by Hamza Riaz – 

This article is mainly based upon an interview between the PhD Candidate Hamza Riaz and Dr James Conway, lead data scientist in Mastercard. During the interview I addressed some of the questions that young PhD candidates in machine learning (ML) would like to ask to a company. I discussed with James the major ML models used in Mastercards and the most demanding skills that mastercard seeks in new applicants. The short interview video is available at the end of the page.

James Conway started his journey by studying purely mathematics and statics, in particular, mathematical models in scientific computing and ordinary differential equations. During his PhD, he did research on modeling random behaviours of the real world and investigated the relationships between deterministic and stochastic models. It emerged that James also has strong computer science skills. Many PhD candidates doing research in Machine Learning can relate to James because they have very diverse educational backgrounds. The lesson we can learn is that nowadays it is important to go beyond boundaries by broadening our cross-sectorial knowledge. 

Upon James, advancements in automated machine learning models (AutoML) will have a huge impact in the near future. Automation will reduce the time of a business case to come into the team and to have a model ready to work. It will enable more people to make use of ML algorithms without being an expert in Machine Learning. Many big companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Uber are already developing cloud platforms where users can upload raw dataset and get results relatively quickly from a ML model that runs in the cloud. Time Series Prediction and Reccomender system models have also an impact in the future of the economy. James and his team are exploring different domains including future predictions of stock prices and exchange rates, improving customer experience by auto-recommending systems to clients for the growth of their business options.

To the question “What is the number one skill that a PhD candidate must have?” James said that communication is one of the biggest skills a scholar needs to possess. It is important to be able to communicate clearly and It can be challenging to explain to non-experts and sometimes also to people that have technical expertise why your  model makes certain predictions. Communication is also about to be able  to explain the value of your model in terms of potential applications and possible commercialisations.