Sriya Sainath's Temporary Abode At 'Adobe'
A well-rounded student who excels in all spheres, be it academic or extracurricular activities and possessing an indomitable spirit, Sriya Sainath is undoubtedly an epitome of hard work and perseverance. She has had extensive experience from Internships in Industrial, Corporate and Academic settings: a repertoire which includes organizations and institutes like Jindal, TCS, IIT Bombay ( through the Eklavya Internship programme) and finally Adobe Systems through the Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship ( click on the link to reach the application portal ).
On a pleasant evening, Team MM had an engaging conversation with her about her professional achievements and internship experiences. The following is an excerpt of the Interview.
The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Monday Morning (MM): Please tell us about your background and schooling.
Sriya Sainath (SS): I was born and bought up in Bhubaneswar. I completed my matriculation and post-matriculation from Loyola School, an institution which has the reputation of being academically rigorous. I did not exhibit a keen interest in academics up until the standard 9 th .In that period, I took up a lot of interest in Sports and Basketball and Athletics were the ones in which I especially shone. Furthermore, I was into debating since my days of schooling, something which has stuck with me until now. In the latter period of my schooling, I gradually started developing an interest in academics, the impetus behind it being a major spike in my performance in the school examinations. As a child and young adult, being the youngest in my house, I was utterly an unfiltered person, as far away from my ideal elder sister with perfect mannerisms.
MM: Tell us about your rationale behind choosing your branch and the Institute. What are your current areas of interest?
SS: Seeing myself performing well at academics, I was made to focus on mainstream careers which I eventually realized to be not bad. I was extremely fond of coding in my school days, especially Java since we had four years of Java in our syllabus in ICSE starting from ninth grade. I was interested in the field of Computer Science, and the Department of Computer Science was my natural choice. As I was a very homesick kid (which is something that hasn't changed much), I preferred to study at NIT Rourkela which is in my home state. My current fields of interest include machine learning, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, data science etc.
MM: You were the recipient of the prestigious Eklavya Internship at IIT Bombay. How was your experience there?
SS: Frankly, I knew nothing about the internship in question. I got to know about it from one of my friends about a week before the deadlines. Eklavya essentially has two tracks – academic based internship and software-based internship. I had applied for both the routes. The form asked for previous experience and took into consideration the academic performance. I was apprehensive of being selected for the academic-based internship, so I started preparing for the software track as well, where we would be asked to go for a coding test. Sometime before the test was about to happen, I found out to my delight that I was shortlisted for the academics-based internship out of more than 1500 people. It was, of course, a cherishable experience for me. I got to know what university internships are, and how and why are they so helpful in one’s career and professional choices.
MM: You had received three offers for internships in your prefinal year – Mitacs, RBL, Adobe. How did you navigate the decision-making process before deciding to choose Adobe finally?
SS: The internship season at NITR happens just in a flash- before you realize what is happening, it's over. I had first applied for Mitacs and then RBL. The latter required me to work in the field of cyber security, but I was interested in something else. I had pursued the Eklavya internship, so I already had an experience in university research, which was one of the reasons I did not prefer Mitacs ultimately. I wanted a corporate-research based internship, which was not something a lot of companies offer. Accordingly, I applied for Adobe Research Women in Technology Scholarship after carefully evaluating what it had to offer.
MM: How was your experience interning at Adobe Systems, India?
SS: The working culture was very friendly there, which was something that I looked forward to since it's ranked as one of the best companies to work for. We were given goals on a daily basis. We were required to develop the infrastructure of the purpose. They used to provide us with broad domains, under which we had to shortlist the problem statements and tackle the solutions and go on to solve it. So the entire process of how a product comes into being is what we learn in a corporate research internship. My mentor, there was very supportive. He used to be in the office till 9 PM, and we together used to solve out the problem statements together. When we get to work in that kind of environment, it is inspiring. One of the best aspects of the Adobe internship is the fact that they reimburse the fees for the rest of your academic career along with many perks which are well known to all.
MM: What was your project at Adobe? Please give us an insight into it.
