With less than three weeks to go for National Interns Day, employers across the world are nominating their best interns, and we couldn't be any happier. After all, it's a day for interns to celebrate all the efforts and hard work that went into their internships. Today on the set, we have Aishwarya Srinivasan, here with us, who is presently pursuing Masters in Data Science at Columbia University, New York. She completed her undergraduation from Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), Tamil Nadu in Computer Science and Engineering (Class of 2017).
So let's wait no more and begin with a quick round of questionnaire so that we get to know what it's like to intern at one of the most prominent tech giant's IBM.
Switch Idea Staff: Hello Aishwarya, tell us a bit more about yourself.
Intern: Sure. Presently I am a researcher enrolled in a 16 month programme in Data Science and Deep learning. My areas of interests lie in Reinforcement Learning and Advanced Machine Learning in the Finance domain. On the personal side, I am a mischievous and outgoing human who enjoys dancing, hiking and doing yoga. I also like presenting my thoughts in words, and you can check out my blog here.
Switch Idea Staff: That's great! Your love for Yoga tells us how well you share the connection to the roots of your home country. Tell us more about your internship.
Intern: I am presently interning at IBM in the Data Science Elite team for Summer 2018 at their New York office. I am dealing with the Reinforcement Learning in Finance use-cases. I have built a sophisticated Trading and Portfolio Management Model using Reinforcement Learning. The model has started attracting the Financial market players, and we have got 3 active client engagements who are keenly interested in our model. My everyday activity includes researching the intricacies of the model and rehearse upon the performance.
Switch Idea Staff: Is this your first internship Aishwarya?
Intern: No, this isn't my first internship. I have previously interned at nine other organizations including Microsoft, Ernst & Young, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and National Informatics Centre (NIC).
Switch Idea Staff: Brilliant! So you've already started stepping up the corporate ladder, and those names are indeed the dream companies for many students. Tell us more about your mentors at IBM, your first day of internship and what has been so far the best experience/learning you've had?
Intern: Here at IBM, I believe two key people have substantially shaped my entire internship experience into a great learning exposure. First, my manager, and second, the Chief Data Scientist. Both of them have consistently supported me in all technical and business aspects, including the designing of the algorithm and pitching it to corporate clients.
I still remember, on my first day of internship, I was asking my manager, which project does he want me to look into. He smiled at me and said, do what you wish to, research on what your interest is, and build what you know can be an industry product; I was surprised. During all my previous internship experiences, I used to be assigned to a specific project and had a very streamlined thought process; whereas, I knew this is going to be a completely different experience, and in the end, it did turn out to be amazing.
My best experience so far has been to get an opportunity to interact with the corporate clientele directly, since this is not something I have done in my previous internships, and certainly not to a level what I could do in IBM. Here at IBM, I could directly present to the Quant and research team of these clients. I felt good about my efforts when they were fascinated by the technology so much so that they want to move forward with the engagements.
Switch Idea Staff: What advice do you have for undergraduates seeking internships while they are at college?
Intern: In my opinion, I would suggest the other students taking an internship in a company, where they are getting a project which aligns with their interest than simply going behind a brand name. As a fresher, who joined Masters immediately after her undergrad, I feel, it was really important for me to create a technology which could change how things operated in finance. I was persistent in achieving this goal, as I wanted to create value out of my skills. I believe, if I had chosen to join the other company that had offered me an internship, which had a better brand name but not the kind of research project I needed, I would not have made such good progress as I could do in IBM. Also, networking is very crucial, which I feel gets neglected in a technology company. I was proactive in networking with people from Strategies team, Blockchain team, Cloud team etc. and could share a lot of ideas and other contacts we had. For instance, I introduced one of the managers I met in the Blockchain team with my manager in the Data Science team, and surprisingly they could get into a client engagement together. Similarly, I met one of the Offering managers (Financial services department) in another floor of the IBM building, and she was the one who could introduce me to the clients from the 3 financial clients I mentioned earlier, which turned out to be a huge success.
Switch Idea Staff: What do you believe will be your next steps in your career and how will this internship help you get there?
Intern: I strongly believe in endless learning, hence I plan to do a Ph.D. in Reinforcement Learning; I feel I need few years of work experience dealing with real-world data, issues, and clients; before moving back to academia. IBM is a great place to be, they encourage learning and I would want to join this team, as I would be able to be a part of the team and still pursue my Ph.D. in future.
Switch Idea Staff: Which according to you are the 5 most essential skills for interns to perform well at their workplace?
Intern: I would say skills differ from your areas of interest and the industry you are working for, but I can talk about the values. In my opinion, the 5 most essential values for every intern (out there) are:
Showing personal interest to learn more
Envision the future and create innovative ideas
Unite as a team to solve problems
Relentlessly working towards a goal
Sharing your expertise
Switch Idea Staff: What are your thoughts on celebrating National Intern's Day across India?
Intern: I would say, this is a great idea, to recognize and bring the interns to a platform and recognize them globally for their work, which would probably have a great impact on revolutionizing, but they stay hidden under the names of the companies they are working for. I really appreciate Switch Idea for coming up with these awards and quantify the efforts of the interns. Kudos!
PS: Nominate Aishwarya for this years National Interns Day Awards.