Datacast Episode 20: Managing Data Scientists with Sunanda Parthasarathy

Datacast’s 20th episode is my interview with Sunanda Parthasarathy, Associate Director of Data Science at Wayfair. Give a listen to learn about her academic work in Physics, her transition to DS, and her advice on managing data scientists.

Sunanda Koduvayur Parthasarathy is an Associate Director of Data Science at Wayfair Inc., where she leads a team of data scientists and engineers to build machine learning solutions that lead to a better shopping experience for all Wayfair customers. Prior to this, she was leading data science innovation R&D projects at the ad-tech startup DataXu. Through her career in data science, she has enjoyed bringing quantitative definition and clarity to unwieldy strategic business questions that have led to multiple high-revenue products.

Show Notes

  • (02:05) Sunanda discussed her Master’s degree in Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

  • (03:05) Sunanda talked about her decision to go to the US to pursue a Ph.D. in Condensed Matter and Materials Physics at Purdue University.

  • (04:22) Sunanda went in-depth into her Ph.D. thesis that focused on spin transport.

  • (06:51) Sunanda accepted a Materials Science Postdoc Fellowship at Princeton University and worked there for 3 years on quantum insulators.

  • (10:05) Sunanda recalled the most valuable lessons she learned from her Postdoc time.

  • (11:49) Sunanda talked about her transition from physics to data science by getting a certificate of Professional Achievement in Data Science from Columbia University.

  • (18:42) Sunanda went over the best courses she took at Columbia that prepare her well for a career as a Data Scientist.

  • (21:13) Sunanda talked about the ease of learning Python and R from scratch given her programming experience in C++.

  • (22:29) Sunanda quickly mentioned her job search experience.

  • (24:32) Sunanda discussed her work as a Data Scientist for 3 years at DataXu (a Boston-based advertising startup), including advertising attributions measurements and marketing-mix modeling.

  • (28:35) Sunanda revealed the workflow of algorithmic conceptualization and experimental design in her work at DataXu.

  • (31:05) Sunanda talked about her career progress at DataXu.

  • (32:01) Sunanda discussed her move to Wayfair, a big e-commerce company that sells home goods.

  • (34:08) Sunanda went over her responsibilities as an Associate Director of Data Science at Wayfair.

  • (35:58) Sunanda gave her advice for people who want to make a transition from an individual contributor to a data science leader within an organization.

  • (38:17) Sunanda gave a quick overview of R&D work on recommendation systems at Wayfair.

  • (40:31) Sunanda commented on the differences between the two work environments at a startup company versus a medium-sized company.

  • (41:48) Sunanda shared her thoughts on the tech and data community in the Boston area.

  • (43:14) Closing segment.

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