Career spotlight - Kshira Saagar, Group Director of Data Science and Analytics, Global Fashion Group (The Iconic)
10th August 2020
As part of her research for the recent ACS Tech and Employability Skills Conference, Nicola Steel talked to Kshira Saagar, Group Director of Data Science and Analytics at GFG, the parent company of The Iconic.
Kshira has an impressive career trajectory and has been named a Top 10 Analytics Leader in Australia in 2019 and 2020. Nicola discussed Kshira’s rapid career journey and how he achieved this level of success. Kshira provides lots of interesting and inspiring insights for emerging professionals who are wanting to pursue a career in data.
Kshira, please tell me about your background and career history
At university, I did Maths, Stats and Computer Science and realised how you can look at the whole world from a mathematical point of view and the importance of problem solving. My first job was for a company which specialized in what we call data science today – it was called business analytics back then. This is where my journey started. My background has always been in Maths, Statistics and applying them to solve business problems. I've been lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time and find the right opportunities and the right people to work with.
What attracted you to a career in data science and analytics?
The tagline of the first company I worked for was “do the math.” Solving problems for companies using data and math as the background is what really interested me. The reason why I still stick in this industry is because I like to solve problems.
What has been the main highlight of your career so far?
A major highlight is finding a lot of interesting new talent coming through and people who I've mentored go on to do much better and smarter things to help businesses. I like to think that chain effect of me helping someone help someone else and they help someone else. It is like a recursive loop.
What have been the challenges over your career?
Working in data is a delicate balance of always making sure that you speak the truth but you don't speak it in a way where people won't accept it. You need to be very careful about how you communicate in a way that action can be taken, but people don't get offended. Human beings are the challenge when working with data rather than the numbers!
The speed of your career progression has been very impressive. What have you done to support your career development?
There are three things I typically look for when I join a company:
- Is data really in the company's DNA. Do they want to use data because it's good to have or because they really want to make a difference with it.
- I ask for considerable latitude and leeway where I can develop myself and develop a team with the freedom to work on problems that I think are important and not just be constrained by what other people think it should be.
- The ability to work with smart people and surround myself with some really amazing people. I've learned more from my team members and people that I hire, than what I would learn from conferences or seminars. Working with really smart people is a beautiful osmosis.
Do you have any other secrets to your success?
I am a strong believer in having bias to action. If something can be done, I always believe in doing it first rather than just talking about it.
If you could turn back the clock, what would you do differently?
I don't believe in regrets because it is done and I am quite happy with how I've done things. But if the question is about what would I change now, I would work more with the community. Numerical literacy and data literacy is something I'm very interested in helping communities with.
What skills are essential for a career in data?
I believe there are three fundamental things:
- A willingness to learn. When I started my career, I used to work on a particular technology and I realized that that's no longer going to be relevant, something new has to be learned. You always need to be able to learn stuff and not be stuck with it. You also need to able to unlearn something when it becomes no longer relevant. Don't worry about knowing stuff, come with an attitude of wanting to learn.
- Common sense (which isn’t that common!) and logical thinking is important which I think people can develop.
- The ability to code or an ability to learn coding. It doesn't matter which language you learn because the constructs are all similar in all the languages.
Kshira has a strong belief in helping and mentoring people so is happy to be contacted via his website https://www.kshirasaagar.com/
Nicola Steel recorded her conversation with Kshira Saagar as a podcast on “The Spotlight Series” which will be published in September. Please subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss out on the episode.
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If you would like more information, advice, or a resume review, please contact Nicola Steel on 0499 773 546 or email [email protected]