were given which required basic applications of statistics such as mean, median, mode, standard deviation etc. and drawing inferences using such measures.
  3. Calculus questions were asked, theorems such as Cauchy-Reimann, etc. were asked.
  4. Some HR questions like Why do you want to join PGDBA??

SUGGESTIONS-Be confident. Even if you do not know some of the answers don’t think that you can bluff with them. Say politely that you cannot recollect or remember the answer. I was able to answer Computer Science and Engineering related questions which happen to be my discipline during B.Tech. and maintain a positive attitude and confidence throughout the interview.

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Khushiram Sharma – B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering, IIT(BHU) Varanasi, 2013; 36 months of experience in BPCL as Retail Engineer and Asst. Mgr., Operations.

Duration: 25 mins

They asked me to briefly explain my profile of work. As I have been to many places during this time and the last one being Gorakhpur (UP), they picked a question from there. They asked me to give five cultural differences between UP & Rajasthan(I am from Ajmer) and also explain how they are different. They stopped me when I had explained  four of them convincingly.

They asked one question on maths which is as follows : We have identified four places in Rajasthan to be made headquarters of education for state. Out of these we have to finally select only three based on the distances need to be travelled by people in future. All other conditions will remain same for all places. Given this before jumping for any solution, I discussed about further assumptions like population density, shape can be assumed as per my drawing, people will travel to their nearest headquarter (as per straight line distance). Finally they said, all other conditions will remain same for all places. After trying for 2 minutes, they made little bit easier i.e. I have three locations and have to select two of them. Now I drew perpendicular bisectors of this triangle and then explained the solution.

They asked me whether I know coding, and I said” primarily no except that I studied C language 6 years ago.” Then they asked to write a code for printing my name(string) in reverse order, which I did.

I think your approach to the given problem will be a crucial factor in cracking the interview.

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Himanshu Jain – B.E. in Electronics and Communications Engineering, NSIT Delhi, 2013; 11 months of experience in IT Advisory (Analytics) Consultancy, KPMG; 24 months of experience in Samsung Data Systems (IT industry)

Duration: 15-20 mins.

P1: starts the interview asking me about my college history and Delhi Current political scenario, what I think about Arvind Kejriwal and what has changed in Delhi since AAP came to power & then asked about some Co-curricular activities.
P2(IIT professor of around 40+ age) asked about my work experience as I was working in analytics field
Me: I explained about my current client project and what different domains I was working on over the years.
P3(one having knowledge of Statistics & maths; must be from ISI):
Q1. Given a graph with a normal distribution of mean 30 marks. Also, 20% students have more than 45 marks. So how much % of students have marks ranging from 15 to 45?
Q2. Asked to draw a circle and how to find the centre of a circle.
I asked some questions in the end about what I can study before joining this course which would help me during PGDBA if I got selected. P2 smiled and replied just chill and enjoy.

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Yogesh Dewangan- B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering, NIT Raipur, 2013; Fresher

Duration: 25 mins

There were 3 interviewers sitting, 2 males 1 female.
Interviewer (I): So Yogesh, tell me something about yourself.
Me: Described a little about my background, education, then hobbies and lastly archery (I wanted them to ask on this only ).

I: Oh, so you are an archer. Tell us about your achievements in archery. Do you have any certificates related to archery?
Me: (showed all national and state championship certificates)

I(handed over the file to another interviewer): You can have a good career in archery, then why do you want to do this course? Do you plan to continue it in future?
Me: Of course sir, I am very passionate about archery. Our state does not have good facilities and environment for archery. I wish to set-up an archery academy in my state. It will have a great help to the archery community and will also attract new talents. Whatever problems I have faced as a beginner, I do not want the next generation of archers to face them.

I: So have you done something in this regard?
Me: Yes sir. We have formed a club and para-archery association which helps beginners and needy archers and promotes archery. I personally contribute annually to the club and I like training beginners.

I: You seem to be good at maths. Can you solve a few questions.

  1. Gave two equation which I don’t remember, but were of the form
    x=…
    and y=…(quadratic in the form of x)
    and told me to prove that y is multiple of 9.
  2. You have a triangle of sides a, b and c. Tell me the sufficient and necessary conditions for the triangle to exist.
  3. Tell me the range and domain for x in:
    y = 1/(log|x|)

I: Can you tell me some headlines on today’s newspaper? You belong to Chhattisgarh. What are your views about Naxalism. What they want and what you govt is doing to tackle them.
Me: Told that they want to run a parallel govt and do not want govt to have any interference in their area. They follow violent route to get their demands fulfilled. Told about the kidnapping of District collector and killing of Congress leaders in 2013.
Then told about govt policies and incentives about bringing Naxalites in the mainstream.

