My Interview with Ajay Ohri

November 19, 2008
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What prompted you take a career in science, and what has been the reason you stuck to it, and been a sucess in it

I was doing mathematics for fun at a very young age when my friends were interested in sports, cars and movies. When I finished my master, I was approached by one of the professors to pursue a PhD program. It was in statistics (image analysis, bayesian clustering), and I thought that choosing statistics rather than number theory or nu


What prompted you take a career in science, and what has been the reason you stuck to it, and been a sucess in it

I was doing mathematics for fun at a very young age when my friends were interested in sports, cars and movies. When I finished my master, I was approached by one of the professors to pursue a PhD program. It was in statistics (image analysis, bayesian clustering), and I thought that choosing statistics rather than number theory or numerical analysis would increase my chances of getting a job after presenting my thesis. At that time, my favorite subject was indeed number theory – I was even published in J. of Number Theory. After earning my PhD, I moved to Cambridge, then North Carolina, then the Internet industry – with a very interesting detour into finance and risk management / fraud detection between 2002 and 2005.

Analytic bridge is the world’s largest network for analytic professionals. What prompted you to build it, what were the critical milestones, and what is your vision for it.

It is a convergence of multiple factors. The feeling that the startup I was involved with at that time wasn’t doing well, the fact that I had a large network (thanks in part to LinkedIn) and that I discovered Ning.com (while browsing recruiter networks) on February 16th, 2008 – the date AnalyticBridge was born. I decided to create and grow AnalyticBridge very fast, both through networking, quality content, and significant paid advertising. I hope that within 5 years it will be five times bigger in terms of members, and even more profitable thanks to advertising. Membership will continue to be free. I will probably add a data mining search engine or a data mining encyclopedia, as these features help grow organic traffic tremendously.

Whats the most interesting case study or project you ever worked with ?

One fascinating case study was the detection of a low frequency botnet used for click fraud, generating no more than 2 clicks per day per advertiser, but hitting almost all advertisers. We are talking about more than 50 million dollars yearly, in click fraud. It was discovered by chance on a very small data set (datashaping server logs), but once discovered, I fully understood the botnet technology and was able to detect many new ones. I published a paper about this case. As expected, I was subsequently attacked by botnets, which in turn helped me identify new, more potent botnets that were in testing mode. It was interesting to see how sophisticated these botnets were from a tech viewpoint, but at the same time lacking basic statistical intelligence (why generating exactly 2 clicks per day per advertiser, day after day, why did they not introduce some realistic variance in their scheme – this still amazes me).

What advice would you give to someone entering the domain of science.What benefits does a science career give over say a lawyer degree or a business adminsitration degree.

Focus on applied maths (data mining), learn programming skills (SAS, R, Perl, C++, Java, C# – just pick 2 of them, plus SQL). Process real life data (large data sets if possible) and produce a report with actionable conclusions for your thesis. Get a master, with a minor in marketing, business intelligence, econometrics, operations research or some other applied field. If you have great analytical skills, good instinct and think outside the box, be able to look at the big picture, make algorithms run 100 times faster, take risks, you WILL make more money than doctors or lawyers.

Have you been to India ? Any plans for the same .

Not yet, but I’m sure India has beautiful mountains, caves and architecture, superb beaches and fantastic food – not to mention great, diversified people. I hope I’ll visit India pretty soon – I’ve actually moved West every 4-5 years, from Europe to USA – East coast, now USA – West coast. So I guess my next step moving West will necessarily bring me to Asia. India has the advantage that we speak the same language. But I am also attracted by Japan and China. Places with palm trees in particular.