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Data Science Alumni Spotlight: Meet Utkarsh

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Utkarsh Khanna

Software Developer, Google, Mountainview, CA
Graduation Year: 2016

Utkarsh Khanna knows that Illinois Tech’s data science program was the best choice for him in his academic and professional career. Khanna is a software developer at Google and was recruited by someone who saw his LinkedIn profile. “If it wasn't for the data science program I would, at worst, not work at Google and at best, be grossly incompetent for the job,” he said.

Khanna received an undergraduate degree in computer science from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai, India. After re-evaluating his interests, he decided to enroll in Illinois Tech’s data science program. “I felt that the program at IIT offered a balanced blend of math and computer science skills needed to meet the demands of the field.” He feels his time at Illinois Tech was well spent and relates his learning experience as a “natural progression” from one subject to the next. Khanna commented, “From probability to machine learning, each course seemed to build upon the last.”

Khanna recalls the strong support he received from Illinois Tech faculty. While other data science students had an industry project for the practicum assigned to them, he wanted to pursue something different. He wanted to build a machine learning-based document storage system but not necessarily for a company—it would have several uses. He said, “When I proposed it to Professor Argamon, I was delightfully surprised by his support. I almost expected him to say that I couldn't do something of my own, but he was extremely supportive.”

Khanna also attributes Professor of Computer Science Sanjiv Kapoor with impacting Khanna’s learning experience. “He played a huge role in mentoring me for the job. I took his algorithms courses and then he mentored me during my practicum. He would always push me to dig deeper and asked questions which I never thought of, and he was always willing to teach more as long as you wanted to learn.” Defining the problem, breaking it down, finding solutions and stitching them together are the elements of his formula for achieving success in his role. “Today, that's how every single one of my projects looks—driven from design to completion by me.”

Completing the practicum project and interacting with Illinois Tech faculty taught Khanna skills that are now crucial components for meeting his career goals.

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