No – I did not JUST watch Netflix during the lockdown!

Believe it or not, I owe a lot of my personality to my TV and Tata Sky. As a kid, my favourite thing to watch on the TV apart from cartons was watching documentaries. Yes, documentaries, like the one that talks about manufacturing, building things and a lot of conspiracy theories. In fact, I was so in love with these documentaries that I used to tell everyone that I want to be a civil engineer when I grow up. Watching these documentaries generated my love for the curiosity of knowing and learning.

I am like a sponge when it comes to learning. You can talk to me about any topic in the world and I’ll be interested. I love learning. Here’s a list of things that I have learned about that are nowhere close to my field of study – art restorations and conservation, infrastructure., film and photography, owning a helicopter, Vexillology, car detailing, dress history, maritime, city planning, farming, archaeology, etymology, astronomy, cosmology, etc, etc.

That’s not even all of them. I can’t stop learning about the most random and wonderful topics in the world. Fortunately, this has translated into my work as well. My portfolio has a wide variety of fields and event that I have worked on. Just within the last 12 months, I have worked with an Instagram influencer, a data science firm, a portfolio management company, a social entrepreneur, an AI startup and an engineering firm that produces safety sensors for cranes. All of this won’t have been possible is I didn’t have my love for learning.

Lockdown has taught me to be open to all opportunities that come my way and welcome them with open arms. Like most of us, I took the first few weeks of the lockdown as a vacation. I bought a couple of video games and I would play them for hours and get lost in their world. This got boring after a few weeks. Fortunately, a couple of cool opportunities came my way. One of them was working on a project called “Chandrayan 0.0”. In hindsight, we bit off more than what we could chew. We could not achieve our goal and ended up running around in a circle. However, this was my first project where everyone was working from home, my first project where I was working with AGILE and I made some cool new friends. So, it was a good mix of lessons and mistakes.

Chandrayan was just the beginning of a series of project and internships that I would work on. Each and everyone of these projects challenged me. I started a 6-month long internship with a Data Science firm. Working with developers who all talk in the language of data was a pleasant change. The projects that I work on made me upgrade a lot of my coding and analysis skills. I learned to focus on what customer wants. There is an infinite way in which one can look at data. However, if I can’t use that analysis immediately or if I am not solving a problem, then it’s no good for me or my client. Its like trying to sell

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford​

This insight would come in quite handy in my next two projects. I was working with an Instagram influencer and a safety equipment manufacturing company. My first tasks in both projects were speaking to the end-users and asking them few questions. This was my first time conducting user interviews in such a structured manner with a setlist of questions. It took me a while to get over my fear of talking to a stranger. However, I was quite glad that I did. The insights that we gained from these interviews proved extremely valuable in determining the next steps.

This time was the busiest I had been throughout the lockdown. I was working on two projects, my internship and my college work. Working with this much momentum isn’t new to me. I have worked on high-intensity projects before also pre-lockdown. The sheer amount of energy I had when working on these projects was insane. I would leave my home at 8 AM not be back till 11 PM for months. This was not the case when I was working from home. Even though the time I was giving was the same, the energy wasn’t. I wasn’t with the people I was working with physically. If there was one lesson that had to choose from the lockdown; It would be that I can only be at 110% when I am surrounded by the right people. My self-diagnosis of being an “introvert“ was all in my mind.

These projects also put in quite a few uncomfortable positions. For conducting user interviews with the target audience, I had to go out in the actual world and approach them randomly and start asking them these questions that we had prepared. Whereas in another project we reached a stage where the clients’ expectation, my expectations and the reality of the situation were not matching. To ensure that we met the objectives of the project on time, I had to open and let the client know about the situation and tell them honestly that I don’t think this is going to work. As much as I hated being in these positions, they help me the most in terms of breaking my comfort zones and learning something new. 

An outside observer might look at all of the different things that I have done and wonder why I did I working on projects that aren’t in my domain (Data Science). To them, I would ask them to go and read this blog. Working projects that are not in my domain taught me about things that I would not have been exposed to otherwise and working in non-tech domains has made me love my main domain a lot more. The skills and knowledge that I have gained over the past year or so has made me a much better and empathic data scientist.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin​​

If anyone still had any hesitations, I would say to them, I loved working on these projects because I love learning. These projects were the water to my sponge of learning.

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