Experience speaks for itself, always. And when it does, it distinguishes the person uniquely in every way. When the experience itself is unique, then the man’s words carry even more value. Deepak Kandasamy, a recent alumnus of PSG Tech (MSc Theoretical Computer Science, 2014-19) is one such person whose experiences range from working on the R&D team of KLA-Tencor even before he graduated to going on to work with Microsoft India. As our correspondents interviewed him, they made sure that the modesty of the man did not come in the way of sharing the abundance of experience that he had on offer. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
Krishna: How do you think work is different from the previous internships?
Deepak: During your internships, you are just a student and the company knows it as well. What they would expect off you mostly is high levels of enthusiasm and the ability to think out of the box. In fact, you won’t know what their “box” is because they won’t divulge a lot of information to you.
Rahul: How has your life been and changed since you left college? How is it being a fresher (relatively) in a company like Microsoft?
Deepak: Life was honestly great in Microsoft before the lockdown. I miss so many things now from there starting from the workflow to the cafeteria food. Other than that, life as a fresher is so different from college life. Even though I was free in some sense in the hostel, this is a different kind of freedom. Working to earn money, and managing things ranging from house rent to food, this is all new and different. Well, I think this is a very generic answer, but I am a generic graduate that went straight from college to work, so this is the answer you’ll get from any such person.
Rahul: You were one of the first people to get into an applied research internship in a company (KLA Tencor). How was that experience?
Deepak: The major difference between a full fledged research in an institute and research in a company like what I did is that we’re required to innovate within a somewhat rigid framework. My problem was to make an algorithm run faster and I had only so many things that I could tweak which were determined by the fact that it is a customer facing product. My team and I managed to make it faster and then I found out the other major difference between the research types - my research work had yielded the company quantifiable profits. That is something that is not as apparent or immediate in institutional research.
Rahul: Now, how would you compare between the kind of work you did in these two companies?
Deepak: At Microsoft, there is so much architecture laid out already and the work is mostly understanding a few components at a time and making them work together efficiently. Even though the work is really interesting to do, there is no innovation required like my previous work.
Krishna: You were known among the students of the department to be a competitive programming visionary. How would you compare building those skills to working on development projects, seeing that you just mentioned the kind of work a software engineer does?
Deepak: At the end of the day, my job comes down to critical thinking. I think it doesn’t matter how you hone that, whether through competitive programming or through development or through something else entirely. For me, competitive programming worked really well and definitely has a big part in where I am right now. For instance, my job requires a lot of grit and perseverance and I wouldn’t really have that if not for my initial struggles with solving hard problems. As I kept solving more and more, I learnt patience and perseverance. The bottom-line is, you need critical thinking and competitive programming can help with that.
Rahul: But if you think about it, competitive programming or problem solving are not really the kind of work you would be doing on the job. So, a company that recruits with a hackathon finds better candidates for the job because they are tested on the job, yet very few companies do that. Why do you think this is the case?
Deepak: Companies that come to the college recruit based on the common knowledge every candidate has. A hackathon may not be “fair” in that respect. But I do agree that such a process yields better candidates, but it is just not feasible for every company. If you are someone that is looking for a niche or specific role, your best bet would be to go off campus and start looking for opportunities on your own. I can immediately think about Pradeep when I’m talking about this because he did exactly that.
(Read our interview with Pradeep here)
Rahul: At Microsoft, you work with a lot of people from institutes like IITs and the like. How would you compare our standards to theirs. Is there any significant difference between us?
Deepak: First off, work is not a competition. So I don’t see the point in comparing how well we work.
(Rahul: What? Don’t we usually hear the opposite. Can you elaborate?)
Deepak: At the fresher level, it is definitely not a competition. All that matters here is to get your job done properly. At the higher rungs of the ladder, though, it can be seen as a kind of competition. For example, my manager would have to “fight” among other managers at her level to get the allocations and funding for my team, and to get the promotions for more of my team. But as you can imagine, this is more of a managerial competition rather than one of which college you are from. If I have to say it in a single line, at the fresher level you are not that valuable to the company for them to consider you to be in some competition.
Coming back to the earlier question, there is definitely no skill gap. I can say this confidently because I now see freshers from IITs being as clueless as me in the beginning and I am helping them understand their work. The kind of questions they have is not different from what I had. I was as curious as they are. So, it’s all learnt in the job irrespective of where you are from.
Rahul: You used to have aspirations for higher studies. What is the pivot on that decision to pursue that at this point in your life?
Deepak: Again, very generically, I like my job a lot and I find it interesting enough to keep me challenged. A reason people change paths to go into higher studies after getting a job is if they don’t like the work they do. I have a friend who, even though is great at his job and earns well, is bored by it and is looking to jump into research or higher studies.
Krishna: What do you think back about your college life?
Deepak: I always think about something my mom said when I came to college first. She said that it’s always a good thing to aspire for more than just studying and getting grades. I think I did justice to what she said. I helped a lot of people get into competitive programming, I designed the syllabus for a Statistical Learning course along with a faculty member which is still being followed and I definitely made some great friends. I think these are the things I look back to in my college life.
Team Bridge would like to thank Mr.Deepak for spending his valuable time to give us this interview.