Here’s a truth I realized sometime over the past year: I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now, or even want to be doing it, if it weren’t for IIIT-D. I was surprised when I discovered this, but I’m convinced it’s true.
Most people I know who are doing a masters in the US or Europe are doing so because its considered a path to better (read: more lucrative) opportunities, or perhaps a means to immigrating to the US. I’d be lying if I claimed that these things are not appealing to me, and these reasons are no worse or better than mine. My reasons are just different.
I came to grad school because I wanted to understand and build large-scale distributed systems. I find these systems incredibly interesting and my goal was to become a world-class engineer in this area. That’s harder to do without spending another couple of years in school figuring out the theory and building stuff in collaboration with the absolute best people in the area. Lots of people have ambitious goals, but what’s different about mine is that throughout my time at IIIT-D, it seemed like it was something that was achievable given enough effort and luck.
That’s because the best thing to me about IIIT-D, is that I felt I had as good a shot at anybody else in the world at achieving my goal. Even without taking a course in my specific area*, I knew that my foundational CS education was at par with the best in the world. I also knew that if I wanted to be doing, say, biometrics or machine learning or security instead of systems, that I could do those things too, because my classmates and professors were doing cool stuff in those areas all the time. I knew that all the coursework I did do was up-to-date and relevant, because I actually needed tons of it when I worked in the industry. I knew that I could build and ship products that people might want to use, because I tried and didn’t fail completely. I knew that I could solve hard problems, because I’d struggled with and finally beaten them every semester. I knew that I was going to be able to present myself and my ideas just fine, because my communication skills had been evaluated and improved through multiple courses. I knew that I could read and write research papers, because I had multiple opportunities to do so even as an undergrad. I knew that I could go work at a competitive tech company and not be in over my head, because I’d already done it by the time I applied for grad school. I knew that I could get stuff done and make an impact on my environment and the people around me because IIIT-D gave me dozens of opportunities to do exactly that.
In my opinion, there are perhaps a handful of other places in India that can do this. How well both the institution and my classmates are doing is testament to the fact that we’re bold enough to believe we can do stuff, and well-trained enough to get it done. I don’t think this was an accident – I think that a bunch of smart people deliberately made a lot of excellent decisions to achieve exactly this effect.
There are other universities where if you want to do something great really badly, you won’t face too many obstacles. There are other universities where you’re free to do things that interest you because they don’t require as much commitment from you, or give you as much.
Then there is IIIT-D, which treats you like the adult you are and demands immense amounts of time, effort and engagement. In return, it gives you all the opportunities and exposure you need to be a world class researcher or engineer. Whether this sounds good to you, of course, is an intensely personal choice.
I, for one, couldn’t be happier with my decision to choose IIIT-D.
*There weren’t any foundational courses on distributed systems offered during my senior years at IIIT-D, unfortunately. That would have made this a more natural progression, but perhaps a less interesting story.
Raghav Sethi (B.Tech CSE ‘13)
Contact information is available on his website
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