The only Undergrad and Indian to be invited to present at Anaconda Conference: My Deep Learning…

March 25th 2018
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@init_27Sanyam Bhutani

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I’m really honoured and thrilled to be invited to present at the Anaconda Conference ’18.

If you search for my name in the Stellar list of speakers here, you’ll find my tiny bio here in the corner.

I’m really honoured to be the only undergraduate student and Indian to be presenting at the conference along with The Leaders of Anaconda Inc., Wes McKinney, and almost all of the leading Data Scientists from the cutting edge world that I aspire to be working at.

In this post I want to share my story: How I started as a noob coder and went about discovering my passion for Deep Learning.

How I’ve struggled, failed, stumbled and caffeinated myself into late night coding hours and started my journey to Deep Learning.

Disclaimer: I’m not even remotely an expert coder neither am I a great Deep Learning practitioner, I want to share my story to anyone who aspires to be a DL Researcher like me but is scared to start.

The Dream

I had joined an undergrad CS Programme with my goal to become a good coder.

That’s it. No end goals- I wasn’t sure what UI/UX was, what went into network development, the essence of being app developer.

TL;DR: I was noob freshman who wanted to be a ‘coder’.

I had taken my High School C, Java courses extremely sincerely-aced every single assessment, I started reading CLRS (Intro To Algorithms: MIT Press). I thought I was on a great start.

I was wrong.

The Journey

Under the Engineering curriculum in India, the Freshman subjects are aimed at General Engineering subjects: Physics 101, Civil Engineering 101, Electrical Engineering 101, CS 101.

So with the simple goal of becoming a better coder, I started by joining every single technical club my University had searching to learn about ‘CS 202’ since I was proud enough to be done with CS 101 during High school.

I went ahead and signed up for every single workshop I could get my hands on.

I signed up for a bunch of Coursera MOOCS.

I wanted to explore every single field that appealed which I did:

  • Built a few basic-y websites at my First Internship
  • Signed up for an Android App Dev Training
  • Worked as a Project intern on Embedded systems at IIT-Madras twice for 6 months during my freshman year.
  • Joined an AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) as a Computer Vision Engineer: Developed the Computer Vision Stack for the systems.
  • Started out With Andrew Ng’s famous ML course.
  • Did a few Data Science Internships.
  • Got Selected in IIT-R as a Machine Learning Intern for Summer ’17.
  • Worked as a Deep Learning Project Intern at IIT-R during Winter ’17.

By 2016, I was sure my interests lied in the domains of Deep Learning, Computer Vision and Robotics.

The Struggle

I’m lucky to be from one of Top Universities in my country, still when I had started out with my ‘AI Endeavours’: The university culture was focussed around Web and kickass App Development.

Which didn’t appeal to me honestly. And I was the only one who would be digging around MATLAB equations from 5PM-9AM. (Mind you TF was just fresh out during that time).

There was a constant resistance from my Mentors and friends who would warn me that AI (Yes, The General field) itself is a fairly advanced topic and is something I should worry about when I’m pursuing my Masters or I’m doing my Ph.D.

Needless to say, Given the rebel I was-I still continued on with my journey. Also, during that time the Online communities were almost non-existent except for the coursera forums where often Andrew Ng would himself answer a few questions- I was lucky to have the best guidance from there. Sadly my undergrad programme didn’t offer any ML/DL courses so that was the only go to.

There was almost a constant reminder from my friends that I’m picking up an advanced field and I might not get a good job offer.

Accept. Appreciate. Advance

My Goal with learning has always been curiosity driven. Ofcourse I want to make money, make a living from doing whatever I do later in life. But My primary motivation is to actually enjoy it.

I want my work not just to be a 9AM-5PM job. It’s also about the 5PM-9AMs to me.

The Path

I started out by applying for Internships at the few startups and the Big Companies that would allow me to work on these “Advanced” topics. I would explain in every cover letter that why I as an undergrad, want to apply to a intership that requires me to be a M.Tech Student.

I started networking on Linkedin seriously and cold emailing for advice.

By 2016, I started picking up Tensorflow and the Python & Co open source Libraries.

Luckily, I got accepted into ONGC’s Summer Internship Programme. I was assgined a Project on ‘Computer Vision Odometry’. My Guides were very impressed by my work.

With These badges on my Blazer, I marched up knocking at the Doors of IIT-R. I got into the Summer Internship Programme after a rigorous series of interviews and I got to work on Geographical Data Analysis under a Govt Of India Project.

My work allowed me to revisit IIT-R, This time as a Deep Learning intern: Working with Data to predict Seismic Activity, again on a Govt. Of India Project.

As my Ideas about Deep Learning Shaped up, I wanted to bring the goods of AI to the masses of India. To Agritech, to help improve the lifestyle overall and not just make it to a 6 figure job. I was already living my dream while being an undergrad.

Online Resources

I had constantly taken up MOOCs as they came out which were really helpful. My University had supported my Internship Endeavours by granting me extended vacations to allow me to work for 2–3 months every time.

Later, I decided to sign up for Udacity’s Deep Learning Nanodegree which was really helpful and helped me by not just learning about the basics but also working on a few really cool projects of Deep Learning.

I also got into the Fast AI International Fellowship which got me closer to the cutting edge and kickass Deep learning practises. This was by far the best learning experience of my life.

Today I’m enrolled in the Self Driving and The Flying Car Nanodegrees with dreams to bring these tech to the Farms of India, in an affordable manner to further improve the productions.

Giving Back

During my International Fellowship i decided to take up blogging seriously and I started sharing tutorials and basic explanations which were very well received thanks to the push from Fast AI community.

Late in 2017, I jumped on the Nurture AI, AI Saturdays Boat as an AI Geek leader where I help the global community by mentoring students.

Be Great but Be grateful

I’ve always belived in this Philosophy of giving back.

With The Same Motivation in Mind, I started init27 Labs where I would put out tutorials of Deep learning, Computer Vision, Self Driving and Flying Tech to help anyone who wants to learn about these a good place to start at.

I’m also honoured to be a part of the MentorCruise Boat where I hope to mentor newbies who want to learn more about AI.

The MileStone

Being Invited to Present at the Conference is the Greatest achievement of my Learning Path. I feel honoured to be acknowledged at a Global Conference, and to be on the Panel of Leaders of my Dream Field.

I’m sharing my Story here so that anyone whose dreams scares them finds the motivation here.

This is for the believers, One of us made it.

My Dream is to take up Masters in the field so that I can get to learn about the True Math behind the concepts.

My Goals are to make a few good first kaggle submissions this year and later take up research in my Life. I want to continue living and breathing in algorithms and geeking out in front of my Computer Screen for my Life.

I’ve worked my whole life for this moment, and I’m just getting Started. I promise you now that I have shared my Story publicly, I’ll keep working harder.

If you liked my story and would like to chat, you can find me on twitter here

If you’re interested in a weekly reading list of Deep Learning, Computer Vision and Autonomous and Flying Tech, you can subscribe to my newsletter here

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