Lack Of Awareness Is The Biggest Barrier To Data Science Education In India: Director, Amity Future Academy

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We all know the famous quote — “The future belongs to the curious,” and Siddharth Maheshwari, the director of Amity Future Academy, believes it holds true for the field of data science as well. 

Amity Future Academy offers numerous courses in the field of data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence and business analytics in collaboration with global universities like eCornell, Wharton Online, UC Berkeley Online, to name a few. The university has faculties with more than 20 years of industry and mentoring experience who provide one-on-one mentoring to students. Further, Amity teaches in-demand tools and techniques like Tableau, big data and Power BI in addition to machine learning algorithms.

For this week’s interview, Analytics India Magazine got in touch with Siddharth to understand his views on the emerging data science market and how data science aspirants can embark on their journey.

An alumnus of IIM Bangalore, Siddharth is currently working as the director at Amity Future Academy, heading the emerging technology training portfolio in data, analytics, AI, cybersecurity, blockchain, product development and digital marketing. He is also the author of The Billion Minds – India’s Quest to Train a Billion Workforce. BM India has also enlisted Siddharth on the Edtech 40 under 40 list. 

AIM: What are your views on the data science education market in India?

Siddharth Maheshwari: We know that India is considered an agro-based economy, but the key contributor to the GDP has always been the service sector. And the service sector’s driving force in India is education. There are around 3.66 crores of graduates every year, as per the statistical review, and the numbers increase considerably every year. So, there is a vast gap in demand and supply if we look at the graduates and the industry’s demand. 

With rising complexity and competition, the problems need to be optimised with modern-day solutions and higher-level statistical algorithms. Analytical courses in data science, machine learning, and business analytics can provide us with solutions to solve such problems with highly advanced algorithms, real-time outputs and considerable insights. This, in turn, bridges the gap between graduates and the industry, thus giving a huge market for education institutes in the field of data science. 

In the last decade, there has been a substantial rise in student enrolment and work requirements in the field of data science in India compared to the global economy. Amity Future Academy has exclusive batches devoted to students abroad, and a lot of students are enrolling and improving their present skills.

AIM: What are the most significant challenges a university faces in instrumenting a data science and analytics course?

Siddharth Maheshwari: The most critical challenge for a university to instrument a data science and analytics course is to create a skilled and experienced faculty pool that can train the professionals and students on the latest tools and technologies along with the wisdom of industry expertise. 

In our data science and analytics courses, we make sure that we onboard only the faculties passionate and experienced in the analytics industry. We believe in the famous quote: “teaching is not a profession; it’s a passion.” And therefore, without passion for your subject and a desire for your students to learn, we will fail as a teacher and failure is never an option.

AIM: Do you think the COVID pandemic has pushed more people into data science courses?

Siddharth Maheshwari: Yes, I believe the COVID pandemic has massively surged the demand for data science courses. Due to the regulations placed to fight against the COVID pandemic, we have experienced a tectonic shift in every employee’s working habits as we moved from our offices to work from home culture. With traditional data architecture and models, it becomes difficult for organisations to take care of data and make decisions effectively. Hence, enterprises have realised the necessity for solutions to access and manage an outsized volume of knowledge. Thus, it created more opportunities for data scientists who specialised in data-driven objectives to realise data insights and pushed people to seek more data science courses.

AIM: How can governments and corporations encourage more students to select data science subjects?

Siddharth Maheshwari: To encourage more students, the government and corporations can create targeted outreach efforts, exposing students to STEM occupations before they take their first step of choosing math or science courses. It will assist them in learning important information about STEM majors and the way they translate to careers.

Alongside, they should provide all requisites and help colleges to create clear pathways for data science students to easily transition from high school, junior colleges to undergraduate/bachelor’s degree, which can result in a better response to the field.

AIM: What are the major obstacles plaguing data and analytics education in India?

Siddharth Maheshwari: The biggest barrier to data and analytics education in India is the lack of awareness of the programs. There is no knowledge of such programs’ presence and effectiveness to a substantial chunk of our population. The course fee is yet another consideration, as these courses are a little heavy on a middle-class individual’s pockets. So, for those who are not only genuinely interested but also willing to pave their path, we have come up with a few scholarships that eliminate this obstacle. 

In addition to these, other factors include the lack of faculty expertise.

AIM: What advice would you like to give to aspiring data scientists?

Siddharth Maheshwari: The aspiring data scientists should look for the problems they might be surrounded by and how they can use their knowledge to solve those problems. Hence, problems build curiosity and make people know more about the field, which serve as a driving force to start their learning journey.

To begin with data science, one must brush up their knowledge of linear algebra, the basics of statistics and probability. I also want to add that do not get demotivated by the programming languages and the AI-driven smart tools that candidates will have to learn to be a data scientist or for similar roles.

AIM: What is your projection of the growth of AI and big data analytics education in the future?

Siddharth Maheshwari: Looking at the heights of the technological innovations that we humans have achieved in the past few decades for improving the quality of human life by implementing the advancing technologies in day to day life — from driverless cars to space travel and now by exploring Mars, it is clear that the AI and machine learning industry has an excellent future.

Talking about big data, the industry is expected to grow twice in the near future, creating many lucrative opportunities for the people interested in the field.

AIM: Who should seek a career in data science? What does the future look like for someone who takes it up now?

Siddharth Maheshwari: As data science is not restricted to any particular domain, the one interested in dealing with the data and already working in data analytics, business analytics, or in database management systems and services should seek a career in data science.

According to the estimates, there is a shortage of data science professionals worldwide. In the coming years, with the growing amount of data on a daily basis coming from different fields and the data produced from IoT, there will be millions of job openings in the field.

In Amity, we provide a wide variety of toolkits and hands-on sessions to make the students job-ready and equip them with the knowledge to tackle any challenges arising in the projects they work for.

AIM: With many online courses and MOOCs available for data science enthusiasts, how does a professional degree make a difference in their career in the long term?

Siddharth Maheshwari: From anyone starting from scratch, MOOCs can offer a general idea of starting the journey and what to expect from the industry. However, a professional degree ensures that the candidate has gone through rigorous supervised training under mentors and industry experts’ close guidance. 

In most cases, a MOOC certification might not add that value to the career profile compared to a professional degree, as the monitoring and evaluation are seldom taken care of in MOOCs. Also, placement training is uninsured in MOOCs compared to a degree from a certified and well-collaborated university. A professional degree helps build credibility and ensures that the industry standards were met in the long run.

On the other hand, we moderate student’s progress from time to time and help them take over the challenges in the course. In order to ensure that students are aware of the industry issues, we hold weekly webinars and guest lectures with industry experts, where they can connect with the subject experts one by one. In addition to that, we have a dedicated placement team to help with interview preparation and support them with placements.

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