Decoding Data Science: An Intimate Conversation with a Leader in the Financial Industry

May 16, 2024
Photo of a South Asian woman standing with her arms crossed, standing and smiling

Meet Jharna Deshmukh, AHF Mentor!

In the ever-evolving field of data science and analytics, the journey of an individual can offer a myriad of learnings and insights for aspiring professionals. Jharna with her extensive experience spanning nearly two decades, stands as a testament to what it means to grow and evolve in this dynamic domain. 

Through her insights, we gain a closer look into the motivations and pivotal moments that have shaped her into the influential leader she is today as a Director in the financial industry.


A Journey of Mentorship and Learning

Mentorship stands as a cornerstone in Jharna’s professional ethos. Her engagement with the AHF Fellowship Circle not only highlights her commitment to giving back to the community but also underscores the mutual growth that mentorship fosters. The program, as Jharna vividly recalls, offered a rich exchange of ideas and methodologies that broadened her horizons, reinforcing the importance of a continuous learning mindset in the rapidly changing tech landscape.

When asked about her motivation to mentor with AHF Fellowship Circle, Jharna exclaims, ”It was the sheer joy of sharing knowledge and learning from the Fellows that drove me. The program was a treasure trove of learning, offering new perspectives and refreshing my approach towards problem-solving in data science.”


Pivotal Moments to a Career in Data Science

Jharna’s unique blend of educational backgrounds — a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science paired with an MBA in Finance — has not only distinguished her career path but has also been instrumental in her leadership roles. This dual expertise enabled her to bridge the gap between complex data analytics and tangible business outcomes, underscoring the value of interdisciplinary knowledge in leadership roles. Her approach exemplifies how diverse academic foundations can lead to innovative solutions and strategic insights in the corporate world, highlighting the importance of a multifaceted skill set in navigating the challenges and opportunities of the digital age.

“Although my educational qualifications might seem unrelated, I was fortunate enough to work at an intersection of these two areas. My background in Computer Science helped me quickly grasp the technical landscape of the data world while my Finance education helped me make sense of that data and correlate business scenarios,” adds Jharna.

Jharna goes on to add, “Given my programming background and the zeal for exploring data, the Big Data boom played a pivotal role for me. In 2012, when Big Data first started to take prominence, I found just the right opportunity to start my journey in this field and never looked back since.”

The advent of Big Data marked a significant turning point in Jharna’s career. Her ability to leverage her programming skills and adapt to the burgeoning field of data analytics exemplifies the agility and foresight necessary to navigate the tech industry’s shifts and turns. It’s a powerful reminder of the opportunities that arise when one is at the confluence of change and readiness.


Global Perspectives on Leadership

The global span of Jharna’s career has not only enriched her professional journey but has also shaped her leadership style, embodying the essence of global citizenship. This global perspective enables Jharna to work more effectively with individuals from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Her insights into the cultural dynamics of teamwork and leadership are invaluable, offering a blueprint for leading diverse teams with empathy and effectiveness.

“My experiences across different countries like India, Canada, the USA, and China have enriched my leadership style, making me more attuned to the diverse ways people communicate and collaborate. Understanding these cultural nuances has been key in leading a multicultural team effectively,” exclaims Jhanra.


Empowering Women in Data Science

Jharna’s leadership extends beyond her technical achievements to her profound impact on nurturing an inclusive and supportive environment, especially for women in data science. Her strategies for building, motivating and creating the conditions for team members to thrive reflect a deep understanding of the nuances of leadership and the critical importance of creating opportunities for growth and development. This approach not only drives positive outcomes but also paves the way for a more diverse and dynamic workforce.

“In the male-dominated field of data science, from experience I have found that empowering my team involves giving them the platform to interact with different internal and external stakeholders, fostering a sense of accountability and leadership,” explains Jharna. “When challenges arise, we focus on understanding the underlying issues, rather than assigning blame.”

Jharna’s biggest advice to women entering data science and analytics is to stay curious, ask the right questions and seek help when you need it. 

“Understanding the what and why we are doing something is critical, rather than focusing on getting the job or task done,” advises Jharna. “Asking for help when you need it is not a sign of weakness. The sum total of knowledge I’ve accumulated in my career comes from interacting with 100’s of colleagues over time.”

Jharna’s career is a compelling narrative of harnessing opportunities, a global perspective, and leadership. Her story is a beacon for aspiring data scientists and a testament to the transformative power of passion, perseverance, and a willingness to learn and grow at every step of one’s professional journey.