FEEDBACK: Major criteria for my selection, according to me was my score in the written exam. It played a vital role. Next may be my 10th 12th percentages (both 80+). Then, interview, which I felt went well. I was able to make them ask on archery. I knew Naxalism would come and hence was prepared with it. Everything that was asked to me, I was able to answer. I would say it was totally an expected interview.

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Apoorv Agarwal – B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering from NITK Surathkal, 2013; 30 months of experience in HealthCare Insurance, UnitedHealth Group Information Services Pvt. Ltd.

Duration: 15-20 mins

My interview proceeded as follows:
Tell me about yourself (2 minutes)
Work Experience (3-5 minutes)

Q: What was your work profile?
A: I was working as a database analyst in UnitedHealth Group, briefly explained about the project and my role in the company. They were more interested in analytics related work or if we were using any machine learning algorithm. Since we were not using any sophisticated machine learning algorithm at that point of time, I told him how we were doing descriptive analytics in SQL server.

Probability/Statistics Questions (2-3 minutes):
I was asked to write the probability density function, mean and variance of the Poisson distribution. Real life examples of Poisson and exponential distribution.
Bayes Theorem – He asked me to state Bayes theorem and its application.

Graduation (2 minutes)
Interviewer asked me to explain the principle behind swing bowling in cricket(as I did my B.Tech in mechanical engineering and mentioned cricket in my hobbies).
I explained it through Bernoulli’s effect, pressure difference and then there were a couple of questions on Bernoulli’s theorem.

What motivates you to the field of analytics(2-4 minutes):
As I was working in the healthcare industry, so I started with the importance of data analytics in the field of healthcare insurance, how we can reduce the overall healthcare cost and serve patients in a better way. I continued my explanation with other sectors and explained how we can leverage data analytics to make effective decisions. They wanted to check my interest in analytics.

Extra Curricular Activities: Sachin Tendulkar Vs Virat Kohli- They were interested in statistical analysis behind my answer.

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Kapil Tripathi – B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering, NIT Allahabad, 2014; 18 months of experience in Manufacturing (Power Function), Trident Group and 5 months in a Project at BHEL

Duration: 20 mins.

My Complete Interview Experience –

Tell me something about yourself? 
Q- (IIM Prof) What is your motivation for joining this programme?
I told them about my start-up idea in power sector which deals purely with analytics and how this programme can help me achieve that.
Q- (IIT Prof) He said these things shall not be implemented in India.
Explained that how government of India has set up 1000 crores for the modernisation of electrical transmission quality and the function delivering those results shall be analytics
Q- (ISI Prof) You like electrical ? Can you derive RMS value for a sinusoidal current waveform?
Q-(ISI Prof) Given machines downtime periods how the spare parts in your store shall be taken care of ? Any graphs you can plot etc. 
After some thought, explained about frequency of various spares used in last downtime periods and based on that data we shall generate some bar plots etc.
Q-(IIT Prof) Any analytics experience?
I told them that I have seen implementation of Aspen tech boiler controller in which learning by controller was done for a month.

SUGGESTIONS – To be as frank and confident as possible. Decent communication skill and good applied thinking shall be enough for interview. Avoid saying extreme technical terms of which you are not aware of as they will cross question.

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Ishita Lohia – B.Tech. in Computer Science, College Of Technology, G.B.P.U.A.T., Pantnagar, 2014; 12 months of experience in Tech Mahindra (IT industry)

Duration-25 mins.

  1. What all tools did I work on ? Why do we use SQL and not Excel for the retrieval of data. Some very basic questions on what our application was and how exactly was I contributing to the organization. Few questions were asked from JAVA and data structures too.
  2. What is cumulative frequency? They drew a graph of the cumulative frequency for the number of girls vs marks they scored and did the same for the boys and asked who performed better(girls or boys). They asked me to explain normal distribution and few trailing questions on that.
  3. They asked me about different raag as I had participated in singing events.

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Palash R Tatte – B.Tech. in Production and Industrial engineering, IIT Delhi, 2014; 23 months of experience in Healthcare analytics, IMS Health

Duration: 30 mins

  1. Questions about my work, grilling me on fine details whenever anything regarding stats or maths was mentioned.
  2. Based on previous answer, questions about moving averages when I mentioned forecasting as a part of my work; they tried to dig deep into regression, R square (they asked me to write down its formula)
  3. It seemed they were waiting to throw hardcore math questions. But somehow discussion moved on to operations research (but be prepared for math questions, specially when you’re a fresher) and they asked me to solve a full LP problem. I tried to act smart and solved it graphically for 2 variables which did not go in my favor; they stopped me in between and asked me to do it using SIMPLEX after which I gave up.
  4. Who do you think is a better player, Kohli or Tendulkar?
  5. They asked about hobbies; on cricket, they asked whether I played any Inter IIT and which ones. They asked about my extra-curricular activities at college. Questions like if not PGDBA, then what?