SS: My project at Adobe was based on Shared Data Marketplace. It is mostly a medium akin to e-commerce which is used to buy and sell data instead of commodities. We focussed on dynamic pricing mechanism, which is highly essential in e-commerce. I had three mentors over there, one of whom was a Ph.D. in Economics. As I was proficient in Coding and Machine learning, the portion of the project which required them wasn't much of a hassle. However, I knew nothing about supply-side economics and dynamic pricing mechanisms. For instance, a customer who is a regular visitor to an e-commerce website has a more valuable data profile than one who is a scarce visitor. This is one factor which affects data pricing, so we had to take into account all these while working on the marketplace, which were learning points for me. Corporate research differs from pure corporate internships in the sense that in the latter, there is a project with clear-cut goals that must be met by the end of the internship, while in the former, you are presented with broad domains which you can explore with greater freedom without the underlying pressure to deliver on some specific goals. It allows for creativity and exploration with a reduced risk profile.
MM: What problems did you face while applying for internships?
SS: The biggest obstacle that I faced was probably that I had touched upon multiple fields and I was not sure as to what exactly I wanted to pursue. I was confused about whether I wanted to work in a research profile or corporate profile.
MM: According to you, what problems were faced by your colleagues, but not you?
SS: I would not be wrong if I say communication. Being a part of Clarion and having a knack for debating has helped me to communicate my ideas with greater clarity and efficacy. I have never had difficulties while facing interviews or even during impromptu speaking. It is definitely a factor for people who are left behind. People keep on saying that knowledge is primary and everything else comes secondary. But according to me, there is no point of knowing if it cannot be expressed well. After all, ideas are effective only when they can be shared clearly and expressed well.
MM: What were the Extra Curricular Activities you were involved in over the course of your student life at NITR until now?
SS: In the technical front, I have been a part of the Spawn since my freshman year and attended classes conducted by the club pretty actively. I also went on to become its creative head in my pre-final year. I am currently also the Lead of Google Student Developers Club since 2017. It is actually a part of the Google Developers Program for university students to help build mobile and web development skills and knowledge. It aims at facilitating solution development initiatives for local organizations. In the literary front, Clarion has remained close to my heart and I have remained an active debator and writer for Et-Cetera since I joined it. I also went on to become it’s Vice President in 2017. I joined D361 as well in my sophomore year and served as it’s technical head. Monday Morning happened to me in my sophomore year and it went on to teach me a number of things ranging from writing to teamwork and perseverance. I have also mentored freshmen as part of the Student Counselling Program beginning from my prefinal year. It came naturally to me to maintain the athletic streak in me and I remained a part of the Athletics team. Owing to my performance in the former, I was chosen to be the Dean’s Nominee for the Games and Sports Society under the SAC for the session 2016-17. It is not only academics but also the extracurricular activities that have evolved me as a person in NITR.
MM: What is your ideal plan of action for the entire academic year to ensure you achieve your goals?
SS : [Chuckles] Surviving and completing tasks before the deadline is essential. Prioritizing the tasks is of utmost importance. Given these two factors, everything else can be easily dealt with.
MM: What would that one thing that you would like to change in your past internships?
SS: Nothing essentially. I have been fortunate enough to go through a series of internships like those at Jindal Stainless, TCS Bhubaneswar and IIT Bombay before Adobe, which have shaped my professional path in a way I am very content with. Although If I had to, I'd probably take the MITACS internships program to get a feel of what university research in countries with a vibrant research scenario like Canada feels like.
MM: Tell us about your placement at Microsoft.
SS: After my 3-month internship at Adobe concluded, the selection procedure for Microsoft began the next day I reached the campus. I did not have time at all to prepare for this. In the first written round, we were given three coding questions. After this, we had a group round, where we were given two questions. One of them was a programming question; the other was a very fundamental question with numerous edge cases, which was related to real-life situations. I qualified in this round by performing surprisingly well. Followed by that we had the interview round. Some had two interview rounds while some had three. I had to go through two rounds of interview after which I finally got to know that I had been selected.
MM: What is your message to the readers?
SS: People tend to try and push you into a container you are much larger than. At times, when the mass opinion seems overwhelming,there is only a limited few that ought to matter to you. Explore. Exploring is highly underrated. Learn to figure out what helps you and what restricts you and you will do well.
Team MM wishes Sriya all the best for her future endeavours.