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Varun Sridhar

   

Varun Sridhar, a 4th year student of Electronics and Communications Engineering at NSIT, shares his experience about his internship at the esteemed Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

 

You are amongst the very few in college, who have managed to grab such an 'incredible' internship. What is your success mantra?

I don't think there is a success mantra as such. I was pretty sure by second year that I wanted to study further in my field. Once that decision has been made, all one has to do is pick out one's area/field of interest and begin working in it. Good research projects contribute greatly to the resume. And of course, that little bit of luck is necessary.

 

What was this internship/summer program all about? How did you get to know about it?

The program is one designed specifically for undergraduate students and was aptly called the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. It is supervised by the ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) Department at CMU. The Training and Placement here at NSIT sent out a mail in the beginning of January with a link to this program.

 

How and when did you apply there?

 I applied just before the 31st January deadline. The application required filling up of general information about the applicant, area/field of research interest, college GPA up till the point of application (this I left blank and wrote my percentage in the comments section) and a brief Statement of Purpose.

 

Were there any qualifying rounds?  How did you fare in these rounds?

There were no qualification rounds. I was notified in the beginning of March that I had been selected.

 

How tough has this program been? Also, how did you manage to fund this internship? Did CMU provide any allowance in expenditure?

The program was a fantastic learning experience. I learnt an enormous amount in the field of computer vision. The work was tough and challenging as can be expected but it was rewarding at the same time. The program was funded by the ECE Dept. at CMU. The money provided was enough to take care of the stay as well as day-to-day expenses.

 

 

Did you do any other internship or project?  Please throw some light on it.

I haven't interned anywhere else. I have worked on other projects though. In my 4th semester, I started a desk research project under Prof. Harish Parthasarathy on Stochastic Processes and Stochastic Calculus. I worked on this till the end of my 5th semester. At the start of my 6th semester, I started work under Prof. Sanjit Kaul at IIIT-D on network optimization in Wi-Fi/CSMA networks. This project I had temporarily suspended when I went to CMU but I am now continuing it as my B.Tech. Project.

 

 

After such a top-notch internship, what is your future goal - top-notch placement, MBA, MS or anything else? And, how are you preparing for it?

I am interested in pursuing an MS in ECE. I don't feel like working right now and so didn't sit for the placement session. I am through with the necessary qualifying exams required for an MS which are the GRE and TOEFL. I am now going to start with my applications to US Universities. Deadlines are usually December 1st onwards.

 

 

Briefly describe your experience socially at CMU.

Well, it was summer at CMU so there weren't too many people on campus. But in general, the people there were really nice and friendly. There are events like trips to baseball games and amusements parks that are organized for all the interns so one gets to interact with the others. Overall, it was great fun meeting and interacting with new people.

 

 

 

What advice would you give to your juniors who frantically search for these internships but are unable to grab them?

 

I would say to them that they shouldn't get disheartened. The rejection should only serve as an extra motivation to work harder and one should never lose sight of his/her goal. Like it has been said innumerable times before: "Good things come to those who wait" and I am sure there is something good out there for all those willing to work for it.

Roshan Shankar

A person who will probably be known as ‘The Roshan Shankar’ of NSIT, he needs no introduction. A pass out of the COE batch, ’11, Roshan is idolized and adored by juniors and batch-mates like nobody amongst his peers. Presently pursuing his MS at Stanford, he talks about his NSIT experience in an interview with an ardent fan, junior and NSITonline reporter Vibhor Relhan.
 
Vibhor: Amongst the very few who actually succeed in making it to a university like Stanford, has there been a secret success mantra that the world doesn’t know about?
 
Roshan’s Note: My first caveat is that these answers will be rather staccato and blunt without flow. That's because of the rush in which I'm writing them. So if you're a grammar/sentence-construction Nazi, please avoid. 
 
Roshan: I feel uncomfortable when anyone asks for a success mantra. I think I can speak for many getting this question that it makes us rather uneasy. It is just an admission to a University and nothing more. I don't think anyone asked us for a success mantra when you took/got through the CEE. Anyway since you ask- Being interested in what you do (for a sustained amount of time), enjoying the projects and papers which came in as part of the buildup and I guess not listening to the pressure of "Get a job"/"Take the CAT-what's the harm"(which saved me a lot of time) and finally, making use of the loads of free time you get!.
 