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Kallu Chandra Mouli – B.Tech. in Electronics and Communications Engineering, NIT Trichy, 2014; 11 months of experience in FCA (Automobile industry)

Duration: 30-35 mins

Many questions were asked related to work experience. It began with questions like briefly explain a day in your office and questions were followed from what I answered.  Few questions were asked about the tools and projects at work. One question was asked about different types of schemas implemented in databases and then types of transformations in Informatica. How would we clean data before entering them into a database . Challenges faced at work . How would you explain a flat file to your grandma. They also asked standard HR questions – Why PGDBA. What are your hobbies- I replied cycling and then we had a small discussion regarding cycle prices in India and abroad.

There were very basic questions related to normal distributions. I was also asked to solve a question on permutation and combination and then one more from linear equations. Both of them were of CAT standards. I think they were looking for people with interest towards analytics and good understanding of fundamental maths and statistics.

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For the next part of this post:
PGDBA 2016-18 Interview Experiences Part-2

Here are the links to the interview experiences of the first batch of PGDBA:
PGDBA 2015-17 Interview Experiences – Part-1
PGDBA 2015-17 Interview Experiences – Part 2

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Wiser By A Semester Of Statistics

– Himanshu Goyal


The first step is the hardest.
– Unknown

When one first hears about the PGDBA course, the aspect which captures one’s attention the most is that it is studied at three different institutes. It seems a bit confusing at the start but soon one gets fascinated by it. The fact that each aspect of business analytics is taught by a specialized institute seems like a perfect horses-for-courses strategy.

When I first heard about it, there was one name out of the three which captured my imagination the most and made me take this course seriously. That was ISI Kolkata – the pinnacle for statisticians. It is not to say that IIT Kharagpur and IIM Calcutta are insignificant names – popularity-wise that would be opposite – but the fact that an institute which is known more for its research-oriented approach, and not for focussing on fat pay checks, was a part of this curriculum made me think that I might actually learn something in this course and not just bide my time until the placement season. Hence I can say that ISI is one of the primary reasons for me being in this course. Now that the ISI phase is over I feel it imperative to share my experience. Due to space constraints, I will limit this article to my academic experience and not the student life there.

We studied 5 courses there and though I will not be able to do justice to each of them in this short space, I will try my best to give an overview of what we studied in each course.

1. Stochastic Processes and its Applications:

Randomness is the true foundation of mathematics. – Gregory Chaitin

This course can be thought of as 3-in-1. It started with probability problems (check out gambler’s ruin problem if gambling is your thing), their ingenious solutions and then expanded to probability distributions. In almost no time at all, we shifted gears from simple coin tosses to complex problems involving combinations of probability and calculus. When we got done with it all in one month, we found out that it was a precursor to stochastic processes. We then spent a good amount of time studying Markov chains which has innumerable practical applications in today’s world (Google’s PageRank algorithm). If that was not enough in one semester, we also got an introduction to time series forecasting in final stages of the course.

Probability, Stochastic Processes and Time Series forecasting – All three have the potential to be a separate course in themselves for one whole semester. While we couldn’t cover each one of them extensively, the course was a good starting point for someone looking for further studies in this area. It also covered enough of the three sub-topics so that we wouldn’t be sitting ducks when facing practical problems in this subject.

2. Statistical Structures in Data:

Statistics is the grammar of science. – Karl Pearson

Arguably the most important course of the semester. This course dwelled into pure statistics which started from simple properties of a distribution such as mean, median, variance, etc. We then moved to solve regression problems which started from univariate and culminated in multivariate statistics. This course also introduced us to various concepts in machine learning such as PCA, Factor Analysis, GLM and Decision Trees. Don’t worry if all these terms look Chinese to you, many of us weren’t aware of it either before stepping into ISI.

Going by the internship interview experience of the first batch of PGDBA, it was considered to be the most important course. I believe that is because being a data analyst is not about being able to run a code in a software, rather it is about understanding the concepts behind the scenes and use that to extract maximum information. This course does exactly that.

3. Inferences:

It is a hypothesis that the sun will rise tomorrow; and this means that we do not know whether it will rise. – Ludwig Wittgenstein

English is never going to be the same for you once you attend this course. This course gave a glimpse into how technical can one get into statistics. We found that many things which would seem a mere nuisance to a ‘normal’ person actually have a lot of difference when it comes to statistics. Likelihood and Probability take on a new meaning altogether; Parameter, Statistic, Estimator and Estimate will always seem like a case of so-near-yet-so-far. We also covered the concept of hypothesis testing and its applications. Any statistics-101 book will have these topics and this particular course coupled with the one above forms the crux for which one comes to ISI.

It is quite easy to commit mistakes in statistics by missing out on one or two seemingly trivial assumptions. This course taught us to be really careful with what we state and what we assume. At the same time, it taught us concepts which have direct applications in the real world and in the realm of statistics.

