CDS is proud to present to you one of our incredible alumni, Tinatin Nikvashvili! Tinatin graduated from CDS last spring and joined 7 Chord, a fin-tech startup in NYC that provides real-time predictive sovereign and corporate bond prices, as a data scientist. After interning with them during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, she is working there as a data scientist full-time. Tinatin is working on unique machine learning problems related to financial time series. We asked Tinatin about her journey into the world of data science and her work at 7 Chord.
This interview was lightly edited for clarity.
Why did you choose data science, and what brought you to CDS?
I had an epiphany. While working in economic consulting, I was planning to get my Ph.D. in economics. However, I realized that one of the most enjoyable parts of my job was working with data and data-driven solutions. It was becoming more and more evident that a Ph.D. in economics was not for me because I liked working with data and programming. I talked to my friends who were getting a masters’ in data science and data science was exactly what I was looking for; it was the intersection of computer science, math, and statistics. From there, I could apply my knowledge to data sets. I applied to data science programs to strengthen my technical skills. I chose CDS because it has a standalone data science program that’s been around for a few years. I didn’t know where exactly I wanted to go after obtaining my MS in Data Science, so having the flexibility to explore different topics was beneficial. There is also the brilliant faculty that CDS has to offer.
How was your experience at CDS?
I had a wonderful time at CDS with fantastic faculty and brilliant students. It’s the type of community that will always push you to be better. I actually didn’t have the computer science/programming background like everyone else coming in. I was really worried if I would be able to catch up. However, CDS provided a strong background in theory which was an excellent foundation, instead of only focusing on tools and industry knowledge. I also appreciated the diversity of perspectives in CDS. Because it’s a standalone program, you can meet people from different fields and explore different topics. I’ve met people who were interested in subjects such as neuroscience, music, and NLP. Having the CDS space was also a great opportunity to meet new people.
What have you been working on since graduating?
In my personal time, I’m trying to strengthen my technical skills and take foundational CS courses. Of course, it’s about finding a balance between being productive outside of work hours as I get used to a full-time job.
In terms of work experience, I transitioned from a Data Scientist Intern in 7 Chord to a Full-time Data Scientist. To clarify, 7 Chord predicts prices for fixed-income instruments (bonds). Given that 7 Chord is a startup, I have the opportunity to work as a full-stack developer. For personal reasons, I like the idea of not specializing early in my career; I enjoy that my position allows me to do many different things, such as working with a data pipeline and conducting data analytics. I’ve been able to program in a test-driven way, conduct machine learning, design visualizations, and communicate information to business stakeholders. 7 Chord gets data from vendors, processes the raw data to feed into ML models, and works on features to derive predictions. I also answer questions that arise on the business side. Essentially, I get to fill in the gaps that I wouldn’t have necessarily learned in a classroom but from experience (all while enjoying the work I do).
What advice would you have for any prospective candidates for the CDS Master’s program?
Work hard but also take breaks. I realized that I became less productive as I overworked myself. Another piece of advice would be to interact with your classmates. I was able to form a really strong group of friends before the pandemic hit, and it helped to have a team to collaborate with when it came to projects and coursework. Some topics can be difficult to grasp without talking them out with people. Also, try to use this time at CDS to discover your interests and gain knowledge in what you want to pursue. You can do many things, from analytics to machine learning, so use this time to explore. I also regret not taking the time to attend the talks that were going on. They offer a lot of insight into the industry and people’s research that I missed out on. I said I would go later and ended up not going at all due to the pandemic.
By Keerthana Manivasakan