Ankur Tiwary, Graduated 2021, Dept. of Engineering Design who recently got placed at Cruden BV talks about his job search in Amsterdam with Sujay Srivastava. Read on to find out about his international summer internship & dual-degree project in the Netherlands.
When did you realize you were interested in your domain – Virtual reality?
In my second year, I was presenting our Virtual Reality-based project at an Autodesk event. It was 2018, and very few people at that time had tried one. People there were fascinated with our work, even the Maruti Design Head came and appreciated us. I was over the moon, and the recognition for my work made me feel good about engineering.
Following that, I started putting more time and effort into my academics, and besides that, I also started learning coding and skills like computer graphics and mixed reality. My summer internship at the University of Groningen, Netherlands, the following year also helped me realize that I would love to continue in this field.
Can you tell us about your process of applying to the University of Groningen for a summer internship?
I was the Music Club Convener in my third year, but after talking to Akshat and Phoebe, I decided to resign from the position to devote more time to academics. Akshat taught me how to make a basic CV. Aayush Maloo taught me how to write an email asking for a position, and I started applying restlessly. In total, I sent about a hundred and twenty cold emails for opportunities, out of which I got about ten responses, and five of them were positive.
Initially, I was about to go to the USA. But at the last moment, things did not work out, and I ended up going to Groningen. The professor liked my work, and the fact that I did an advanced course on Computational Differential Geometry helped me. I went there on a tourist visa for students and research purposes under 90 days in European Union. I had to fund my travel and stay there.
How were your days there?
I had a lovely time there. It was a steep learning curve, not only in terms of academics but also my overall development, given that I was living in a different part of the world all alone. Work-wise, I went at 8 am and left at 4 pm with no work outside these regular hours, five days a week. For the first couple of weeks, I learned everything from scratch, and by the end of the internship period, I was able to come up with an original idea that let me write a research paper.
I liked the work experience there as it’s a very different environment and the way of learning is more practical-based, which I try to incorporate in my learning as well as a teaching assistant to teach coding the same way.
You did not sit for the semester-long ED-department internship as well as the institute internships. Any reasons?
I looked into the internship blue book, and I was quite underwhelmed by the companies coming, especially for core profiles. As a kid who dreamt about working in giants like NASA, etc, I was not keen on any compromise. Going for non-core jobs did not make sense for me give that I have so much time studying engineering, and that is what interests me, and I wasn’t motivated by money as much as for my passion for cars.
What did you do instead, and how did you develop your skills for the job?
I realized learning to code is necessary, so I asked Kumar to teach me coding. He said to follow what he does, and I would learn. I learned how to code in C# on unity and learned how to make 2D/3D games like Mario and other standard ones. I learned how to use high-end vector tools and how to code 3D modelling software. My research projects went a bit deep into the rendering of objects, and my dual degree project was on Modelling Vectorized images. Given that I am a sketch artist, I knew the whole simulation pipeline from real illustrations to projecting illustrations.
During my eighth semester (internship sem), I volunteered as a TA for a Virtual Reality course I took previously, and I kept working with Kumar Mridul for his start-up Ghost Vision Pvt. Ltd. I told him I would work for free, just let me do my project with full flexibility, and I will give a good output by the end of the semester.
He wanted the UI/UX design done for an Augmented Reality application. So, I volunteered to head the team even though I didn’t know much about it. I was learning UI/UX and recruiting people for the same simultaneously. I spent a whole summer only doing this, and the app turned out to be good.
How did you get your dual degree project abroad?
So actually, I talked with the professor with whom I worked for my summer internship project and he was willing to let me come there. There isn’t any procedure in insti to let you do a joint master’s project in another university, but also there is not a rule against it. So, I planned to go on a semester exchange in my ninth semester to do my project there, but the pandemic happened and the semex got canceled. The plan was on hold until December last year, when I was trying to arrange a visa to the Netherlands. I went there on a Ph.D. visa, even though I was still completing my master’s. Due to this and the COVID situation, getting a visa there was very tough and it was a stressful time for me to convince the authorities to let me in. At the same time, my batchmates were getting placed and they were pushing me to look for a backup. But my priorities were clear and I put all my focus on going there.
Tell us about your job search there?
So while I was working on my Master’s thesis there, I was applying for PhDs. I got into a consortium where multiple Ph.D. positions were open. I applied and got shortlisted for multiple positions. I went through the essay round, presentation round, and final presentation round only to be told in the final round that they needed someone with medical experience.
It was pretty late by then, and as my residential permit was about to expire, looking for Ph.D. positions from the start was not an option.
Around that time, I learned about the Zoekjaar Hoogopgeleiden (orientation year visa) initiative from the Dutch government, allowing graduates from Dutch universities to work in the Netherlands for twelve months without the requirement of a work permit. It aims to strengthen its economy by attracting and retaining a skilled and diverse international workforce. As LinkedIn is quite popular in Europe, I took fundaes from my friends using LinkedIn. I refined my profile, attached a project portfolio, and started applying. So for the next two months, I worked eight hours a day on my thesis and five hours looking and applying for jobs. My experience of sending out hundreds of emails in the third year helped me to be resilient then.
Finally, after all the job hunting, I am joining Cruden BV, which designs motion racing simulators and is based in Amsterdam. They were impressed with my experience in computer graphics and simulations and given that I have an automotive background.
What are your plans?
Right now, after all the tension and chaos, I am looking to relax a bit. I am learning to play guitar. I like reading, and in insti, every day during the lunch break hour, I religiously went to CCD and read sci-fi books (often bought from Higginbotham’s book store above). One day, I want to write a book on this theme.
Before my third-year internship, I searched for alumni who could help me in the Netherlands but could not find any. From the experiences I had being a teaching assistant and interacting with professors and students, I see the students will value the assistance and exposure to the opportunities that IIT Madras opens up. I know a couple of professors at the University of Groningen and want to act as a bridge between IIT Madras and here, to provide the students with more opportunities, something I would have cherished if provided when I was a student.
Any piece of advice you want to give to us?
IIT is a great place to be at, but is not the end in itself. It’s a great springboard but you need to use that springboard to achieve your goals. A fixed mechanism provided by insti to get you to your desired job can not be best for every student, some will find their destination at a path chosen by very few. So don’t be afraid to follow your passion, it might be tough, but the rewards make up for it.
Written by Sujay Srivatsava