Experiences,  IIITH,  Students

My Journey with Precog

My journey with Precog started from March 2018 during the 4th semester of college. During that time, I was exploring different fields (for my Honors project) and was trying to find something that’s not only technically challenging but also has an impact on real life problems. With the help of some digging around, I came across PK sir and Precog group from IIIT-D. What piqued my interest was the kind of problems that Precog was working on, especially the ones related to OSM (Online Social Media) and privacy. Being a regular user of such platforms, I had always wondered about the potential and impact of such systems and how analysing them is of vital importance. Luckily for me, during those days PK was on a sabbatical in IIIT-H and looking for students to work on “The Lok Sabha Elections Project”. That’s when I sent in my application expressing my interest and was called in for interviews. My first interview with my seniors Kanay, Shwetanshu and Shashank went pretty well and I was later called in for a final interview with PK.

Meeting PK at D campus 😀

My first interaction with PK  

“Yes of course, I was nervous” – I was a 2nd year student giving my first interview with no idea of what was going to be asked. Sir was a huge name in his field and I didn’t even have any prior experience in research. Moving on, the interview began and I was quite surprised by the way sir interacted with me. The whole thing felt like a conversation where he was very friendly and was trying to know me, my interests, plans, etc. While listening to my amateurish ideas and answers patiently, he kept pitching in, which helped me in organising my thoughts. I finally got to experience firsthand why PK was recognised as one of the coolest profs on campus. Moving on, I waited anxiously for the results and was ultimately selected for Honors under with PK.

The Elections War Room

I was very excited to start working on the “Elections Project” that was already underway. We were a small compact group of around 15 people spanning across different batches. During the phases of elections, we used to sit together from 7 AM trying to study the trends and finding valuable insights on twitter live.  Even though it might sound hectic, the environment in the room was always full of liveliness and fun. The detailed discussions, quick scripting, brainstorming ideas, and the snack breaks were some of the highlights of those days. Despite being among the least experienced, I always felt excited and comfortable to pitch in my views and thoughts during those events. 

The Elections Project Team at work

Even during such long tiring hours, sir used to stay with us the whole time motivating and pushing us. The enthusiasm shown by him was highly infectious and his passion towards the work will always serve as an inspiration for me. At the end of the day, after compiling and publishing all the analysis, knowing that what we did “matters” gave us all a great deal of satisfaction.

Smiling faces after wrapping up Phase-1 of Elections

We continued to work in a similar fashion for all phases of the election and tried our best to send out interesting results. However, when it came to generating content for blogs, etc, sir always expected us to pay attention to fine details. Sir always focused on the importance of displaying our work in a comprehensive and efficient manner. Along with lots of learning, working on this project played a big role in my personal growth which I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

The Elections Team with IIIT-H’s Director Prof. PJN, on the counting day – May 23, ’19

The Celebrations

When it comes to celebrating after hours of hard work and grinding, I can vouch that our Precog group knows it best. PK took us out on various occasions where we used to have a nice time eating, laughing, complaining about college policies, and much more. Even during covid times, we had virtual celebrations on Precog’s birthday, where we met various alumini sharing their stories and memories about the group.

Full bellies and smiling faces ft. Precoggers@Hyd

The Long Distance Precogging

After the end of PK’s sabbatical at H, we switched to remote mode, where we continued to work on our projects with the guidance of PK and PhD mentors. “The most interesting thing about Precog is how PK’s non-traditional and friendly style of working is reflected in each of its members”.

Both of my mentors, Saurabh and Avinash was very helpful and considerate with me. They were always available whenever I was stuck and very understanding about my other coursework commitments.

We used to have weekly meetings and hangout sessions where we could exchange inputs on each other’s project. Being honest, it is very easy to get demotivated or bored during research (especially when you are in a remote setting), but when I saw the whole team working so hard, it pushed me to work even harder. Especially the enthusiasm shown by PK, his long slack messages constantly pushing us, organising hackathons to get the team excited, paying attention to every project is very helpful in keeping the team on track.

The Precog Culture

An amazing thing about the culture here is the group cohesiveness. Besides working on their own project, every member contributes to other projects. You could reach out to anyone for seeking help and would always get quick responses. Having such a strong and diverse support system really made things smooth. We used to have weekly sessions with discussions ranging from project feedback, paper discussions to random topics of life.

Another great aspect was the freedom to choose your own project. We could even gather a team of interested people and start working on a new project anytime. Sir would always say : “As long as you are motivated in what you are doing, you will rock in it”. This would always teach us to take responsibility of what we’re doing and push us to work harder. There were a lot of collaborations among the members which taught me the skill of growing together as a group.

Virtual Lunch Party with the group 🙂

To sum up, being a part of Precog provided me various opportunities besides my research work that helped me in my growth. Thank you, PK and Precog for everything.

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