October 30, 2009
More details about the winter semester:
I know I have been very brief about my winter term here at Michigan, so here it is…
The winter started out really fast and got over really fast:-). After giving 2 tests I got my SI502 requirement waived off. Then I got my JAVA programming requirement waived off. After all the waive offs and after an hour of brainstorming with Judy Lawson, I figured out the courses I wanted to take for my first term in the United States. I took:
1. SI627: Managing the IT organization
2. SI630: Security in digital world
3. SI650: Information Retrieval
4. SI760: Language & Information
5. OMS501: Business Statistics
I have an advice to all my readers; don’t take 15 credits in the first term. I will start from the top and describe each course in detail. SI627 had a lot of readings and online participation (needed to get accustomed to CTOOLS which was really hard). For the online participation I had to read a chapter from the reading and lead the discussion on that reading on CTOOLS. Once I figured out how to start a discussion on CTOOLS I was all set :-). We had two more deliverables for this subject, one was a presentation on a new and upcoming technology, so I chose augmented reality and gave a really amazing presentation with a video clip and everything. At the very end we were to give a project presentation, our team consisted of only 3 people so we lagged a bit in the project and the end result wasn’t as impressive as I had thought, but was good enough.
SI630 was a great class specifically because the professor himself was very passionate about security, so much so that he has his own public key setup :-). There were 3 papers due during this class which was fun since the topic chosen were really interesting by the professor. At the end of this class we were to present a project which helped people learn more about security in the digital world. So we developed a system which was a computer adaptive test that would test how secure are your data storage and data transmission habits and at the end this test would give you a score and compare you with others who have taken this test. We made a flash application for this project, which used to learn from the user’s responses and then give the next question based on the answer of the previous question. This test can be taken from my online portfolio. This course helped me a lot, in-fact I got together with the professor again over the summer to get some advice about a project that I was doing for one of my internship.
SI650 would be the most unforgettable class I have ever taken; Prof. Drago had a very different style of teaching. He was teaching this class here at University of Michigan and Columbia University in New York simultaneously. It was fun! The course was all about how information is retrieved by the search engines and how this information should be organized so that it is easier for the search engines to find this information. The course had 3 assignments, programming based in which we were supposed to use CLAIRLIB developed by Prof. Drago himself in Perl and solve the problem of the assignment. There was a final term for the course along with a project. My project was really interesting; Prof. Drago had a large data set of user queries to the AOL search engine. I used this corpus to form a graph of the users and then on this graph I performed Random walks to assign weights to each user so that at the end based on these weights I can cluster the users and see some pattern. For this I used JAVA and the JUNG API written in JAVA for the visualization of the clusters. I also made use of the LUCENE API. JUNG API was really cryptic for me at first, but I was able to grasp it through the help of the support staff at sourceforge.net
SI760 was a good course specifically because the instructor had amazing skills of teaching. This course had 3 assignments, a midterm and a final term. I don’t know what to describe about the course, because most of it was just studying and understanding the concepts.
OMS501 was the statistics course from the business school. I took this since it was a requirement and also I got to complete my cognate, but I still plan to take more cognates. This class was held in the new business school building and was real great fun. The professor had a really good sense of humor and used to explain the concepts really well. For this course there were two projects and a number of assignments on the Wiley site, for which I had to purchase an account. Apart from that this class was fun and most of the students were part-time MBA students there so got to learn a lot from them.
October 20, 2009
Let’s get down into what I did at each of my internship:
1. Rackham Graduate school – they hired me to redo all their PDF forms which were used by more than 7000 graduate students. But believe this is not all what I did. When I got into working there initially they gave me all the forms and asked me to evaluate what was wrong with each form and what could be done to improve them. I got down on the task a developed a visual report of what the forms contained and what was redundant and what could be improved. We met with all the departments in Rackham (yes they have departments in there too), like OARD (Office of Academic Records and Dissertations), Financial Aid, Admissions, etc. and presented our findings and their inputs on the forms. I used the feedback and started developing the new forms, but was faced by a new hurdle. Rackham had come up with a new logo and that had to go onto the new forms, but was yet to be approved by the dean. So this project was put on hold till then.
Meanwhile I was helped my colleagues with another project which was university wide signage system, but Rackham had the two pilot kiosks. We got these two 52” humongous kiosks in our office, but we didn’t have the software yet to deploy content on them. We built a few small flash applets and had fun with the touch screens for a while but then this project was also waiting on the company which was to provide the software for the touch screen kiosks.
Since the Rackham logo was approved, I finally completed the PDF forms and got them reviewed from each of the departments and launched them on the Rackham site. You can view them on the Rackham site. Then the kiosks also got quickly deployed after the software came through and we got over a few housekeeping issues with the mac mini’s running the kiosk. These kiosks are now placed in the Rackham Lobby.
At the end it was time to say goodbye, which has always been the hardest part for me, but had to, since school was starting.
2. HiperLogic – HiperLogic is a local start-up, whose co-founder is a U-M grad, Rodney Mach. Rod was more like an elder brother than a supervisor. I got to learn a lot from him. The first few meetings went by in setting up my paperwork, which Rod helped me out a lot with. Rod is a very active person, always on the move and has so much of interesting things to share. My first task was redesigning the interface of HiperLogic Activation Filter (HAF) – an app developed by Rod in C#. It took me a while to understand the code and start working on it. I came up with a lot of high-fi and lo-fi prototypes and Rod and I brainstormed together as to what his clients wanted in-terms of the interface. This was an ongoing project, along with this Rod used to take me a lot to his client locations, where I got to see him present and promote the products which Rod provided. I got to visit Lansing where I was in a meeting room full of high-flying executives, making decisions whether to buy this stuff for their server room or not.
