My journey to Japan as a master’s student to an AI researcher
- B.Tech (Hons.) in Civil from IIT BHU
- Internship at Indian Institute of Remote Sensing
- Master’s in Spatial Information Science (Civil) from University of Tokyo
- AI Researcher at Asilla Inc.
Since early age, I used to do well in studies but stood out of the crowd for my other talents such as music, fine arts and oratory skills. Being brought up in a metropolitan city, New Delhi, I had an amazing opportunity to participate in a multitude of activities which led to development of my personality and cognitive skills. Today, whatever I am, is a product of those early years of development and constant support of my parents who encouraged me to do everything up and beyond my capabilities.
During my parent’s teacher meeting in school days, my teachers had just one complaint that I am very argumentative, the reason being I used to ask a lot of questions and tried to counter them if I found a loophole in the concept or logic presented by them. Somehow, this helped me hone decent analytical and logical reasoning skills which has now become a part of my personality. The greatest advantage I had of this ability was during the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE), considered to be one of the toughest exams in the world.
It’s a popular phrase, ‘those who fail IIT go to MIT’ which might not be perfectly true to the word, still indicates how difficult it is to enter IIT and how prestigious it is considered in India. It’s a two-stage examination, JEE-Mains and JEE-advanced. During my final year of high school, I appeared for JEE-Mains but couldn’t perform well enough to be hopeful for the next stage. However, I was able to just clear this stage (although I didn’t score good enough to get a seat at IIT). Being nervous and stressed about JEE-advanced, I used to play piano to keep my mind calm and focused. Fortunately, I was able to secure a rank around 3K in my maiden attempt (which a few of my relatives considered a miracle) and got Civil Engineering at IIT-BHU.
This began the journey of living a life which millions of people in India just dream about - Life at IIT
Life at IIT
As I always used to be an all-rounder during my school days, IIT was no different, where I tried to indulge myself in almost every activity taking place in the campus. From building robots, to building model bridges and structures, to building UAVs to singing and band performances, to everything. By the end of my 4 years, I was able to keep a decent GPA of around 8.5+ out of 10 while being the convener of 2 major events in the college and being one of the very few people who participated in cultural, technical and sports domains. Since my sophomore year, I had plans to go for higher studies abroad to not just gain skills and experience, but to experience a foreign culture, lifestyle and people, through whom I can learn things I cannot learn from anywhere else. This led to my intense hunt for various labs and schools around the globe that finally took me to the prestigious University of Tokyo, sitting in the heart of one of the greatest cities around the world.
Journey to Nihon
During my bachelor year’s, I had opportunities to work with some great scientists in IIT and IIRS in the domain of Spatial Information, GIS and remote sensing which developed my keen interest in fields related to it. I had experience of machine learning, image processing, 3D vision etc. but most importantly, I witnessed how much power the technology withholds to shape our present lives and future. This is where I decided to pursue higher studies in fields related to advanced technology, machine learning etc. I came to know about the MEXT scholarship program by the Japanese government and so I applied to the University of Tokyo through it and fortunately, I got acceptance to start my master’s under the guidance of Prof. Takashi Fuse to work with 3D data processing and machine learning to research and develop some indoor mapping systems.
Thanks to the MEXT scholarship, I was never worried about paying off my student’s loan and was able to enjoy life in Japan, travelling and exploring the vast terrains, vivid culture and amazing events (yes, I can proudly say I was in Tokyo during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics). I can honestly say that this phase of my life in Japan has been the greatest time in my life so far, except for the worldwide pandemic of covid-19 which forced us all inside our homes and devoid us from enjoying a maskless day to day life (at least I was able to experience my bachelor’s and master’s physically).
Job hunting in Japan
Not knowing Japanese while trying to search for jobs in Japan is a big curse as I got screened out for many companies even before the interview. I narrowed my search to companies who already hire foreign candidates that after 2 months of intensive hunt, led to getting four job offers finally (including big companies such as Sumitomo and Denso). Among all of them, I chose the AI researcher position at Asilla Inc. because of the young and fast growing team they have which provides me a great platform to learn things at an industrial level while working in an exciting and high-paced start-up environment. Also, I was surprised to know that Asilla has people from 6-7 different countries which describes how diverse the international culture is in Asilla Inc. Thanks to this international culture, our main mode of communication is in English but still, I believe it’s better to learn Japanese while I am in Japan :)
Work at Asilla
So far it’s merely been a couple of months for me working in Asilla, but it feels like I know my team since forever. I am learning something new every day while working on multiple projects. Our team binds people from Japan and Vietnam together while we tackle some of the toughest challenges in the AI world, related to human ReID, pose estimation etc. Asilla also provides me a great opportunity to work in a Joint research project with the Tokyo Institute of Technology to research and develop our own state-of-the-art technology in the field of security and surveillance systems. I believe that after a few months I will not just have plenty of skills related to AI and some great machine learning models solving real world problems, but also some great experiences and memories of my first official job in Japan. I just hope covid-19 ends soon and we can arrange more Nomikais and tours around Japan with office colleagues!