4. Computing for Data Sciences (CDS):

Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; humans are slow, inaccurate and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination. – Leo Cherne (This quote is often wrongly attributed to Einstein)

One of my batch-mates has already written a whole article dedicated to this course and its faculty. And the reason for that is simple – We learnt the most in this course. This course takes you on a journey of data science where you become fascinated by it. Each one of our classes was focussed on one topic and the number of topics we ended up covering in the entire semester was humongous. If coverage of so much theory wasn’t enough, we also had hands-on sessions in class on R. This was also the only course in ISI in which we did a complete data science project from scratch. You can find the list of projects done by 2016 batch here (and here for 2015 batch).

We have spent one month at IIT KGP and we are already seeing the benefits of what we covered in CDS. Having got a glimpse into the multitude of topics earlier, it is now much easier for us to get into the flow of each topic which are being taught in separate courses.

5. Fundamentals of Database Systems:

Unless structure follows strategy, inefficiency results. – Alfred D. Chandler

This was probably the least thought-out course of the five in this semester. And that worked both ways for us. We finished the stipulated curriculum halfway through the semester and hence the faculty left it unto us what we wanted to cover. Students suggested the topics and were duly obliged. The first half of semester got us acquainted with MySQL. We then studied normalization of databases in detail which talked about how an efficient and accurate database can be designed. We also studied Information Retrieval, MapReduce and Market-basket model in the latter half of semester.

In total, we spent exactly 4 months at ISI. That is by no means sufficient amount of time to get the maximum potential out of that place but you make peace with what you get. The learning at ISI was unique at the very least and it provided the perfect kick start we needed in this course. We covered a breadth of topics in a couple of courses and went into depth as well wherever necessary. These courses have laid a solid foundation and now we are in a position to apply these concepts and see if we can really make the data speak. The first and the hardest step has been taken. Now is the time to cover the distance.

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A Semester in Class with Souravda

“December is a wonderful time to be in Calcutta”, remarked the Director of ISI Kolkata, Prof. Sanghamitra Bandopadhyay, as she addressed the participants of a workshop on Machine Learning yesterday. In winter, Calcutta and the ISI campus seem to be embedded in a timescale of their own. The cool climate, with the leisure of end of semester break and the occasional chai in little earthen cups are an apt climax to a wonderful first leg of the PGDBA course here at ISI.

We had the opportunity to attend a lecture delivered by Dr. Sourav Sengupta held in the same Machine Learning workshop this week. Souravda, as he insisted we must call him when we first met in July, taught us a course titled ‘Computing for Data Science’ in this semester’s coursework. The topic of his workshop lecture on Tuesday was Linear Algebra and I couldn’t help but smile as I reminisced the most enjoyable classroom experience that I had in the past semester. When I decided on writing this piece I was lost for ideas on how to do justice, in the measure of just a few words, to a semester’s worth of constantly brilliant teaching. Just plain superlatives for Dr. Sourav Sengupta would not suffice to explain the privilege I feel in being his student.

There are many moments in class that I felt amazed as he walked us through a topic, drawing out concept after concept, most times exercising the last resource of our grey cells. With his characteristic smiles and pauses, he conducted the class like an orchestra maestro. He was always thoroughly prepared with the flow of his lectures that were packed with information and insight. Maybe trying to recap a few highlights would help reflect the memorable journey we’ve had in class.

Of our first few trysts in Souravda’s class was the one with Linear Algebra. He introduced matrix multiplication as an operation on vector spaces. Starting with linear combinations of vectors and the space they spanned, he guided us to a vector space representation of the linear least squares estimate of a system of equations. This might seem arcane to some, but the charm was in the ease with which he explained the ideas of multidimensional spaces and vectors in the context of something as simple as least squares approximation. Another of such crescendos was when he tied eigen values, Markov chains and the power method in a lecture on how Google first developed a base for ranking webpages called PageRank. It was almost a revelation when I first realised, “So this is a Markov chain!”

In another lecture, Souravda explained the notion of volume as it applies to higher dimensions. He compared a unit ball with a unit square. A unit square in two dimensions is completely contained inside a unit ball. The farthest that a square can get from the origin is root of 1/2 (1/4 +1/4 = 2/4) whereas a unit circle is at a fixed distance of 1. In three dimensions, a cuboid is still inside a sphere and the farthest it gets to is square root of 3/4. Now, as we move up to four dimensions, the farthest point inside the ‘box’ is at square root of 4/4 which is 1. So in four dimensions, the box just touches the ball but is still contained entirely inside it. “What happens, when we move higher up”, asked Souravda in class. It so happens that the unit box creeps out of the ball in the fifth dimension and further up, in still higher dimensions, most of the volume of the box is not contained inside the ball. This was just one aspect of the notion of distances that he discussed. In another class, we discussed the distance between two sentences or text corpuses to see how similar or different they were. And as measures of similarity of two sets, Souravda then introduced us to hash functions and MinHashing.

