Hello Everyone! I am Sandesh Kumar, currently a Software Development Engineer in Amazon Web Services (AWS). My schooling has happened from an ICSE board school of the Jhansi district in Uttar Pradesh. Mathematics and Computers were my favorite subjects during my school days, and I spent my free time exploring them only. I was unaware of the Engineering and IITs until my 10th class, but I started preparing for it as per my parents, teachers, and peers' suggestions.
Surprisingly, I managed my time efficiently and cracked the JEE advanced exam with a decent rank. Based on the available options, the bigger challenge was whether to go with the newer IITs and take the CSE branch or to go for the older IITs and compromise with the branch. Somehow I got to know about the newly emerging stream, which was Mathematics and Scientific Computing. I was inclined to this as Maths was my deepest interest and I was fascinated with computers.
It was an unconventional decision for me. None of my friends, including friends, teachers, and parents, supported this decision to take a branch that is not so popular. But I had to select it because I wanted to explore it.
During the first semester, there was one course on C programming language. As I was already aware of C++, I found that whatever I was learning in that course was just a subset I already knew. I was able to finish the 3-hour labs in less than half an hour. I was full of confidence, and I achieved the best grades in this course just because of it. My overall GPA was above 9, and I was at cloud 9. People around me started praising me for that. BUT! You must be thinking that it was good.
I was also lured into the same thought process, but it eventually made me over-confident. Because of that, I took Data Structures & Algorithms course in my 3rd semester, which was supposed to be done in the 5th semester. I actually thought about it and took this decision which actually backfired on me. Initially, the course was good, but I realized my mistakes when the complex algorithms entered the curriculum, which I did not know earlier. My semester overall grade went below 7, and I was like, what a blunder I did. I was at the bottom-most position in terms of my confidence, and I could not find people around me who were earlier praising me. But, I had to come back, and not only the come-back, but I also had to come stronger.
Let me summarize it pointwise so that it would be best to go through,
These steps revived my strength and confidence, and I started believing in myself.
It was common among seniors to complete the Mathematics and Scientific Computing course in 5 years with an additional master’s degree. But I did not want to invest one extra year to get a master’s degree. I was not aware of the use of this degree if all students sit in the same placement drive. As per the campus placement policy, I could sit for internships only once. I had two options to choose from,
I preferred the second one as I did not want to invest my one complete year just for one master’s degree.
During my internship period, I gained the experience of a full-stack developer, and based on my performance, I received a Pre-placement offer from Amazon. I was delighted, but there was another twist.
While working in Amazon, I figured out that a master’s degree is advantageous based on the industry hierarchy. I started thinking about completing this master’s degree because if I have to do this in the future, it would cost me two years instead of one (if I convert my Bachelor's degree to a master’s in IIT, it just take one extra year). But I had the pre-placement offer, which I would have to reject to complete my master’s.
Again, my whole family and friends were against me for this decision. But this time, the decision was difficult for me as well. I watched my courses and found that if I could overload my 9th semester, it would take just one extra semester to complete the master’s degree. I went for it, and to be on the safer side, I contacted the Amazon team and asked them to allow me to join in December. They agreed with me, and it was one of the best pleasures of my life.
Now, I had one extra summer. I wanted to explore some different areas. Once the job is started, I won’t be able to explore any different computer science domains other than software development. Hence I decided to do my second internship but am now in the research domain of Machine Learning and Data Science. I already had completed a minor degree in Machine Learning. But finding the research intern with an average academic performance was really difficult. Through the SFU-IIT MITACS joint program, there were only 10 seats available, and I could secure my position in that. I wrote emails to different professors to express my dedication to machine learning and the data science domain. I got the opportunity to work in the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) in Canada, where I learned a lot of things, especially the exposure to research.
I found myself more comfortable in a software development role than in research, but I achieved what I wanted to (an exposure to research). I was fascinated with Data Science and Machine Learning, and hence I picked my master’s project in the Machine learning and Finance domain. It went really well as we developed a new training model with higher accuracy. After completing my master's degree in nine semesters, I joined Amazon as SDE-I. Internal transfers were easy there, and within 7 to 8 months, I switched to Amazon Web Services (AWS) team because of the popularity it was gaining worldwide.
Almost every field in computer science is taking a gigantic shape. But it is always advisable to explore different fields before making any hard-and-fast decision. Based on my professional experience, if I would have to suggest someone make a career in computer science domains, I would say,
I want to give the overall message that “Never hesitate to take the roads less traveled by.”
Enjoy Learning! Enjoy Daring! Enjoy Algorithms!