Face Behind the Data: Sara Zaheri, Data Scientist

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Face Behind the Data Profiles Sara Zaheri, Data Scientist

Get to know the faces that are working hard behind the scenes to unleash your data’s potential.

This month for our Face Behind the Data profile series, we are excited to introduce, Sara Zaheri, Data Scientist. Since joining Katalyst, Sara has made accurate classifications of well logs and section data.

Sara’s accuracy, passion, and motivation in data science has been a great contribution to Katalyst. We are excited he could contribute his experience to Face Behind the Data, a series of profiles that feature the hard-working employees behind the solutions and services at Katalyst.

What is your educational and work experience background?

  • I have over 20 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, having worked in various capacities at prestigious organizations such as Katalyst Data Management, Halliburton, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), and National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). My journey in this field began as a Drilling Engineer responsible for designing oil and gas wells, and since then, I have amassed significant expertise, establishing myself as a seasoned professional in the sector.
  • I hold a Master’s degree in Data Science from Southern Methodist University and a Bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering. My professional roles have included serving as a QC Analyst and Data Scientist at Katalyst Data Management, where my focus has been on oil and gas data categorization and metadata extraction. Prior to that, I worked as a Petroleum Engineer at Halliburton and held positions as a Drilling Engineer at China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and NIOC contractors.

What are some of the highlights of your career?     

  • Throughout my career, a notable achievement has been my ability to merge my background in petroleum and well engineering with the fields of machine learning and data science. I have designed and implemented machine-learning models specifically customized for well and seismic data, resulting in an impressive 98% accuracy rate in the classification of well log and section data.
  • This accomplishment not only showcases the practical application of data science in the oil and gas sector, but it will also lead to significant cost savings, highlighting the tangible benefits of combining cutting-edge technology with traditional expertise.
  • Furthermore, my contributions have extended beyond predictive modeling. I have employed Optimal Character Recognition (OCR) in combination with advanced similarity and pattern matching techniques to extract essential metadata from extensive document archives. By utilizing a blend of unsupervised and supervised methods, I have successfully organized and categorized vast collections of scanned document images.
  • Finally, I have played a pivotal role in the development of proprietary software used for analyzing model results, sharing feedback, and continuing training.
  • These initiatives underscore a synergy between engineering and data science skills, resulting in meticulous organization and categorization of critical information.
  • In summary, my involvement in building solutions by harnessing my proficiency in petroleum and well engineering alongside these advancements has demonstrated the transformative potential of interdisciplinary collaboration within the domain of data science. I owe my success to Katalyst. This achievement is dedicated to you, Katalyst!

Did you grow up wanting to be a data manager?

My journey into data management was a natural progression driven by my passion for solving real-world business problems. While my educational background is in petroleum engineering, I found my interest piqued by the intersection of engineering and data science principles. This curiosity led me to pursue a career in data management and analysis.

How did you get here?

  • My journey to this point has been shaped by a blend of hands-on experience and formal education. My educational background in petroleum engineering established a robust foundation in oil and gas drilling and production, fostering my problem-solving skills and critical thinking abilities. Subsequently, I gained advanced knowledge in machine learning, statistical modeling, and data visualization, strengthening my expertise in data science. Concurrently, I embarked on statistics program, delving deeper as a researcher into the realms of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
  • Professionally, my path led me to Katalyst Data Management, a renowned company acclaimed for its focus on data management. Joining Katalyst was serendipitous, as the company’s business models provided the ideal backdrop for my growth as a data scientist and ML Engineer. Here, I’ve been able to apply my diverse skill set and continue my research, contributing significantly to the organization’s endeavors in the field of ML and data science.

What are some big lessons learned and/or challenges faced along the way?

One significant lesson I’ve learned is the importance of adapting and evolving with the rapidly changing landscape of technology. Challenges often arise in dealing with vast and complex datasets, but these challenges have fueled my creativity and problem-solving abilities. Continuous learning and staying updated with the latest advancements in the field have been crucial in overcoming these challenges.

What advice do you have for people beginning their career?

My advice to those starting their career is to be curious and never stop learning. Embrace challenges as opportunities to grow and expand your skillset. Networking and collaboration are also key; surround yourself with knowledgeable and supportive peers who can inspire and mentor you.

Are there any organizations or volunteer groups that you are passionate about?

  • I am a member of several professional organizations, including the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), American Petroleum Institute (API), Society of Petrophysicists and Well Log Analysts (SPWLA), and Women in Data Science (WiDS). I am passionate about promoting diversity and inclusion in the field of data science and actively participate in initiatives that support this cause.
  • I am particularly passionate about initiatives that empower women in various fields. I believe that when women are in positions of power, they can drive positive change in society. I actively support organizations that promote women’s leadership and advocate for equal opportunities.

What are some of your favorite things to do and/ or places to visit outside of work?

  • In my free time, I enjoy engaging in data analysis and model training projects, exploring new techniques and methodologies. I find joy in contributing to projects that provide essential resources for future generations. Whether it’s building schools, sponsoring hospitals, or supporting universities, these endeavors are close to my heart. Traveling to different places also holds a special place in my life; it broadens my horizons, enriches my understanding of diverse cultures, and inspires me to continue making a positive impact in the world.
    I also cherish the art of playing the Tonbak, a traditional drum, which not only allows me to express my creativity but also connects me with my cultural roots.
  • Additionally, I am enthusiastic about calligraphy and have had the honor of receiving an invitation to hold an exhibition in Los Angeles.  I eagerly look forward to the day when this exhibition (an intersection of art and culture) comes to fruition. These experiences enrich my life and remind me of the boundless potential for creativity and positive change in the world.