My journey with Precog started right after my second year. PK wasn’t a full-time IIIT-H prof at that time, but I had already heard a lot about him. I was pretty excited to have got the opportunity to work with him, but looking back I had no clue how unique and life-changing my two years with Precog would be. I use the word “unique” because my experience at the lab was totally different, in many special ways that make me proud to be a #Precogger!
Q: Give reasons why your journey with Precog was so different:
Reason 1: Freedom
That’s right, freedom. Probably my favourite thing to talk about when it comes to the lab. One of the best things about working at Precog, and what attracts a large number of applicants, is the amount of freedom given to each student in the lab. We are allowed to choose to work on whatever project interests us in the lab. The projects are also really cool, and I got to work with external collaborators who were experts in their field. The freedom to work on what interests you is something that comes because of two reasons: 1. PK’s being cool with it, and 2. The sheer variety of projects at the lab!
Freedom for me was a huge PRO, because I knew that if I had exams or some personal commitment, I could be completely open with PK about it, and compensate for that work later. (PK is also one of the select few advisors who not only supports students going for internships, but also encourages and makes a post about it!). There was one point where I was working on a remote internship and working on two papers with Precog at the same time! Knowing that I could be open with PK helped a lot with allowing me to have multiple commitments, that I could discuss and manage with PK as well!
But as I love to tell any newcomers to Precog, this freedom is a double sided coin, and can be a CON as well. If someone is simply not showing the correct amount of commitment to a project, the responsibility and onus is on them. PK doesn’t usually nag such people, but he does know exactly how much work everyone is doing! And ultimately, if you do something like this, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity.
Reason 2: Fun!
What makes Precog Life especially exciting, is the amount of FUN we have! Working at Precog isn’t just working on your own projects, with your own team. There’s a lot of other stuff going on in the lab! I love this part because it helped me bond with people from all over the lab. I’ll list down some of my favourites:
- BM (Brainstorm Sessions): Weekly sessions in which we read a research paper and discuss it.
- WU (What’sUp Sessions): Weekly meetings in which the entire lab gets together and each person gives an update on their current projects. Also a great place to ask doubts!
- Special Sessions: Every month there are a few sessions organised where PK would use the time to discuss interesting topics, watch interesting lectures together, or have the graduating batch do “gyan sharing”. I personally remember one of the sessions on time management where everyone in the lab came together and shared their personal strategies to work effieciently. I learnt some interesting tips there, which I use till today!
- Summer School: Lab members are involved in helping to organise and carry out the summer school for incoming students of the lab. This is a great way to help beginners, as well as let the new members of the lab interact with the rest of the students.
- Fun interactions with the lab mates/PK: While most of my time at Precog was spent doing online work (because of Covid-19 era), in my last semester (which was physical mode), there were some cool events! All the lab members organised a small surprise birthday party for PK’s birthday. Another time, everyone wore their Precog T-shirts and had a great time bonding over bowling and dinner! PK also organised many fun online events during the online era as well! When I had just joined the lab, we had a “lunch with PK” session where everyone brought their plate of lunch to video call. This was one of my first interactions with lab members. These kind of sessions are fun because we get to interact with everyone in an informal setting. It’s full of laughs because of PK pulling everyone’s legs, and also us poking fun at him in turn! 😛
Reason 3: Handling the recruitment process!
I was responsible for a large portion of the logistics of the recruitment of new students to Precog. I’m grateful that I got to work closely on this, because after forming a close relationship with the lab culture and members, I strongly felt that only the best people should continue to come here! I organised info sessions, coding rounds and interviews, and learnt a great deal of technical as well as soft skills in the process.
I wanted to mention this point, because I think it’s rare that advisors let their students handle such an important task. There must have been something that PK saw in me that made him feel I would handle it well. I’m glad he saw it in me, because that entire experience was valuable to me. Not to mention, it made me feel very important 😛
Reason 4: A cherished bond with an advisor!
As I leave Precog, this is probably the thing that will stay with me the longest: The bond I have with PK. He was an excellent academic mentor and has taught me a whole lot over just two years. Over a number of in person and online meetings, he guided me and I always felt like I could be completely open and transparent with him, no matter what the situation. Wherever I go in the future, credit will be due to PK and Precog for nurturing me in the important years of college. PK is also a really fun professor and I have shared many laughs with him, which is something I really cherish. I’ll share some top important learnings which I had from him here (#pkgyaan)
- Don’t surprise your advisor.
- Don’t take up too many things in life, don’t try to overoptimize on everything.
- Try to do things which have an impact and which you are proud of.
- (Regarding going for master’s) Be like a sponge and absorb everything and anything that comes your way!
What makes Precog unique also makes it very special. Working here has been a tremendous boost to my academic and professional progress. With PK’s guidance and blessings, I’m excited to be going on to the next chapter in my life: to pursue a Master’s at Carnegie Mellon University! To anyone who gets the opportunity to at Precog, congratulations!! I’ll repeat PK’s advice to you: be a sponge and absorb every opportunity that is available to you! There’s a lot to learn and I’m sure you’ll come to form a close bond with the lab, as I have.