I guess the standard stereotypical answer is that admission is based on the following things primarily: 
1. Interest in a specific program/area of research
2. GRE/TOEFL scores
3. Statement of Purpose
4. Letters of Recommendation
5. Projects
6. Research Papers
 
All of them have weights and are important in some way or the other. What precedes all of this is that you have a genuine interest in doing the Master’s degree or a PhD in the area that you are applying to. If you're not sure if you want to study ahead, it's best to take a step back, rather take up a job in the industry you're probably interested in or work on more projects. The big problem is when you dive into something that you don't love.
Even at my current university, I find many who're here just for the "brand" and hate their classes looking to get out as soon as possible. The brand doesn't matter. If you like what you do, you'll end up doing it well.
You're going to be paying quite a bit more than what you paid at NSIT.TA/RAships(Teach/Research Assistantships)/fellowships may reduce/eliminate the financial burden but assuming the worst case scenario-there's going to be a significant amount of money involved. So paying for your misery is as bad as it gets :)
 
As far as the order of importance goes I'd say that the SOP and projects/papers might matter the most. It shows why you want to apply and what your life story has been. Any admissions committee will try and look at your interests/ value addition to their department that you can make. I write papers as well because if your institute is not well known enough- papers in IEEE/ACM/journals/conferences are a pretty decent method for them to standardize the measurement of quality of work. It's a publicly available written proof of what you've done. So that always helps. But it’s in no way a necessity at all. If you've done good work --> that is good enough.
 
LORs are mostly an Old-Boys association thing. If your professor is someone from say, MIT or has his PhD from MIT and is well known in the scientific community, working with him and getting a recommendation from him works--> MIT takes you much more seriously than someone say from any third-rate engineering college around.
 
Vibhor: What embarked your interest towards MS?
 
The internships in different sectors that I worked for made it sure that I didn't want a job, well, at least for now. My interaction with MBAs from India and abroad eliminated that possibility again for some time. I might do both of them in the future but in my undergrad I was clear on both those points. I had talks with a professor at DSE, professors at IIT Delhi and IIIT Delhi, and started getting involved in project work all around. I was interested in Policy, Government, Economics and game theory. I did a lot of reading on my own, wrote independent papers and did some project/papers with the people I mentioned. There wasn't a ‘light bulb’ moment when I knew I wanted to but sustained reading and interest and the pursuit of people in the field probably played an important role.
 
Vibhor: How did you prepare for GRE? Did you join any coaching?
 
Roshan: I did pretty badly here. I didn't join anything and assumed that my reading should help me sail through. I overestimated my rather limited intelligence at test-taking :) In hindsight, I should've rather prepared much better in a sustained manner for over a semester like Abhishek and Isha did, with a lot of practice tests, which are a key aspect and some material from a coaching institute whose name I forget. 1400+ is what they say is an above par score. I got a 1410 but as anyone can say- It's always better to get as close to a perfect score as possible. Looking back, it was a bad decision which had a good outcome. Not recommended. Going back I'd probably give myself more time and many more practice tests. Also, a bout of luck on your side and not blacking out on test day will also help.
 
Some graduate school related material and advice can be found here > http://groups.google.com/group/graduate-school-from-nsit
I'd really like it if people can make this active. There are a lot of seniors on that group--> just not enough questions/resources that people are putting in.
 
Vibhor: What according to you is the ideal time to start preparing yourself to achieve a good GRE score and a suitable profile to make it to the best universities?
 
Roshan: Everyone has a different learning curve-so decide accordingly. The right time is ‘As soon as you think you want to study’. 
 
Vibhor: Your Placement Season?
 
Roshan: I didn't want a job. Nor do I think any company would really like to have me. So it worked out well. I didn't sit for placements.
 
Vibhor: How have your four years in NSIT affected you overall?
 
Roshan: Positive it would seem. The best part has been the friends we've made. The clubs coming up from what they were in 2007 is a huge improvement. 
 
