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Planning to study abroad? ‘Learn new skills to stay a cut above,’ says NYU student

Nishith Sharma shares how his first brush with programming at Apeejay School steered him to build models for the tech industry. In an interview, he gives tips for those aspiring to study abroad.



The world of tech algorithms is dominating our lives every day. Whether we watch a video on YouTube or place an order at our favourite e-commerce site, we are constantly surrounded by technological conversions, interfaces and interactions. And so, “the never ending spirit to learn and innovate in this field must remain,” explains Nishith Sharma, a student at New York University (NYU) whose ambition is to drive social change with the help of technology. Here’s how he plans to make his ‘tech dream’ a living reality. Read on:

Please tell us about your educational journey.

After completing school from Apeejay School, Saket in 2014, I pursued an undergraduate degree in Software Engineering at the prestigious Delhi Technological University. My goal was to accumulate experiences and knowledge of different technological platforms and domains for a corporate career in the field.

And so, during college, I got the opportunity to understand how my peers from varied backgrounds viewed the same problems with a dissimilar lens. The brilliance of technology, its multi-faceted solutions, one being more efficient than the other, helped me inculcate a spirit of innovative thinking and diversity. To further pair my know-how of software with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), I worked on projects, a few of them being Predict Software Vulnerability, Autocompletion of an Image and Classification and Object Detection of Images, which allowed me to interact with complex algorithms.

Then, to specialise in the domain, I applied for Masters in Computer Science at New York University. I am currently a student there. The course offers a unique prospect to strengthen my analytical and technical skills.

Can you detail out your professional experience?

My professional journey began with Amadeus, an innovation-driven, research and development lab that is aimed at shaping the future of travel. In the company, my role was to develop applications to provide end-to-end accountability and delivery of automation, support setup, maintenance and evolution of the platform. In the stint, I gained an understanding of enterprise-level software and worked with experts to design solutions for industry-level problems. This was my first job and my greatest learning was: a people-first approach.

Currently, I am an Artificial Intelligence Engineer at Boston Consulting Group. My focus is to solve complex business problems with the help of advanced analytics like computer vision and natural language processing. My work is fast-paced, and to be able to see the impact of my contribution gives me the motivation to keep going. In future, I aspire to work on scalable models and holistic solutions that can increase support systems available in the social sector.

How and when did you realise your calling for software development, AI and ML?

My first brush with programming language was in grade 4. Getting access to a computer system in my class and seeing the commands for building drawings, was how my affair with technology began! The world of logic-driven systems opened up for me. Honestly, I still am doing that, the programming language and scales have certainly changed but the curiosity remains the same.

The potential of technology in the next 50 years fascinates me. Endless perseverance and unwavering commitment coupled with science and technology has the potential to drive the change we wish to see in the world. This is what I envision to achieve. And the most fascinating aspect of this field is problem-solving. I truly love it! From completing visual coding puzzles in school to building machine learning projects at university, I have come a long way! All my experiences have been very enriching.

Can your know-how of technology help society at large? How?

I started volunteering during my undergraduate course because I wished to go beyond self and contribute towards my community. I joined Make-A-Difference, a youth-driven, non-profit organisation that ensures equitable outcomes for children in orphanages and street shelters. In the organisation, I worked as a Fundraising Regional Manager to design national-level projects and campaigns and enable more volunteers to drive these projects on-ground.

My role was to support the fundraising activities and define its processes with the help of a mobile app called ‘Fraise-to-track’. In the process, I learnt how to create sustainable products that can also cater to a vast demographic. What blew my mind was how human-centric design can pave the way for social impact. I believe in the mantra of ‘service over sales’ and ‘people over profits’- and that is my driving force to bring about a technological change.

What preparation did you do prior to your admission at NYU?

My interest paired with a good educational and professional background got me there. For me, Computer Science and Mathematics were not just regular subjects in school, they were my calling! I pursued it and in doing so, kept on adding more and more experiences to my portfolio. I tried to gather diverse experiences and put my knowledge into practice. I unlearnt and re-learnt concepts even at the workplace and always engaged in ways to better my skills.

All this, coupled with my Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score made me a good candidate for the course.

Does studying abroad require a lot of planning? How did you make it?

It is a life-changing decision. Before even pursuing my undergraduate degree, I was clear that I will pursue my Master’s degree abroad. If not directly, intrinsically, the planning started early for me. I took jobs and made conscious choices to align my path.

My unswerving efforts began as I started the application processes about 1.5 years ago from the time I wanted to start my higher education. It included shortlisting colleges based on my interests, looking into the requirements to apply, preparing for GRE and IELTS and appearing for these exams. Drafting and finalising my Statement of Purpose (SOP) was another crucial step in this journey. The SoPs helped me reflect upon and strengthen my beliefs to pursue the said domain.

I received an acceptance from NYU in November 2020 for the fall semester. After that, all my time went into planning the logistics, documentations and visa formalities.

How is work culture in the United States different from India?

There is a difference in the manner education is delivered in the States, and the same reflects in their work culture too. It is very holistic. Job opportunities, even in niche domains that one may want to pursue, exist in the States. More often than not, people choose a career based on what they love to do. And that is a showcase in the strength of their workforce and systems.    

In your field, what are the work-related opportunities abroad?

Technology is an enabler and a necessity in every domain. Hence, honing the skills and building proficiency gives me the flexibility to delve into any domain or industry. The roles could vary from being a Software Engineer, Data Scientist, Data Engineer or taking up expertise in specialised domain i.e. Artificial Intelligence Engineer or Natural Language Processing. One can opt for research as well as innovation too. The avenues are abundant.

Mrini Devnani is a Senior Correspondent and Marketing Coordinator at Newsroom. She covers student achievements, interviews and contributions for the website. She was a former Correspondent covering Edutech for the India Today Group, and has passion for Social Media and Digital Marketing. You can reach her at [email protected]