Besides these Rod had another project for me, where one of our partner firms AndersonDataOnline wanted a redesign of their website. The website was pretty old and they wanted me to completely revamp it in terms of looks and also functionality. I was working on this and HAF simultaneously. Rod and I together organized a number of AAVUG (Ann Arbor Virtualization User Group) meets as well, where we invited a number of executives from various energy firms, car companies, etc.
Rod provided a lot of advice about the lifestyle in United States as well as, technical advice about how to do stuff. At the end I completed both my projects, one of them can be viewed at www.andersondataonline.com and the other interfaces of HAF would soon be posted on my portfolio online. Saying goodbye was the hardest part again, but it was the best goodbye ever – Rod and his wife took us to fine Indian restaurant for dinner and we really enjoyed ourselves there.
3. eDirect Impact – eDirect Impact has a number of big clients like KPMG, Honeywell, Pizza Hut and they provide Software as a Service to these clients, like data storage, data extraction, etc. This work was more modular in the sense that I was handed a module at a time and when I got that done then I moved to the next one. eDirect wanted me to work mostly on their SharePoint environment, so my modules were mostly related to that.
My first module required me to get the disk usage for each of their clients on a particular server. This was really difficult since an application in SharePoint is generally not given this information, so I had to learn how to impersonate a user account and get this information, which turned out to be harder than it sounds. Finally when I got around it and presented this module to my team they were super-impressed and that helped affirm their confidence in my skills. They gave me more modules one of which required me to integrate SharePoint with another application called IPRO, which they thought was not possible, but when I did it (partly because SharePoint is so flexible) they felt that as if I had done magic. At the end they offered me to continue my position into the fall term and I did.
Some of the issues with this internship were because of the remote work. Since all the meetings taking place were over the phone or the internet, it sometimes caused a bit of a problem to work around a problem, but I’d say that the team was so accommodating that we made it through.
You will notice that I describe very less about my last two internships, that is partly because this is the only amount of information I can reveal legally ;-)
October 10, 2009
Let’s get down into the details
I know I was really brief about my internships in my previous posts, but that was purposely done :-) so I could elaborate here, so here goes…
When I joined the School of information in the winter term, I hadn’t thought what I would be doing in the summer, specifically because I didn’t know that there would be 4 months of no school, since it doesn’t happen in India. As February came I became aware of these 4 months of no school and got to know that this is the part where you do an internship.
I started my quest for the search of an internship. I was a complete newbie at this, my resume was pathetic, I didn’t have a portfolio of my work, nothing, I had to start from scratch. Kelly and Joanna helped me shape-up my resume and get onto iTrack (SI’s career site). I started sending out my resume and started applying for jobs from various jobsites like monster, careerbuilder, juju, etc. No response.
Then came this career fair at the engineering school, and guess what I didn’t have a suit and also no money to buy one :-(. Luckily there was a sale going on at Sears in Briarwood mall on Arrow jackets and trousers, so I mixed and matched and got myself a suit for the career fair. I was all ready with my resume and certificates put into my SI folder. The career fair came and went by; I applied, but again no response. Then again there was a career fair specifically for new start-ups in the Ann Arbor area; I went to it but with dampened enthusiasm. Applied again, but still no response.
I visited a lot of career events organized by SI career office, the specific one that I remember was the internship panel, where there were 4 seniors who were talking about their internship experience. I just remember what one of them (Andres Montejo) said – “Gorilla tactics – if you want a position keep applying to it until you get it”. I took it as a motivation and kept going at my internship search. I got a few enthusiastic responses at SI ExpoSItion but still no response. At this point I also started building an online portfolio which is now at: http://www.umich.edu/~malhar.
Then came the Yahoo! Hack day at the college of engineering. I wasn’t able to attend it because of the course load (15 credits, Phew!), even though I heard some of the biggies like Paul Tarjan and Rasmus Lardoff were there. Fortunately, Prof. Drago, with whom I was taking Information Retrieval, got these folks to one of our lectures and they gave a super-cool presentation and also their email addresses to collect resumes. I sent across mine and guess what, no response; just kidding I got a phone interview setup.
Wow this was a dream come true for me interviewing for a position with Yahoo! Awesome. I had the interview followed all the protocols of a good phone interview but they decided to take someone else. That was a really de-motivated me, but I kept going. Finally after a number of failed attempts, I got a position at a U-M office, but they only paid $10.50 an hour (great! I would earn more if I drove the blue bus I thought) but money wasn’t a concern, still I had to consider it since I had to pay-off my education loans. Thankfully to God I got offered a job then by HiperLogic, Prof. Drago, MAIS and Rackham Graduate school, all within 4 days :-):-):-) This was great but unfortunately I cannot work for more than 40 hours at U-M so I had to turn down Prof. Drago’s and MAIS’s offer.
I was all set working my two jobs (one was remote work), then one day I get an email from a guy in Texas that he saw my portfolio and wants to hire me. And this person is the Director of Business development at eDirect Impact. Wow! I couldn’t turn him down and started remote work with him as well. At that point my summer became no less than a school semester of more than 18 credits. I was working most of the time. I would work 8 to 5 at one job and come back home and work around 6 hours for the other two. On the weekends I used to work around 16 hours so that I could cope up with my other two jobs. But it was a fun and wild experience, I learned so very much.
Ah! I forgot to mention one thing. During my internship search someone told me that you cannot work off-campus on an F-1 visa until you have completed a year of school and this was true for me since I had only completed 6 months of school – this shattered me. Luckily :-) there is a loophole in this. If you are required to work as a requirement for you course, then you can. Great! School of information had this concept of PEP (Professional Engagement Program), which allowed me to earn credits for my internship and hence I could get a CPT to work!