What do you visualise when you think about data? For most of us it’s a cascade of numbers – a wall of information that’s fascinating yet impenetrable. But put it in the hands of our skilled Artificial Intelligence and Analytics (AIA) team at Cognizant, and it comes alive with possibility. With every piece of data they interrogate, a cutting-edge insight and innovation is likely not far behind. 

Our AIA team uses data to help them make better decisions for our clients’ businesses. They come together to solve challenges, and to empower our teams at Cognizant to deliver game-changing experiences and solutions to our clients. 

Their skills are as diverse as the people behind them, united by the common purpose we’re all driven by at Cognizant: to improve our clients’ businesses. Here to tell us more about what their work entails, why it’s so exciting being part of our projects, and how they use their talents to make an amazing impact, are three members of the team: Jisha Johnson, Michael Camarri and Benedict Bucalon. 


Jisha Johnson - Big Data Developer


Hi Jisha, can you tell us about your role?

I work as a Senior Big Data Developer in the banking and finance domain. My core responsibilities are interacting with business stakeholders to get requirements, strategising, developing and productionising code, and fixing production issues. 

On a day-to-day basis, I interact with various teams to understand the data flow requirements. Working in an agile environment, the team is empowered to take on the tasks themselves, but I oversee them in case they need my support. I also train the junior resources in the team.

​​​​​​​What’s a project highlight from your time at Cognizant? 

The most interesting project has to be my current project, wherein we are creating a one-stop destination for customer complaints for a leading Australian bank. With a number of sources, combined with the complexity of the data we’re dealing with, there have been many challenging moments. Luckily, the team always comes together to overcome any problem. 

I was involved in the project from scratch and it has given me immense pleasure to see the final outcome and how it has helped our client to align to the various regulations in Australia.

What impact will this project have on the industry, or even the community at large? 

The complaints and resolution process is a big factor in customer attrition rates for banks — and compared to other Western countries, the banking complaint resolution process in Australia tends to follow older standards. 

This project was highly crucial for the economic dynamics of our client. They were under immense pressure to strategise and implement the latest ASIC regulations. The system not only provides a one-stop solution, but with the help of advanced AI solutions, it also helps to provide a quicker and tailored resolution to each customer, taking into consideration how sensitive or important the customer is.

Can you name some exciting emerging technologies you’ve had a chance to work with at Cognizant?

I’ve worked a lot with AWS KAFKA Big Data technologies like Spark, Hbase and Cassandra. 

What’s your favourite aspect of working on the AIA team at Cognizant? What’s the culture like?  

This is a very strong-headed team that encompasses a plethora of knowledge in cutting-edge technologies. For me, the things that can be achieved with data blows my mind every time we solve a challenge or create a new solution with it. The power of data in today’s world especially is humungous. 

Michael Camarri – Head of Data Science APAC 


Hi Michael, can you tell us about your role?

I run Cognizant's Decision Science practice for APAC, but just hearing that doesn’t shed nearly enough light on what I actually do.  

20+ years ago when I was first looking for a job, the term was "Decision Science" and the more time that goes on the more I think that is the best description for what we do: our clients have data and we help them make better decisions using that data. 

This can be anything from automated systems to identify "unusual" insurance claims to providing insights to a mining company about their truck refueling processes. As the practice head, I'm involved in everything from initial conversations with clients, to writing proposals and executing projects. I even still write a fair bit of code. 


What’s a project highlight from your time at Cognizant? 

I've been at Cognizant for 21 years, so I’ve had a lot of interesting projects over the years. The one that immediately springs to mind is a very early project I had, based on the influence it had on my career and how I’ve approached projects since. 

The client was a large US pharmaceutical company whom we were helping with a significant sales force strategy change (with US$ 2.9 billion in annual revenue at risk). We'd built some very detailed optimisation models that determined all of the actions that the sales force should take. However, the sales force had never been given any kind of direction before — let alone at that level of detail — and were unlikely to react well to that level of control. So instead, we gave each rep a list of the doctors they saw too often and those who they didn't see often enough. 

The effect of our project was huge – it drove the benefits the client was looking for (an estimated increase in revenue of tens of millions for the first quarter!) while achieving great compliance. Over time we rolled out more and more detailed plans, but we also had a support team ready to answer any and all questions the sales force had. 

What impact did this project have on you personally?

The project was an incredible learning experience for me because it made me realise (as a consultant and a mathematician) that there is much more to success than the numbers and data. This is an approach I have taken with me throughout my career and something that I've tried to impart to everyone I've worked with over the years. 

A quote I live by is "The best mathematical solution is never the best business solution". It is important to remember that we are trying to help our clients' businesses and not just provide some cool models. How those solutions are delivered and implemented is much more important than just giving them something ‘exciting’.  

Data Science is a hot topic right now and there is a lot of focus on the technology and complexity of models. It is important to step back and think about what will actually best help our clients and I'm hopeful that this is front-of-mind with my team.

What emerging technologies have you had the chance to work with here over the years?

Over the years I've seen everything from the wonder of data collection moving from paper and pencil to PalmPilots (!) to more recent examples like big data, drones and IoT. 

