Goto

Collaborating Authors

How I Went From Being a Confused Undergrad to an Experienced Machine Learning Engineer

#artificialintelligence

I had questions, and it was time to look for answers. I searched through popular job roles in glassdoor, freelancing sites, you know, those YouTube videos that list the high-paying jobs in 2017, and even some TEDx talks. Data science was the field that spiked my interest. Slowly I understood the different roles in the field -- data scientist, data analyst, data engineer, machine learning engineer, BI analyst, MLOps engineer. It might sound funny, but I analyzed the career paths, experiences, salaries, and every possible statistic available for these roles.


Should I major in Data Science?

#artificialintelligence

Clarification: I am only sharing professional advises Ive received and my own researches for graduate programs. I am not a data scientist. It is definitely much more common to have ms in dsc purely because few schools offer dsc undergrad now. Some schools' data science curriculum in master and undergrad are very similar (even sitting in the same classes), barring the difference in syllabus and depth. "Beneficial" is entirely dependent on what do you want to do with the degree.


Vision Needed – Harish Vadlamani – Medium

#artificialintelligence

After graduating last year, I had absolutely no idea on what I wanted to do next. I spent my final semester of my undergrad days watching on as everyone around me were sitting for placements or already applying for a specific masters program. I knew I wanted to study further, but I had no clue about which field to major in, nor did I want to take up a stuck up job at an IT firm who prey on engineering graduates. So, I decided to take a break to figure out what I wanted to pursue next. I always had a fondness towards mathematics and that's what got me through engineering.



Saying yes to help

Science

“Are you OK?” my principal investigator (PI) asked me. I had just broken down crying in his office during one of our meetings. “It doesn't seem like you're OK.” He was right. But I wasn't ready to be vulnerable with him, so I evaded the question. Later, I wondered why. When I mentor undergrads, I make a point of connecting with them on a personal level and reaching out to them when they seem to need help. For the past year, I had been yearning for someone to do the same for me. So why hadn't I accepted the gesture when it finally came? > “Concealing my stuggles … hampered my ability to be my true self in the lab.” Things had started to go downhill for me during the third year of my Ph.D. My science wasn't going as planned, and I was in the midst of a long-standing conflict with a colleague. I was dragging myself into the lab at 1 p.m., my face hidden beneath my hood, headphones on to drown out the chatter around me. I stopped speaking up in meetings. The quality and quantity of my work dropped. With my downcast eyes, slow gait, and slumped posture, I tried to signal that I needed help—but nobody reached out. To my labmates, I may have just seemed stressed or tired. As for my PI, he seemed to not want to pry into my personal life. I felt alone and helpless, hesitant to share my struggles because I wasn't sure that anyone cared. For a while, my undergrads kept me functioning. Their curiosity spurred me to plan experiments and read papers. My duty to them forced me out of bed and into the lab, where I set aside my own distress and put on the disguise of an encouraging mentor. I enthusiastically asked about their classes and weekend plans, their extracurricular activities and postgraduation ambitions. Mentoring offered a consolation: If I couldn't make my mark in science, at least I could have an impact on my mentees' career trajectories and support them through their own challenges. When one of my undergrads began to act lethargic and distracted, for example, I reached out to ask whether there was anything I could do. Though usually reticent, she opened up. She thanked me for checking in and offering a sympathetic ear, and we adjusted her lab workload to accommodate her needs. Why was it that I could be there for my mentees, yet no one could be there for me? Soon enough, I lost the high I got from mentoring. My patience gave way to irritation. When my undergrads made simple mistakes, I had a harder time being understanding. I knew that I couldn't wait any longer to seek help. I finally contacted the therapist I had connected with at the beginning of grad school and started medication for my now-diagnosed anxiety and depression. Then came that meeting with my adviser. Because our relationship had always been strictly professional, I wasn't sure he really wanted to know about my troubles any more than my other colleagues seemed to. I also worried that he would think less of me if I told him I was having a hard time. Yet concealing my struggles from my closest colleagues hampered my ability to be my true self in the lab—the place where I spent most of my waking hours. Eventually, I worked up the courage to tell close friends and supportive labmates. Many listened and empathized, and I realized that just because they hadn't reached out didn't mean they didn't care. In the end, I told my PI too. It was incredibly awkward at first, but with time, we became more comfortable having frank, candid conversations. We made arrangements to minimize the conflict I had with my colleague and devised a plan to balance my scientific interests with my graduation timeline. I'm still working on my mental health, but I finally feel like I'm headed in the right direction. The experience has taught me that when I need help and support, sometimes I need to ask for it. And when it's offered, even from an unlikely source, I should embrace it.