I joined Precog starting from my 3rd year, and it has been an amazing learning experience for me, since then. It might sound intimidating to most of us, to work with a professor, who has over 8000 citations or to even become part of such a large research group. But trust me, there is nothing to be afraid of.
Being an introvert, I myself had a lot of reservations before joining the group. I was scared of petty things like, will I be able to make a good first impression, how will I talk to Ph.D. level students, what if PK doesn’t like my work, yada yada yada. However, my first WhatsUp session went soothingly well (even better than my first day at IIITD). Everyone was so welcoming, and there was no feeling of arrogance, superiority, or hierarchy in the group. In time, I got to know more about the culture at precog, and I just loved being a part of the group. Everyone was just a message away and tried to help to the best of their abilities. We all would meet weekly and discuss our project progress, and listen to random interesting things that PK had to say. It was fine even if we didn’t have any updates, but it was still fun attending the WhatsUp sessions.
Coming back to the thought of working
under with PK might be intimidating is completely bogus. PK is more like a friend to all of us, than a professor (even to those not in Precog). He is always available to listen to our random chit/chat, and rants about our personal life or about the group. He is always open to suggestions and readily puts them into effect. He not only sympathises with the students but does his best to reduce our burden. Among students, he is known for being the most considerate and compassionate professor in our entire college. Are you still terrified of him?
SO, MY FIRST ADVICE IS TO, STOP OVERTHINKING, AND JUST APPLY.
Another thing that might prevent you from applying is the thought of getting rejected. But the question you should really ask yourself is, are rejections normal? And yes, my friend, getting rejected is perfectly fine. I myself got rejected twice before finally making it through the process. The most important thing is the learning that you take along with you from your previous attempts. So, don’t get disappointed, or lose hope or hesitate in applying again, but start preparing for the next semester. Keep thinking of the group you’ll get to be a part of, if you are able to get through.
MY SECOND ADVICE IS TO, NOT GET UPSET BY REJECTION AND KEEP TRYING, UNTIL YOU FINALLY GET INTO PRECOG.
Is Precog only a research group? Yes… Are learnings from Precog only transferable to research areas? A BIG NO. Most of the Precoggers, this year, went to software engineering jobs, and all of us are grateful to Precog. We learnt so much, from technical knowledge to working in teams, and everything has been of great help to each and every one of us in our current roles. Unknowingly we also become a part of such a large network, and it remains maintained because of occasional Precog-alumni meet ups- all thanks to PK’s efforts. You also get welcomed by fellow Precoggers who are already working in the organisation you are about to join, and thus help in making friends even before you start working. Not only this, having a research experience allows you to keep the research option open, and thus allows you to switch roles in the future. Does Precog have a name outside IIIT-D? It would be an understatement, I believe. Speaking from my personal experience, many people know about IIIT-D from PK. Looks like, it’s time for a third advice 😛
APPLY FOR PRECOG, EVEN IF YOU ARE UNDECIDED ABOUT DOING MASTERS AFTER COLLEGE.
You all must have already heard a lot about Precog culture. My favourite one is “inclusion”. Everyone’s suggestions are as equal and as important as anyone else’s in the group. To summarise a few others – we call PK with his nickname, rather than sir. I personally feel, “sir” adds a certain distance between us and our adviser, and this helps reduce that gap. We all have a sense of belongingness towards our project. So, what’s the big deal in that? It is, because of how PK frames it for us – “You have to stop thinking of it as my project and understand that it is yours. Until you do that you would think of it as an obligation that you are working FOR me and that I’m the one who will be benefiting out of it. You have to own the project, take responsibility, and realise it is your project and if you work hard, you’ll benefit from it”. Lastly, I’m thankful to all the #PKGyaan(s), which have been integral to my life at IIITD.
Another thing to ponder about is, has COVID-19 affected the Precog culture? No doubt, it has, but on a more positive note, I believe. Everyone has become more proactive, and approachable. The meetups have become more frequent than earlier. We also try to meet for things other than work, like to watch movies together, or watch inspirational videos like The Last Lesson, or just have lunch together. In pre-covid days, being a day scholar, I had to stay till late in college to attend WUs, and other Precog sessions. But now, since I have to just attend from home, it has increased my availability for the group, as well as my productivity. Fortuitously, it has also increased the interaction between IIIT-D and IIIT-H students. When offline, we didn’t get the chance to know each other properly because of separate WUs, and lack of a proper communication channel. But shifting everything to online has helped in overcoming these barriers.
I’d also like to share a few of my personal takeaways from the group.
- Precog has taught me to appreciate the work of others. It is very important to let the person know how grateful you are, or how they have helped you, and how it has made a difference to you. It seems like a very small thing to do, but it means a lot to the other person. They feel elated to help others.
- I have learnt the importance of respecting everyone in a group, and respecting their ideas. One thing I used to do, was dismiss ideas, just because I believed, they aren’t good enough. But that was my biggest mistake. Other people in the group have more experience than you do, and have a strong reason for why they suggested, what they did. Feel free to ask for justification, when in doubt. But never dismiss them, just because you don’t think they are good. Pragmatic ideas have much more value than theoretical ones. So, it is very important to listen to others in the group.
- Another thing I understood is that, it is very important to pay attention to everyone’s work, because only then you can expect them to pay attention to your project. You can look forward to serious feedback from others, only by taking the initiative of actively participating in their projects.
- Lastly, I believe I have benefited a lot from Precog’s time management sessions. The most helpful trick I’ve learnt, is to organise my tasks for the day into 3 buckets (most important, to least important), everyday I wake up. Since, I used to waste a lot of my time deciding on where to start, this list kind of narrows down the search space, and thus helps me save a lot of time.
Finally, a going away tip on how to approach PK :D. I’d suggest, first stalk him for a few weeks. Read as much as you can about Precog, its research areas, and the projects precoggers are currently working on. Then shoot an email to him, telling him that you have been stalking him for some time now, and would be interested in being a part of the XYZ project, or propose your own idea. It would give an extra edge to your application.
BEST OF LUCK!!