Anuja Kelkar

Data Science Software Engineer

New York City, NY

What's your day job?

I am a Data Science Engineer on the Data Science Team at Medidata Solutions Inc. in New York. I help create new and innovative data products for clinical research.

Tell us about your work with DataKind.

I worked as a volunteer Data Science Expert on a DataCorps team working with an organization called StandForChildren to help them leverage social networks to identify influencers and advocates of education policy in the U.S. quickly and more effectively. We created a scalable and easy-to-use, cloud-based application to collect and process Twitter streaming data, tracking keywords and topics of interest in addition to other insights provided by Twitter user bio and history mining. Check out a blog I wrote on my DataCorps experience for more.

What inspires you to donate your skills to give back?

While many of us in this field come from very privileged backgrounds, receiving good educational and growth opportunities in our interest areas, not everyone is as lucky. Knowing this disparity in opportunity exists in the world is what inspires me to donate my skills to give back. I believe we can make an impact doing work we enjoy doing and that's how I like to use my free time. This feeling of giving back is also one of the reasons my day job is in powering clinical research products.

What is one of the most surprising things you've learned or seen in working with data?

It's no surprise to anyone working in a quantitative field that real world data is almost always noisy and needs cleaning before any interesting analysis can be performed. One of the more surprising things I have learned is that how you present your analysis is just as important as the quality of the work itself. Ensuring your data visualizations are crafted for the target users is very important no matter how powerful your predictive model or how sophisticated your technique. If the visualization is at the right level of complexity for the target users, you have successfully delivered your model!

What blogs or articles do you love reading to stay up to date on all the data news?

I mostly depend on my daily scroll through medium.com's Technology track to find out about any interesting data projects people have worked on. I also browse through TechCrunch once a week to get my weekly dose on the latest in Tech news. I have a newsletter subscription to Data Science Central that I read to keep up with the latest trends in data science.

What advice do you have for someone just getting started in data science?

From my personal experience, in addition to having an educational background in math and programming, what has worked for me so far has been being open to new ideas, collaborating on projects outside of work to learn something new, and always being eager to learn because data science is a field that is young and changing very fast. There is a new technology and buzzword out there everyday and always something new to learn. Being excited about technology and having an eagerness to learn are good signs for a happy journey in data science.

When you’re not busy using data science to change the world, what do you like to do in your free time? What is a fact no one would know about you?

I love reading and probably possess more books than clothes! I find Malcolm Gladwell's work very interesting. Books written on research in the social sciences really interest me. I also have my own blog on Medium where I wrote about my DataCorps experience.