#myRITstory – Sanjana Kapisthalam

Compiled by Sanjay Varma Rudraraju, Computer Science MS Student

Sanjana Kapisthalam is a current graduate student in the Imaging Science department and comes from the southern part of India. Throughout her tenure at RIT she has worked at Xerox Research Center, in France as a Computer Vision Research Intern, and for Amazon in Seattle as a Software Developer Engineer Intern. Sanjana also has a position lined up for summer 2018 with Fluxdata as a Machine Learning Research Engineer.

With her extensive resume it’s clear that Sanjana has interviewing basics mastered. Here, she shares her advice for other students:

Most of my interviews were completely based on two of my courses (Image processing and Computer Vision, Deep-Learning for Vision). I used to get calls from pretty much every company I applied but used to get rejects after the first round. I realized I lacked preparation and made notes from these two courses and I used to revise them before every interview. This helped me to crack the technical rounds very easily. Most interviews, I crossed the third round and then got rejected. That made me realize I wasn’t strong enough with my skills to crack the coding rounds. So I started taking online free coding lessons and solved interview questions which helped me a lot.

Upon being asked to share some of her experiences while doing her co-ops “Every internship of mine was very different. My first internship with Xerox was completely research oriented. I was reproducing the then state-of-the-art methods for which I had to read tons and tons of research papers. This not only helped me develop my thought process but improved my reading and writing skill from like scale 0 to scale 10. Apart from the work, this was in a tiny city called Grenoble in France. I got to polish my broken high school French and got to experience an international culture that could be never forgotten. My current internship with Amazon is very different from what I did before. I am a software developer here and I write code every day which is reviewed by my mentor and a senior member in my team. I have a 1:1 meet with my manager every week and this system is not only improving my coding skills drastically but also pushing me to be one step ahead and learn to work in a big company. Also, Seattle is amazingly beautiful. My next internship over the summer will be with Fluxdata in Rochester as a Machine learning Engineer. I am hoping to learn from my mistakes in the past and current internships and do even better.

When asked to give some suggestions to student who are on the job hunt, Sanjana said “Use all sorts of online portals LinkedIn, Angellist, Indeed.com. Make use of the career fair. To be very honest, this was the first time I got an offer through the fair but I never gave up. I used to see people getting calls from the fair so I kept trying until I got one.” She went on to give suggestions about preparing for interviews and said “ Apply to any company, if the posting sounds intriguing and if you think you will able to do the job. My suggestion from all my experiences will be DO NOT underestimate yourself based on the requirements of the posting. Apply, prepare based on the posting and be ready to speak if that is not your area of education. You will crack the interview if you are confident about yourself.”

Here is a breakdown from my experiences –
1) Build your resume: When I say this, it’s purely for those grad students who come here immediately after undergrad and have no industry experience. First step is to realize what sort of a job you want. It’s fine if you don’t know this. Try applying to various jobs and you will realize at some point what you want. There are on-campus jobs for every interest of a person. From Cafeteria jobs to being a research assistant, there’s everything. Use the student employment website and apply to the jobs you’re interested and those you can show on your resume. Don’t step down if you keep getting rejected. Participate in the competitions conducted at symposiums on-campus, work towards winning them. Participate in Imaging RIT. In-short, do things that will not only build your resume but also keep you occupied.

2) Apply – If you apply to 5 companies and you don’t get calls at all, it’s high-time you check your resume or get it corrected from a professional. Go to your career advisor or grad-coordinator (every department has one) and seek help. Unless you ask, nobody knows what you want. Don’t self assume things. SEEK HELP if you need it and there’s nothing wrong or to be ashamed about.

3) Interview call: Like I said, sometimes you could be interested in some jobs even if it doesn’t fall under your educational background. I would say it’s absolutely fine. Just be prepared to answer questions. If you don’t have what it takes for the job, tell the recruiter why you think you’re a good fit and why you applied. My second internship was  out of my interest. I am not a software developer by degree, I was interested, I applied and showed the ability to what it takes to be one. Just be prepared. It’s ok to be rejected multiple times. It’s just not ok to analyze yourself as to why you’re being rejected. You already succeeded if you got a call which itself means you’re worth a person for that role. So analyze your mistakes from your rejections and keep moving ahead.

