Hey there! I’m Meghana, a to-be third-year UG student in the CSE department. My co-interns called me a poindexter, though I’m quite sure my homies would disagree. I like travelling and hanging out as much as I like binging shows and movies tucked in my bed. I also like exploring and creating things which are of some real value which is why I’m satiated with my 70 days long internship with IBM.
It all started when amid an ocean of deadlines and assignments, companies started lining up to hire summer interns. The IBM Extreme Blue internship is a research intern and IBM is well known for its premier research in the software industry, so I applied for it through the placement cell. After a basic cognitive ability test, I received a mail stating that they’d like to interview me for the internship. The interview was purely technical with questions on Data Structures and basic Python. There were also some questions based on the projects in my resume and in the end they asked me what my preferred area of work would be. There I put out my interest stating that I would be very happy if I get to work on a project involving Machine Learning.
After the scrutinizing interview, I received a mail, a few weeks later, offering me the Extreme Blue internship. It was supposed to be in Bangalore but then corona happened so the internship had to be made work-from-home.
Having nervous jitters every now and then, excitement at its peak – is pretty much all about my first day of internship. The interns were divided into groups of three with 2-4 mentors allotted to each team. My overwhelming curiosity was calmed by my mentors. They explained to me about the topic and its scope. I and two of the other interns would be working on ‘Self-managing of workloads using Reinforcement Learning’.
Reinforcement learning is a relatively new and active area of research in AI. Some really interesting examples of RL can be seen in AlphaGo and the Atari breakout, both of which have been developed by Google’s DeepMind. Do look it up on youtube!
I was completely new to the domain of RL. The starter kit to RL consists of David Silver’s lectures and the fundamentals course on Coursera which helped me get a headstart on RL. Eventually, I started getting the hang of it. We started developing the algorithm required for our use case. The project involved a lot of reading of research papers, understanding their crux and implementing them as per our requirement. An average day of work started with morning scrums where we usually reported our progress. This was followed by flexible work schedules meeting the deliverables.
The research element of my internship which involved learning and creating things from scratch was in my opinion, the best part of the internship. My interest was well taken care of when I was allotted the project. Not having any experience with corporate internships before, I had formed these bubbles about them and their conventional SDE interns, but IBM, with its rich learning experience and super cool work culture, burst many such bubbles. I spent a major chunk of my time on the research aspects of our project. At the end of my stint, we documented all our innovations. The whole period had a great deal of learning about IBM’s products and services. My mentors were extremely approachable. They were quick to reply and help me out whenever I hit a roadblock.
The company sent us laptops with IBM connectivity to ensure that we were not at a disadvantage due to the WFH setting. Frequent team bonding sessions and webinars also helped the team interaction, though I hardly attended them (Poindexter?). Executive reviews which took place once in two weeks were a great way to maintain our pace and adjust our timelines. It also helped me learn how to make crisp and effective presentations. I also got a chance to participate in a hackathon (my first ever) with my teammates, which was a great experience in itself. Cut to the final day of my presentation, we emerged as the best project for Extreme Blue 2020. The company also sent us pizzas on the final day for a complete feel of the Expo!
On the last day, with a heavy heart, I had to bid farewell to my teammates with whom I had formed a simpatico relationship, my laptop and especially one of my mentors with whom I had developed a great relationship. I did not want to return to the drudgery of everyday life, which is never as structured and organized as it was during the fleeting course of the internship.
For all the juniors who are seeking company internships with a flavor of research, IBM’s Extreme Blue internship is definitely one of the best options. Brush up your concepts well and attend the interview. If an internship is all about learnings and memories, then you’ll have a bag full of them and most certainly feel very oriented. Also, feel free to reach out to me about the internship or any discourse in general. Any tittle-tattle or conversations surrounding memes and political satires are most welcome 😛
All in all, IBM’s Extreme Blue internship was a fun-tastic experience. Nothing much to miss from the WFH mode except the commune and Bangalore’s weather and dosa, of course.