Interview – How Vipul got a Qualcomm Internship despite being a fresher

Vipul achieved a great feat by scoring Qualcomm internship despite being a fresher. This is a case study on how he did it.

Profile

Undergrad: EE at ISM Dhanbad
GRE: 313
GPA: 81%
Work Experience: None but relevant internships!

Full Interview

Vipul had his share of ups and downs as he tried to get a summer internship at CU Boulder. He was once rejected by Qualcomm before getting a second chance!

After getting rejected from Qualcomm first time and Micron for intern position, I got an offer from Seagate (Longmont office) for Platform Software Team. Qualcomm final offer came in the end.

P.S. Embedded Systems courses at CU Boulder are seriously great and are designed especially taking industrial views and skills required. Also, this area (Boulder and surrounding area) has lots of companies working on firmware/Embedded Software/storage solutions/Communications

Find out what helped Vipul crack internship at Qualcomm, how did he decide which courses to take, what was the interview process like, how did the overall jobhunt process work out etc etc.

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How Deepika got an internship at Facebook?

Deepika was one of our Fall 2016 batch student who went to USC to pursue her MS in CS. She cracked a summer internship at Facebook in 2017. So, we caught up with her and talked how she managed it!

What does it take to get a Facebook Internship from USC?

If you are dying to know what it takes to head to facebook, dig in:

Background

Deepika had 3 years of experience before heading to USC including at companies like Expedia. However, she did not get an offer from Expedia in USA. That was a reality check and she prepared hard to crack good offers.

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More questions for Deepika?

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How good is Portland State University for MS EE?

Welcome back! Today, I am sharing detailed feedback by Melvin Thomas, who is pursuing MS EE from Portland State University and interning at AMD. This is what he wrote about the program in an email-


Feedback from MS EE student at Portland State University

I know that this is one the last options of many MS VLSI aspirants, if not an unconsidered option because of its unranked status. However, I would like to share few feedback from my time here that might help someone in our group in future:

Tracks

  • Digital IC Design was considered the best thing here and I also joined here for the same. But the Professor who was handling both the Digital IC Design courses has retired and it is no longer the flagship track here. As such Digital IC Design 1 and 2 are taught by a good professor only once a year and sometimes the first course will be taught by him only in Spring term which is the third term provided you join in Fall, and its pretty late to learn the core course then. Still, ASIC Design course is great and the Department are coming up with a separate Physical Design Course as well. ASIC Design will be taught in Winter and in Fall, before DIC1(by the best professor) in Spring and hence you may not be in a position to take advantage of his classes and take the succeeding courses with a systematic learning. But learning DIC1 is pretty manageable on your own irrespective of the Professor and that is what I did in my first term so that I can get the fundamentals early.
  • Computer Architecture track is excellent here and have 4 courses for it and is taught by excellent professors and research scientists working in Intel. The questions asked for all the interviews are directly from the slides they teach even though they are application level question which you cannot answer without understanding the fundamentals. But the fundamentals are structured very well and even the advanced computer architecture courses are handled excellently.
  • The in-demand red-hot winning track here is the Design Verification and Validation track and a high percentage of openings in the industry are verification positions and a large % of my batch mates, including myself, are working in Design Verification and Validation positions. It is excellently organized and taught and it is what fetches jobs here at this point of time.
  • There are many professors who are not that great and few important subjects are taught by great professors only once a year. So making compromises with choice of subjects and professors are very common here to fit your schedule. This is one drawback but there is no other way around this.

Coursework, and Research

  • The course offers great flexibility and you will end up completing multiple tracks by the time you graduate because one track’s core courses are another track’s breadth and depth courses. Few compromises have to be done to fit your schedule and planned coursework because learning systematically is very important. For me, staying ambitious with my courses has been vital and I have taken the risk of two tough subjects in one term just to leverage the options of being taught by good professors but that required full dedication in that term. Even while doing my internship I have opted for the course that adds value looking at the market, and not for the sake of taking a course to have a relaxed term. This is where many go wrong, but provided you work hard with total dedication, things are manageable and certainly rewarding with time.
  • There is no research happening here. There is no funding for it. And there are only 2 or 3 “real professors” – others are adjuncts who either have strong industry experience with PhD or are instructors without a PhD – and it shows in the way they teach. But it doesn’t mean they teach bad, rather they teach differently as compared to a real professor. It then comes down to how much you want to learn and how much you try to learn from them and as long as you do it, you are still getting benefits – ultimately the learning happens but in a different way.
  • Quarter system is really tough. There is no real time to grasp things as they are taught and also we don’t get time to do huge projects as compared to those in semester systems. Any slight slack off costs you so much as such and we have to be ambitious with projects and do additional projects during breaks to match our competitors.
  • CS Department here is one of the worst. I strongly discourage anyone from joining PSU for CS. But ECE Department is glorious with respect to VLSI and especially Computer Architecture and Verification and it is going to stay so for the upcoming years. Also, the Embedded track here is not good. It is totally different from the coursework of other universities with courses that aren’t organized well and I strongly discourage anyone to join PSU for an embedded program.

