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A look back on 2023

·10 mins

Introduction #

As humans, we change over the course of time. I’m still not sure whether I’ve done the best I could’ve over the past year. However, what I do know is that I was introduced to a lot of new experiences; some good, some bad. But, I’d like to believe that I’ve learnt something from all of them. This post is going to be one about my year in review in a bunch of fields.

TL;DR: Work is good, I enjoy Data Engineering; I graduated and I’m going to Northeastern for my master’s; I received the Raman Research award; I made new friends and have gotten better at socializing; I’m managing my finances well; I don’t have any new hobbies; I’ve travelled to a few places this year.

Work #

I spent 2023 working in Pune, at the company. I was initially skeptical of what my job could teach me and as to whether I’d be learning industry-standard tools and best practices on programming. My suspicions weren’t unfounded, this was a new player in the field and was essentially a funded startup. On top of this, the company wasn’t known for its technical prowess either. It was a finance company that only recently began its transition towards tech. Due to this, upon joining its Data Engineering division, I wasn’t immediately provided a list of tasks to understand the existing tech stack and contribute towards bug fixes to gain a familiarity for the architecture.

Rather, I was promptly thrown into one of the biggest projects that I had ever undertaken in my life. Building an entire unified data management framework from the ground up. We (four interns) were very well positioned and walked in at the right time for both, our own growth and the company’s fintech transition, to develop a platform like this. My team lead had all the necessary milestones in the roadmap well thought out. To put it into perspective, we had the following foundational pillars supporting our venture,

  • An existing rudimentary pipeline to handle real-time business requirements while we worked on the next-gen architecture.
  • Way too many SQL developers to deliver business requirements at break-neck speeds.
  • A notable lack of Python developers. (the only one that knew programming properly was my tech lead)
  • Building a marketable product from scratch that we could test first as an internal tool.

I was always under the assumption that DE would be all about Data Analytics, and that we’d have to spend our time writing Pandas code to answer to business requirements. I couldn’t have been more wrong. A Data Engineer is the one that supercharges the SQL Developers and Analysts who are a part of the Business Intelligence to manage and deliver the data required. As a Data Engineer, I honed my fundamentals iteratively to create the pillars that the current DE team’s job management infrastructure lies upon. While my team hasn’t hit the Customer Data Portal and the Master Table Management segments just yet, we’ve managed to cover quite a few of the other sections of DE with our toolkit. Much of my time was spent enjoying my work at the office. Even today, as I write this blog post, I’m still looking to go to office and continue refining and building upon the platform that I developed.

Education #

I’m going to Northeastern University! (probably)

I’m still waiting on my admits from Cornell, UIUC, and UTA. The application process was honestly tiring. From writing the GRE (which I never bothered submitting to universities), writing out the SOPs, requesting LORs, and to the actual application. I’m genuinely glad that I’m done with it.

I didn’t really apply to all the schools that I could. Mostly because I think that I’ve applied to all the schools that I want to go to (other than some which I think are far beyond my reach at present), and because I’ve already received an admit from a pretty damn good university.

I look forward to moving to Boston and starting afresh. If you’re familiar with me, I love doing that. Something about going somewhere new and being able to start afresh is refreshing. It gives you a chance to be someone that you’ve wanted to be but are chained down by the people around you.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do love the people around me. However, once you get used to someone and they get used to you, you’re forced to conformity in the way that you act and the expectations that people set upon you and vice versa.

I also graduated this year and met up with friends at the college. That was super fun. :D

A few achievements along the way #

During the first few months of my internship, I simultaneously worked on my research domain to produce two papers. One of them covered a study on the implementation of advanced networks on SDN-IoT infrastructure and was presented at a conference in Pune. The other paper was published in the Journal of Supercomputing and delved into migrating stations in a cluster-based SDN network. I am super glad that I’m done with these, and I’m also pretty happy that I know how to perform research now.

I’m taking a short break from it for now considering that I’m working full-time now but hey, it was fun while it lasted. My professor does mention that I should get back into it, but that’s a stress I’m not sure I can manage right now.

Oh yeah, I also won the Raman Research Award due to the aforementioned paper. That was cool.

What am I doing my Masters for? #

I’m interested in SDNs and System Design. Now, this intersection of tech stacks, poses a slight bit of a problem in my case, considering where I live.

  1. There’s limited scope and viability for development in this domain.
  2. Professors are unfortunately isolated from production-grade scenarios.
  3. Most of the study done here struggle to find funding.
  4. It’s super hard to join a corporate R&D team through local universities.
  5. My research field doesn’t exist in production. Atleast not yet.
  6. I’m getting bored of staying at the same place.

So, while the scientists and existing engineers set up the initial ecosystem for the SDN architect job market, I might as well study and research into the domain connecting and developing on the technical stack.

