I was going to put a picture of me with Mt. Fuji as the background(:p) but Covid cancelled my Japan plans so Mysore palace it is !!
Hi, I am Amey Anjarlekar, a to-be Fourthie from the Electrical Engineering Department. I am going to walk you through my internship experience(s?), some mistakes I made, and finally my internship experience with Daikin, how COVID affected and cut short the duration, and then securing a research intern at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).
Just as the third year began there was a copious amount of posts from the internship cell regarding resume submission, ppts, and what not. The sem has just begun. Give us some time to settle down. Everything just started. I wasn’t sure about my interests. They were scattered around Signal Processing, certain aspects of Machine Learning, maybe statistics, or might be even finance. However, I was sure about a research intern. Many people (including me at that time) feel that a research intern means an univ intern. But there are certain companies which also provide good research work.
The companies started coming. People started getting selected while I waited for the right company to come. I was very selective in signing JAFs. Then came Sony, this was the first JAF I signed. I was the only person to get shortlisted in my JAF and I felt that this meant ab to select ho gaya. Meanwhile, Adobe came another company which I had targeted. But complacency had kicked in which led me to flunk the Adobe test and interview. To make it worse, I wasn’t selected by Sony either.
Landing an internship at Daikin
After this disappointment and some more waiting, came Daikin. The process was simple. Resume shortlist and an interview. I got shortlisted for the interview. My experience with Japanese companies is that they typically judge your technical skills through your resume and then clarify it by asking resume related questions in the interview. The interview is mostly HR with some questions related to particular projects you have done. Yes, I got selected and then started cropping up various plans on what to do after I visit Japan.
I had applied for Sony, Adobe, AWL and Daikin. The Japanese companies shortlist candidates on the basis of resume and the next step is an interview (which is majorly HR). Along with the resume, you need to write an SOP (statement of purpose) which generally comprises your motivation for applying for this internship.
For other ML companies which I remember, Adobe had a test which had some coding problems, puzzles, probability and statistics. The same was also asked in the interview. Another company I remember was Microsoft whose JAF focused on NLP.
Then happened Covid. First we thought it would hardly last for a month or so and then we can join our internships later. But that didn’t happen and the plans of visiting Japan came crashing down. Further, due to certain issues, chances of a remote internship looked slim.
This led to immense disappointment and persistent searches in the hope of finding some internship experience somewhere. Tried applying to profs, some companies but for a long time, prospects looked bleak . Still, to do something productive and not waste time feeling sad about the lost internship, I started to utilize some of it to prepare for GRE, practice some coding and most importantly, complete my Netflix syllabus.
Some Positive News
One day, I received an email from Daikin which said that they will have an internship for 2 weeks. Finally there was some hope but 2 weeks, really?! What are we gonna do in such a short time? Is it just a formality?
As they say “upar wala deta hai to chappar fad ke”, soon after, I got a reply from Prof. Piya Pal from UCSD. Most importantly, the work was exactly what I wanted to do. There was certain logistical work which needed to be done from their end which meant I needed to wait for some time. But the internship with Daikin was exactly at that time which did fill this void.
Internship experience 1.0
At last the internship started. We were assigned mentors which were our alumni placed in Daikin. The introduction meeting cleared all our doubts. It was not just going to be fiddling around with something for 2 weeks. Our work description was the same as the work distribution for our original internship which was for 2 months with obviously certain concessions.
My work was in Video Compression. The aim was to achieve as much as possible video compression without much loss of quality. There was no restriction on the method used. Only it should be practically viable. Since the time was short, I had daily meets with my mentor. A sheet was also maintained which mentioned work to be done daily (decided by us) and if that was completed.
At the end of two weeks, I did manage to come up with a video compression algorithm (with scope for improvement). I was also able to appreciate and analyse the practical viability of the proposed model. We also did some financial calculations (I did mention I had slight interest in finance) to come up with how much the company could save due to the achieved compression. Finally, we had to present our work to some top managers of the company.
In summary, I did have a great experience at Daikin. Yes, two weeks was a short time, but I did get a nice exposure of the industry and the disciplined working style of Japan.
Some tips on Univ Apping
Although I haven’t been that lucky compared to some of my friends who also had applied for univ interns (through apping), I still have some comments to make. The most important thing which I felt was keeping your mail short. I used to ramble about my work in the email which made it longer and thus a reason for the reader to neglect the mail. Keep it short, mention certain key points and convey the rest through your resume. You can also make a personal webpage. If you can get a letter of recommendation, put it in your apping mail. There are chances when the prof to whom you have applied knows the prof who recommended you. Finally, always send the mail at appropriate times (preferably weekday mornings).
Internship experience 2.0
Shortly after the Daikin internship ended, I received a mail from Prof. Piya Pal about the approvals being done and now I could start working with her. I was going to work on compressed sensing using a suitable prior. We had a brief meeting to discuss possible subtopics which I could work on.
The best thing about this internship is the amount of freedom I get in doing my work. Even for the problem statement, Prof sent me a bunch of relevant papers from which I could draw inspiration on possible further works. Most of the time we have a problem statement but here I had to go through the available literature to find something on which we can improve further. This whole task did look daunting to me at first but then I can anytime discuss any issue with Prof or two of her PhD students.
Most of my meets happen on Zoom. The meets are totally informal and I get to learn a lot about the skills required to do research. Sometimes the discussions also go along a tangent and we have ended up discussing Trump or even types of Fish. This internship has just started 2 weeks ago. We have decided about a problem statement and I currently am working on it. I have enjoyed working with Prof. Piya Pal so far and hope to find some fruitful results leading to a good publication.