“How would you develop a system to choose one person from three people, uniformly at random, by using just the outcomes of coin tosses?” This is one of Prof. Bimal Roy’s favourite questions (previous Director and professor of MathStat department) that Souravda introduced in class with us. He then extended the discussion to choosing uniformly at random from n people and then on to storing streaming data in an efficient way.

PCA, SVD, Linear Regression and Regularisation, Clustering, Classification and Regression Trees, Bias-Variance Trade-off in learning algorithms, SVM, Recommender Systems, Expectation Maximisation are the other broad topics that he discussed at a constant level of commitment and brilliance.

And that is just his teaching. There’s another side to the person that is Souravda. His utmost sincerity and dedication, at times when it seemed unimaginable why a person should go so far out of his way to help, was an immeasurable gift during the course.

At times when he explained algorithms for certain applications, he would use the common refrain, “But can you do any better?” in trying to guide us to more efficient solutions. A lesson that Souravda’s students could take from his classes, of which his own dedication was sufficient evidence, was to keep asking themselves, “Can you do any better?”

Thank you and farewell, Dr. Sourav Sengupta.

dsc_3062

PGDBA batch of 2016-18 at Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata

 

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Foreign Internships: Ambassadors of PGDBA

As the founding batch prepares for their final placements, we bring to you a sneak peek into the persona of a unique group of people who are going to cross the borders for their 6-month long internships.

Madhur Modi 

It was June 2015 when a set of 51 students set foot on the doorsteps of IIM Calcutta, ready to embark upon a journey filled with chaos! They had no idea how their decision to join this new course – Postgraduate Diploma in Business Analytics (PGDBA), hosted by the three prestigious institutes in India and the oldest ones in this field would shape their future career. Even though they were all convinced of the strength of data and how it could be used to disrupt entire markets, they themselves weren’t sure what a roller coaster ride they were going to go through. Then, as the time to start the internship semester draws near, 6 students were offered foreign internship offers and today, four of them are traveling to various countries to start their foreign interns. In this founding batch, these six students also contain a blend of people with work experience and freshers and come from diverse backgrounds. Here’s a showcase of their profiles:

Alok Mani Singh The civil engineer from BHEL, and the “stud” with 4-year worth of experience from a Maharatna PSU and IIT Guwahati attached in his name was the first person who secured his foreign intern in the prestigious Dunia Finance in Dubai. The “Perfect Statistician” as well as the “Management expert” who can solve any problem that comes his way “within a night or two”. He also likes to play guitar and has entertained us for past one and a half years with his pleasant voice. Now he will be working closely with the head of strategic analytics function at Dunia during his 6-month internship in Dubai.

Siddhant Sanjeev “Coder” as everyone in the batch knows him to be, was the only other person to impress the company Dunia and accompany Alok to Dubai. Everyone in the batch knows him as a fresher with computer science background from NSIT and a national level coder. He also got himself an interview offer from Google owing to his coding skills as well as won case competitions from PwC and Deloitte. He also developed an e-commerce website using intricate concepts of natural language processing, recommendation systems and information retrieval.

Ankitkumar Sonthalia Better known as “Sonthu”, this guy has 3 years of work experience from Cognizant and now he is going to work for Rocket Internet in Myanmar. He has worked on marketing strategy, predictions and recommendation systems. He is a travel enthusiast and has organized many unforgettable trips for our batch. He has also conducted cricket fantasy league and freshers’ party.

Rachit Tripathi A mechanical engineer from IIT Kanpur by mind and a quant trader by heart, Rachit bagged an internship in France at QuantCube Technology, a niche fintech company. He’s also part of the team selected for data science game, an international inter-university competition held in Paris. In his pursuit of becoming a quant trader, he obtained CFA level 1 certification and solved various cases from those on Walmart to those on Yahoo data. He is also known as the “data scientist” of the batch and has recently been selected as one of the finalists in Goldman Sachs Quantify competition.

Avinash Kumar He is a mechanical engineer from NIT Jamshedpur and has worked in L&T for 3 years. He was offered an internship at Rocket Internet which he did not take as he aspired to work in India. He has written an international research paper and also has been part of the Data Science Game with Rachit during this course. He also won NASA systems engineering award while being a B.Tech. student. Besides, he is also a skilled TT player as well as a chess enthusiast.

Bharathi Ramaraj Bharathi got the internship offer from Rocket Internet but she decided to stay in India. The only girl to get a foreign internship offer, she is a fresher with B.Tech. in Electronics and Communications Engineering. She has worked on uplift modeling, high-frequency data and news analytics and has taken part in various Kaggle competitions. She is also an international chess player and has traveled to as many as 16 countries representing India. She envisions being a financial analyst and to use advanced analytics techniques in a financial credit company to build her career.

