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Surbhi Agrawal

The Uninvited Series gives voice to the atypical tales of students and how they got their dream job. And who better to be their next muse than someone who has felt like an outlier for the entirety of her four years here? Hi, I’m Surbhi and this is my story.

You’d expect that hailing from the textile department would be my big obstacle, but that was never actually the case. My journey, to me, is what made me an outlier. Many students have a crystal clear idea of the career that they want, from the moment they walk through those IITD gates. But I had no such convictions. Hell, I didn’t even know if I wanted a job! I hadn't sat for the third year internships because of my hesitation to choose between corporate and academics and had almost made up my mind to go for a masters in material science.

But one thing that I always maintained in the midst of my indecision, was exploring my interests. In my first year, I took up a project on Google Maps. In my second-year internship at EPFL, I witnessed driverless car technology being utilised. And in the summer of my final year, I explored AI through a project under a Humanities professor. These projects helped me realise my interest in the vast field of AI, and that’s where the desire to get a job and work in this field emerged.

I am grateful for the pandemic because it gave me time to explore AI and ML. But that’s not to say it didn’t prop up obstacles. I tested covid positive during placements and endured some memory lapse symptoms. Factor in the inevitable placement anxiety and you get a candidate with a delayed response time, even for questions she was familiar with. I chose not to relay this to my interviewers because I believe I respond from a position of strength and I did not want to be seen playing the victim card.

In one of my interviews, my candidature wasn’t considered seriously because I did not come from the right department. Fortunately, my other interview at Honda went much better. Honda had no branch biases, after the initial screening based on CVs, they didn’t focus much on it, preferring to judge each candidate based on their experience instead. I was, however, asked what made me switch from textile to AI and I honestly replied that it was the projects I did that helped me realise the vast potential of the field.

The interview process consisted of three rounds. The first being a get-to-know-you round where they judged my communication skills. The second was a technical round where I was asked some conceptual but still unique ML questions. Not many made it past the second round, which made me pretty confident that I would secure the job. In the third round, I was given a question and asked to present and defend my views on it.

Looking back, I feel that all the projects that I undertook during college led to me bagging this job - Artificial Intelligence Research at Honda, Japan, where I would work on reducing the anxiety of passengers while riding driverless cars.

My honest thought after bagging a Day1 job was simply “khatam hui BT”. I believe that it’s important where you get your first job, it serves as a defining crossroad that decides your career direction. If your classes are in coherence with what you wish to learn, life becomes easier. But aspiring to explore something poles apart, as I did, can lead to your CG taking a dip. Nevertheless, I am pretty happy with my CG, because it allowed me to aim realistically and narrow down my options while never actually depriving me of opportunities.

I hope my story inspires you to believe that when placements come around, everything you do here at IITD falls into place to get you that perfect job. That first-year project, that internship you took to explore a new field, the questions you looked up while you were randomly browsing all come together and make you the ideal candidate for the job. And take it from me, it’s never going to go the way you expect it to but that’s not always such a bad thing.


Interviewed by Mariya Ezzy

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