Vibhor: What is your vision of NSIT in the coming years? What is the one thing you would like to change in NSIT?
 
Roshan: Ha. Where do I even start with this. You need a huge change in the bureaucracy and the way it functions here. The filing system/the method of procuring equipment/conducting events should be much easier. We need someone to take the admin to task and make them do their work. Yes, there are anomalies who do great work while surrounded by muck but a lotus is rare.  We have the resources. It's just that we don't/aren't allowed/ don't want to use them. Many more RTI’s. Prosecution of people who don't work-student, teacher or administration. Investigation into money-laundering. Cut down red-tape. Better course curriculum. Teachers who actually teach. Paradigm shifts in attitudes towards work- curriculum-wise or extra-curriculars- both of students and teachers. Sustained student initiatives. Students who want to work rather than attempting to do work or setup clubs for CV whoring. Better and cleaner hostels (which was one of the reasons I missed the rather colourful hostel life which I really regret). More technical work than just talks, events and trips. The technical output of our college is very low. Needs dynamic leadership like that of IIIT Delhi has. More transparency. More power/money into hands of students. A student government/gymkhana to monitor events. Though I haven't experienced it first hand--> there needs to be a much more transparent, democratic and placement procedure with rules being absolute and objective. Exchange programs with universities outside. Dean of Students Welfare who is quicker with his decisions. A director who actually cares about the administration and the college. Timetables and exam schedules that are absolute and which are announced well in advance. Homework assignments/projects in courses. I could go on but I guess you see it around you and don't need to be told again. A buddy/mentorship program where each student is mentored by at least one senior in his department formally. Mailing lists. A good website of the college. Official email ids.  Yes, I agree with the whole be-the-change-you-want-to-see but it is equally on students, teachers, administration and the government. Do your part surely.
 
For any queries, feel free to contact me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
 
 

Manasavi Tickoo

Presently studying at Carnegie Mellon University, Manasavi Tickoo, ICE batch of 2011, shares his journey!!
 
Vibhor:  You are amongst the very few in college who managed to be successful in making it to such an elite university while maintaining a good aggregate overall. Please share your success mantra?
 
Manasavi: I was a typical guy studying just a night before exam (I would not recommend it though). But in the other time, I did projects and read up stuff on different fields like embedded, control, robotics etc. 
 
 
Vibhor: What embarked your interest towards MS?
 
Manasavi: To learn new things. Work with professors on novel projects. Also, I somehow felt that I did not want to work at this point of time and actually there were a very few companies which would allow me to do what exactly I wanted.  
 
 
Vibhor: How did you prepare for GRE? Did you join any coaching?
 
Manasavi: I did join coaching after my first attempt. My english teacher helped me a lot to improve on my self confidence after my disastrous first attempt. 
Plus, I just had 3 weeks between 2 attempts. So it was just practicing questions and doing tests
 
 
Vibhor: What according to you is the ideal time to start preparing yourself to achieve a good GRE score and a suitable profile to make it to the best universities?
 
Manasavi: Start with Norman Lewis. I was really bad at english so I had to start at the end of 5th semester. For profile, you should automatically start off with projects. You do work and your CV will automatically grow.
 
 
Vibhor: How did you prepare for the placements?(Please provide a detailed insight on what all companies you targeted and how did you prepare for them. Also, the various rounds held in the selection procedure)
 
Manasavi: I got through IOCL. There was just one round of interview. They asked me about my projects in controls and how would I apply them to their plants and stuff. And also, about PID controls 
 
 
Vibhor: How have your four years in NSIT affected you overall?
 
Manasavi: It really helped me believe that you can do anything yourself. You have sufficient resources to start off any project or work on your own.
 
 
Vibhor: What is your vision of NSIT in the coming years? What is the one thing
you would like to change in NSIT?
 
Manasavi: More labs and upgradation of courses and being a part of DU.
 
 
Vibhor: What advice would you like to give your juniors?
 
Manasavi: Work hard but its probably more imp to enjoy at the same time. Getting a MS admit is not very difficult, so start doing projects and reading up stuff in areas which interest you. Don't streamline your field very soon. Its good to have options coz tomorrow, you might like a field which you hated years back.
 
