My experience of working remotely as an ML & Data Science Engineer intern at Silverpond

The clock was ticking to 9’o clock in the morning, I posted my first message in Slack waving “Hi” to everyone at Silverpond…

Hello everyone, my name is Anand Bidwalkar and I would like to share my experience of working remotely as an ML & Data Science Engineer intern at Silverpond with you.

A little bit about myself

For some background, I’m an international student pursuing a master’s course in Applied Artificial Intelligence at Deakin University, Geelong. I have experience working as a Software Engineer for few years with highly skilled engineers and product managers. I wanted to pursue an internship with an Australian company working in the AI field to gain practical knowledge and experience Australian workforce culture before taking a full-time role. Silverpond helped me achieve both!

Applying and interviewing virtually

An industry guest lecture in early Oct’2020 on “Computer Vision and AI” topic by Rowan, Senior Data Scientist motivated me to pursue the internship with the Silverpond. The demo of fish detection and animal classification applications during his presentation developed a curiosity inside me about the technology. Interestingly I got the opportunity to perform research on these datasets and work alongside him during my internship.

Deakin University’s Work Integrated Learning (WIL) program provided me with an opportunity to pursue a full-time internship with the Silverpond. This internship was an excellent opportunity to experience professional practice in a real-world setting whilst receiving credit towards my degree.

The application process was quick and easy. I emailed the Silverpond’s HR/Talent Acquisition team expressing my interest to pursue an internship in a cover letter with other documents. Within a week, I received an email response and a virtual interview scheduled with the Head of Science at Silverpond. We discussed interest areas, experience/projects, and the research projects done at Silverpond. The following week, I received an internship offer from Silverpond in my inbox, and I was on cloud nine!

Internship experience – Virtually

Although I had worked in the industry earlier, there were mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness on the first day of the internship. Excitement as I was going to work on interesting AI projects. And nervousness as this was a virtual internship, a completely different setting and environment than working with peers in the office. Thanks to management and peers at Silverpond, the induction and experience were smooth. The Silverpond team was inclusive and accommodating to an international student like myself.

The first week was a learning curve, as most first weeks are at a new job. In the first few weeks of the internship, I received induction on project requirements, tools, and technologies used at Silverpond. I got the opportunity to work directly under the supervision of the Head of Science. Working in an agile environment with all the activities/tasks planned for a sprint helped researching while performing day-to-day development activities. Everyone at Silverpond was friendly, fun to work with, helpful, and willing to mentor/advise.

As Machine Learning & Data Science Engineer intern at Silverpond, I was tasked to implement a custom loss function to classify different types of Antelopes. I worked alongside Josh and Rowan to design a new image classification framework, with a custom hierarchical loss function. This project involved performing a literature review on numerous research papers. Implementing a wrapper for different networks, and testing the different configurations. Along with the weekly meetings, peers at Silverpond were always available for any ad-hoc meetings to resolve impediments. The experience of working on the state of art infrastructure and distributed computing was one of a kind.

Challenges faced

One of the challenges faced was to keep self-motivated during the internship. With the Covid lockdowns in place, time management and looking out for your well-being were vital when working from home. Another challenge was not to get disheartened with the performance results received from the ML model training. As this was a research-based role, I had to perform numerous experiments with different configurations. And all the experiments were not successful. 

Accomplishment through internship

Seeing how much I have developed since the day I came first to Silverpond compared to where I am now, makes me feel happy and satisfied. Through this internship, I developed both professionally and personally. I got a glimpse of the work environment in my interested domain and tasks performed by an ML Engineer. Working with highly skilled engineers and researchers helped boost my research skills and learn about the latest technologies.

My advice to prospective interns

I advise prospective interns to use a professional email and cover letter, outlining why your interest to work with the organisation and how your experience aligns with their objectives. It is also extremely important to set out the expectations before the internship. With the university I prepared a learning contract with Silverpond covering the responsibilities/task I would carry out during the internship. I committed myself to devote at least an hour each day towards upskilling and learn new technology. This internship gave me a glimpse of the work environment, roles, and responsibilities of an ML Engineer. I highly recommend students to pursue an internship in their interested domain before joining the full-time roles.

To sum my experience working as an intern for 12 weeks in few words, it was Fun, Exciting, and Challenging. It was a pleasure working with the team. Thank you Silverpond!

Anand Bidwalkar

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