Volunteer Spotlight: Vijay Srikanth

Meet Vijay Srikanth! He has a master’s degree in data science and machine learning and works on “all things data”. He’s been a DataKind volunteer for a few years now, mainly on scoping projects and more recently working on our Data Observation Toolkit. Learn more about Vijay and his DataKind journey below!

How did you first become involved in DataKind and why?

Like a lot of people, I found myself with extra time during the pandemic, and I wanted to use that time to do something meaningful within the data science field.

I had done some research on DataKind and was thrilled to find out that there was a Chapter in my country. I volunteered with DataKind and another Data for Good organization on top of my regular job. DataKind is known as one of the best nonprofit organizations to volunteer with, but it can take some time, so I was super excited to work with DataKind. I applied twice, responding to calls for volunteers, and I got an invite and interview.

Have you found that there are skills other than technical skills that you have used at DataKind?

Yes, volunteering for DataKind is like producing a product for a company, all the volunteers wear multiple hats. We work as managers on one call as a data engineer on another call, and a business analyst on another. You’re always playing multiple roles, and I think that’s one of the coolest parts of volunteering at DataKind. You really get an understanding of the work, project, and goals in a way you often don’t get in a regular job.

From a DataKind perspective, we divide projects into multiple phases. The initial phase is where we do the write-up of a project. Second is the scoping phase where we take the origins write-up and develop a plan to materialize into a project. I have mainly been involved in the scoping phases of projects, which requires a lot of different skill sets, and it’s been great to see the bigger picture.

How has DataKind influenced your career?

Most people often don’t get to see beyond their own companies. Being a part of this community has helped me to learn so much more about the industry and all the different roles involved. I also learned about tools like Motorboard and Slack through DataKind. Slack is amazing! I hadn’t used it before, but now I use it at my own company.

Other than data science, what are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about learning languages, not just languages for communication but data science too. I’m equally passionate about German, Spanish, French, Python, and even C-Sharp. I spent a lot of time last year learning Python. Languages come really easily to me, being from India, I already know five languages to start. Right now, I’m trying to learn Hungarian, which is really challenging and so interesting.

What advice would you give to someone volunteering at DataKind?

I’d make sure they’re aware of the time commitment DataKind requires. It’s so rewarding but it’s a serious commitment. If you don’t schedule accordingly, it can get overwhelming. Working on the dashboard project, I found myself getting wrapped up in my daily life when I wished I was able to donate more time to the project. People need to be aware that a lot of work, more than you think, goes into bringing a project to life.

About Volunteer Spotlights

Our volunteers are the lifeblood of our mission. They’ve inspired people to use their skills in ways they never dreamed of. They’ve slayed misconceptions. They’ve shown organizations trying to make the world a more humane place how data science and AI can change the game. We’re honored (and thrilled) to feature their stories in DataKind’s Volunteer Spotlight series. Follow this series to learn about their impeccable skill sets, their work with our brilliant project partners, and what inspires them to give their time, resources, and energy to causes that matter. 

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