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Meet Our People: Amrutha Wheeler

A driven leader and advocate for consistent learning, Amrutha Wheeler, Data Science Team Lead at KSM Consulting, uses her unique background in statistics, quantitative analysis, and predictive modeling to take our data science team to the next level, leading and mentoring both early career and senior data scientists.

“Don’t worry about who you were last year, ask yourself how you can be better today than you were yesterday.

Get to Know Amrutha Wheeler

What led you to become a data scientist?

I had a very untraditional path to becoming a data scientist. Unlike most data scientists, I did not study computer science, math, or programming in college. Instead, I studied political science and economics. Originally, I always thought I would be a war journalist because I love to write, and I love studying international development. While getting my master’s in public administration, I taught a statistics course to undergrads when I realized I really had a gift and passion for statistics.

After graduating, I looked for any jobs that needed a specialist in SPSS. I worked for a year at a data consulting firm as a statistical analyst, and then joined a start-up company because I really wanted a fast-paced working environment. Here, I was able to find my enthusiasm for working with healthcare data. My career growth and path has been circular because I have worked with several different companies, gaining lots of experience, however I started at a data consulting firm and now am at KSM Consulting, a data consulting firm.

How are you involved with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives at KSMC?

KSMC started a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee a few months ago; with two workstreams – Community Engagement and Knowledge Sharing. I, along with my fellow KSMCer, Amy Pipher, lead the Knowledge Sharing committee. Our goal is to provide resources for people to learn, think critically about social justice issues, and help our communities thrive by being active agents of change.

We are working with a local non-profit to make implicit bias training a part of the KSMC employee experience. Our first workshop is in April and is available to all KSMC team members. The DEI Committee surveyed our team last year, so our programs are driven by our people.

I had a lot of assumptions about the US when I moved from India eleven years ago; many of these were not necessarily true but formed through my limited knowledge of life in the US. For example, I knew little about life in rural America or student loans.

Through my experiences, I have learned that when challenging biases, I learn the best when the information is not yelled at me but explained in a way that piques my own curiosity. I’d love for us to recognize our agency; we all have the ability to learn, recognize mistakes, and change. I’d also love for us to explore these topics with a sense of wonder rather than guilt. Approach tough issues with the openness of a toddler but the mental maturity of an adult.

What inspires you to learn and grow at KSMC?

I am extremely self-motivated and love to push myself to learn new skills to further my career. When I was in my first job as a data analyst, I purchased a “Python in 24 Hours” book from Amazon, and actively asked to be on projects where I could practice those skills. This practice allowed me to steadily grow my career to the next level. To be honest, I am naturally a very introverted person, so I forced myself to go to networking events to build my professional network. I’ve met so many wonderful people in the Indianapolis Tech community, who have made this city feel more like home even though I’m miles away from my birthplace. I have fantastic mentors (formal and informal) within KSMC like Michael Schwarz, Sandip Biswas, Dan LaBar, Megan Bailey, Mary Catharine Grau, and Louonna Kachur, as well others outside of the company. It’s really important to have people you look up to outside of your specific role because you can learn new soft skills that translate to better client work and relationships overall.

What impact are you looking to make on KSMC and your clients?

I’ve worked at companies where producing complex models in a black box was the goal. However, I believe transparency is just as important as accuracy in data science. I strive to provide my clients the best solutions that are explainable, reusable, and integrate well with their current tools. My goal is to help my clients navigate their data with ease and confidence so they can focus on decision making and policies.

What advice would you give to a young woman starting a career in technology?

Self-doubt is very real. It is easy to be intimidated by professionals that seem to have all the answers. Find a mentor you trust, recognize that you’re more responsible for your career development than your manager, and approach challenges with curiosity.

I still live in a cycle of self-doubt and subtle confidence but just remember that taking the first step and learning through imperfections is often the most rewarding.

What books or podcasts are you listening to right now?

The Harvard Business Review has a new podcast “Coaching Real Leaders” that discusses common struggles in the professional environment and how to overcome them. It is a great podcast that I would recommend to any manager or leader.