Despite such varying backgrounds and profiles, students of PGDBA were able to spread the word about the program and attained internships in various places like Dubai, France and Myanmar. A lot of us were not sure about what we will be able to achieve when we started this journey, but now seeing the accomplishments, as showcased by the examples above, we have grown a lot more confident in our abilities and can envisage a clearer picture of our future in the analytics world.

Best wishes to the entire batch for their internship semester! We are sure that all of you will imprint the brand PGDBA in the world of data analytics.

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Chances of Consequence

Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you’ve made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

-The Little Prince

Our first exams in this first semester at ISI have finally arrived. One of the subjects of the course, and of the more interesting ones I might add, is ‘Probability and Stochastic Processes’. This was also the subject of our first exam. I have been pouring over notes and hundreds of pages of text in preparation of this exam. The intricacies in some of the ideas reminded me of these lines taken from ‘The Little Prince’ and quoted by David Freedman in his book on Statistics. Are such matters as figures and charts always dry and boring? In our first class, the professor of the same subject also remarked, “Maybe our insistence on numbers is the limitation of man”.

‘The Little Prince’ is a famous classic written by Saint Antoine du Exupery. Although it was first written as a children’s book, it has been enjoyed over the years by adults alike as a heart-warming story on friendship, growing-up and the curious fascinations of man. One of the oft used coinages in the book is the phrase ‘matters of consequence’. The Little Prince finds, at one point, a man aimlessly counting stars to the extent that he reaches ‘five hundred and one million’. This man then ironically refers to his counting as a matter of consequence.

In these days leading up to our exams, I began to wonder whether factuality could be made interesting in the context of some intricacies I came across in problems of Probability Theory. Are there questions that I can ask that are not as dry as the character’s occupation of counting in The Little Prince?

Consider the following questions. How many random people would I need to collect in a room, such that there would be half a chance that at least two of them share their birthdays? The answer to this is a surprisingly low number. Let’s look at a different question. How many people would I need to catch hold of and ask birthdays of to have half a chance of finding someone who shares my birthday? It is also interesting to note that this number is different from the first one. Louis CK, the famous stand-up comedian, made an interesting remark in one of his live shows. He said that there were enough people attending his show for there to be a fair chance that a few of them would die in the coming year. Ouch! Let’s pose that as a question on chance. Assume a population with a certain death rate. What is the number of people I would have to randomly collect in a room, such that there would be half a chance that someone would die tomorrow?

Enough with birthdays and death days. Consider coin tosses. Say, I keep tossing a coin and keep getting heads for a hundred tosses. I only know that it is equally likely that my coin is anything between a perfectly rigged coin to a perfectly fair coin. What is the chance that I win if I bet on the next toss to be heads? Let’s stretch this slightly further. Let us assume that when the universe was born, the probability that the sun would rise over planet earth each day was made to depend on a coin toss. We only know that this coin was likely to be anything between a perfectly fair to a perfectly unfair coin (God is playing a cruel game). What is the probability that the sun would rise tomorrow, given that it has been rising each day over all these years since the birth of the universe?

Let’s give some rest to our poor coin and move on to other questions. The Monty Hall Problem is a famous example on how sometimes the idea of chance can stump intuition. Here’s a different example in a similar vein. Suppose there are three suspects in jail who have been cleared of any wrongdoing and are all going to be released soon. It is announced that two of the three would be released the next day but these three don’t know exactly which two of them will be released. One of them decides to go ask the guard which one of the other two prisoners is going to be released. But then he thinks the following to himself, “After I have asked, I have only a one in two chance that I’m the second guy to be released. But before I ask, there is a two in three chance that I will be one of the guys to be released. So should I rather not ask?”

Like one of our professors quips so often, ‘Remember that there’s a chance model somewhere in the background.’ Somebody somewhere is flipping a coin. Maybe someday a story will be written on a travelling mathematician who visits magical planets to ask questions on chances of consequence. It’s a long shot that it would be anything as beautiful as the masterpiece that is the ‘The Little Prince’. But I wager it wouldn’t be as bad as dry pointless counting.

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Joka Library to Paris – A Data Science Crusade

A peek into Team Tabs, one of the three teams representing India at DSG.

It was a crisp Friday morning and I was seated comfortably in the plush IIMC library. The PGDBA semester was well underway, assignments were raining thick and fast…life was busy…life was good and I was brimming with excitement.

I had only just begun working on a competition, which had started 4 days ago on June 14th 2016. It was an inter-university data-science competition called the Data Science Game. With so many constraints such as limited number of submissions in a day and final selection of only one team from a college, it was, by all means the “big deal” and a glance at the list of competing universities showed us some tough nuts. There were the usual suspects i.e. Stanford, Cambridge, Oxford et al., supplemented by a host of premier universities from across the world.

