Author Interview with Saurabh Gupta
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Author Interview with Saurabh Gupta

interviewed on Jul 15, 2020 Bangalore
Saurabh Gupta is currently based out of Bangalore and originally hails from Lucknow, UP. He is the General manager of Data Science at Michelin. Prior to this, he was the Senior Manager of Data & Analytics at GE and has had stints at Oracle, ABB and Atos.

His core expertise lies in building AI organizations and engaging with CXO leadership to drive data analytics transformation.
He holds masters from BITS Pilani and management from Harvard Business School.

He’s authored three bestseller books on technical subjects like Big data lake and Oracle advanced programming.
Q. How would you describe yourself?
I have a pleasant, thoughtful, and conscientious personality. I love to take stands whenever necessary, which enables me to strike balance between working hard and playing hard. Though my friends and family often notice my reflective attitude, I am a firm believer of the fact that simplicity is often hard to achieve and is the ultimate sophistication.
Q. Tell us something about the books that you have written and the story behind them.
Well, I always loved writing. And as a technical professional, I focused on contributing through a product that I knew well. I started translating my experience into simple documents. By the end of 2011, I had already written close to 500 papers, which used to act as reference for me and my friends. One of my friend advised me to publish them on a blog or a book. As a newbie author, it’s a not-so-easy task to convince a publisher. I prepared the manuscript and reached out to few publishers, to hear back rejection in variety of tones; until one fine morning, I received mail from Packt publishing to start with the process. It took almost 8 to 10 months to sort my existing papers in put them in editorial template. The first book “Oracle Advanced PL/SQL Developer Professional Guide” got published in mid 2012. I was delighted by the fact that I contributed back to the technical community through my book. I found a fair reader base in the start and slowly, the book picked up a good pace. The book was tailor made for the readers who are aspiring for Oracle professional level certification, along with mock-up assessments. Overall the book was great success story and it instilled my confidence in writing. In 2016, I authored the second edition of the same book by revising the content as per latest Oracle database version. This time the focus was on subject coverage, content quality, and feature explanation. Once again, great excitement and equally overwhelming response. I feel satisfied as an author and I couldn’t thank my family enough for their support and encouragement. In 2018, I took a chance to try my hands to develop content on Big Data Lake architecture. With plethora of content available on web, I knew it was a risk, but still went ahead putting forth my real life experiences from the industry. The book “Practical Enterprise Data Lake Insights” was released by Apress in 2018.
Q. From Defense Psychology instructor to General Manager- Data Science and now an Author. These fields are very different from each other. How would you describe this journey?
Satisfying I would say. When I started off as a defense instructor, I never thought I would ever run analytics functions. I used to teach story writing skills and help cadets in structuring their thoughts and psych. From being an educator to a technologist and an author on the way; I feel I have explored different personas of my personality.
Q. What encouraged you to share your knowledge and put it into writing?
After entering into technology, I used to find time and ways to jot down my thoughts and knowledge. I used to maintain a tech blog, but my experience with ghost writing on other forums gave me a lot of confidence. I started to find my reader base. They felt my articles provided a structured and end to end coverage on a subject. After continued encouragement, I decided to publish my write-ups in the form of a book. All I needed to do was to add more content and put in a book-like structure. Thanks to Packt publishing for believing in a newbie author.

I feel happy to have authored books in the technical space and lucky to have been accepted by the readers. My first two books get frequently tagged as bestsellers by book analysts. This is what satisfies me to the core.
Q. How has your work experience influenced the content in your books, which are all about Data Science, Big Data lake, and Oracle development?
Yes and no, both. Yes - because authoring a technical subject requires a good amount of research. It is a time consuming task and often took my attention away from my routine tasks. No - because the subject I chose to author was mainstream to my job. The research helped me master some of the unrelated topics and made me progress in my professional line too. While my books were discovering new readers every day, I transitioned my career track from engineering to analytics. Happy to have worn multiple hats; from that of an engineer to product manager, and data science manager.
Q. What place does writing hold in your life, how has been your writing journey so far?
I feel great and accomplished as an author. The fact that my books are available across all major online bookstores, even after 7 to 8 years, and keeping traction amongst the readers, satisfies me. Finding my book under “recommended books”, bibliographies, book discussions, and translations, gives me a sense of content and pride. I am thankful to the entire reader community for finding my books relevant and making them part of their technical journey.
Q. What is your writing process, a typical writing day routine?
I usually prefer a detailed research on a topic before jumping on to the content development. I put myself into reader’s shoes to understand what should be the logical flow to cover a subject area. While research activities go anytime in a day, but writing usually requires bit of seclusion and space. I prefer writing during morning hours when mind is fresh.
Q. Data Science and AI are growing and being implemented in almost all domains now. Do you think that it would affect jobs negatively or open new avenues of learning and innovation?
It will make us smarter than ever. The predictive and prescriptive capabilities of Artificial Intelligence, within the appropriate levels of governance and regulation, augments human intelligence and opens new areas of exploration and innovation. The jobs that are mundane, will be replaced by design oriented and innovative jobs.
Q. Coming from a country like India, do you think it's high time that data science entered the Indian education system?
It's already underway as we speak. However, the current penetration is mostly concentrated around the professional education scheme (master courses or professional learning). I would love to see the elements of AI (like analytical approach, story telling, factual comprehension) to be taught in schools as well. It will help students to stay in the habit of using facts and stitching them to recite an effective story.
Q. What is the proudest moment you've had related to your books?
I think the acceptance of my work makes me proud every day. The fact that the book is still holding well in the competitive market is the testimony of quality and relevance.
Q. What is your thought process when you start writing a book and how do structure its content?
I take a reader centric approach before I jump on to content development. I do some research on what topics users want to read more than others. Within such topics, what would make them feel accomplished. Should a topic be left open ended, thereby prompting readers to explore more, or should it have a logical closure? Based on these findings, I structure my content.
Q. What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
For marketing my work, blogging helped me a great deal. I published brief blogs from the book to create buzz. I also leveraged my social handles and collaborated with other bloggers to reach the target readers. However, book giveaway events were something I enjoyed the most. I even participated in technical conferences to talk about the book and its content.
Q. What do you think makes a book sell, or makes a reader buy it?
It’s the presentation style of the author and uniqueness of the content. In case of non-fiction, what prompts the reader is the perimeter of a subject and what impact will it create in his or her personal and professional progression.
Q. What's the most moving or affecting thing a reader has said to you?
For most of the authors, the first compliment is always close to the heart. One of the very first readers (from Ukraine) of my first book emailed me his photo with my book and his OCP certificate score.
Q. What all forms of writing do you pursue, and where do you publish them?
I love contributing to different tech journals, magazines, and even online forums. Besides writing, I have also developed a keen interest in public speaking. I like to share my thoughts through conferences, virtual meetings, panel discussions, and mentoring sessions. I find it a more direct way to interact with people and listen to their thoughts.
Q. What are your favourite three books, and why?
I’m in awe of the latest book that I’m reading - “Experimentation works” by Prof. Stefan Thomke from Harvard Business School. The book reflects on improving customer experiences through the art of business experimentation.

