Since 1996, data has been at the heart of all of my career pursuits. From early on in my career, I realized that businesses need to know how they are performing and what they need to do to stay ahead of the game. So, over a career spanning two decades, a gradual transition from doing data modelling and data architectures to building data warehouses and big data, to data analytics was inevitable. However, what has always fascinated me are ‘how technologies have evolved’, ‘how businesses have been disrupted’ and ‘how data has transformed businesses’ in such a short span. Now every day at work I am lucky enough to experience a convergence of many of these things: IoT, Data & Analytics, Automation, Cognitive and AI; and to work on multiple aspects involving the physical and digital worlds where data and advanced analytics interplay and deliver exceptional business outcomes. A lot of the projects that I am involved with are groundbreaking and challenges the very way we had looked at data in the past. In short, there is never a boring day at work.
My journey has been that of continuous learning and improvement. Learning something new every day is something that I strictly live by. The more you learn, the humbler you become. My current research is on ‘What’s next to DL?’ At LTI, we are dead serious about ‘dogfooding’, a concept where we internally must learn, experiment and be good at technology and associated offerings before we go out and preach to the world. We extensively use our state-of-the-art Mosaic data analytics platform to get our hands dirty, solve problems, create offerings and do a lot of experimentation. This is a fantastic way of cross-skilling and up-skilling our practitioners on newer technologies. In this world of constant debate on whether data trumps algorithms or algorithms trump data, I think it is extremely important to always focus on business context and what problem we are trying to solve. One can come up with a really sophisticated algorithm, but if it does not deliver outcomes, it is of no use. So, in the end, a delicate balance of ‘technology’ and good old ‘business understanding’ combined with taking on challenges and converting them into opportunities while keeping a clear conscience goes a long way in ensuring success. There have been times that I have been in situations where a client doesn’t know what to do with a tech stack that they have bought. There have been other times when I had to advise clients to not spend money on certain initiatives even if it was detrimental to my KPIs. But I always believe there is a certain Karmic law at play here. The truer one is to oneself and others, the more there is to gain for everyone. It’s not about how high you are on the corporate ladder; it’s about humility and how you treat people around you.
There is no saying what the future has in store for me but I am keenly following the journey from ‘Artificial Narrow Intelligence’ (ANI) to ‘Artificial General Intelligence’ (AGI) and learning different things on the way. I sincerely hope, someday we will have ‘Artificial Super Intelligence’ (ASI) on our hands. But whatever the future of technology may be, I will always continue to remain an ‘all things data and analytics guy’. I was recently reading up on ‘What’s next for analytics?’, I came across something very thought-provoking called Adversarial Machine Learning where you don’t need a lot of data for the algorithm to run on. You just put two competing algorithms at play and start solving problems. There were also some thoughts on how AML would ultimately remove the human-in-the-loop. I found this fascinating and chilling at the same time. It is pretty intimidating to think of a world operating completely devoid of human intervention. It is just a hop, skip and jump to an Isaac Asimov novel if these things are not white-boxed and ethical.
Outside of work I am an avid reader and writer too. I recently got my 4th book published – ‘How to compete in the age of AI’. I live by what Jack Ma said, “what you do after office hours defines who you are”. I am a serious cricket enthusiast and play corporate cricket matches every weekend. When I am not playing cricket, then I am on my Classic Desert Storm on a long drive. Someday, I would like to do a cross-country biking to the Himalayas. Though we are all caught in a wound-up lifestyle and routine, I think it is very important to invest in our intellectual capital and stick to our passion. Our career and our passion become our signature in this world. That is what will withstand the tides of time.
Meet Soumendra Mohanty: Data Evangelist, Technologist, Author, and Cricketer.