Certainly our team of four from first-ever batch of PGDBA, though no novices, were far from being among the best in the world… or were they?

And so we – Team Tabs – prepared a starting output, clicked on the ‘Make Submission’ button and waited with a muted yet expectation-laced anxiety that any Kaggler worth his salt would be familiar with and then this image popped up on our screen:

tabs

Most authors describe moments like these with the cliche ‘There was a moment of silence followed by….’ I discovered that they were quite wrong…as my uncontrollable Hagrid-like laughter filled the breadth of the IIM Calcutta library, defiant of the several bemused yet stern glares that were pointed in my direction! Second in the whole world! Irrespective of its ephemerality, irrespective of the pains required to maintain it or the challenges that we were about to face in the coming three weeks – it was a moment of reckoning for us, a moment to cherish, a moment to savour. Yet, when I look back I can say with certainty that it was at this point I started believing that international glory wasn’t beyond our reach.

What followed were some of the most gruelling days of my life. Over the next three weeks, we went on to learn and implement Deep Learning (Convolutional Neural Networks) algorithms for image classification. We travelled to multiple universities in a quest for servers to run these algorithms. We learnt, we toiled, we toiled hard and we thrived. When the competition ended, we were the top team from India – Yes! Our hard work and perseverance led to us being the Rank 1 Indian team. We were among the 20 teams from around the world selected to travel to Paris for the final phase of the competition and folks, as you read this article, we’re on the flight journey towards the finals of the competition in Paris, to be held on 9th September.

What fills me with even more delight is that not just us, but three teams from India have made it to the final 20 – one each from IIM Calcutta-Team Tabs, IIT Kharagpur and ISI Kolkata- The Frequentists (in their ranking order). India has made its presence felt in this 2nd edition of Data Science Game and interestingly enough, all the three institutes are what together constitute PGDBA! It is encouraging to see that three Indian teams have proved themselves worthy of being the global top 20 when 146 teams from 28 countries participated and showed their mettle in this grueling competition.

The competition contained an image classification problem. A set of images were given, which had to be classified into four categories. The problem at hand could have been done in various ways. We decided to use deep learning as a lot of interesting work is being done around it and it’s one of the most advanced techniques currently available. We had a basic knowledge about it and developed more understanding as we moved along. The process of compiling and executing codes went on and we worked hard every single day. The machine learning algorithms take time to execute and with limited computing power at our disposal and time constraint of the competition, we ensured that every iota of it was used. As we were fighting neck to neck with all top notch universities across the world, the task was not at all easy and there were a lot of hurdles on the way. The limited computing power slowed us down. Every iteration of the code required a whole day and thus constrained our capacity to experiment with the algorithm. Soon other teams caught up with us on the leaderboard. To wrinkle out the problems we went to IIT-KGP and ISI to gain server access. However, the terminals at both places were preoccupied. As a last resort, we decided to use Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS was difficult to set-up because of the complex technicalities and as none of us was acquainted with the process, it made our job all the more difficult. We quickly took charge and read about it from the scratch, spending a precious time of 3 days to figure everything out and get it running. In hindsight, it was worth the effort. Our first run in AWS increased the accuracy by 5 % and it all paid off with the jump on the leaderboard.

Now that we look at it, a lot of edge was given to us by our PGDBA curriculum. The basics of machine learning and computing were well laid out throughout the course. It enabled us to deep dive into deep learning and comprehend the technical aspects around it. We also consulted with professors for guidance. With Team Tabs standing at 12 in global rankings, we realize that we have learnt a lot on the way, when we were actually working on the problem statement.

We will now be competing with some of the top Kagglers in the finals. The finale would certainly provide us with global exposure as we will get a macroscopic view of what’s happening around the world in the field of data science by interacting with top-notch data analysts spread across the world. Since it’s a 2-day competition, the dynamics of the game is bound to change. We haven’t been able to put in continuous concentrated efforts towards the final round owing to the rigorous academic curriculum this semester and us coping up on classes. We do have a lot to cover but we will keep learning new stuff as we have been doing in the past year. Thus a great opportunity for knowledge transfer and networking lies ahead. With everyone’s hopes in us, we make our journey to Paris, where the final leg of the competition awaits… along with our fateful turnout in the 2nd Data Science Game competition.

About the team – “Team Tabs” from IIM Calcutta

Pranita Khandelwal – She completed her graduation (B.Tech.) in Electrical & Electronics Engineering and Masters in Economics from BITS Pilani. Initial interest in statistics and then further exploration of online courses made her pursue a career in the data science field.

Ritwik Moghe – He is a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Madras. With no coding background in the beginning, he learnt everything after joining the PGDBA program.

Avinash Kumar – He is a Mechanical Engineer from NIT Jamshedpur and has worked in manufacturing industry prior to joining the PGDBA program. While in college, he participated in some analytics competitions and enhanced his data science skills after studying in the three institutes of PGDBA.

