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Gaaurav Aggarwal graduated from IISER Mohali in 2014 with a dual BS-MS, majoring in Mathematics. During his stay at IISER Mohali, Gaurav actively participated in many activities, academic and extracurricular. His academic interests shifted gradually from physics to mathematics, towards probability theory and stochastic analysis. His non-academic interests range widely, from music to dance to sports. Gaurav served as the cultural secretary from 2010-2012 in which he organized many music and dance events at IISER Mohali.
After graduation, Gaurav joined Deloitte US-India in 2014, as a consultant AERS(Audit Enterprise Risk Solutions).
Keshav: Back in 2009, other professions but science were in vogue then, what was your motivation to join IISER Mohali?
Gaurav: At that point of time, I did not have ample experience or guidance to weigh whatever options I had. My rank in the IIT JEE list made me eligible for admission to IISERs. In the introduction sessions/ orientation at IISER, it appeared to be promising. The ‘Indian Institute’ tag and the INSPIRE scholarship had a fair share in my decision making.
K: So Gaurav, when you joined, what major did you have in mind and how did you decide to do Math?
G: When I joined, I was interested in Physics. Over the course of the first four semesters, I developed some affinity towards Mathematics too. What I remember is that during that time I wanted to read more about probability theory; following this instinct I chose Math as my major.
K: What other activities, apart from science kept you busy at IISER? Did extra-curricular activities on your CV help you get a job?
G: I had been part of various student activities throughout my stay at IISER. I am not really sure if these activities help finding a job, but they do provide exposure, that I believe is important. These activities do act as a platform where we can test our strengths and recognize our weaknesses; it may not directly help in securing a job, but at the very least, they prepare you for a lot of other things.
K: Most incoming graduates have some perception of a career, what was yours? How did it change to going for an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?
G: Like most of students, my concept of a career was developed through the old lore “Beta engineer banega ya doctor.” IISER Mohali introduced me to a very different environment. It exposed me to a very coveted society of science and their practices. I would say I had the opportunity to meet people who were doing what they wanted to do and also people who would only do what they want to do.
If I were to define a career now, I would say it is the filtration of the random path that one has taken so far. It is no way related to the projections of what we will do in future. (Geek joke- lookup filtrations :))
There are all these debates on the relevance of an IISER graduate in the corporate world, I think our training is solid….
K: At IISERs, there is a culture of doing a summer project each year. What were your summer projects about? How did they shape your choices?
G: My first summer project was on “Chaos Theory” with Dr. Sudeshna Sinha at IISER Mohali, it was a coding rigorous project where I worked on the simulations of some very basic models. The second project was on Random Walks with Dr. Rajeev Kapri at IISER Mohali, it involved the study of probability distributions for Random walks in 1D, 2D and 3D. A mathematical proof for Polya’s Theorem was also studied along with an empirical verification of the same using simulations. The third project was on Time Homogeneous Markov Jump processes with Dr. Kanchan Jain at Panjab University, this involved the study of stochastic processes and related models. The fourth project was the study of Calculus of Probability theory with Dr. Lingaraj Sahu, this was more on covering the pre-requisites for my final year thesis.
With all the summer projects in Probability theory, a transition into stochastic analysis and then Financial Mathematics seemed appropriate.
K: This seems to be some heavy math, were the projects as hard as their names?
G: No, not as hard. Those were more of a study of the basics of these. Nothing as difficult as it may sound right now.
K: The final year project is a major part of the coursework. What was your final year project about?
G: My final year project, under the guidance of Dr. Lingaraj Sahu; it was on “Diffusion Processes: analysis and their applications”. The aim of the thesis was to understand diffusion processes as models for trajectories of randomly moving particles. The analysis required some stochastic integration so as to be able to write a stochastic differential equation, this was studied and rigorously reproduced. Various models were analyzed, such as SDE’s and the sufficient conditions for the existence and uniqueness of their solutions were studied. The theory was supplemented with various examples and applications.
K: Wow, that sounds very interesting, and something with a lot of applications. I’m sure it contributed to your career.
G: The final year project and the thesis played a major role in helping me bag a position at Deloitte. Various financial models are based on stochastic models and familiarity with the basics of Stochastic Analysis helps in understanding the field of Financial Mathematics.
It is very important for the members of a community to learn and leverage from each others experience
K: How helpful were the various resources at IISER Mohali, such as Faculty members, alumni and Opportunity cell in helping you find/decide a career?
G: There are all these debates on the relevance of an IISER graduate in the corporate world, I think our training is solid, it is at par (if not better) to all those institutes out there. I am grateful to IISER Mohali for its training. The faculty members provided great mentorship, the alumni took initiatives to help us. The opportunity cell is developing an unbiased network of information. They all played a role in motivating me to explore newer options.
I must add that, It is very important for the members of a community to learn and leverage from each others experience. A major chunk of the student community at IISER is not aware of the opportunities that they have after their Masters and thus it becomes more important that we try and develop a network that can provide whatever information that one may require.
K: So, how did you come across this opportunity then?
G: I came to know about this position through a friend who was already working in the firm who referred me for this position.
K: What were the pre-requisites and process for getting the job?
G: I applied for this and after a few rounds of interviews I was offered a position of a Consultant at Deloitte AERS. Knowledge of some advanced Mathematics was the major pre-requisite. Probability theory, linear algebra, measure theory and stochastic calculus along with basic understanding of the concepts of finance were the areas I was tested on.
K: What is your current position and responsibilities? And what are the working hours like?
G: Currently I am working as an Associate Solution Advisor with the Risk Analytics department in Deloitte AERS Advisory group. The work profile here includes working on financial model development and validation for US based clients (major banks and investment firms). I also work on the independent valuations of various financial instruments that are traded over the counter as an audit support exercise.
The working hours are 11AM to 8 PM but these are flexible both ways depending upon the volume and urgency of the projects.
K: Do you think IISER Mohali prepared you for the job?
G: As I mentioned earlier various courses in Mathematics, some interdisciplinary courses on applications of mathematics along with the summer projects and the final year project in probability theory and stochastic analysis is what prepared me for this job.
K: What do you feel is the best part about your job? What do you think is the most challenging part about your job?
G: Getting to meet new people and learning finance in and out.
K: Ok, I have to put this typical geek question here, So which is the challenging part, talking to other people or finance part?
G: Talking to other people.
K: And what is the growth trajectory like?
G: It is would be too soon to comment on this.
K: If you had to tell one thing to Gaurav Aggarwal in 4th year, what would it be?
G: I would reiterate what Dr. Kapil Paranjape used to say “Finish what you have started”.