 

Neelima Sharma

Neelima Sharma, Class of 2011, dared to look beyond the MS/MBA debate and is presently pursing her PhD at National Centre for Biological Sciences. In a chat with NSITonline, Neelima talks about her decision, the placement season and above all being an NSITian
 
1. You are among the few in college who were successful in making it to an elite university while maintaining a good aggregate overall. Please share your success mantra.
 
There is no success mantra as such apart from the simple fact that one should be clear about what one wants to do. Things always work out in the end; as there is no dearth of avenues if your reasons are correct. The efforts that you’ve made over the last few years reflect upon you. Hence, try and engage your college life in activities that interest you, and it shall pave way for a future that you envision for.
As far as maintaining a good aggregate in college is concerned, it doesn’t make a really big difference. Keep it above a decent mark, and that is enough. One must not fret too much about it and rather focus upon building one’s personality over these four years.
 
2.  What embarked your interest towards PhD?
 
I am enrolled for a PhD at National Centre for Biological Sciences. Science is the only meaningful vocation I could resolve for myself; it is perhaps my true calling. The thrill, preciseness and no-nonsense attitude of science draw me towards itself. I was engaged in numerous projects in and outside college. IISER Pune acted as a foster alma-mater, where I went numerous times for my project. The science culture there and exposure that I got in terms of scientific talks and conferences embarked my journey towards the pursuit of research, and then there was no turning back.  
 
3.  How did you prepare for GRE? Did you join any coaching?
 
I didn’t prepare for GRE nor did I join any coaching. I wrote GATE and TIFR entrances for Indian universities, and I applied to certain places in Europe and New Zealand. I didn’t prepare rigorously for entrance exams; the TIFR entrance was interesting and didn’t require you to ‘mug up’, it was rather understanding based. GATE was decent too, though the questions were more focused upon testing your ability to memorize. Surprisingly, I discovered that I remembered enough to obtain a decent enough score. In short, if you are awake in 70-80% of your classes and have your fundamentals in place, it is easy to sail through these entrances.
The difficult part is clearing the interviews, and also the most thrilling one. The questions that were asked were intended to look for creativity and ability to deduce reasons for some problems and come up with interesting solutions for others. On a lighter note, Universities in Europe didn’t like me, most of them wanted me to do masters first and I was not inclined for the same. So it didn’t work out well between us. I didn’t accept an offer from University of Auckland (and sacrificed all the mountains and valleys and sheeps!) for I wasn’t getting a PhD in neuroscience lab immediately.]
 
4. What according to you is the ideal time to start preparing yourself to achieve a good GRE score and a suitable profile to make it to the best universities?
 
Well, though I didn’t write GRE myself I can still share some ‘gyaan’ intercepted from the ‘junta’ at college though my batch mates sitting in US right now would be better equipped to answer this.
GRE preparation should ideally be done in the summer vacations after 3rd year and one must write GRE before joining college after summers.
 
Preparation for suitable profile: Tinker with all sort of things in your first year to find out what interests you the most, and then have fun working on it for the rest of your college life. Go out to different places to do projects, attend conferences and talks; it helps you gain insights and develop a sense for the area of research. So profile building or a growth as a researcher is a process that is continuous and should never cease.
 
5. How did you prepare for the placements?
 
 I didn't exactly put in a lot of effort to prepare for placements. I tried going through the case study material that is generally recommended for preparation for consultancy jobs but I found it highly boring. I was targeting non-tech companies because of my coding handicap; I made to the BAIN interview and
blasted it thereafter by giving bio-inspired answers to their guess estimates questions!! But anyways, I had a good time.
 
The other company I sat for and got through was Futures First. The first two rounds were dominated by mental math questions. I could clear both the written rounds and reached the interview sessions. My first interview was the stress interview, where the two interviewers were really critical and cynical of all of my responses. The trick I guess was to keep calm and remain cool but humble at all times and give clever answers. I could pull a laugh in my stress interview session, I presume that it was a big achievement and scored hugely in my favor. My second interview was smooth; it was a session where we chatted about social and economic problems of India. Later they announced my selection along with other 4 of my batch-mates. It was a good feeling, the realization that I was no more supposed to wear formals and search for jobs.
 
