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WiDSTORY | October 26, 2020

Srujana Kaddevarmuth of Walmart Labs Believes Diversity of Perspectives in Data Science is Vital to Solving the World’s Pressing Challenges

​Srujana Kaddevarmuth, Director of Data Science and Value Realization at Walmart Labs, leads the data science team to create solutions with business value and impact. She has been actively involved with hosting regional WiDS events and shaping the WiDS datathon.

Tell us about your background.

I was born into a family of academics and dreamed of becoming a doctor but unfortunately, or fortunately, that did not happen. I fell a few ranks short for the medical track and for the first time in my life, I felt that my dreams were shattered. Instead, I pursued engineering in school and explored a new nonlinear path in data science that has led to a fruitful career.​

How did you get interested in data science?

After I completed my engineering degree, I started as a research associate with The Energy and Research Institute (TERI). I worked on a project analyzing biofuel cropping patterns and got real-world exposure to analyzing huge amounts of data and I was intrigued by it. I went on to pursue my master’s degree with specialization in operational research and started my career with Hewlett-Packard as a data scientist. Over the years, I’ve worked with various corporations using data science to solve problems and automate products for broader impact and have moved up the corporate career ladder to data science leadership positions.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I’m Director of Data Science and Value Realization at Walmart Labs. I’m guiding the data science teams to develop solutions to business problems at scale and automate those solutions to drive business value. I am also actively involved in building communities of women technology leaders to achieve accurate representation of women in the technology domains. As a board member of the United Nations Association of San Francisco, I explore opportunities to utilize data science to achieve United Nations Global Sustainable Development Goals.

How did you first discover WiDS?

I learned about WiDS in 2018 and attended the ambassador meeting at Stanford University. I was inspired by the WiDS leadership team and their vision. I was amazed by the global outreach this initiative had achieved and how it was transforming the lives of many young women data science enthusiasts across the globe.

Data science is influencing multiple facets of our lives and transforming countless industries. Data scientists have become more crucial than ever before and are being asked critical questions like:
Can we predict the outbreak of next global pandemic? What would the symptoms and impact be like?
What percentage of agricultural land will be available for food cultivation by the year 2050?
When will amphibians (like frogs which are the markers of biodiversity) go extinct?
Can we reduce human trafficking by 5% next year?
We need diverse perspectives to come up with the most effective and holistic solutions. Initiatives like WiDS help bridge this diversity gap by supporting and educating more women data science enthusiasts to enter and excel in this field. This shared vision inspired me to join the WiDS movement and actively contribute to the cause.

Have you been involved with WiDS since that first experience?

I’ve been associated with WiDS since 2018. I realized that a technology hub like Bengaluru which had many technology professionals would benefit from the WiDS initiative. In 2019, I worked with the WiDS global team and a few corporations (Intuit, PayPal, and IBM) to host the first WiDS conference at the Indian Institute of Management Bengaluru. We received an excellent response from the regional community. We hosted the first regional datathon workshop, assigning data science professionals to mentor the local teams to hone the required skills to successfully compete in the datathon. We saw a great response from the teams participating in the datathon challenge on social impact.

In 2020, we hosted the second regional event and datathon workshop and got an overwhelming response to these events. (See video links below.) I played an active role in the global datathon committee, contributing to the launch of the datathon challenge on social impact. I also had the opportunity to moderate the breakout session on data science for social good with Megan Price at Stanford University. I had a great time participating in the global ambassador’s meetup at Stanford and sharing the best practices of hosting a datathon event with other regional ambassadors. By being associated with WiDS on multiple levels, I have come to deeply appreciate the impact this initiative is creating around the world.

How has WiDS made an impact on your life and/or work?

Being associated with WiDS initiative has helped me build many meaningful professional relationships and build a purposeful network. Being a part of the datathon committee has helped me appreciate the huge impact that data science can have on our economy, environment, and communities. Hosting the WiDS regional events has helped me identify accomplished women data science professionals in the area and provide them a platform to inspire young professionals to enter and thrive in this field.

What comes next for you? And what are your hopes for women in the data science in the future?

I will continue to leverage data science to develop valuable solutions that can help automate and scale business impact. I will continue to advocate for using data science to achieve socio-economic and environmental solutions for the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals of environmental protection, habitat conservation and gender equality.

We are on the cusp of an artificial intelligence revolution, which I believe is the single largest technology revolution that we have ever experienced. We have huge challenges ahead of us. Diversity in this field is a must to solve challenges such as alleviating world hunger, improving longevity and creating capabilities to live in space.

Here are my two videos on the WiDS datathon and regional events.