Well, you’re here and this proves that Chetan Bhagat titles are indeed eye-catching (The 3 mistakes of my Life :P)! But rest-assured this wasn’t click-bait! Started-discarded-procrastinated, this blog has had a fate similar to course projects (except that this won’t be mundane :P). Burdened with the additional “expectations” of compiling one of the last blogs for this series, I hope I’ll be able to do it justice. There’s a lot I want to share with you, so let’s get started!
Welcome peeps, I am Rajat Jain, a Computer Science thirdie (read: soph(no)more) and an Editorial Board Member at Insight. Apart from my interest in core CS, I LOVE all kinds of adventures, writing and dancing. Through this blog, I will be walking you through my internships with tathya.earth, MDA Training and University of Ottawa; about my experience with company & research internships, & whether it was all worth it! The best part is that none of it was planned. xD And the things that were planned epically failed!
A DETOUR: (you can jump to Summer 2020 if you wish :))
Get a Univ Intern -> a funded trip abroad -> meet new people -> travel diaries(& work? xD)
Le sophies: “Mastt plan hai!”
While many like me had this idea at the onset of the 2nd year internship season, the ground-reality started hitting soon. The craze of exploring the culture of a foreign land and stories from seniors had impressed me so much that it rekindled my desire for Semester Exchange (SemEx). I believed that SemEx was a once-in-a-lifetime, unique opportunity..blah blah. After much contemplation about the funding, the pros & cons, etc., I filled the application and got it approved from the HoD. But a day before the results, questions I’d convinced myself of(or not?) resurfaced and I was certain that an Univ intern/ foreign trip would be a better bet as compared to losing a semester in insti (SO MUCH left to explore here, right?), so I withdrew my application…“Mehnat barbaad….” xP. It could’ve been a blissful experience, I’m not sure, but thanks to COVID, at least I won’t regret missing it. 🙂
Forward to the 4th semester. A still desperate Univ Intern fan, I started “apping” in January (that’s LATE!). Instead of compiling an exhaustive database, I started emailing on the go to avoid further delay. After a 1.5 month-long pursuit of tracking mails and barely getting responses, there I had: acknowledgment mails from Princeton and Carnegie Mellon!!
Some quick pointers for Apping:
1. Follow the Tinder routine: stalk Professors and if their ongoing work interests you, RIGHT SWIPE!
2. Leverage the vast alumni network, contact seniors, prepare personalized cover letters, track your emails (using streak) and take FOLLOW UPs (important). Follow ups increase your chances of being noticed amidst the flood of applications.
The Professor’s field of research was Networks, a course I enjoyed a lot in 4th Sem and I’d mentioned that in the cover letter too. The interview majorly gauged my enthusiasm and interests. Post-interview, I was asked to review two research papers (mostly to help decide with the project) and fill the application form (which required 2 LoRs!). I wanted to jump in excitement, but the details about the stipend, travel hadn’t been worked out yet, and “denied US Visa” nightmares haunted me. I anxiously awaited the offer letter, so as to quickly proceed with the application for J-1 Visa. This was all around Feb and guess what did the start of March bring? An end to my air castles! The program was cancelled because of..well, you know it!
2 months before the OFFICIAL summer break and I was back to level zero! I was definitely sad. At this point, fortunately, Bloomberg, Dynamic Labs, Oracle and few other good companies came through PT Cell. I had been preparing a bit for interviews and revisited DSA problems. I appeared for the tests of Dynamic Labs, Singapore where they asked pseudo-codes/puzzles and Bloomberg which had coding questions and CS MCQs, but didn’t get shortlisted.
The First Shortlist!
The aptitude test of Oracle had four sections: Aptitude, Coding MCQs, Literature and Maths & Reasoning and I got shortlisted for the interview round. The interviews were scheduled on 14th of March, a day after IITB announced lockdown!(Timing!) The interview rounds had DSA questions, related to linked lists, SQL queries and some OOP concepts. The next round was HR round. It lasted for just 10-15 mins, the interviewer didn’t ask many questions. I enjoyed getting the chance to appear for an interview(finally)! The results were announced that very evening and I was selected! Phew! #Summer_sorted then?
