In the present day’s publish is all about Akhil Raju, a software program engineer on the robotics workforce. We initially met Akhil in season two of DeepMind: The Podcast, however we needed to get to know him higher and listen to extra about his path to DeepMind.
What sparked your curiosity in synthetic intelligence (AI)?
Once I was younger, I considered AI in the identical method I considered magic. Sure, I needed to hang around with R2-D2 and Optimus Prime – however I additionally needed to go to Hogwarts. That was till I turned 12 and began taking part in LEGO robotics competitions. At that second, I realized that robots weren’t a fantasy or one thing that might solely exist within the far future, however slightly one thing that may very well be created within the current. Additionally, it seems that enjoying with robots is extremely enjoyable.
What got here subsequent?
Loads! From there I continued with robotics competitions, began college at MIT, and spent numerous time finding out pc science with a deal with robotics. After commencement, I fully pivoted away from the sphere and joined a startup in San Francisco for just a few years earlier than shifting to Google.
It was nice however I would at all times needed to dwell overseas so I began alternatives exterior the US. At that time, I made a decision to maneuver to London and set my sights on DeepMind. I truly didn’t assume DeepMind employed individuals with out PhDs, however I gave it a shot and it labored out!
As a result of I used to be doing a switch from Google to DeepMind, I used to be capable of apply to a number of groups on the identical time. The robotics workforce wasn’t on my radar till my recruiter requested me, “By the best way, you’ve gotten bits of robotics in your resume. Have you considered becoming a member of our robotics workforce?” I bit on the alternative. And truthfully, it’s been wonderful ever since.
Are you able to stroll us by way of a typical day? What’s your schedule like?
Each morning I head into the workplace for breakfast, the place with out fail, my teammates already are. It’s change into part of our each day routine to have breakfast collectively earlier than leaping into our work.
I spend most mornings within the robotics lab, fixing failures from earlier experiments or organising new robots. Even when there’s not a lot to be achieved, I get power from simply strolling round and seeing our robots at work, listening to the hum of the machines and motors. We’ve grown quite a bit over the previous few years, and you may really feel it whereas strolling round our area.
My afternoons are a mixture of conferences, coding and – now that most individuals are again within the workplace – an impromptu chat or two. That’s considered one of my favorite elements of being within the workplace – the random catch-ups and whiteboard classes that assist me be taught and transfer rapidly. From there I’ll take a fast snack break, and if the climate is good, head to the balcony to make amends for a few of my favorite US sports activities podcasts (I nonetheless haven’t made the change from soccer to soccer). Then I’ll code a short time longer.
What’s it like behind the scenes at DeepMind?
The tradition at DeepMind is among the greatest elements of being right here. From my perspective, we’ve discovered a pleasant steadiness between a college, start-up, and enormous firm. A lot of the work tradition comes from the primary two.
It’s common to search out individuals brainstorming in entrance of whiteboards with maths scrawled throughout it, or somebody tucked away in a quiet nook studying the most recent analysis papers. Just like a start-up, there’s a palpable power all through – you may really really feel everybody’s pleasure.
It might be cliché, however if you love what you do it would not really feel like work. The robotics workforce is a miniature model of all of this, with the bonus that many people are shut buddies exterior of labor, too. It’s good.
How was working from house throughout the pandemic?
Like most individuals, I spent the primary month of the pandemic in disbelief, assuming we’d be again to regular quickly. The vast majority of our conferences and collaborations moved on-line which was an attention-grabbing expertise for our workforce particularly.
As soon as the realisation set in that we had been on this for the lengthy haul, I made a decision to spend my new-found free time to raised myself. I attempted a bunch of hobbies – lengthy sufficient in every case to say I’d tried it, however not lengthy sufficient for something to stay. I had my guitar section, a cooking section, and even a puzzle section, however my favorite was the tie-dye section. There have been just a few weeks the place I tie-dyed the whole lot, from shirts to shorts to socks, and now they sit on the backside of my closet (the place they truthfully belong).
What sort of optimistic affect are you hoping AI can have on the world?
I really feel fortunate to be at DeepMind and to have the ability to deal with the work that I do. Robotics – and AI normally – might be a optimistic drive on this planet, and it’s thrilling to have the ability to assist transfer that ahead.
On the entire, I’m notably excited by seeing how AI might help mitigate local weather change – whether or not that’s by discovering methods to make use of power extra effectively, or enabling us to provide clear power. Researchers at DeepMind are already excited about this, so I’m hopeful that we’ll have the ability to transfer the world ahead and make an affect on this area.
Any ideas for aspiring DeepMinders? Or somebody seeking to get into the same function?
If you wish to be at DeepMind, go for it. Apply, interview, and simply strive. You may not get it the primary time however that doesn’t imply you may’t strive once more. I didn’t assume I’d get a job at DeepMind, and once I bought the supply, my preliminary thought was – certainly it is a mistake! Everybody doubts themselves – I’ve by no means felt like the neatest individual within the room. I’ve usually felt the alternative. However I’ve realized that, regardless of these emotions, I do belong and I do need to work at a spot like this. And that journey, for me, began with simply attempting.