I also love reading Alchemist by Paulo Coelo and “The Start-Up of You” by Reid Hoffman.
Q. Who are your favourite three authors and what do you like the most about them?
Although I’m still trying to be a avid reader, but by whatever ground I have covered in the past, I have enjoyed reading Devdutt Pattanaik and Amish Tripathi. Both of them have infused new life into the dying space of mythological stories. While Dev illustrates a logical and analytical style of writing, Amish is more creative and thoughtful. I love reading their works whenever I get time.
Q. Tell us about the books that you are currently writing and their progress.
Nothing on the plate right now.
Q. Tell us about some interesting or memorable incidents from your life.
The second-best memory (first is school days and family time) from my Lucknow days is the time spent at Shekhar Academy, where I joined as a student to prepare for SSB, the recruitment process of Indian Defense. On account of my good performance (especially in psychological battery), I started taking the lead role in the class and assisted junior class mates. In the second year, I was deputy to our mentor in conducting classes at Lucknow cantonment board for defense other ranks. I led a batch of 37 gents and it was a delight moment to see 11 of them clearing the recruitment process in first attempt. Memories of the celebration are still fresh.
Q. What role has your family played in your writing career?
After three stints as an author, I can't deny that families struggle a lot with an author. And this silent struggle and unsaid sacrifice is the support. I sincerely thank my wife for supporting me to follow my passion. All of this stands by your support.
Q. Talk to us about your growing years and your home. Did it influence your writing?
I believe the time that we spend at home, during growing years, serves as the credit for the rest of your life. I wouldn't say it influenced my writing, but the art of discipline and accountability helped me to stay focused and find my "true north". Whatever we may become, it ties back to the foundational blocks that were laid down during childhood.
Q. Any crazy or unusual book review that you would like to share with us.
It's part of the journey. Critics do exist and they help you better your approach, but for the next time. I would advise newbie authors to take it positively; they are your readers too.
Q. Tell us about your publishing journey and how did you choose your publisher?
It was not very easy. I had to send proposals to many publishers. And like any other newbie author, I had to face rejections. I started attaching my freelance work to bring in credibility factor but it didn't help much. So, instead of me choosing a publisher, I would say Packt chose me.
Q. One advice that you would like to give to people willing to follow your footsteps.
All I would advise them is to believe in simplicity. Keeping things simple improves your productivity and allows you to pursue more than your appetite.
Q. What challenges do you think are faced by writers, what's the worst thing about the book industry according to you?
Authoring is not engineering but an art. And building this as a product requires multiple hands to come together and make it a success. I think editorial and proof readers can play a much stronger role in the making of a book. Plagiarism is the worst thing that goes with the book. Believe me - every act of plagiarism demeans author’s efforts.
Q. Apart from writing, what goals do you want to achieve in life?
I possess a doer attitude and a strong quench to take things to finish line. With analytics as my majors, I want to build products that can solve some real problems on the ground. We all emit more than five thousand digital traces of ourselves every minute. I think we can do wonders if we align data points and use data to produce light and not heat.
Q. At QwertyThoughts.com, we are trying to bring authors and readers under the same roof, to connect, discuss and socialize over books. What's your take on this?
It’s a great platform that builds an ecosystem of like minds. I think “socialization” will help authors to understand the polarity and tonality of readers. It’ll be an opportunity for the readers too to shake hands with their favorite authors on a common platform.
Q. What message do you want to share with budding writers?
An author is a magician if his work makes you see the world from his eye. Write for your passion towards art and not for business.

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About the author
Strong believer of simplicity and authenticity. Calm and creative. 
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