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Here, we have Mohil Patel describing his experience of being a Software Engineer at NVIDIA. He is an IITB alum who graduated with a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering in 2020 and went on to work in NVIDIA before joining as a Master’s Student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Read on to know more about his experience.

What was your main motivation for sticking to a core job?
I did my B.Tech in Electrical Engineering and worked for a year as a software engineer at NVIDIA. So, it was the natural option in my case.

What prompted you to go for a job after graduation as opposed to higher education, an MBA, a startup, etc.?
My initial plan was to go for higher education directly after graduation. But due to COVID, I decided to delay the process by a year. Now, I have resigned from the job and I am going for a Masters.

Were there any turning points during your insti life where you identified your interest in a particular area? E.g. any particular course, research project or competition you participated in?
In my 5th semester, I did the course EE309: Microprocessors. Due to this course, my interest in the field of Computer Architecture grew. After that, I did advanced level courses in this field over the rest of my B.Tech.
Also, note that the job I did after graduation was in the field of computer networks and not in the field of computer architecture. I had to be flexible because of COVID and all.

What hard/soft skills are essential in your job? How did you build up your skill-set in the field? E.g. internships or courses inside and/or outside the institute.
Firstly, let’s talk about hard skills. I did my job at NVIDIA Hyderabad as a software engineer in their Cloud Game Streaming service. More details here (ps it’s not updated). The work focussed more on the analytical side and knowledge of computer networks. Understand that nobody accepts you to have full knowledge of any particular field but having some basic knowledge is always helpful (not mandatory but helpful). So try to do intro-level courses in different areas so that you have initial knowledge.

Coming to the soft skills, which in my opinion are more important than hard skills in the long run, the following are important:
Communication: Very important and highly neglected. You can learn this skill using internal company resources like LinkedIn Learning or online courses on Coursera, etc. Also, I think insti does provide courses for improving communication but I have not done any of those so no comments there. Also, note that it is important to improve communication skills in both face-to-face meetings and digital conversations like emails or instant messaging.
Analytical Mindset: This skill is somewhere between hard and soft skills. The term Analytical Mindset means a person’s ability to analytical think over the given problem, provided data, assumed assumptions, etc. A very basic skill that is useful in many places including placement interviews.
Willingness to learn new things: This is especially true for the jobs of software engineers. You will be continuously learning new things. Sometimes you will have to work on something you may not have even heard about and it will take up lots of time to learn that new thing. You need to have a willingness to learn new things/skills and maybe move into a different field if needed by your work.

What made you finalise your job profile at the company you are working for? What aspects of the company/career path should one consider while making this decision?
Deciding which company to work for depends on 2 aspects. First is personal e.g. I want to work on this particular product or in this particular field. So you apply for the companies based on that. And the second aspect is the company culture; asking seniors about how the culture is at a particular company, etc is helpful. It will help you understand whether that company is a good fit for you or not. You can also ask these things in HR interviews (generally a good question to ask), but take the answer with a pinch of salt.

Did you consider applying externally instead of going through placements? If no, why not?
I did not apply externally. I was mainly because I was focusing on my MS application and placement was not my top priority during the 7th semester.

What exactly constitutes your job at the company you are working for? In other words, can you explain what your day looks like in layman terms?
Most of the days, I will be running some kind of experiment to collect data, after which I will analyze that data and try to identify improvements to the system. We will have discussions as a team and then I(or someone else) will implement the feature.

Could you mention the things you like and dislike about your current job?
I like the culture at NVIDIA. People are willing to work hard & the truth is more valuable than hierarchy. So you can ask seniors questions or point out something wrong about their work and they will listen to your point of view.
The only thing I dislike is that I have to attend meetings at night because the India team is part of the US team and we have frequent meets at night.

What are your long term plans? Since most cutting-edge research and implementation is done abroad, do you plan to move out of India?
I have moved out to the US for my Master’s degree. I would like to work on cutting-edge technologies.

What impact will/did the COVID-19 pandemic have on your job profile, your current employer and the sector as a whole? (depending on fresh graduate/experienced)
Luckily, my placement finished before COVID-19 struck the world. So, I do not know if it would have impacted me. My job was mostly in an online environment so I did miss out on an in-person working experience, which would have provided some valuable lessons.

What advice would you give to a confused student who is unsure about his strengths and interests? How should one go about exploring various domains in his/her department?
I think the best way would be to work on some projects. That way you will easily get an idea of whether you enjoy it or not. I would suggest taking a field that you are somewhat interested in and go to the professor and start working on some project in that field. If it does not click then try some other work next semester. Also, taking varying courses may help.

A word of advice to the people sitting for placements this year?
Be flexible in the type of work that you want to do. Generally, companies do not have very specialized profiles for fresh graduates and fresh graduates are expected to be flexible in working on different types of areas at least initially. Showing rigidity in field selection during interviews will be a negative point.
Also, a general tip: after the interview finishes you can ask the interviewer about his review of how you did during the interview and where you can improve. Most of the interviewers will give you good feedback which will be useful for your next interviews.