Vilas Wakale, an alumnus of Great Lakes’ Post Graduate Program in Business Analytics, is one of the many from the program to have transitioned from technology to analytics. Overall, 60% of Great Lakes PGPBA alumni have transitioned to Analytics roles and profiles within 6-12 months of graduating from the program.
Vilas has been in the software industry for 18 years and was working with HSBC GLT as a project manager for software development since the last 9 years. He is now an independent consultant in the Ministry of Home Affairs on an Analytics Project, wherein he administers the vast data (structured and unstructured) from different domains such as Telecom, Banking, Transport, etc., and works towards its inference through data analysis.
Vilas recalls that his own transition was not all that easy; firstly, making the decision to shift careers was itself difficult, especially when he already had financial commitments. He considers himself lucky that he got his first opportunity, even before he commenced on building his analytical skill-set profoundly. Being an experienced personnel from the financial sector helped him get the necessary breakthrough, though he still feels that he has to add on a lot of skill to prepare for future challenges.
Here’s what he had to say during a Q&A session:
Could you tell us a little about your background?
I come from a traditional software development background, with 18 years of experience. Project – Program Management is my core strength alongside hands on experience in the IBM Mainframe technology, and most of my experience comes from Financial Domain, predominantly in Software Development / Maintenance / Enhancement Banking industry.
What made you contemplate switching careers?
Having spent so many years in the IT industry, I have witnessed both the up and down trends in that industry. While I enjoyed the ride of IT during Y2K days, I also witnessed the worst recession when the dot com bubble burst in the US.
For the past couple of years, I could see the shift in the strategy that companies were applying, focusing more on cost cutting, almost freezing the recruitment, lack of new projects coming up, etc. The so-called ‘employee friendly’ companies no longer seemed friendly. These were all signs of the IT industry going downhill. I could sense similar feelings from colleagues working elsewhere.
When you were thinking of switching, why did you choose Analytics as your area of interest?
Should I call it luck by chance?
I was desperate for a change, perhaps a change in an organization, but they say when you need something the most, you won’t get it. I had to wait for the right opportunity. So, when the opportunity knocked on my door, it was not only an organization change, but also a complete paradigm shift for me. I could see a small ray of hope in the field of analytics, although it came at the cost of changing traditional IT companies, and moving into consulting, wherein you are on your own. Before affirming my decision, I did lots of research about this field, checked with friends and colleagues, read lots of reports and finally decided, that yes, this is the area I should move into.
What made you choose GL Program?
Before joining the GL Program, I was already working on an Analytics assignment. Being new, I had to read a lot of books, articles, blogs etc. on the subject. Still, I realized that a formal education would help me in establishing myself in this new field. As usual, I discussed with some like-minded colleagues, and then started my hunt for the right institution. The likes of IIT’s and IIM’s along with many private institutions were on our list, with varied course durations starting from 3 months to 2 years. After going through numerous reviews and feedback, I finally chose GL, being a blend of industry expertise and highly experienced teaching faculty. It’s a reputed brand in the management space with a focus on practical and tie-ups with many analytical firms. I did a compact yet quite powerful one-year course in Data Analytics. Of course, placement assistance during and after course completion helped many candidates.
How did the GL program assist you in this transition?
Have you ever tried moving a tree from one place to another? It is very easy to move a plant at an early age from one environment to another, but moving a tree takes a great deal. It needs extra care, and relative chances of survival in a new place are less. The same thing happens when shifting a career after a long tenure in one segment. Having an institution like GL is a great help in making this shift, as it is not only a shift of the new technology or trend, but it’s a shift of the mind as well.
Without the continuous nurturing and guidance from GL, I feel this shift would have been more painful.
Once you decided to switch careers, how did you go about picking up some analytics skills?
We are in the era of Information Technology. The best place to get resources for any topic is the World Wide Web. I, too, started from there, reading blogs on Analytics, understanding the basics of it, reading the necessary books, etc. Many times, I found myself lost in the voluminous information I gathered, as it was collected randomly. Although, I could understand the importance of Analytics in many fields like Finance, Tourism, Telecom and so on, applying the analytical tools and techniques was a bigger challenge. So, soon in order to survive and lead in the long run, I felt the necessity of undertaking a proper course in Analytics.
What do you like about your new role?
Everything! Firstly, it is a much-needed break from routine career. It provides a lot of food for thought, creativity, and decision-making opportunities that can make a difference to an organization. A healthy competition with talented and young generation makes me feel much younger. After so many years, I can still code myself and bring a sense of satisfaction after optimizing the piece of code and verifying the desired results.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Although it’s too early to say, but by five years, I want to establish myself as an SME in Analytical world who can provide end to end solutions right from using appropriate tools and techniques to the necessary software and hardware required. I would like to concentrate more on Finance, that being my core domain.
What advice you would give others?
It’s neither a joy ride nor an impossible decision. However, getting into an analytical project within your current organization would be a safer and easier way to shift the lane, though that is also quite rare.
Following the discussion with Vilas Wakale, it is easy to conclude that analytics is a challenging domain. Therefore, it is imperative to identify your interests and willingness to enter the data analytics domain before you decide to make the shift. If you have not done programming for years, you have to be prepared to get your hands dirty and dive deep into the world of gigabytes and petabytes of data to derive an inference out of it. If getting work done from bigger teams is a piece of cake for you, you now need to be willing to perform and deliver as an individual. Do not think of this as just a career transition. It is a life-changing decision, but if the idea excites you, then you can rest assured that a glorifying career is waiting for you with ample opportunities.