This article is the culmination of a previous article I wrote regarding SRIB two weeks into the internship, which can be found HERE. I highly recommend reading the piece as it will provide substantially more insight into my feelings during the entirety of the internship, and the reader can appreciate my journey from overwhelmed newbie to intern supreme (disclaimer: preposterous claims of self worth may be stated). Areas where reference may be helpful have been marked with a superscript asterisk *
I write this article sitting at my table at home, reflecting back on a wonderful two months at Samsung Research Institute, Bangalore. My last thoughts on this subject were penned a mere two weeks into the internship, just as I was learning the ropes of how this corporate behemoth functions, and how to embrace and thrive within the South Korean work culture prevalent here. I must admit, when people said the culture might not be what you would expect from an electronics company (SRIB is primarily a branch of Samsung Electronics), I was apprehensive. The mandatory nine hour working day had many people confused and even annoyed. A month into my internship, I actually made it a point to stay even LATER than that, when I could.
The reason? Passion (how many times have I stated this in these articles? Hint: It’s VERY important). My manager, let’s call him Viper (Top Gun reference anyone? The reason will be apparent soon), is one of the most astoundingly knowledgeable, out-of-his-way helpful, and downright perfect manager or mentor any employee could hope for, let alone an intern. I was working In the Advanced Technology Laboratory division, on a project I loved, under a man with such a passion for his craft that it lit the flames of everyone working on his team. His attitude and unyielding desire for excellence was infectious, and I can say without a doubt I am extremely lucky for the opportunity to work with him.
On the very first day of the internship, Viper made it a point to assess my skills and assign me a task best suited for his team that could utilize those skills. Many other interns were not so lucky, and had to work on things that may have not been their first preference. They, however, also learnt to appreciate the new fields in which they were working. This is the first skill I learnt is absolutely essential to a successful career, i.e. Adaptability. One must always be able to take things in one’s stride, and to excel in spite of being pushed out of one’s comfort zone. I credit the work culture here for stressing this. It may have annoyed many at first, as they were working on projects they didn’t have much experience with. Over the course of two months, however, they adapted, learnt an entirely new field, solved problems in new ways, and thrived because of it.
Being an R&D facility, we were all made to sign strict confidentiality forms, termed ‘non-disclosure agreements,’ for obvious reasons. The work we did while working at Samsung was often critical to real product development. Personally, the feeling of satisfaction of my work being recognized and used in such a way is something that no other achievement of mine till date has been able to match. I have been asked to keep in touch over the year, even after my internship has concluded, to ensure that my project still runs smoothly. SRIB’s commitment to their interns in utilizing them to their full capacity (as opposed to the so-called “coffee-fetcher” internships many of us may have experienced), and seeing their work through to its end (which in many cases is a product in the market!), is something to be commended.
One of my absolute favorite memories at SRIB, however, is not one that took place in the office, however, but in the cafeteria at breakfast time. It was an ordinary Monday morning, and my school senior from ISTE* and one-year SRIB veteran Anmol* and I were catching a bite just after our session in the Samsung gym (state-of-the-art, just FYI), when I spotted Viper, who had just left the queue. He approached us and asked to sit with us, and we of course obliged. We then stole what felt like an hour of his precious time, where he told us all about his career, and how he had grown from an Electrical Engineer at IIT Madras in the 70s to designing compilers in PASCAL, to exploring and designing traversal algorithms at Penn State, to doing rigorous mathematical research at the University of California Berkeley (UCB), to designing cutting edge technology in companies such as Lockheed Martin, Phillips, Microsoft, and finally Samsung. It had been a long and diverse career, which was still going strong. I was awed by the enthusiasm he had after so many years devoted to such varied fields.
That one hour was the most inspiring of my life. I think one story he told us will stick with me for the rest of my life: “Would you race Usain Bolt?” he asked us. (Mentally I flashed instantly to the “Life is a race!” speech from 3 Idiots) “Of course, you would say “I am not a sprinter, I would probably lose. Let me try something I’m better at.” But that’s not how I think. When I was at UCB, I saw brilliant mathematicians and theorists, intelligent beyond compare, and producing work of immense, immense quality. I was disheartened initially, as I knew I was not as intelligent or brilliant as they. But I made a promise to myself: Within six months, I would produce the same quality of work as they did.” And after that 6 months period, Viper had written several mathematical research papers published in prestigious journals, and achieved his goal. His unquenched thirst for nothing short of excellence had propelled him from nothing to a sprint against Usain Bolt.
I was awestruck. He followed up with “Do you know what the most important thing is, professionally? It’s not intelligence, or skill, or ability. It’s attitude. That is the single most important thing.” This was a lesson I know I will never forget. It was my own attitude that had helped me win the Appathon competition* to receive the internship offer, and had helped me successfully finish my project well within the time frame, and not yield in the face of many problems faced along the way.
So what can I say about my time at Samsung? Not much more than it was the most enlightening period of my life so far. I learnt more here than anywhere else in my life (though NITK* comes close) in just two months. As I write this, I am wishing I was back in my conference room fiddling around with my project, and dreaming up new and endless possibilities. Developing technology was and has always been my dream, and it’s my unrelenting attitude (once again, I reiterate, but this point cannot be stressed enough) that helped me achieve it. At the risk of sounding clichéd for the 100th time in this article, what is stopping you, dear reader, from achieving your dream? Is it racing your Usain Bolt? Well now we all know what to do in that case, don’t we?
Once again, I strongly suggest reading the precursor to this article, located HERE. Thanks for reading my thoughts, and please do discuss your own in the comment section below!