How to prepare for a Data Science job from college?

A Getting Started Guide

Let us get our facts straight, shall we?

I am writing from my non-existent but probably relevant experience. I worked in a Machine Learning role at Samsung Research, Bengaluru. It is only 1 of the 4 research enterprises which hire Machine Learning researchers from Indian colleges — the other being Microsoft, Xerox, and IBM Watson.

I am now in a even more Computer Vision focused role for a small enterprise tech company. Here are some pointers:

Forget the courses

I am from BITS Pilani, Pilani Campus. College courses and even a lot of popular MOOCs are mostly useless in getting a Machine Learning or Data Science role. They don’t have enough of a learning curve at most colleges. Neither in theory nor in programming skills.

Build a project worth noting

Have you done any decent Machine Learning projects? What is the largest data size that you have handled? What is the most complex data set that you handled? How important was the problem that you applied Machine Learning to the society? Participate in Kaggle competitions and Hackathons, if you don’t have good answers to these questions.

Intern in your summers

Summers and semester internship programs in a Machine Learning or Data Science role. I did my semester internship at a startup and skipped Amazon against lot of prevailing (and probably correct) wisdom at the time. I was grilled on my intern project in my campus interview.

Share your results

Share like a madman: In a Medium blog, put your code on Github and get a paper published. It is easier (and more tedious) than most people think. My friend’s first paper was in a reputed Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science. He did not get any guidance from any Professor.

Demo or Die

Projects on the web, projects which can be demo’d using a video or something similar. Essentially, a portfolio that you can showcase to potential recruiters. I walked into an interview with a video of my previous project on phone.

Linkedin India hires as Software Engineers but allows you to grow into a Data Science role. Microsoft Research has among the best research organisations in Computer Science in India. I’d love to work there.

Organisations like IBM Research, Xerox tend to prefer Masters and PhD students over plain undergraduates. You might want to bring that on the table. A Masters in CS can also give you the time to polish your Machine Learning portfolio too.

The simplified formula to get to a Data Science role is this: Build, build more, share and sell

A 2016 version of this is available on Medium