4) Build-up your resilience, confidence levels and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just make sure to learn out of them. RIT is a great place guys. You ask for anything and you will get help from somewhere. Make use of the resources. If you think you’re an introvert or shy make sure to have a support system outside your family (i.e., FRIENDS). Be involved in sports, music, toastmasters or whatever you like. Realize what it is that you want by taking chances. “



Home Sweet Home

by Sanjay Varma Rudraraju, Computer Science MS student

It was 7 am and I was trying to frantically catch a cab after my 30 hour journey to India. I was going to surprise my family and friends and with every ticking minute I was getting impatient. This is how my winter break started and from there on it was an amazing trip filled with some really great memories. I managed to surprise my mom and got her to cry which kind of made me feel like Ellen DeGeneres. My family was very happy to see me after 9 months and so were my friends.

After successfully finishing my first mission to surprise all my loved ones, me being a foodie, embarked on my second mission to eat all my favorite food. I might have had a hundred different dishes which probably made my Snapchat followers jealous. Later as I was cruising through the city over the rest of my trip I was surprised with all the changes to my hometown and it hit me suddenly then that it was no longer the place I knew. I wasn’t even sure I can call it my hometown anymore, given for the fact that all my favorite places are either closed or renovated. For the longest time

this place was the greatest place on Earth but today I am really not sure if I still identify the place. That was when I started thinking about Rochester, the place where I have been for a couple of years now. I was remembering my favorite Ramen place in downtown Rochester, then I remembered all my friends at work and school who I spend my weekends with and a small bunch of people who I call my family. I wasn’t sure where home is anymore and that is when I realized I did grow as a person and can’t identify a single place as home anymore. I am now a man with two homes and after all as a wise man once said “Home is where the Heart Is”.

It’s all about balance! – Work hard, play hard

by Sanjay Varma Rudraraju, Computer Science MS student

Even before 9 p.m. a large crowd had gathered at Schramrocks for the fall semester graduate student celebration. The crowd was all set to take a break from their busy lives and never-ending homework.

This party was an event that I organized in my role as a Graduate Senator to the RIT Student Government,  and I had the pleasure of being a host to over 400 students from different majors at RIT. The students had a lot of fun and the menu was chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, pizza and a lot more. There was also a raffle which gained a lot of attention from the students.

By the end of the night students were having a great time and I could personally see and hear them talking about this special event only for graduate students. The students were at the party for over 4 hours and managed to finish the food in half the time and also the dance floor was crowded with students who were dancing to the custom playlist they managed to make me add to Spotify. All in all it was an amazing party which was successful thanks to the awesome graduate community at RIT and I would hopefully post another in Spring soon so spring incoming students have something to look forward to! ☺

RIT’s Wellness Courses: Sprinkle in some Recreation

by Ami Patel, Computer Science MS student

It’s 10 months into 2017, but that resolution to learn a new sport or a martial art, maybe explore a different dance form, or those promises about keeping yourself fit, all are collecting dust, just like the archives.

Well, RIT cares about its precious Tigers! How? Under the Wellness Education Program, RIT offers more than 550 Wellness courses over the entire academic year in the following 8 disciplines: Dance, Fitness, Health and Life Support, Health and Wellness Seminars, Martial Arts, Outdoor Education, Recreation, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

So, what all are the options in each discipline? (I have attempted to cover as many as I can, but please refer to the official page for more information about the courses.)

Dance Forms: Ballet, Ballroom, Argentine Tango, Country Line, Hip Hop, Irish Step, Jazz, Latin, Musical Theatre & Dance, Swing, Tap.

Health: CPR, First Aid, Lifeguarding, Stress Management, Life Support Fitness – Financial, Social, Nutritional.

Physical Fitness: Bootcamp, Cardio Strength, Core & Abs, Kickboxing, Ninja, Pilates, Swimming, Training – Personal/Weight, Turbokick, Yoga, Zumba.

Martial Arts: Aikido, Kali, Karate; Kung Fu, Qigong, Self Defense, Sparring, Tai Chi, Warrior Workout.

