Intern Diaries – a series hosted by the Guindy Times in 2018 records versatile internship experiences of students from CEG, AC Tech and SAP to provide necessary information to those who desire to get great internships across the world – now has come to an end, with a special alumnus’ documentation about her internship during her graduate studies.
Hardworking, inspiring, dedicated and so on are among the many words used to describe NASA interns around the world.
Archana Senthilkumar, an alumnus of ECE Department 2012-2015 Batch, CEG (and a former member of The Guindy Times itself), is now doing her Masters (Theory) in Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine. She has obtained one of the most prestigious summer internships in the world – an internship at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. To give Intern Diaries a perfect ending, Archana shares with us the application procedures, relevant information and her experiences working in NASA throughout the summer.
Interviewer: Akshara Viswanathan
Interviewee: Archana Senthilkumar
GT: Tell us about yourself and your experiences in CEG.
AS: CEG gave me a lot of memories that I will remember for a lifetime. GT is one of the few clubs I was actively part of, it gave me a good circle of friends and a lot of experience in writing and dealing with a team. It’s very nostalgic to talk about CEG.
GT: How did you apply for the NASA JPL Internship?
AS: JPL has no individual positions. It’s a general pool where you can submit your applications and if the skill set matches with their requirements, you’ll have a final selection interview. NASA offers a lot of summer internship programs which is actually easy to get through. Just give it a shot; grab all the opportunities that lie at your doorstep so you won’t regret it later.
GT: Is prior internship experience mandatory for NASA?
AS: It’s definitely not mandatory to have internships, but it gives you an edge over other applicants if you have good prior interns. I interned at Nimble Wireless Company and I spent one of my summers at the ISL Lab in the ECE Department of CEG, which gave me a lot of great hands-on experience.
GT: Why did you shift from ECE to CS in Masters?
AS: ECE has a lot of interesting things to learn, but when it came to a full time job, I didn’t enjoy it. In reality, CS opportunities are plenty and versatile. In every field, there is some kind of computer science always associated with it.
GT: Didn’t the course shift be a hindrance to your Masters’ Application?
AS: The change actually strengthened my application, because I worked for two years in Genesys Telecom Labs, Chennai which gave me a lot of experience to improve myself and develop interest in software development. It’s not very difficult to cope up in your masters as well. You can very well take one of your UG courses and study them in depth for your PG.
GT: Tell us about your work in NASA JPL so far.
AS: I work in the Business Application Division in OCIO, a CS/IT department in NASA JPL. My main job is to develop applications for the NASA host. There are two things given to me: One is the acquisition division, where I do microservice contact generation and the other is the service division, where I build hardware applications to process 360 degrees video project, a software application for a video sharing platform.
My experience here is very unique and well-rounded. I have a team and a mentor for myself. This experience will raise my bars on academic pursuits.
GT: What else does the internship offer regarding living, accommodation and daily expenses?
AS: NASA JPL has a strong tie up with CALTECH University. They provide me with a stipend to take care of my living. CALTECH dorms are open for the interns here. But, since my house is an hour away from here, I preferred to stay there and come to work.
GT: What are your future plans? Do you have any idea of doing a PhD?
AS: I will not be doing a PhD. I will start working and improve my career.
GT: How did your selection interview go?
AS: I spoke about my previous project experiences and then I also stated that I wanted to work with something that I didn’t already know about and learn a lot so that this experience could be beneficial to both of us. And 4-5 days after the interview the results were out. The initial call, interview and final acceptance – all happened within a week.
GT: Let us go on with a few Rate Yourself questions:
Shift from ECE to CS, how good you rate yourself in that domain?
AS: I would rate myself a good 9 on 10 mainly because of my two years of work experience from 2015-17.
How would rate yourself amidst the other NASA JPL internees?
AS: I would give myself a 7 on 10. Everybody is doing well here and they are interested in what they do.
GT: Now we have a series of Rapid fire questions for you.
Which is better, life in CEG or UC?
AS: Everyone would say CEG only. It’s the best!
Academics or industry?
AS: I would say academics because it will never become monotonous. It’s always a learning experience.
GT: Few words of advice to people who aspire for world level internships like yours.
AS: You have to try! That’s the main thing. Just sitting and thinking ‘Oh, it’s competitive, I won’t crack it’, is very mundane. It won’t get you anywhere.
GT: Final Question. What do you have to say about Intern Diaries – an initiative by GT, this year?
AS: I really love this! Not just because I have personal love and attachment to GT. GT is bringing out something new and is constantly evolving and improving. I’m really happy about it and Intern Diaries is going really great!
The Guindy Times thanks Archana for her time and patience, and wishes her all the best for her future endeavors.