Fractal Analytics Interview Highlights

Fractal Analytics CEO on starting the company, competing with the best, managing attrition, attributes he looks for when hiring, 4 different analytics career tracks, strategic bets, and advice for starting data scientists.

By Gregory Piatetsky, Mar 27, 2014.

I recently read an interesting interview of Srikanth Velamakanni, co-founder and CEO of Srikanth Velamakanni Fractal Analytics, conducted by Kunal Jain of Analytics Vidhya.

The interview was in 3 parts, and covered starting Fractal Analytics, biggest challenges to overcome, pitching against the best in the industry, hiring analytics talent, managing attrition, strategic bets, and advice for starting in data science.

Here are some highlights:

KJ: Fractal has produced some of the best Analytics professionals in Indian Analytics Industry. How do you hire people? What do you look at time of hiring? How do you train them once they are hired? How do you ensure that they contribute what they bring to the table?

SV: For Hiring:

These are the attributes we lookout for:
  • Most important thing to look for is Passion for Analytics. (Remember, this was first thing out of the 3 things to look out for in life). Frankly, when you get into depth of analytics, things get difficult. You need to get into details while slicing and dicing data. If you don't have passion for analytics, you may not succeed when you get there.
  • Next, we look for strong understanding of probability, mathematics and statistics.
  • We also look for structured thinking like any consulting company will look for. Can the candidate take an amorphous business question and then structure it to come out with various hypothesis and a business solution?

Apart from these skills, we also look at values. People need to work in very collaborative manner with teams across the globe. So, we look for integrity and commitment to work .


KJ: What are the challenges occupying your mind currently?

SV: ... a lot changing in this industry rapidly. Half-life of knowledge is about 3 years. Hence, we need to be aware of the latest tools and techniques. In order to address this, we have created Fractal Academy where people can get trained in various aspects of analytics. We have integrated platforms like eDX and Coursera and people get credit in Fractal Academy for completing relevant courses on these platforms.

We have also made changes to our career tracks in line with changes in industry. Till some time back, we used to hire everyone as analytics consultant. The person was supposed to do everything from meeting & consulting the client to building the models and managing the programme. In order to keep up with fast pace of the industry, we now have 4 different career tracks for people:
  • Analytics consultants - Traditional client facing consultants who meet client, capture their requirement, design solutions and help implement the solutions.
  • Data scientists - These people are not facing clients, They work on algorithms, software codes and machine learning (e.g. Recommender systems).
  • Programme managers - BI programme managers create easy to use and visually appealing programmes so that information can be retrieved on click of a button.
  • Big data engineers - People working on big data technologies and platforms e.g. Hadoop

Now we are hiring people in these different roles.


KJ: If you were a fresher starting in analytics industry today, how would you shape up your career?

SV: My advice would be to take up a career track and be clear in how you would be successful in it. There is a lucrative future in all the four specializations we talked about. And like any other science, this industry will also move from generalists to those having a super-specialization.

Advice on shaping Data Scientist career

So analysts should ensure that their career moves in a 'T' shape. They should have deep knowledge in at least one domain and have a broad perspective about the overall Analytics industry at the same time. At younger stage, people should be willing to move industries and learn quickly.
  • If you want to be a data scientist, you have to be at the fore-front of Machine learning / AI
  • People wanting to become Analytics Consultants should gain business knowledge of their domain. They can't succeed until they understand the domain completely.
  • BI experts should understand how all the tools work. While the tools may change over time, the knowledge about them will eventually make you a better professional.

Here are the 3 parts of the interview:
  • Part 1, Starting Fractal, initial challenges and how they were overcome.
  • Part 2 - Building an Organization. Hiring, training, trusting your employees to build a world class Organization and dealing with attrition.
  • Part 3 - Future bets for Fractal and evolution of Industry. His advice to people entering the industry.