Right this moment’s put up is all about Akhil Raju, a software program engineer on the robotics group. 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 manner 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 would solely exist within the far future, however slightly one thing that could possibly be created within the current. Additionally, it seems that taking part in with robots is extremely enjoyable.
What got here subsequent?
So much! From there I continued with robotics competitions, began college at MIT, and spent lots of time finding out laptop science with a give attention to robotics. After commencement, I utterly pivoted away from the sphere and joined a startup in San Francisco for a couple of years earlier than transferring to Google.
It was nice however I might all the time 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 really didn’t assume DeepMind employed folks 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 in a position to apply to a number of groups on the similar time. The robotics group wasn’t on my radar till my recruiter requested me, “By the way in which, you will have bits of robotics in your resume. Have you considered becoming a member of our robotics group?” I bit on the alternative. And actually, it’s been wonderful ever since.
Are you able to stroll us via 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 turn out to be part of our every 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 establishing new robots. Even when there’s not a lot to be achieved, I get vitality from simply strolling round and seeing our robots at work, listening to the hum of the machines and motors. We’ve grown lots over the previous few years, and you’ll 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 certainly one of my favorite elements of being within the workplace – the random catch-ups and whiteboard periods that assist me be taught and transfer shortly. From there I’ll take a fast snack break, and if the climate is sweet, 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 likely one of the greatest elements of being right here. From my perspective, we’ve discovered a pleasant stability between a college, start-up, and huge firm. A lot of the work tradition comes from the primary two.
It’s commonplace to search out folks brainstorming in entrance of whiteboards with maths scrawled throughout it, or somebody tucked away in a quiet nook studying the newest analysis papers. Just like a start-up, there’s a palpable vitality all through – you possibly can actually really feel everybody’s pleasure.
It could be cliché, however whenever you love what you do it does not really feel like work. The robotics group is a miniature model of all of this, with the bonus that many people are shut pals exterior of labor, too. It’s excellent.
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. Nearly all of our conferences and collaborations moved on-line which was an attention-grabbing expertise for our group specifically.
As soon as the realisation set in that we have been on this for the lengthy haul, I made a decision to spend my new-found free time to higher 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 part, a cooking part, and even a puzzle part, however my favorite was the tie-dye part. There have been a couple of 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 actually belong).
What sort of optimistic impression are you hoping AI can have on the world?
I really feel fortunate to be at DeepMind and to have the ability to give attention to the work that I do. Robotics – and AI normally – might be a optimistic drive on the planet, and it’s thrilling to have the ability to assist transfer that ahead.
On the entire, I’m notably fascinated with seeing how AI will help mitigate local weather change – whether or not that’s by discovering methods to make use of vitality extra effectively, or enabling us to provide clear vitality. Researchers at DeepMind are already desirous about this, so I’m hopeful that we’ll be capable of transfer the world ahead and make an impression on this area.
Any suggestions for aspiring DeepMinders? Or somebody seeking to get into an identical 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 possibly can’t strive once more. I didn’t assume I might get a job at DeepMind, and after I obtained the supply, my preliminary thought was – absolutely it is a mistake! Everybody doubts themselves – I’ve by no means felt like the neatest individual within the room. I’ve typically 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 making an attempt.
Be taught extra about robotics at DeepMind and seek for open roles right now