Published April 11, 2021
" A mentor can guide through his/her mentee through the darkness towards the light." – Follow Karuna, a successful mentor, on her reasoning and insights behind mentorship.
Hey Karuna! Welcome to our ‘Meet the Mentor’ series! You’ve been with us for a few months now! Why did you decide to become a mentor?
“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”. This quote by Nelson Mandela is something I strongly believe in and make conscious attempts to give back to society. With collaboration with IIT Mumbai, I have been actively involved in child education in the rural outskirts of the city and impart basic computing skills to homeless at a shelter home on weekends. I nurture this deep desire to start a school on wheels wherein employment-centric technical education will be rendered for free.
On similar lines, I feel that sometimes one needs to borrow someone else’s thinking hat to decipher things better. That’s when mentorship becomes significant. A mentor can guide through his/her mentee through the darkness towards the light. I consider myself to be blessed if through mentorship, I am able to bring about some positive change in someone’s life. If through my experience and ideologies, I can help someone see things from a different perspective, I think it makes it worth a try. Moreover, it is a two-way approach, even the mentor gets to learn something for sure.
What is your background?
“If you can dream it, you can do it.” This quote by Walt Disney befits me. I believe in exemplifying the outcome of determination and dedicated efforts. An electronics undergraduate from the Mumbai University, I worked with Accenture Solutions for two years before taking up masters in Data Science in 2019 at the renowned University of British Columbia, Canada. Today, I am a researcher, CTO and founder of "Daten and Wissen". Data Scientist with certifications in SAS, Machine Learning, and programming languages SQL, Python. I am a certified Neo4j professional with expertise in Hadoop, Machine Learning, Neural Networks, Graph Database, Data Mining techniques for Predictive Modelling and Analytics, Data Integration and Natural Language Processing. I can create easily understandable visualization reports from complex information. To satiate the quest for novelty, I concurrently continued to research and publish a paper on how to use word embedding to analyze system logs at the SMCE 2019 Conference in Italy. Additionally, I have also worked on Azure ML, AWS ML and Docker. Based on my interest and capabilities, I wish to contribute to the revolutionary technological development individualistically and hence founded an AI research-driven company "Daten and Wissen".
How did you first get into tech?
Hailing from a family of engineers, perhaps made me inherit the flair for mathematics and science. Hence, engineering was an obvious career option. The exemplary grasp on academics and analytical mindset aided me in preparing for the engineering entrance examination. My value oriented upbringing and all-round development at school allowed me to shed my inhibitions and explore the uncharted spheres to unleash my hidden talents in diverse taxonomies like basketball, drawing and painting and Indian classical dance. Besides, I picked up organization skills, time management ability, and articulateness by being class representatives recurrently and serving as the school home minister once that required execution of various socio-cultural events. For my overall performance, I was chosen for the Best Student Award.
However, technology was something that had always intrigued me till date. It was at Accenture that I was enticed by the potent power of data science. The perpetual success of Google, Amazon and Southwest Airlines have epitomized data-driven business models. In the digitized business eco-system, data generation has amplified beyond expectations, analysis of which has emerged as an irreplaceable tool for value generation for the business. This is because it allows organizations to gauge a comprehensive view of the upcoming trends and opportunities. Hence, I took up data science at UBC and since then have continued my quest for knowledge through research. As the CTO of "Daten and Wissen", I wish to continue my journey to find technological solutions for the global impending problems.
Did you ever have a strong mentor in your life? How did they help?
Yes, of course. I strongly posit that without the guidance of my mentors, I could not have come this far. They helped me not only set realistic goals but also acted as a guiding light to achieve them. They were a perennial source of motivation and knowledge access. According to me, there are two kinds of mentors, one, who are there with you throughout, irrespective of the goals and second, the ones who guide you for specific goals. I consider myself lucky to have both. Rupasree Deb, has been with me through the thick and thin. I regard her as my sister from another mother. She knows me like the back of her hand and never shies from giving her honest views. Domain wise, I found a highly impressive and relentless mentor in Professor Dr. Apurva Narayan at UBC who helped me immensely in polishing my skills and chalk out a more rewarding career path. I am also fortunate to have Sadanand Kawana as my mentor. He is the one who has helped me sail my life smoothly. His guidance is a bliss and has always helped me to choose right decisions.
How do you usually set up mentorships? How and how much do you communicate?
Communication is at the core of every relationship, formal or personal. An uninterrupted communication is the underpinning stimulant of the mentor-mentee relationship. Even in professional mentorships, personal attention and undivided responsiveness is imperative so that the mentee is able to accomplish milestones. My mentorship always begins with a ten minute slot for goal settings with the mentee. Then, we co-draft a realistic plan with deadlines. Our communication is usually through mentor cruise dashboards, voice calls or hands on training using Google Meet. Google Meet has emerged as one of the safe and secure platforms to discuss technical queries and doubts of the mentees which is time consuming.
How do you track progress in your mentorships?
I adopt a two-way process for tracking progress of my mentees. Although, MentorCruise offers a platform for an easy progress tracking, I additionally maintain a scorecard. Based on the predetermined goals, mentees and I decide upon the milestones. Based on the achievement of milestones, I score their performances. So this way, everything is very transparent and free from any sort of biases.
Tell us about one of your best past mentorship experiences!
Oh yes! There was this student of mine who was struggling with family issues and this shackled her professional growth. As a mentor, together we resolved her family issues and gradually guided her towards professional progression. Soon, she began to deliver commendable performance in her domain and delivered amazing academic performance. Now she is working as a Software Engineer with Accenture. The feeling of making a difference to someone’s life satiated my soul and kindled a sense of gratification in me. I regard myself to be blessed to be of some help to some. When you decide to mentor someone, you really have no way of knowing how far she'll go. Whether you shape the next great entrepreneur of our time or help someone achieve her dreams, you'll make a difference--and that's all that matters.
What are you getting out of being a mentor?
As I said earlier, it's a two-way process. No mentor can remain unfazed during mentorship. There is always something that he/she can take back. A mentor can only preach what he/she practices. Thus, as a technical mentor, if I dont have the necessary subject expertise, I would not be able to guide my mentees properly. Thus, as a mentor, I ought to strive hard to gain proficiency in my domain. Thus, it is a process that allows even the mentors to refine their skills, knowledge and approaches. Moreover, like mentors, mentees also harbour some expectations from their mentors. So it is essential to live up to those expectations. Thus, mentorship acts as a catalyst for me to strive for continuous betterment as well.
What’s your best advice for new mentors out there?
Be realistic, honest and approachable. More than your knowledge, mentees want your unconditional support and motivation. They have wings, you just need to give them the confidence of flying high in the sky.
What is the most crucial skill to learn for people entering the tech industry?
Nowadays, people are running a rat race to learn more and more technical languages. I feel learning programming languages is no big deal. It is more important to decipher the logical aspects of working with technology. For instance, If I have to write a code that runs once a day; the logic is since it's a recurring code, the time difference between two run times should be 24 hours. For syntax of languages, Google is always handy, but searching correctly on Google is an art that requires polished skills.
And to wrap things up, where can we find out more about you and your work?
You can find more about my work on LinkedIn. I also speak a lot about my work at different conferences. Also recently, I have started writing my blogs on linkedin.
Follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karuna-lakhani
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