Job/Internship Prospects

  • This is not an Intel place at least for the past few years. Intel is on freeze and very few have got any calls except the ones who have someone at a senior position to refer them. That being said, Intel is not the only company around and verification jobs are plenty in other companies.
  • There are no career fairs here. Everything depends on your portal luck and mostly referrals help you. I got 3 calls through portals because I have a high CGPA (>3.9), and I am one of the few people to get this portal luck. Yet what is effective is someone to refer you and otherwise your portal luck never aids you mostly.

Scholarships, and Finance

  • Getting a TA is totally dependent on your academic performance and rapport with the professors. There are many who had less GPA and who got an internship because they had someone to refer them in. But they could not get a TA because Professors do know your capacity from your grades and projects. I got 2 TA offers – one in my third term which is rare to be honest – and one currently and another Grader position. Being a TA covers nearly covers all the expenses of a term and paid me around $7000 for 3 months. Being a TA here is sometimes an easy task – you don’t have to take class, most of the time – rather conduct office hours and help them either then or via email and I never tried for an on-campus job – but no job could be better than a TA, especially when I am studying along and when it provides me flexibility with my timings.

Location

  • Portland is a fantastic place to live and study and its cheap. It is blessed with nature and for me with the right academics too and I truly enjoy being here. It was tough for me to make this decision because I was going to an unranked University but I decided to join PSU instead of UTD because of my financial situation. But my decision to join PSU quitting my job at HPE was one of the best decisions I made and I never regret coming here and irrespective of what people told me a year ago, I am doing my internship in a well reputed big shot company and alongside people from USC, UMinn, UPenn etc. – my journey is different, my route is different, but with support of all those who believed in me, including you, and with hard work and grace of God, I am on the right track well among the right mix.

Peer learning

  • The academic standard of Indians studying here is poor. There are only a handful who are really ambitious and know things and do really work hard. So there is lack of competition here and all the terms I spend considerable time in figuring out how to say no to all the people approaching me for being their project partners. There are only few whom you can learn with. With that being said, I am working with people who graduated from UMinn, UPenn, USC etc. here in AMD and an unranked PSU guy is up with those people who are from the big brackets! – as you said, the reward of hard work irrespective of where you are.

Thanks for this honest feedback, Melvin 🙂 We wish you all the best always.

If I had to summarize, I would say that it is less about the school you attend than what you do there. If you know how to hustle, you can make it big from anywhere. Of course, starting from a school that helps you in moving towards your goal does put you at an advantage. But if you do not have a choice, do what Melvin did – made the best of what he had in hand and emerged victorious. I trust in you.

Want to work with us? Check our mentoring packages 🙂

What MOOCs are popular among MS applicants?

It is not surprising that online courses (MOOCs) are helping Indian students compensate for their poor quality of education. Growing number of engineers who apply to graduate schools abroad are facing a massive challenge. With engineering colleges sprouting in every corner, the quality of education and infrastructure has taken a huge beating. With barely qualified teachers, students lack any avenues to learn and get the kind of exposure that would make them competitive against their counterparts from China, Europe and USA. So how do these students learn when their colleges are offering so little?

Most of the engineering colleges are struggling to find qualified faculty. While the courses are being taught for the sake of it, students are passing not by proving their knowledge but by last minute rote learning, copying assignments and solving previous year question papers. They say a true engineer never studies until the last two days before the exam!

But this jugaad engineering falls flat at the first contact with professional world. After all, you need to know and do things when you show up at work. Similarly, when a student applies to universities abroad, they expect you to be not only conversant in the basic subjects but also exhibit mastery over some of them. And getting into these top notch universities is not about cracking an entrance exam, but impressing with your overall profile – projects, grades, experience, scores etc. Poor Indian student realizes that his jugaad is not going to work here.

Enter the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), thanks to education startups like Udemy, Coursera and so on. MOOCs are online courses targeting open access for student participation via the Internet. In a world where everything is one click away, why should the education be left behind? Why do we need to be in a physical classroom for gathering knowledge? This was the sentiment when MIT and Harvard created edX in 2012 that hosts online university level paid and free courses. Soon, sites like Coursera, Udemy, Udacity and Khan Academy established their mark in the space by offering a large variety of courses for academic, professional and interest based learning.

With quality courses and online availability, an increasing number of students are resorting to taking such courses to augment their knowledge of popular subjects like Data Science, Basics of Computer Science and so on. If you are expressing an interest in Computer Security in your study abroad application and your college did not offer enough relevant electives, you can take such of courses on a MOOCs provider website. While MOOC grades might not be taken too seriously by the Admission Committee, it still shows enthusiasm on your part and gives additional credibility to your application. Few skills that can be advantageous during your hunt for on-campus jobs and assistantships are web development, perl scripting, excel modeling etc.

