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April 30 - May 1, 2025
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Sep 27, 2023

LexisNexis’ Deepak Senthilkumar
Introducing our Career Spotlight Series

By D.J. Murphy, Senior Editor, Digital Content for Data Universe

This is the first in a series examining data and data-related careers. We’ll be interviewing data pros about their career journeys and tips to help you in your own.

Deepak Senthilkumar is Director of Software Engineering at LexisNexis, a company that sells data analytics products for the legal, media and financial services industries, among others (Disclosure: Data Universe and LexisNexis are both owned by RELX). His global team supports the data requirements of LexisNexis by optimizing the company’s internal data management systems and building and maintaining the data warehouses that contain all the data in the organization with respect to sales, marketing, finance, customer support and delivering analytics and the resulting insights. But his team’s focus is evolving.

“We’re in the process of building a lakehouse for more advanced analytics in the in the area of data science, machine learning and more predictive analytics,” Senthilkumar tells Data Universe. “What we do today is more in the space of prescriptive analytics—standard reporting, dashboarding, etc. There are pockets of work going on in that space, but we are focused on building our infrastructure in such a way that all our data is available in one place so it's easy for people to access and the data to create analytics on top of it.”

First Steps

For some, data science, engineering or analytics is not a career goal but a serendipitous destination. Senthilkumar, on the other hand, knew early on that it was an eventuality—he wanted to be a software engineer from an early age. He chose computer science and engineering for his education and landed a position at Infosys. After the training program there, he was assigned to the test engineering team but was able to shift into software engineering within a year.

For someone who knows what they want, the beginning of a career is a busy time full of opportunity and places where the journey can keep going forward or split off into unexpected detours.

“I was working pretty hard doing everything I could in the testing space to gain the attention of my management and clients so I could shift from the testing zone into the software development space,” Senthilkumar says. “I was able to do that, but from there my experience became more well-rounded.”

Within his first few years, he moved from testing, to a systems engineer in software development and senior systems engineer before his experience and performance thrust him into a more lead role as a technology analyst. As he had progressed, he saw his responsibilities becoming broader, spending more time engaged with others. Within the first five years of his career he also switched companies (moving to Informatica) and got even more experience working in Technical Support with multiple clients, resolving their product issues by making enhancements to the product. He was working in more areas, with more people, learning how to lead. At that point, he rekindled a relationship he had started with LexisNexis years earlier and came on board as a consulting software engineer..

Inflection Point

A half decade into his career, Senthilkumar had reached a point that many do. Where do I go from here? He had gained a breadth of experience in three different corporations, but how do you apply that at an early stage as you are transitioning into mid-career?

He considered joining a startup, but when he weighed the stability and resources offered by corporations against the uncertainties and risks associated with startups, he found the stability was important for him.

Understanding that, he sought out management opportunities to keep growing in his career.

“I felt like I had all the necessary experience to move that way,” Senthilkumar explains. “I had worked with and understood the elements of development, production, support and testing and had been part of teams that built something, deployed it and maintained it.”

Mentors he trusted (a vital part of his development, he says) confirmed he was suited for management and he set out on that path—which ended up being very different than his experience as a successful individual contributor.

“It was not just about my responsibilities, but also my team’s deliverables and their career paths,” he notes. “That was a foundational piece I had to learn about actually managing people.”

Evolution in Data

His first team had three people, all software engineers. But as his responsibilities at LexisNexis grew his team grew to include data engineers, which meant he had to learn more—and he continues to devote significant time to keeping up on advances in data.

“Software engineering is more geared towards technical side,” he says. “Data engineering is more focused towards the functional side, which requires you to understand a bit more about the business, more about understanding data patterns and presenting data in a manner that makes it easy for people to consume it.”

Senthilkumar rose to the level of a director after four years and several management roles in software engineering.

He attends conferences regularly to see the latest offerings and how they are shaped by emerging trends in data and says he reads industry blogs and other reference materials around two hours per day to keep on top of the rapid pace of change.

Moving Forward

What does advancement look like for someone like Deepak Senthilkumar? In the short term he feels like a senior director role is his next step, either in software engineering or data engineering. His experience means both are possibilities for him. He looks at that as an expanded version of what he’s currently doing except he’d be responsible for more systems, more data and more people.

Over a longer time horizon, he says he could think in terms of either a pure data role, perhaps as a Chief Data Officer or he could shoot for a CIO role that would be responsible for a wider variety of teams, not just in the realm data, but one that would encompass software engineering and other responsibilities as well.

What Does it Take?

Senthilkumar understands that his path is not for everybody. But as a director and people manager he has an understanding of what is important for people at various stages of a career in data.

For entry-level applicants for data engineering roles he recommends being proficient in at least one current programming language and be really good at understanding patterns in data. Competitions, both online and in person, will enhance their skills and ability to understand data.

Once you progress beyond your first few years and you have the basics down, Senthilkumar says he prizes adaptability in his team members.

“After your first five years, be ready to make changes and get out of your comfort zone,” he advises. “This environment is changing at incredible rates of speed. Beyond the basics its most important to spot trends in technology, navigate through the challenges and adopt them quickly.”