A Woman at Odds, Evens the Status Quo with Data Science

At upGrad, we are in the business of transforming lives. Of course, any transformation is consensual, and we are glad that we have the consent of our learners to bring about the change that will speed up the road to the future.

This is the story of a woman born into a middle-class, conservative family. She who once dreaded the distance to school has now bridged it between herself and the knowledge she desires. How did she do it? Let’s hear it from the AVP of a leading analytics firm, Ugam Solutions’ Sonia Rajendran.

Born to a conservative family, a career tad shy of two decades, the various role-plays, choosing the battles

You choose your battles when you have options. I didn’t have any. Most women from middle-class families take on the responsibilities as scheduled by their families. I was no exception.

So, right from my childhood, when the length of the road was longer to the permission of travel, I had to fight it. I had to fight during my pregnancy and prioritise Six Sigma black belt over a maternity belt. I had to fight many knowledge gaps in various professional roles ranging from a software engineer to quality lead, project manager, performance manager, client service lead, and service line head.

Today, I may be leading the delivery teams for Analytics Insights/BI Reporting and Text Analytics at Ugam, but it all started with leading myself to knowledge, first. Of course, having a partner to cheer on is motivating, but eventually, the decision to drive is chiefly a woman’s call.

Overall, I am glad that I fought the odds!

Getting back to studies as a working professional, figuring the training required, the impetus, and coping mechanism

It was hard, very hard! But since I completed my Six Sigma black belt through my pregnancy, I expected the new course to demand my time, and me, be able to accommodate it for my advancement.

Over  the last two years, at work, I kept coming across Data Analytics, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence very frequently. With a background in operations, I tried to acquaint myself with Data Science concepts through articles and white papers. However, it soon became evident that I needed to know much more to be able to articulate client problems better and have meaningful conversations.

The push finally came from a colleague who I look up to as a career coach. He guided me to decide how to upgrade myself; most importantly, by setting some personal milestones. The first one being – “Get a professional education on the topic you want to understand.”

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After exploring numerous online study options, I came across the PG Diploma in Data Science program at upGrad. It immediately ticked off three main checklist items:

  • Completely Online — no physical classroom presence needed in evenings or weekends
  • Certification— from a reputed university, i.e., International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore, &
  • Reasonable Fees — I didn’t want to invest too much without being sure I could complete the same

Disappointments on the way

Unfortunately, yes—I disappointed my first love, i.e., technology. Instead of pursuing a long-time commitment to technology, I accepted immediate offers that came my way. It was just a matter of luck that Ugam happened but a lot of hard work since then to reach this leadership level because of not having an MBA or a Master’s degree.

Trust me; sooner I could financially secure myself, I reconnected with my first love; I decided to nurture my relationship with technology. But you know, it is never possible to reach out for your flame without burning your family and my family is very dear to me. Basically, I wanted it all, a degree, freedom from classroom lectures, uncompromised office hours, weekends for children, and much more.

And because I sought it, I found it—a PG Diploma in Data Science at upGrad happened. So, if a smaller disappointment can make way to a more substantial comfort, isn’t it brave to consider it?

On being a role model for the future generation

It is very daunting to set aside a learning hour from my hectic schedule juggling professional and personal responsibilities. Most of the times my study hours coincide with my children in their study. They seem to be amused by the fact that even moms study. Honestly, that’s the value I want to impress on my children—the role of being a learner.

I maintain this one advice for my daughter, “There is always something out there that we don’t know which will make us smarter. And to know, if there is any shortcut, we must study as much.”


At upGrad, we are excited to celebrate those women who despite every challenges, upgraded themselves to #upGradtheFuture. For more such stories, bookmark our blog on inspiring women professionals.

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