That being said, it does seem like the ONF is now merging in with the Linux Foundation. That is a very good sign of progress for software-defined networking.

Social Life #

I think social life has been a big win this year. I’ve gained a sense of self, and despite me doubting my decisions and myself sometimes (like now!), I’m still very stable in my decision making. While I’m not as down-to-earth and well versed in conversation as much as DP and AB are, I have gotten much better at it.

Over the year, I’ve been introduced to some very cool people who I thought I’d be interacting with for a long time. But, somehow, that didn’t happen. The relation broke off pretty quickly just as fast as it was made. It is unfortunate but inevitable sometimes. Handling relations with people requires time, effort and care. My roommate, SPU, said it well,

Brother, the time and effort that you spend on nurturing a relation with someone is what sets the foundation for the relationship. Arguments are the result of misunderstanding and a lack of communication. You simply cannot expect to not give someone your time and attention yet expect the same back from them.

Which I believe is fair and applicable to any form of relationship.

Regardless, I’ve introduced myself to new people, and over time, learnt how to engage in limited conversation which still provides me a better perspective on who they are. I’ve learnt not to judge someone until I’ve conversed and understood their viewpoint better. I’ve learnt not to gossip about people. (A failing that has led me to more harm than good; eventually burning down bridges)

I think I’ve become boring as a result of all of this though. If you’re great on all fronts, then there’s nothing that really defines you anymore. You need to lack something to be impressionable. Being a jack of all trades helps you ease yourself into many conversations but it really doesn’t leave an impact on people.

But, you know? I don’t mind being boring. It’s not that bad.

Finance #

This year was a new kind of revelation for me on the finance end. Mostly because it’s the first time that I was earning money and spending it on household needs. My previous internships and stuff, being WFH experiences, didn’t really need me to do any of that.

Rent, food, entertainment, transport and other miscellaneous expenses. All new stuff. However, I did manage to direct funds over to my other bank account on a recurring basis. This, in conjunction with a recurring mutual fund investment set up a monthly loop of investing some amount of cash every month.

I’ve also been trying out various kinds of financial trackers. Starting out with Google Sheets, then moving towards Ledger CLI, advancing towards GnuCash, ultimately returning back to Google Sheets albeit with a better understanding of how to categorise my transactions and how specific/vague it can be. This decision was made for a few reasons.

  • Easier to understand and update unlike ledger-cli.
  • Relatively simple unlike GnuCash which is complex from the very start.
  • I can export the sheets easier to Excel if I want to grow it out to be more complex.
  • Accessible from any machine. Office or Home.

I’ve also been looking into the stock market and the news, seeking to start investing via Kite.

A word of advice my dad had to offer is simply this,

Are your expenses less than your income? If so, and you’re saving it well, then there’s not much else you can ask for. No one can stop you from growing rich!

And I trust his words.

Hobbies #

I haven’t managed to make a dent on my hobbies. I have none, and I need to find one that I genuinely enjoy. I’ve attempted to make a story, a youtube channel, a game and a comic. Out of all of these, none have seemed to work, and I do consider them to be a slight bit of a hassle. I need to find something that I can do and enjoy doing at the same time. But, to be fair, that’s surprisingly hard to find.

I suppose I do play games still and have gotten better at Apex Legends, but I don’t suppose it’s worth the time nor the effort to get good at the game. Gaming, despite its beauty in a select few games (hollow knight, terraria, etc), is something I seek to socialize with people. That’s where me and DP differ.

I believe that taking up any hobby and to keep at it requires me to lower the barrier of starting the task. A major disadvantage of mine is to overcomplicate and overextend the amount of work that I need to do at a given time. This has led to me dropping off many tasks that I start.

I need to lower the barrier of entry.

Aside from that, I’ve gotten (slightly) better at cooking. I can finally attempt to make dishes that are edible. Sometimes I fail, but I’ve managed to make some relatively good dishes like Paneer Tikka and Shakshukha.

Travel #

I travelled a lot this year. More so than any other year so far. The places that I’ve visited this year are,

  • Friendship Garden: A Japanese-themed park.
  • Sinhagad Fort: One of the first treks that me and my roommates went on.
  • A Martin Garrix Concert: Possible the best concert I’ve ever been to.
  • Baner and Pashan Hills: A small trek to see the sunset.
  • Tirupati: An annual family pilgrimage that I’m starting to enjoy.
  • Devkund: An 8km trek to a beautiful bathtub of the gods.
  • Irani Cafe: A nice restaurant that I went to with J. He’s a good psycopath.
  • Bangalore: I met up with a lot of friends from college and had a great time.
  • Goa: Made a road trip with the clan+1 to Goa for Sunburn 2023.

I’ve also learnt to drive better this year. Cars and Bikes. I’m not at the point where it’s like second nature to me yet, but I’m much more confident.

Conclusion #

That’s all I’ve got to summarize my year. Hope it was a fun read.