Q&A with Alumnus Rachita Choudhary

Tell us briefly about yourself.

I was born and brought up in Bikaner which is a desert city in Rajasthan. During my growing years, not many girls pursued higher technical education. There were hardly any girls in my Engineering college and my parents were constantly advised to get me married rather than sending me so far off to study technical stuff. Times have changed a lot though. Many girls in my city are studying sciences and excelling at it.

 

Why CS? And why IIIT-H?

Since the time I was introduced to Computers in 4th grade, I was fascinated with it and wanted to learn more and do more and more with it. That passion continued and after completing school, I was determined to become a software engineer. I got admitted to the Govt. college in my hometown and started studying CS. But my graduation years were more about theoretical knowledge and hardly any practicals. I wanted to learn more about data structures, algorithms and databases. So I decided to pursue my masters and appeared for GATE.

Although the IITs were my first choice, but because of a slightly lower percentile I was not able to get CS in any of them. IIIT-H had a separate examination and interview process. When I visited the campus and went through the interview process, I was convinced that this is the right place for doing masters in CS and learn about specialised courses.

Tell us about your degree, internships undertaken, awards and other recognition while studying here.

I did my M-Tech in CSE. I was on the Dean’s list, in both the years of the course. This is an award typically given to students for their academic performance during the year. I was fortunate to get an internship with Amazon Hyderabad and also got a Pre-placement offer from them.

 

 

Any particular class or mentor that inspired you?

I loved Advanced Data Structures and Distributed Database courses. Professors at IIIT-H are awesome. Their approach to teaching any subject is fresh and innovative. I loved all my teachers and have so many favourites such as Kamal Sir, Vikram Pudi Sir, Vasudev Verma Sir, Satyanarayan Sir, Anoop Sir and Shatrunjay Sir and many more.

A favourite memory of IIIT-H

Working on coding assignments in CS Lab during the night. IIIT-H campus with its serene and safe surroundings, abundant greenery and complete WIFI coverage is absolute bliss. As a student, I couldn’t have asked for more.

Key takeaways from your course at IIIT-H

IIIT-H offers so many specialised elective courses across different research verticals like databases, NLP, computer vision, robotics, etc. A student can either choose to go in depth by choosing electives in a certain vertical. But I decided to take electives across different verticals, I wanted to learn more about databases, network security and software engineering. This helped me understand my true interest areas. These courses give exposure to different professional work areas and prepare better for recruitment season.

Learnings beyond academics

IIIT-H student life doesn’t only prepare you for a great career path, it gets you ready to face the world in a better manner. It enhanced my problem solving skills and approach. I learned how not to give up under any kind of pressure. Instead I figured out how to be calm and strategise, evaluate the resources at hand, and how to achieve the maximum out of it.

And then you also learn many life saving hacks like learning to negotiate for dosa on Sundays, figuring out the right timing to use common bathrooms, how to cook anything possible in a rice cooker, and so on! All this by staying in the hostel and eating mess food.

What did you do after graduating?

I already had a PPO from Amazon Hyderabad and started working with the Fulfilment Center Team.

Tell us about BabyChakra and your current role there.

BabyChakra is a complete ecosystem for all parents in India. We are a digital companion right from the point you conceive till your child is about 6 years old. BabyChakra has an active community where mothers engage with each other like you do with your friends on Facebook. In fact we have a personalized feed also. The community also has many experts to answer young moms’ queries. For empowering our mothers to know more about pregnancy and motherhood, we have a lot of curated short and long content, videos, infographics etc.

And mothers can also shop for relevant products and book services like prenatal classes, photoshoots, lactation experts, etc.

My current role at BabyChakra as the Director Of Engineering includes managing different tech verticals : backend, frontend (web development), mobile engineering (Android & iOS), QA. We are building a completely personalized parenting experience and for this, collect a lot of user data. We run our personalization algorithms and are also experimenting with Machine Learning Technologies to find the most relevant and meaningful information for each user.

What technical challenges did you have to face?

Technology changes everyday. I would not categorize them as challenges, instead I would like to call them learning milestones. If I recall mine, the first would be the switch from C/C++ to Java along with Spring. It was quite a programming paradigm shift for me and I loved it.

Then came the introduction to Cloud. Working on cloud-based systems and services was quite a learning curve, but it’s worth all the pain because it expands your tech capability horizons. Building large scale and distributed systems can be achieved much quicker without relying heavily on Infra engineers.

A recent one that I am solving is the personalization. Relevant and meaningful content are two very broad terms and don’t have a very definite mathematical formula, but how do we fine tune our formula everyday, how do we keep on identifying new user personas (eg: in current case, working mom vs. stay at home, metro mom vs. urban mom, first time mom vs second time mom) and tweaking the personalization engine for them.

The challenges will continue to come and it is for us to keep on converting them into learning milestones.

Is work-life balance a myth?

I won’t say it’s a myth because I have seen people achieve it. Right now with two kids and working in a startup, I am yet to achieve it! But it’s all about time management and prioritising every minute of your life.

What personal real-world insights can you give students currently studying here? Resources that other IIIT-H students can take advantage of?

IIIT-H is a great place to be. The academic and research opportunities are world class. You might not realize it as a student today, but the course curriculum is very much updated and through your projects/assignments you will be solving many industrial problems.So try and take on as many company-sponsored projects as you can.

Also, for many of you who want to start something on your own, it’s a good time to start laying the foundation for it. You have the best of the tech talent in the form of your classmates/seniors, best of the guidance from the profs/RAs and free WIFI, food and stay. What more can you ask for?! But before that always evaluate if your idea is the right market fit and how big the market is and how fast it will grow. If your idea is a solution to a problem, then evaluate how big the problem is. Take into account any govt. policies that may interfere with your growth plans.

The invaluable resources at IIIT-H are the professors and the students, because libraries and digital resources are easy to find. But right guidance, the right set of problems, and healthy competition is tough to find.

Any specific advice for women students?

I don’t think I need to give any specific advice to women students. However, due to gender disparity and unequal salaries in the technical workforce, I’d say, “Go, Get it”. Many boys or men still think that tech is their forte. Just beat them at their own game!

 

 

 

Sarita Chebbi has been a stay-at-home mom of two for the longest time. When she’s not painstakingly documenting heirloom recipes from her mom into a tattered diary, she can be found on the yoga mat, trying to impress her family with her pretzel poses. She also likes to nit-pick on the written word.

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