Alumni Spotlight: Jaiganesh Prabhakaran

Alum Jaiganesh Prabhakaran was a student in the Computational Finance and Risk Management Master of Science campus cohort of 2013. After graduation he spent time working in Colorado, before returning to Seattle. He recently took the time to reflect on his experience in the CFRM program.

CFRM alum Jaiganesh Prabhakaran.

Hometown: Mumbai, India
Undergraduate University: University of Mumbai, India
CFRM Cohort: 2013
CFRM Graduation: 2015
Current Location: Seattle
Company: Zulily
Title: Machine Learning Engineer

Q: What is the best part of your current position?
JP: The best part of my current job is writing code to implement the end-to-end Machine Learning pipeline. It requires knowledge of statistics that I learned through coursework in CFRM, and also software engineering skills to implement the pipeline.

Q: How did your time in the CFRM program help you with your career path?
JP: The CFRM program helped me hugely to shape my career. I used to talk a lot with our program advisors, professors, and also alumni about various different career paths that my degree could lead me into. I had never thought about Data Science as a career option, but some of the courses directed me towards learning more about how I can use my statistical and data analysis skills from CFRM coursework to solve real-world challenges. Eventually, I ended up with an internship as a Business Intelligence Intern, and then got a job as a Data Scientist.

Q: What was your most memorable event or activity during your time in the program?
JP: I liked the holiday party hosted by the AMath Department. It gave us all the chance to connect with the faculty, staff and other students from the department in a social setting.

Q: What advice would you give incoming CFRM students?
JP: I would recommend that students take the information sessions and career fairs seriously, and be prepared with an elevator pitch to introduce yourself to potential employers. I got a lot of interviews for internships and full-time opportunities by speaking with people at career fairs and information sessions. In fact, I got my first full-time job by actually meeting my hiring manager at a UW career fair.

Q: What was your favorite CFRM course? Why?
JP: I really liked Financial Data Access with SQL, VBA and Excel [CFRM 506], as it was the foundational course that got me started on my Data Science journey.

Q: What is something you wish you had known when starting graduate school?
JP: I wish I had known how important it was to attend office hours. I struggled a lot to complete my assignments during my first quarter because I did not understand what was being asked a lot of the time. I started attending more office hours during the second quarter, and it tremendously helped in understanding problems clearly. Sometimes, professors would give hints during office hours on how to approach the problem, and that helped a lot as well.

Q: What is something you wish you had known when starting your first job?
JP: Data in the real world is a lot messier than what we are used to seeing in coursework. Most of the time is spent on cleaning the data and data exploration before we use the data for modeling.