Statistics as a subject is ever-evolving and has gained popularity among students. Graduates in the field have access to a plethora of career opportunities and can consider becoming data scientists, business analysts, statisticians, market researchers, or economists.
Whatever be your reasons for pursuing Statistics, the bottom line is that as long as you are passionate about data and have an analytical mindset, the possibilities are endless. With that in mind, on ‘World Statistics Day’, we at Edugraph, bring you exclusive interviews with two recent graduates from ISI. Read on for their experiences as statistics students and how it helped them -shape their careers.
Aayush Agrawal has completed his Bachelor of Mathematics from Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore and his Master of Statistics from Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata/Delhi. He is currently working as a data scientist at Alphonso Labs.
Priya Kedia, who is currently an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co, completed her post-graduation in Statistics (Master of Statistics) from the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata in 2019.
Q. What got you into statistics? Why did you decide to get a degree in this subject?
Aayush Agrawal: Starting from my secondary and senior secondary years, I was inclined towards mathematics which led me to pursue B.Math from Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore. During my 3 years of the undergraduate course, I enjoyed applied mathematics more than its abstract counterpart. I explored different applied fields of mathematics like Economics, Statistics and Probability, Physics, etc through various electives. Finally, probability/statistics was the one which seemed to be the most interesting mainly because of the different types of career options available post it, be it in academia or industry.
Priya Kedia: As a young school student, I was good at Mathematics. My father used to tell me about ISI. However, like any other kid, I used to ignore his advice! When my Mathematics teacher at school told me about it, I started paying attention. I kept ISI as one of my options while I was preparing for JEE. And possibly because I was better at Maths than at Physics, I got into ISI. There are so many engineers, but not that many statisticians. Also, my sisters were Chartered Accountants and my family was mostly in business. Hence, I had no one to guide me. I was told I would get to learn more about Statistics (of which I knew only mean, median, mode) and Economics and I would possibly get to work for a bank or maybe for the government. My father told me I will be predicting the stock prices (he still wants me to do that!). I am not sure how much did they understand at that time, but I definitely did not have any idea about what I was getting into (I realised that on my first day at ISI itself!)!
Also, my parents preferred me to stay in Kolkata. I went for JEE counseling and even the professors there suggested, I should take ISI, if I had it. Hence, I landed up in ISI!
Q. Can you briefly explain your admission process
Aayush: Candidates who wish to apply for MStat but are from non-BStat backgrounds need to compete in an All India Level exam. This exam comprises a written test followed by a personal interview for the shortlisted candidates. The final merit list is based on the combined scores from both of these exams. The written test has two separate parts for objective and subjective type questions and is designed to assess the theoretical competency in graduate-level linear Algebra, basic mathematics, probability and statistics. The personal interview of the shortlisted candidates is then conducted at the Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi Center.
Priya: Back then, there were two written papers - one objective and the other subjective, on the same day. If you cleared them, you would be called for a personal interview. I remember my father had escorted me to the interview. While I was giving the interview, he heard from the Dean's office employees that the students have to work very hard, which scared him a lot!
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Q. Please share your experience at the Indian Statistical Institute
Aayush: The studies and life at ISI are unlike anything you will ever experience at any other college. Class sizes are small (typically around 25-30 students - at least during my time that was the case). Speaking of academics, in the beginning, it can be quite challenging for people as you need to put in significant efforts, to ramp up. However, after this phase, it becomes a smooth ride provided you put in honest efforts every day instead of relying only on pre-exam preparation. Some students might also find the theoretical nature of the course outside their comfort zone. But I can guarantee, if you love statistics/probability and don't mind putting in the effort, there might not be a better place for you than ISI.
Priya: Life at ISI, Kolkata is not easy. However, there are lots of opportunities. I am not sure if we know many institutes where the number of professors are comparable to the number of students. And almost all our professors are extremely knowledgeable. Most of my batchmates are pursuing PhDs in great Universities in the US. So you can imagine! A lot of students could not clear the course too! And all of us were the smartest kids from our Schools.
For me, maybe as a female student, survival was doubly difficult. There are hardly any clubs here. I guess, you can open one if you want. Here, I learnt how to survive. And I hope I do not have a such difficult time ever again in my life!
Q. How was the job hunting process when it comes to this subject? Can you share your experience?
Aayush: The job placements mainly happen through a placement process which takes place in late October/early November. During this process, many reputed companies visit the campus and offer jobs for different profiles like Data Analyst, Data Scientist, Business Analyst, Machine Learning Engineer etc. A few of the recruiters who have visited in past include GS, JPMC, Flipkart, Alphonso Labs, Walmart, etc. A lot of the students also go on to pursue PhDs at various reputed universities both in India and Abroad.
Priya: Job hunting is always tough, at any stage of our life. So was it for us. All of my batchmates who are in the corporate sector are working with the best banks in the World. And the minimum packages offered at our campus are often more than the mean of many campuses in the country. I feel getting a job is not the challenge here, survival is. I remember my senior told me, 'Job Sunischit hai'. We were only working to get the best out of us. Also, here it's not much about the elimination, rather it's more about the elevation.
Mostly, the roles we were offered were of Data Scientist or Analyst. I was working in the Model Validation team at JP Morgan Chase & Co for three years. Now, I am working as a Data Scientist at IDFC First Bank. Currently, I develop models like Application Score, Behaviour Score, etc. for credit cards. I love my job!
Q. Any advice you'd like to give to young students who are passionate about statistics and want to make a career out of it?
Aayush: I am too young to give advice, but I would definitely recommend always having an inquisitive mind while learning statistics. Learning statistics is a great deal about asking interesting questions and using data to answer them.
Priya: Figure out what you want, and work for it. However, to figure it out, you would need more data. This data can be your own experiments or from the experience of others - research what people are doing and figure out for yourself what it would be for you that would make you happy! For me, I always felt I did not have enough guidance! Hence, I always try to give answers to my juniors!
Additionally, research and application in the field needs to go hand in hand. I would suggest to students, especially if they want to build a career in the corporate world, to balance out their knowledge in application as well as the basic theoretical concepts of the subject, so that they know what they are doing and not just running a code without knowing why and how is it getting the job done!
Q.Where do you think the field of statistics is headed?
Aayush: Statistics as a field is constantly expanding. With the boom in the volume of data, new avenues have opened up at the intersection of statistics and computer science, such as data science, machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence etc., which have gained a lot more popularity and I expect it to further increase. I expect these skills to be extremely in demand in the future.
Priya: From a corporate point of view, jobs in statistics are one of the most promising career lines as of now. I wish people get into it for the love of the subject as well and not just because it is in demand!
Also, I have not seen corporates using much of what is being researched in the field. Coming from a research institute, I wish there was a way to bridge this gap - a way the researchers and a data scientist in a bank could collaborate to solve a problem. A bridge so that the best of the two worlds could come together.