Treading Off the Beaten Path: Sanchari Dan
Sanchari Dan, a final year student from the Department of Electrical Engineering bagged a coveted internship at Mad Street Den, an AI-based start-up. Read on to know more about her interests, the procedure that she followed to bag this internship and her experiences while working at Mad Street Den:
Monday Morning: Tell us about your childhood days and your school life.
Sanchari Dan: I was born in West Bengal but I was brought up at Dhanbad, Jharkhand where I spent the first 14 years of my life. My father had a transferable job so we used to shift from one city to another. Initially, I studied at Caramel School, Dhanbad till class 9th. It was a convent school. Convent schools are strict and disciplined and I was used to it. Then we moved to Kolkata where I completed my 10th and 12th at the Salt Lake School. My new school was a bit liberal compared to the previous one. This transition was a bit awkward at the onset, but with the passage of time, I got accustomed to it.
MM: How did NITR happen to you? Was Electrical Engineering your first choice or you wanted to pursue something else?
SD: After 10th standard, I had made up my mind for engineering and started my preparations accordingly. From the very beginning, I always had a keen interest in Computer Science. West Bengal was my home state and I got CSE at NIT Durgapur, but CSE at NIT Rourkela was my first preference. According to my JEE rank, I did not get CSE at NITR. So, after consulting my parents and seniors I decided to choose EE at NITR as this was a core branch. Precisely, studying EE was a choice and not chance, though I was always inclined towards Computer Science.
MM: You bagged a prestigious internship at Mad Street Den at the end of your third year. Did you bag any other internship prior to this? What motivated you to delve deeper into the arena of Machine Learning?
SD: Around my second year, I started discovering different avenues and always had a special interest towards Competitive Coding, but then I realized that I won't be able to cope up with the students of the Computer Science department. This led to a development of interest in Machine Learning, and I had completed a few online courses in this domain as well. Mad Street Den was my third internship. Prior to this, I did my other internships at ISI Kolkata and IIT Kharagpur, both of which were based on Deep learning and Machine learning. That's when I realized that this is the field where I could progress to work on. These two internships that I did in my sophomore year also helped me to get into Mad Street Den.
MM: What was the process that you followed to get selected at Mad Street Den?
SD: In my 5th semester, I started looking for foreign internships but I received many rejections. So, in my sixth semester, I started looking for internship opportunities in a good AI-based startup. I started using LinkedIn extensively to connect with HRs and employees of such startups. After emailing the HR at Mad Street Den with my resume and a cover letter, I was asked to appear for a telephonic interview. The first interview was mostly about my technical skill set and previous internships and projects. Following this I was allotted with a task- I was given with a labeled dataset of products from a retail website, I had to develop an ML model to classify each product into men, women, boys, girls, or unisex. This was followed by a second round of telephonic interview with questions on my approach and solution to the problem. I received an acceptance for the internship within two days of the second interview.
MM: Was it a paid internship? If yes, what was the amount of stipend?
SD: Yes, it was a paid internship. I was paid 15,000 INR per month and this was a three-month long internship. I had to arrange for my own accommodation and being in Chennai, it was not an issue. I used to live in a flat with a flatmate.
MM: Tell us about your internship experience. How similar was it with your expectations?
SD: I had a really great experience. I was there for 13 weeks. I was given a project to handle under the guidance of a mentor. It involved revamping a product that the company delivers to its clients. That made this project an important one. The best thing in startups is that there is no hierarchy and you get a chance to work with the CEO or CTO. For a problem, the solution can be from any individual. The office environment was very informal and we used to have events on Friday evening. This internship, being an industrial one helped me hone my practical skills in many ways.
MM: Has the academic course structure of your department helped you in any way while bagging this internship?
SD: Speaking from the perspective of my department, if a scholar is actually interested in pursuing a career in the field of core Electrical Engineering, then the academics followed is quite useful and interesting, the classes itself would provide all the foundation knowledge and the labs would fulfill the goal of practical knowledge. But the research fraternity gains very less help from the academic process followed here. Machine Learning and Image Processing are two interdisciplinary fields and there are institutes in some parts of the country where they have specific courses or electives that would help for the same, which NITR fails to provide. The faculties in my department are very encouraging though, my faculty advisor helped me a lot in getting recommendations and other documents required for my internship.
MM: You were a part of Monday Morning and Axiom club. You had to devote time for learning about Machine Learning and Image Processing. In spite of having such an onerous schedule, how did you manage your time aptly?
SD: There was not much workload in my first year, as a consequence of that I used to attend orientations and inductions of different clubs. In my second year, there was a lot of departmental work, which included a huge syllabus and hectic lab works. But then everything would fall into place and I could manage to find time for Machine Learning and other topics. I used to utilize my weekends and vacations properly. Moreover, if you have a deep desire or determination for a job, it becomes easier to find time for it and to pursue it.
MM: What are your future plans?
SD: I have planned to do my higher studies in Computer Science, specializing in Artificial Intelligence or Data Science. Since I don't have a strong profile to apply for colleges abroad, I'm planning on taking up a job after graduation. I have already got a pre-placement offer from Mad Street Den. I would probably work there for 2 years that would strengthen my profile and then I could apply for universities abroad.
MM: Give a brief message for our readers.
SD: Pursue what you actually want to, instead of trying things randomly. Be very diligent about it and spend your valuable time and energy such that at the end of the journey, there are no regrets. No amount of rationalizing or complaining will alter the consequence.