Outdoor activities: Backpacking, Beekeeping, Canoe Camping, Indoor/Ice Climbing, Hiking, Leave No Trace Trainer, Mountain Biking, Outdoor Leadership, Indoor/Outdoor Rock Climbing, Snowshoeing Whitewater Kayaking, Wilderness – First Aid/Survival.

Recreation: Archery, Badminton, Basketball, Bowling, Diving, Dodgeball, Flag Football, Freshwater Fly Fishing, Golf, Horseback – English/Western, Ice Hockey, Ice Skating, Fencing, Pickleball, Pocket Billiards, Racquetball, Skiing and Snowboarding, Soccer, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball, Yard Games.

ROTC: Army (leadership drills and leadership lab), Air Force (physical training and leadership lab) and Navy.

Let’s look into the logistics now. Being graduate students, you don’t get credits for these courses and hence, it doesn’t affect your grades! These courses run semester-long. The enrollment procedure is similar to any other academic courses and you can find these courses by the four-letter code of the discipline it belongs to. It costs $100 for each course you take.

I have taken the Zumba and Latin dance class this semester. It’s really fun and a good way to refresh yourself from the usual academics. If you have any questions regarding these, feel free to reach out to me.

Living 8431 Miles Away From Home

by Sanjay Varma Rudraraju, Computer Science MS student

“RIT Admission Decision” read the email on my phone and I started hearing my own heartbeat which was thumping against my chest in anticipation of some good news. After the longest 5 seconds of my life I see the word Congratulations in the email and I was overcome with joy at that moment. I spent the next few months listening to suggestions from friends and family about the things I need to be packing and so I did, with bags packed full of spices, clothes and every possible article I would need to start my life in the land of opportunities. It took a whopping twenty-six hour flight journey with multiple stops in London and JFK before I finally got to Rochester, which was going to be my home for the next couple of years.

The transition of my life from India to the USA was a rather interesting one because all the knowledge from watching TV Shows like Friends or Full House never really came to my aid in navigating through the experiences I had at RIT. The three biggest transition phases that I went through are food, culture, and school. Growing up, I loved different cuisines. As someone who loves cooking I was blown away with the choices we had in the US – Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts, Taco Bell, and every possible chain that I heard about were my restaurant choices in the beginning. Later, thanks to Yelp and my friends, I started tasting different food like pho, ramen, and pollo guisado. A year later I am still delighted by the wonderful desserts and different dishes that I try on a regular basis. But, no matter what I come from the land of spices so I miss the spicy authentic Indian food.

Coming to the next biggest transition was the obvious cultural difference that I anticipated and experienced. I made friends at my different work places within RIT and I started hanging out with people from America. They were always welcoming and made me feel that they wanted me here which made me feel very happy and helped me get over my homesickness. I have a bunch of people who are a huge part of my life right now that have come into my life after my move to the United States and I just call them my American family. The Rochester community in particular is warm and I loved the way people greet each other or maybe just smile which is very helpful when you are having a really stressful day.

Finally, the school life in USA is completely different from what I experienced in India. The coursework is pretty intensive filled with tons of homework, quizzes and exams which kind of overwhelmed me in the beginning. But today after finishing a couple of semesters at RIT and interning over the summer I am happy to go through a rigorous coursework which has prepared me to face any technical challenges at work or in my research. I spend my time reading research papers or talking to peers about new advancements in my field which help me in chalking a better path for my future. The transitions were tough but very needed and I have wonderful people around me at RIT to thank for the support. Despite the fact that I miss home and family every single moment I believe this country which is giving me an opportunity to grow professionally and personally has become my second home. But as the wonderful poet Maya Angelou says “You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.”

#myRITstory – Anil Nair

#myRITstory: Anil Nair, Industrial Engineering MS graduate (May 2016) Kate Gleason College of Engineering, RIT
Quality Engineer at Yanfeng Automotive Interiors

“I chose the program because the batch size for my program at RIT was small which meant that the faculty could personally know each student and provide individual attention. I also liked the coursework at RIT since it provided me with flexibility to take diverse courses within the realm of industrial engineering which I find useful today in my work life.