Rachit Tripathi – He is a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Kanpur. He has worked on multiple projects in Robotics, programing and data handling areas while he was in college. His keen interest in mathematics and computing drove him to join PGDBA.

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Team Tabs

 

Do check out the team from ISI at the link: The Frequentists

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The Frequentists

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The Best Laid Schemes, of Spiders and Men!

What do entropy, linear programming and Riemann surfaces have in common? Puzzled? Now imagine this connection explained by an eccentric speaker in the attire of a French stage magician, with the charm and virtuosity of a storyteller. Cedric Villani, French mathematician, Fields Medal awardee in the year 2010 and famously called by the NewYorker magazine as the ‘Lady Gaga of Mathematics’ delivered a public lecture titled ‘Of Triangles, Gases, Prices and Men’ at ISI on 26th August 2016. The second PGDBA batch, currently in its first semester here at ISI, had the opportunity to be present at this intriguing and informative session.

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Cedric Villani

The abstraction and intrigue of Cedric could be assumed from the fact that an introduction to him included a reference to the number of his pets. This abstraction could also be inferred from the title of his talk, which was a play on the title of John Steinbeck’s famous classic ‘Of Mice and Men.’ The first slide of his presentation was taken from Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott. In Cedric’s own interpretation, the Lady of Shalott, accursed to see the world only through a mirror, was actually an allegory to the mathematician forever accursed to look at reality through his equations! Cedric then said that there are many more unsolved mysteries in Mathematics today than there were a hundred years ago. There are ever so many new problems that keep arising. Then there are those age-old ones that lie in famous mathematicians’ lists of unsolved problems. One such famous unproved hypothesis is the Riemann hypothesis. This led Cedric down the path to explaining Riemann’s works and then to the first part of the evening’s presentation – ‘triangles’.

He introduced to the audience Riemann surfaces and how Escher employed curved surfaces in his art. As examples of negative curvatures, he showed images of art installations in museums and models of coral reef. Einstein, with the help of his mathematician colleagues, used Riemann’s ideas to develop his General Theory of Relativity. Cedric went on to add that, the GPS technology so ubiquitous in the world today has its roots in Riemann’s works in topology. In a humorous turn of speech, Cedric noted that Riemann was as oblivious to his work being of practical use in 21st century devices, as modern day GPS users were to Riemann’s surfaces. An ironic symmetry indeed!

At this turn of his presentation, Cedric spoke about how it is equally important for scientists to pursue inspiration and not just utility. He marked out Riemann as someone who was particularly interested in approaching problems in his own unique way. Cedric quoted Poincare who had once said, “Mathematics is the art of giving the same name to different things.” The second part of his talk on ‘gases’ started with a description of his visit to Vienna and a search for Boltzmann’s grave. He said that he stopped to ask a family for a map not expecting them to know Boltzmann, let alone his grave. To his surprise, he was not only directed to the location of the grave but the person also exclaimed Boltzmann’s equation of entropy, “S=klogW”!

In connection with entropy, he then talked about the Gaussian curve, its ubiquitous nature and its uncanny appearance in many natural systems. He called the study of Probability and Statistics as ‘the extraordinary adventure of mastering of chance.’ As a matter of coincidence, he discussed a famous problem in his presentation called ‘Buffon’s needle’, which was also discussed in class earlier on the same day with the PGDBA students by their lecturer. Experiments such as coin tosses, Cedric said, are best done in the most careless ways! Then he explained how gases are modeled as billiard balls in collision and when there are many such sufficiently small billiard balls, their velocities are accurately modeled as the Gaussian distribution. As a note, Cedric remarked on the power of this distribution by quoting Sir Francis Galton who once called it the ‘supreme law of unreason.’

The next part of his presentation was ‘prices’. Cedric introduced Leonid Kantorovic, the father of linear programming. He explained how math is used to model the optimal allocation of resources. He then strung together ideas from the optimized distribution of resources to the distribution of gas molecules with the least loss of energy. The analogy of prices in linear programming is energy in distribution of gas molecules. This is where Cedric began piecing everything together with the last part of his talk called ‘men’. Cedric described how he had happened to meet his collaborators John Lott and Felix Otto. These men put together the ‘triangles’, ‘gases’ and ‘prices’ and helped Cedric complete his research on how fast gases reach the equilibrium stage described in Boltzmann’s equation. Cedric was awarded the Fields medal in connection with this research.

What would have been an intimidating subject matter coming from volumes over volumes of text, was aptly introduced in a two-hour lecture by Cedric Villani, a master at his trade, a storyteller par excellence, a dinosaur catcher in his childhood dreams and a true ambassador of modern mathematics. In a surprising irony of sorts, apart from the many hidden mysteries in the details of his works, the most apparent mystery is the brooches of spiders that he wears on the lapels of his coat!

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