Deciding to attend graduate school often comes with the pressure of knowing precisely what to study and pursue after college. But for Shloak Gupta, attending the iSchool’s Data Science graduate program allowed him to explore the different realms within data science and discover what roles appeal most to him.
“The courses offered at Syracuse give you the option to explore different things such as cloud technologies, big data technologies, and natural language processing,” says Gupta. “That gave me an overall data scientist portfolio and opened my options for applying to different roles at different companies, then exploring those companies, and finalizing a role for me.”
Before attending the iSchool, Gupta studied engineering at the M.B.M. Engineering College in Jodhpur, India. He realized he was more interested in data than software through his undergraduate education and wanted a more in-depth education in machine learning and data science. But Gupta also wanted to learn about analyzing data and how data analysis impacts business decisions. Plus, Gupta wanted a program to give him the hands-on professional experience he needed to succeed as a data scientist.
The iSchool checked all of Gupta’s desires. Not only did Syracuse offer a master’s program explicitly focused on data science with options to study business courses through the university’s other colleges, but it also provided opportunities to work on projects equal to professional work experience. For example, within his first week at Syracuse, Gupta met professor Dr. Jennifer Stromer-Galley and quickly started working with her and other students on a project called “Illuminating.” The project focused on analyzing election content on social media and gave Gupta insight into working as a data scientist.
When Gupta graduated and interviewed for jobs, he says his work with Dr. Stromer-Galley always stood out. “Before coming to Syracuse, I had no work experience, so I wanted to absorb as much as I could. This project not only gave me knowledge on different topics, like natural language processing, it also allowed me to work with a large scale of data,” explains Gupta. “It was equal to two years of professional experience rather than just being an academy project.”
Gupta also worked as a Graduate Research Assistant Data Engineer with Assistant Professor Daniel Acuna on a project called “Eilleen.io.” This project identified the topical interest of scientists and organizations and enabled them to track the productivity and impact of their work. It linked scholarly literature and grants to create a unified dataset capturing diverse scientific disciplines and federal grant awards. Similar to his work with Stromer-Galley, this project allowed Gupta to gain professional experience while earning his master’s.
The experience through both projects helped Gupta earn a full-time position as a data scientist with BLEND360. The company helps businesses optimize their performance through data, technology, and analytics. Gupta’s role involved consulting with clients and using data science to develop marketing solutions.
A year into working with BLEND360, Gupta got an opportunity to join Walmart’s Store Technology Associate team as a data scientist. In this role, Gupta’s team focuses on improving the efficiency of Supercenter store associates through technology. Gupta explains that there are many Supercenters around the U.S., and 1.5 million associates work in those Supercenters helping customers out with products. One of their main pain points is helping customers identify what products are available in what stores.
“One of the projects that I’m working on is correctly identifying if the inventory is out,” says Gupta. “If a customer goes to a Supercenter and never finds the product he’s looking for, he’s not going to return to the stores in the future. So we want to make sure that if the database is showing a product, then the product needs to be there.”
Gupta’s role may appear simple to an outsider, but the job brings Gupta consistent excitement and keeps him growing as a data scientist. “I’m learning about applying all the algorithms and technology at a bigger scale. And when you apply these things to millions of customers or orders, it gives you that perspective of scale, and you see how you can impact a lot of people with the work you’re doing,” says Gupta.
Looking back on his time at Syracuse, Gupta credits his success and preparedness to his education from the iSchool. Having the chance to learn and work alongside professors and other students is part of what made Gupta decide on Syracuse in the first place. And he’s glad his education brought him to his current position with Walmart.
Gupta’s advice to incoming students as they start their iSchool careers is to explore what you’re passionate about. “You don’t have to limit yourself,” says Gupta. “And the best way to learn more in-depth about a topic is to collaborate with the professors and be a part of their research. A lot of professors are doing amazing stuff at the iSchool, and they’re always open to you being a part of it.”