After the fall semester of 2015, I got the opportunity for a spring co-op at Tesla which is at the forefront of innovation in the auto sector. It was a dream come true for me. The experience at Tesla was truly remarkable. I got the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in the world working on cutting edge automotive technology. The Tesla experience has helped me immensely in shaping my present career.

My time at RIT was a cultural, academic, social and environmental experience which helped me understand and explore a whole new world comprising of some amazing people.”

It only takes a moment to change everything!

by Ketan Srivastava, RIT alum ’17, Telecommunications Engineering MS

So, let us go back a little more than 3 years from now. It was August 2013! I had a very productive discussion with my team-lead at Ericsson who was working there years before I joined Ericsson in 2010. He was hence, pretty experienced as far as work and the business trends were concerned. And I, being a new GET (graduate engineer trainee), was always interested in listening and analyzing any advice that a senior would give to me since I could always catch something to learn in what they said. I actually considered myself really fortunate in this regard that my seniors thought me as able enough to understand them and hence, always guided me through things voluntarily even when everything went smooth and I most welcomed it each time!

So, that day in August 2013, my team-lead told me that I was limiting my fascination. That the product and the software upgrade procedures that I was keen on mastering would only help me in Ericsson and nowhere else in the world. At first, I was a bit disappointed but after a lot of research, I realized that the Ericsson platform I worked on was excellent but used only by Ericsson and nowhere else at all! And I? I was early in my career and I wanted to be flexible enough as far as my competency is concerned so that I can show my work to others as well and gain appreciation at an inter-organization level and not just within the organization.

I was already troubled by it and I kept on finding things not knowing what I wanted. Some weeks later, in September 2013, I had a long discussion with an AT&T US engineer about the upcoming changes that Ericsson was planning to make in order to keep up its top position. During that, I was amazed how that engineer who was same age as mine, was literally talking technology! Yes, indeed! I felt like he wasn’t speaking English but he was actually talking technology! And moving totally away from the topic awkwardly, I asked him what he studied as I explained how fascinated I was with the kind of knowledge he had. He was humble and generous enough to tell me a few things. He also shared some docs that he asked me to go through to get a clearer picture of what he was talking about. I went through that and understood that it was exactly what I wanted to learn. The whole internet technology! One which Ericsson or AT&T or any organization in the world uses now and in the future i.e. the Internet technology!

As much as I felt incomplete then, I also had found a way to not only learn but to be able to get rewards back for my learning. I could work on multi-company platforms with the same knowledge as no matter what equipment a company used, they would ultimately use it for the same purpose and i.e. the internet! I had decided to learn the fundamentals of networking now and shift my domain from Wireless. And, on further research, I had also found my destination to have the same. None other than the United States of America where, networking technology is the ultimate backbone of the country’s economy. The universities here like RIT not only want their students to learn something new, but make sure that the technology that they learn is up to date and at par with the demands laid down by some of the internet technology giants like Cisco, Amazon Web Services, Facebook and uncountable names more. Thus, I decided that I should rather get into something 100% which I’m interested in, than just being able to manage to study something randomly after my work hours at Ericsson.

This whole process did take a lot of time and effort. In point of fact, I had stopped going anywhere on weekends too as I wanted to utilize that time I got, in researching further about studying networking from the US universities including RIT. It was then, in November 2013, when I had finalized that I wish to pursue MS. So, I am always curious and willing to learn. To add, I am also the recipient of the prestigious ‘ACE’ award by Ericsson but having worked for almost 4 years for the company, it was now time to move on in pursuit of more knowledge and those 4 months from August to November played a crucial role in my decision making for pursuing higher studies in the US.

So, this is the story, my experiences, as to what really motivated me to take this nervous step of leaving ‘everything’ behind like my job, family, friends, my girlfriend, my home, my food, that weather, those sweets, those spices, those festivals, those dresses, those dances and what not! In point of fact, it was a nervous step for me to leave that ‘FEELING’ behind! But, like my mom told me that one has to sometimes give up something close to the heart in order to gain something. And after all, they are all always there for me anyway. So, with a heart filled with sorrow, excitement, motivation, happiness, tears, a smile, and simply every emotion you can think of, I decided to move on towards my pursuit of a Masters degree here in the US.

Disclaimer: This is the first blog of my life that I wrote and, as a proud RIT TIGER!