The take home message from my interview session is that if you are confident, humble, clever (or knowledgeable) and have one strong skill (could be programming, electronics, or anything else that a consultancy would want) required for the job at hand, it is enough to place you amongst the top few competing for the job. And then its sheer play of luck..  
I also appeared for Teach for India selection process, and got through. I had heard about this endeavor in my second year, and had wanted to be a part of the same since then. But science scored higher for me than working in social sector, I wish human cloning was possible.
 
6. How have your four years in NSIT affected you overall?
 
NSIT is a place that is a conglomerate of awesome people, the students of NSIT form an extremely efficient workforce that are truly motivated in spite of the inefficiency that surrounds them. The place is what it is for its students, and I have met some of the most extraordinary people here who are self-driven, motivated and smart. The company of friends you earn yourself in NSIT and the discussions and debates that follow for the next 4 years form a big part of your stay. Further, there are avenues of growth and learning in the numerous student clubs, cultural organizations such as SPIC MACAY and fests that go on. The diversity of things that you can do here are huge, and adds different colors to your personality.
 
7. What is your vision of NSIT in the coming years? What is the one thing you would like to change in NSIT?
 
I shall give a special mention to one thing that should not change in NSIT- the quality of students. Otherwise, NSIT requires change in the approach they have towards research, there is a huge need for both inter- and intra- college collaborations and interaction. This kind of scientific endeavor will make it extremely easy for students to explore vistas of research.
 
And I guess the efficiency of the administration needs to improve by leap and bounds, I am absolutely clueless of how that might be possible. Lastly, NSIT desperately needs a functional canteen.
 
8. What advice would you like to give to your juniors?
 
Keep your grounds for doing anything, reasonable and straight. Don’t do things for the wrong reasons- they almost never help. Explore to find out what you want to do and once you have shortlisted something, explore it more to become 100% sure that it is what you really want to do. Chill. Do crazy things. And if you are in NSIT, you are inherently amazing. Celebrate your awesomeness. Never lose quality.
 
All the best to the juniors, keep working, remain motivated and keep NSIT a wondrous place. Cheers!
 
Feel free to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
 

Rupak Gupta

 

Arjun talks with Rupak Gupta (COE 2011), who got placed as Derivatives Trader in Futures First, Gurgaon despite of having scores in early 60s. He tells about the placement procedure of the company and the kind of work one gets to do.
 
The company had a two pronged placement procedure, with a written and an interview round. In the first part of the written, we had a 30 question which were mathematics based (BODMAS, fractions, series etc) to be finished in 6 minutes. Anyone who cleared 27 questions was shortlisted for the next round. The second part of the written consisted of an aptitude test (on lines of CAT). It was followed up by the candidates filling up a personality assessment form. The candidates had to answer questions such as, detailing about their background, any leadership roles they have taken, success and failures one has achieved in life. All questions are then referred to in the interview and your answers are then expounded which also forms the basis of the interview. Questions are also asked about any diseases you have contracted. In short your complete background check is done.
Interviews are generally taken by the managers and traders to analyse different aspects of your profile and nature to comprehend your abilities for the job. It may result in one or two interviews. In the interview you are usually submitted to a stressful situation. For example I was given a list of candidates including myself and was asked to choose three for the final selects citing reasons.
 
The company gives equal opportunities to everyone, irrespective to your marks and resume. All it looks for in the candidate to have a quick, analytical mind, immaculate observation power and ability to perform evenly under stress. Since the job profile is that of a derivatives trader, one has to perform in the same manner as the market rises or falls. The company checks if a person can work under stress as well. The work is exciting as you get to trade commodities such as oil, grains, precious metals and currencies in the international market. It gives you a lot of exposure and valuable training, since not a lot of Proprietary trading firms are present in India presently. Futures First’s motto says “You don’t know you are a trader until unless you trade”. So don’t write yourself off as one.
 
Rupak Gupta
COE, Class of 2011, NSIT
Derivatives Analyst, FuturesFirst
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 

 

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