It is an amazing and indeed a fortunate opportunity to be among the first few students of the Institute and your advisor. Why? Because being the first few puts you in the experimental zone, especially for the advisor; this allows all parties (institute, advisor and oneself) to explore the best way growing together. Institute was new and flexible, rules were still to be imposed, Prof. Jalote and other professors would interact on a daily basis and it was a flat open culture. I believe and in my experience, those were the most productive and professionally healthy years, but the organisation and structure followed and a little of the culture got lost.
This blog is not about cribbing; It is about learning, appreciation and growing up. I am writing of my nostalgic 6 years at Precog and IIIT-Delhi. I am writing of the time, that had constantly pushed me out of my comfort zone. I am writing of the time when I grew to maturity. My advisor, and Institute were excited to have first of their PhD students. But, allow me to focus on PK’s excitement over the years and the learning I had from him.
Lead: People say that I have a part of PK’s personality in me now. PK has a wonderful charisma and ability to lead. He started Precog, founded CERC, first in the Institute to help establish the brand, organised SPSymposium, collaborate, and network. He actually has a ‘following’ of every genre of professional career and that shows the impact of his leadership. I tried to learn a bit of it on a small scale. Learn to drive and push group sessions (Brainstorm paper reading), lead a small group to competitions, motivate fellow PhDs and help them, and most importantly lead myself! Long way to do things at the scale PK does.
Generous: I have always been a generous person, not in money but in time. PK has been a generous person both in money and in time (to me, because we had little distractions in initial years of my PhD and this is the advantage of being the first few). I have heard from many that their advisors pay a little heed on what you are doing, most forget the problem their PhD students are working. PK fluctuates in this behaviour. He micromanages at some times, else leave to let us swim on our own. He generously gives away his travel, invitations, talks, etc., when any of us starts complaining of his time. Well, I believe it needs courage to prioritise students over oneself. He made sure that he was there to help fulfil our dreams, he certainly did mine. Working with such an advisor made me realise the organisation of priorities. I try to work with fellow PhDs as much as I can to offer time, review cycles and help. I have now become generous in money too, btw!
It’s okay to fail: I really wish to talk about the group dynamics and behaviour here. I just love and appreciate Precog’s true culture of helping and criticising, sharing and fighting, growing together and selfishless attitude. Niharika, Srishti, Prateek, Anupama, Aditi, are the few fortunate ones to have worked with me! (:P) The group made sure that everyone is doing fine, technical errors were thrashed (not humiliated). We still complement each other and I believe that is the power of Precog. It is important to have calm, confused, impatient, strong, hyperactive, and mature people, all seated in the same room together. They constitute a part of my support structure and they were there when I ‘Failed’! So, whenever the group has a rejection, we celebrate! Funny! I distributed chocolates when I got my rejections. The group teaches you the power of collaboration, company and failure. I really missed all of you at the convocation!
My fellow future PhD graduates, I really wish that you make the best of the opportunity (or create a few for you / others). In industry, I see the importance of independence, the attitude of running with one’s problem and most importantly, fall in love with your work each day.
Good luck Precog and to IIIT-Delhi PhD students. Strive, Fight, Connect, Learn from Other’s Failures, Talk, Present, Do the Quality Work, No Shortcuts, Trust your advisor, Trust yourself, Believe and Fight Back!
To maturity, to success!
Dr. PK with Dr. PJ on our graduation day!