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Accenture's managing director of Applied Intelligence shares lessons every future data scientist should know

Category: Women in Leadership, Accenture, Career Development, Motherhood, artificial intelligence, Home and Work Life Balance, career opportunities, Career in Accenture, career in data science, AI world

Career and Talent Development

As an operations research postgraduate and gold medalist from Delhi University, I help C-suite clients apply the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to resolve business-critical problems.

Working at Accenture has given me the freedom to strive for innovation and create my own path while raising two beautiful daughters. My path has taken many turns, and I’ve learned a great deal along the way. 

 

Charu Nahata - MANAGING DIRECTOR, APPLIED INTELLIGENCE

 

‘Listening’ to the numbers

Since my college days, I have always been passionate about numbers and statistics. They tell a story. When you “listen,” you’ll find that it’s a great and challenging world to be in. 

When I joined Accenture in 2010, the company was just beginning to focus on analytics. My aim was to help grow analytics penetration in the consumer goods industry and successfully deliver projects in price elasticity, promotion effectiveness and return on investment using statistical methods such as Bayesian shrinkage and fixed and random effects models.

With new open-source technology becoming more prevalent, I also learned R and Python programming languages. I started to embed AI and machine-learning methods into my client solutions and smoothly transitioned from statistician to data scientist.

I’ve spent the past 11 years building a data and analytics career at Accenture in a number of roles across a variety of functions and industries.

Accenture’s clear focus on client outcomes and value helped me find a way to articulate a business problem into statistical problems and focus on solutions rather than methods. These foundational years at Accenture helped me evolve into the career I have today.

 

Reinventing businesses and careers with AI

Data and AI can help businesses around the world reinvent themselves, optimize cost and achieve unparalleled growth. But the world of AI goes far beyond that, and my career is continually evolving.

As my family grew, I wanted a role that required less travel. I moved from industry analytics to a deeper functional analytics space, which allowed me to achieve the work-life balance I needed.

I built a customer analytics team from the ground up, increasing to 170+ data scientists. I filed my first patent when I was leading this team and went on to become the first woman managing director on the Accenture Applied Intelligence team in India.

My journey didn’t stop there.

I was given a new role helping CFOs achieve digital finance transformation, identify financial crimes and enable next-generation risk and digital fraud analytics capabilities through the power of AI and machine learning.

I am thrilled to have an opportunity to experiment after 20 years of my career and I believe that only Accenture can fuel my entrepreneurial spirit. It also helps me keep a good work-life balance to focus on the things that matter deeply to me.   

In my spare time, I enjoy traveling, playing board games, gardening and baking with my girls. I am also associated with the Step Up for India program, teaching the English language to primary students in a nearby government school.

 

Building new capabilities

I had a good grasp of technical skills when I joined the company, but I picked up critical skills like industry knowledge, business development and client management from my Accenture mentors.

They gave me critical feedback, invested in my career and encouraged me to push boundaries while honing my skills. The encouraging work environment that allows us to grow, both personally and professionally, is something that sets Accenture apart.

Today, I lead the Accenture data science team in India for risk, fraud, financial crime and finance. I help predict risks across people, process, system and businesses and develop strategies to mitigate them.

On the fraud and financial crime side, I study patterns in fraudulent behavior and help clients identify people or transactions indulging in illicit behaviors. We’re currently helping a large banking client expose a trillion-dollar organized crime through advanced graph-based network analytics.

So now I pass on three pieces of life-lesson advice for other women looking to build a successful career in data science. And there’s never been a better time to take this journey.

 

3 life lessons for future data scientists

I believe that this is one of the best times to work in the data science field. We’re seeing the AI industry grow by leaps and bounds, break new barriers and reveal new career opportunities for all.

If you’re planning to build a career in data and AI, here are a few life lessons I’ve learned over my long career:

  • Embrace change. It brings opportunities. Over the years, I have taken over numerous responsibilities for different functions, across different industries. If I had stuck to my comfort zone, I would’ve limited my growth trajectory.
  • Be resilient. With every change comes new challenges. If you let every slip deter you on your journey, you cannot achieve your true potential.
  • Walk your own path. There is no right way to building a fulfilling career. You need to find what gives you happiness and satisfaction. Carve your own career path—and then walk it.

Passionate about data-driven reinvention and ready to collaborate with some of the brightest AI luminaries from around the world?

We’re looking for big data engineers, data science analysts and AI managers who are ready to shape the future of the AI world.

 

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