As Joint Director General of Foreign Trade with the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Tirumala Kaggundi uses his MSCAPP skills to further government initiatives.
Headshot of Tirumala Venkatesh Kaggundi with his daughter
Tirumala Venkatesh Kaggundi

A decade into his career as Deputy Director General of Foreign Trade with the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Tirumala Kaggundi wanted to broaden his skillset. 

“I wanted to delve deeper into program evaluation,” Tirumala said, which is how he learned of the MS in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) at the Harris School of Public Policy. “MSCAPP seemed like the best fit for exploring the space between data science and public policy,” he said. 

During his time at Harris from 2020-22, Tirumala found invaluable networking opportunities. “MSCAPP students formed a tight-knit community. They’re in direct contact with alumni working in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, and I was able to get valuable feedback from them on the program Slack channel. We also had weekly lunches where we call speakers in the computational analysis domain. For instance, the faculty invited Anita Nikolich, who works in Security Privacy Networking and Enterprise IT Operations. There were unofficial initiatives taken by students and faculty as well, like CAPP trips and CAPP parent groups.”

When applying to the MSCAPP, Tirumala recommends students explore all the program has to offer. “The MSCAPP delves deeply into issues such as artificial intelligence and machine learning and prepares students for careers in data science and data engineering. Although it is a technical program, it also prepares students for roles in multilateral industries or the private sector such as Chief Technology Officer.”

Tirumala also clarifies that it is not mandatory to have a coding background before joining, “but one should be able to keep up with fast-paced learning because the program includes getting up to speed with Python, computer science fundamentals including linear algebra, and machine learning. Along with the rigorous Core curriculum, Tirumala also took the course Hacking for Defense at the Booth School of Business, working on human-centered design. “Harris is as rigorous as it gets when it comes to evidence-based policymaking, and the learnings and camaraderie of the community is worth all the effort.”

Tirumala moved to Chicago with his two children and his wife, who worked at Goldman Sachs in the U.S. “While my kids and I were the proverbial students, my wife was the only adult in the house,” Tirumala said with a laugh. “My kids studied in the Chicago Public Schools, and in my classes at Harris, I studied the lacunae in the public school system and policy initiatives that can make it better.”

Tirumala has continued in his role in the Indian government in the year since completing the MSCAPP program, though he notes the scope of his responsibilities have changed. In the year since he returned from Harris, the skills he gained have already enabled him to contribute to exciting government initiatives in e-governance, cross border e-commerce and technology applications in international trade. 

“In 2023, I was part of the team that launched the country’s fairness in AI systems standard. I was able to do this solely because of the MSCAPP program – I learned how AI systems work, and what we should focus on in implementing AI policy,” Tirumala said.

“The Indian government is also automating a lot of things that they used to do manually, and the MSCAPP curriculum gave me the tools to work on new ‘e-government’ projects. MSCAPP has had a huge impact on the projects I’ve been able to tackle since I’ve returned from Chicago,” Tirumala said.