Yasho Vardhan, an MIS applicant that I worked with, was feeling that his average GPA was putting him at a disadvantage in his applications. To further enhance his profile, he decided to take Introduction to Python for Data Science on edX and R Programming on Coursera. Since he was interested in Analytics which is growing much in popularity and competition, he felt that he needed something more than his academics and work experience to differentiate himself. Further, such courses were highly recommended by his seniors at University of Maryland, the place where he is heading to this September.

Another popular online course is Machine Learning by Andew Ng on Coursera. When Sheelabhadra Dey, an Electronics Engineering student at NIT Trichy, started applying for MS in Computer Science (CS) programs with an interest in Machine Learning, he knew that CS is one of the most competitive programs. With a non-CS background, he needed to prove his mettle. So, he opted to complete online courses that would help him develop the CS skills that he could not in college. Now that he has admits from multiple reputed CS programs such as Texas A&M University, and University of Florida, he thinks his decision was a life saver.

Notable is the fact that whether you get a certificate or not is not the key factor here. The point is to gather the real skills. Besides, developing good projects in these classes can be a great way to show you are a pro-active learner! These can also help to compensate for your low grades in a similar class you took in college or can fill in for lack of a formal education in the area you are applying to.

So, if you feel that you lack certain skill set that is hampering your career growth, it is time to go for a MOOC!

This article was originally written for and appeared in Tribune newspaper. 

Better late than never!

Sharing a blog post from Divya who will remain a very special student. I remember her as a soft-spoken but determined girl who I think can do anything she sets her heart upon. Good luck Divya, thanks for sharing this! It should help the candidates who are running late for their MS applications.

I am Divya and I am currently pursuing my Master’s in business analytics from W.P.Carey School of Business at Arizona State University Tempe. It is an intensive 9 month program and I started in Fall 2016 and looking forward to graduate in Summer 2017. Prior to doing my Master’s, I did my under graduation in Computer science and engineering from SRM university, Kathankulathur Chennai and worked as a Junior Research Analyst at McKinsey and Company in Chennai.

I gave my GRE and TOEFL exam during my final year during my under graduation and applied to a few universities for MS in Computer science. However, during that time I did not have any proper guidance and randomly applied to a few universities for ms in computer science based on my what friends did without proper profile evaluation and course evaluation. Though I got admitted into a few programs, upon talking to a lot of seniors figured out that they were not worth my profile and suggested me to properly evaluate my profile and shortlist universities and apply again next fall. At the same time, I got an offer to join McKinsey and company decided to take it up as I felt it would add a great value to my profile. After interning for the first 5 months I got an offer to join them full-time. After a lot of thinking and getting opinions from a lot of people, I decided to work with McKinsey and company for at least 2 years and gain experience and then apply for fall 2016 as it was a great opportunity to start my career in such a big firm. Though I was working with a different team, I was introduced to the field of analytics at McKinsey. I interacted with a lot of folks from the analytics and team and understood the nuisances of the field. That is when I decided to apply for analytics instead of computer science. Though I did not have any relevant experience related to analytics, I applied to business analytics as it involves computers (data mining, sql, python), statistics and exposure to how business work and highlighted my under grad in computer science and my business exposure at McKinsey as my relevant expertise for the course. Though I made this decision much before the fall admission season begun I was not able to spend time from August to December to apply since it was the peak work season and it was very hectic.

It was during January that I reached out to Nistha and took her help to shortlist universities , recreate my sop and lor and resume. Since gre score was valid for 5 years I didn’t retake it and applied with the old score. However I had to retake my toefl exam. Since it is a time-consuming process, by the time I completed all these process and submitted by application it was almost march. I was on the round 3 of application deadlines. Most of the applications were submitted on the last hour of the deadline. However, I am glad that I applied rather than postponing it again to next fall. Thanks to Nistha for motivating me and helping me out in the last minute. Without her, I don’t think I would have applied for this fall. Finally I got a few admits and out of them I shortlisted ASU as their course ranking was very good and it was just a 9 month program.

After having completed almost 50% of my program, I consider this decision as one of the best decision I have ever taken in my whole life. The educational experience is phenomenal and it has been a wonderful learning opportunity for me so far. Had I not taken this decision, I would have continued working and would not have moved out of my comfort zone. The amount of learning I inculcated in the last 5 months is much more than the amount of learning I had from my 4 years of under graduation. Hence I consider myself lucky to have not given up till the last minute. I urge all students who haven’t applied till now to stop worrying about being late and to start working on their applications as soon as possible. After all, it is always “better late than never”.