However, what I've seen is that projects that are driven by a ‘need’ rather than a ‘desire’ to use a new technology often are not successful. "Tell me how I can use technology X in my business?" is not a question I am interested in answering. "How can I get the right data in front of the right people at the right time to enhance/improve my decision making?" is a much more interesting question. It could be that an emerging technology is the answer, or it could be something that is literally figured out with pencil and paper. I don't care as long as it drives business value for our clients.

What’s your favourite aspect of working on the Decision Science team at Cognizant? What’s the culture like?

The Decision Science team is a large and diverse group. We've got a lot of different teams working on a wide variety of projects across a range of customers. The one common theme is a desire to improve our clients' businesses.

No two days are the same. Perhaps sometimes it would be nice to have less surprises, but it is great, after all these years, to still have a wide variety of problems to work on.

Benedict Bucalon – Big Data and Cloud Specialist


Hi Benedict, if you had to choose just one, can you tell us about a favourite project you’ve had at Cognizant over the years?

It’s no surprise that the most interesting project I worked on was more people-centric. Five years ago, the first AIA grads arrived – it was a batch of five. They had completed their two-week business course and had five weeks to spare until their trip to India, where they got to complete their seven-week technical course on a Cognizant campus.
I had just rolled off a client and was on bench, so the AIA team asked me to come up with a five-week curriculum to fill in the gap productively. I was more than happy to oblige as I am passionate about working with new local talent and I too was a young person (a long time ago) so I could empathise with what the grads were going through.

The curriculum I designed included methodologies, introduction to databases, introduction to reports/dashboards and a project week. The project involved the grads using everything they have learnt in their lives to analyse and report off data of their interests. The catch was that they had to present in front of HR and Cognizant’s Directors. 

It ended with a Cognizant dinner, where we invited a client to share their experiences collaborating with our company. Throughout the program, the grads had a chance to impress both their colleagues and potential clients, and all of them were immediately placed with their first client upon their return to Australia.

How about emerging technologies? What are some exciting new technologies you’ve had the chance to work with here?

The biggest one off the top of my head is Biometrics, which I find incredibly exciting. Using statistical analysis on biological data isn’t new, but using the capability where it is already baked into hardware is quite niche. 

I was seconded to help with a startup that the AIA team was trying to turn into a partner. This startup found out that current security camera manufacturers from Japan like NEC, Phillips, SONY etc, could record things such as gender, age, foot traffic, height of individuals, and simple sentiment analysis. Therefore, I was asked to lead a team consisting of just one grad and another engineer from offshore, to stream the data centrally to the cloud, transform the data then produce Qlik dashboards on the biometrics. 

The use cases for this data in retail are limitless – think end-to-end security for example: end-to-end security is required by law nowadays, ensuring companies and governments protect the personal information they possess. I had never before been on a merger and acquisition project where one company’s data must securely be transferred to another company’s infrastructure – in this project I designed and developed an automated, metadata-driven solution to zip, encrypt and securely transfer sensitive data from one company to another. We even had to come up with physical backup plans (i.e. what do you do when the direct link is down? You use an encrypted hard drive!) It had that James Bond vibe to it. It was fun!

How did your work on that specific project impact the client, and the industry at large? 

Any retailer or entity that owns a space where people pass by can leverage this data for better pricing, dynamic advertising, better cross-selling, better basket analysis, smarter rostering — the list goes on. 

The startup we collaborated with has implemented this in Europe and Brazil now as well. It’s good to know that even though we can’t compete with the amount of investment capital going around, we still have the drive and ambition of any tech hub around the world. 
Also, with regard to the end-to-end security, data breaches can make or break an organisation. You just lose that credibility and sense of trust with your customer base. We ensured the client and its customers did not have to go through this nightmare. 

What’s your favourite aspect of working on the AIA at Cognizant? What’s the culture like?  

The banter! You need a sense of humour in this high performing and competitive industry. Also the people! Cliched but true. When your colleagues are guns it gives you an opportunity to learn and grow from their expertise. It works both ways as well. I’ve been around the block so I too can share a thing or two. It’s such an amazing feeling when you get recognition and praise from colleagues you respect and admire.

The AIA team is about high performance and rejuvenation. When I’m lucky enough to be paired with another AIA talent on the same project, regardless of whether I have worked with them in the past, I feel excited. Even if the project will be challenging, you know you have more than enough in the locker to score that proverbial goal. You know you will solve any issue big or small. 

Talent comes and goes in this industry like any other industry, but the AIA team collaborates seamlessly with Cognizant recruitment to replenish the talent pool. Regardless of whether we are hiring new grads or a distinguished architect, I feel the standard of the A-team is always maintained.


Our people are our magic

Get to know us. Meet some of the great humans at Cognizant ANZ


Our Mobile Engineering team are revolutionising customer experiences, one app at a time. Find out how.


Hear first-hand from our dynamic and talented Salesforce team on what it’s really like working at a Global Top Five Salesforce partner.


Help engineer impact at Cognizant ANZ

Join our data experts at Cognizant. For openings on the team

visit our website