Not so soon! After the commencement of the online semester, subsequent cancellation, & preponement of the summer break, PT cell tried convincing Oracle to kickstart the internship asap. But there was barely any official communication & hopes were getting slimmer. A month later, the internship was declared cancelled. Whoever said breakup hurts the most, mustn’t have experienced the pain of revoked offers.
Meanwhile, I had started looking up for internships on LinkedIn solely in search of “some work” where I could learn “something” new and got in touch with some startups. All I wanted out of this summer was to upskill myself, explore as much as I could to narrow down my interests and to stay productive. Doing an internship isn’t mandatory to achieve those targets but having hard deadlines can definitely help to some extent.
The recruitment for tathya.earth, a startup by IIT alumni was based on an assignment + interview (focusing on “how I could improve a particular assignment from my resume”). Startups don’t have an “onboarding” fanfare, and I directly joined them the day after.
The project idea was pretty unique. We were to come up with an index to predict heat production of factories using satellite data. Can’t reveal more details but I majorly worked with remote sensing algorithms, basic regression, QGIS and an AWS instance. The mentors were knowledgeable and easily approachable. To be honest, it was tough to demarcate between work and personal hours during WFH but I tried being more structured (and failed :P). I didn’t really get the startup culture vibes at the comfort of my home, but learnt new things and it felt great to have contributed to their core product.
MDA Training, London:
I didn’t want to sit idle, so I started looking for prospective companies soon after the previous stint ended. Apping (again) was going to be gruelling! However, I am thankful that Deevanshu Guru (EP Thirdie), who was himself juggling between several projects then(read: busy man), redirected a project from MDA Training.
I would’ve said no to any development project, but this one was challenging, both wrt tech stack and the concept. They wanted me to build an AngularFirestore based Merger and Acquisition Simulation for students interested in understanding the functioning of Investment Banks. I was directly in contact with one of the Partners who explained the features to me, enlightened me about finance terms and shared insights from her 15+ years of experience. There was one particular real-time countdown feature where I was stuck, but figuring it out was a Eureka moment! The number of iterations we went through and the bugs that came up each time we tested, certainly tested my patience. If you want to learn about scratch-to-end product development, do try one such project!
University Of Ottawa, Canada:
This internship was cracked by Shivansh Bansal (Mech Thirdie; one with the heavy glasses) through apping (300+ personalized emails! _/\_). It was amazing on his part to propose teaming up. The project was based on text analysis using NLP. We’d started the basic work back in April and did some literature review, and tried to refine our problem statement. Over the span of 3 months, we came up with around 3 different approaches for the problem and experimented with various implementations.
I have realised that the most important thing about research is the ability to communicate and brainstorm. Research is quite dynamic, where we start and where we end can be quite different. It also requires an immense passion for the subject and perseverance. Though we slacked a bit in between, both of us pushed each other and it was a memorable experience to collaborate and learn new things!
Having said all of it, it certainly isn’t as rosy as it might seem but I hope you found some good takeaways for yourself. Remember that, a single win or failure can never define you. There are endless opportunities! Be consistent, be hungry, be foolish. The fear of whether you are “doing enough” will always bug you but make sure you use it positively. Network and connect with people, as everyone has something great to narrate!
Lastly, signing off with some rhymes!
Explore, explore, explore; the world wants to hear your brave, imperfect story,
Hustle, hustle, hustle; because setbacks will be followed by glory.
But pre-exam nighouts, hostel life, insti memories; don’t miss these out!
And if you believe in something, don’t fear judgement, just do it out LOUD!!
Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn/Messenger for any sort of discussions/queries.
Wish you the best! 😉