Thomas Jacob - AWL Inc


Hey, I’m Thomas Jacob, a fourth year undergraduate in the Department of Electrical Engineering. I interned at AWL Inc., Hokkaido, Japan over the summer in an online mode.

I come from a town called Bhilai, which you might have heard of because of the Steel Plant if you paid attention in geography class. I like football (Real Madrid fans wya) and music, which are two things my personality can essentially be broken down into. On the academic side of things, I am broadly interested in machine learning, but more specifically, I am inclined towards the applications of machine learning in medicine, which is another field I have grown to like over the past few years.

Internship Selection Process:

Before conclusively deciding between getting into a university for pursuing research or going corporate after my undergrad, I wanted to have a taste of both lives. Following my second year, I was fortunate enough to have done a research internship at TU Braunschweig, Germany, and so, after my third year, I was more inclined towards a company internship focused on machine learning.

The internship season starts around the beginning of August, when companies start coming through the Placement Cell to hire summer interns. From a preparation standpoint, I only went over the important concepts in ML - through previous courses, online resources, etc. One aspect I was lacking in was DSA (Data Structures & Algorithms for the uninitiated), and that took a few companies offering ML interns off the table since they used DSA as a filter during their round one of testing. All these considerations made me target the Japanese companies from the get-go due to their primary focus on your research experience and skills relevant to the job description. The IAF from AWL Inc. immediately caught my eye as it opened up, as it had everything I had expected from a good internship: an interesting job description, decent stipend, and it was supposed to be in Japan (aaaaaa).

The first round, which was for everyone who had signed the IAF, was a test consisting of basic machine learning questions, and was fairly doable provided you were good with your concepts. The second round was supposed to be a technical interview so I was pretty nervous thinking about what they would ask. The interview was conducted by two people, of which one was an alum from the institute, who was pretty chill and put me at ease regarding the interview. The entire interview was centered around my resume and they asked me to choose any one project from it and explain it to them. I chose the work I had done during my internship at TUB the previous year and went over the details, such as the task involved, the data processing I had done, and the network architectures I had used and why I chose those specific architectures. At one point, I was also asked to share my screen, open up a research paper related to my project, and explain the details of the paper to them in a gist. I felt that I was able to do a good job since I had already gone through the paper a few times during the internship and they seemed satisfied with my explanation at the end. And that was it, they just asked me a few routine questions after such as if I had any doubts regarding the internship. I was expecting another round of interviews after this if I was fortunate enough to get selected but this turned out to be the final round, and thankfully, I was selected! I was immediately really excited thinking of all the fun stuff I would do exploring Japan xD.

Work Experience:

Life had other plans sadly, the world was still reeling from COVID, and the new Omicron variant only delayed things further. By the time Japan opened up its borders in March, there was a flood of VISA applications from everywhere and the company let us know that it would not be possible for us to get our VISA on time, and it would have to be an online experience sadly (FML). I made H2 my home (thanks Achintya ka box room <3) for almost the entirety of my internship, so I could at least have fun with my friends post working hours.

The internship started on the 9th of May, when we got a broad overview of the work we would have to perform and got to meet our supervisors who were super friendly. We were all divided into two groups based on the tasks our supervisors felt we were suited for. I, along with another friend, were assigned to their Core AI Team while the others were assigned to the SDK team. The work was really interesting, we had to explore newer deep learning frameworks specialized for inference on edge devices, get familiarized with their APIs in languages such as Python or C++, and use them to carry out model testing. The entire experience was great and not taxing at all, with the supervisors being very considerate. Plus, they take work-life very seriously, and we were not expected to do any work at all beyond our usual working hours and even mandating a one hour break during our actual working hours. We had review meetings three times a week, when we broadly went over the work we had done up until that point and asked for any support we needed or any questions we had. Beyond this, we just had a few presentations to report any significant findings we had made from time to time. This is pretty much how it went on up until the second week of July, which was when our internship ended after a final presentation to all the company employees, who were all very appreciative and supportive :)

It was overall a very very positive experience, even though it was online, due to the fun nature of the job, and the extremely friendly work environment.

Parting Thoughts:

The internship season can feel very taxing at times, especially seeing your peers landing up with interns while you are still struggling for one. To everyone going through this, I would just say, don’t worry, you will get there eventually too. There will be a lot of opportunities coming your way during the entirety of the season. And one other thing would be to go for a job profile of your interest, as opposed to, say, a profile offering you more money because while money may seem more enticing in the moment, the experience you gain while working on something you like would only go onto help you in the future, when you are thinking about job prospects. TLDR; choose working on something you love over corporate slavery.

Huge thanks to everyone who read this till the end, I can’t imagine the effort since I have never been able to do it myself. Finally, a lot of thank yous and apologies to Insight for pushing me to do this and constantly dealing with my procrastination (free hugs for all of you).

All the best to everyone and feel free to contact me, in case of any questions :)