Be your personal best.

To a dear friend,

I hope things are going well with your undergraduate studies in the city. As I watched the rains come down disrupting life I was most perturbed by the disruption and chaos in your life.

It must be an exciting time for you and your friends in the Senior year. For the first time you can catch the whiff of a real job and money. With the arrival of the monsoons the corporations in and around the city will descend on campuses with presentations, interviews and offer letters. Hiring is big business when all the investors care about is head counts and growth.

For your own college, this time of the year is a critical one. Placements with the top-notch companies guarantee that the campus will continue to attract the best students. Colleges safeguard their reputations (of 100% placements) by religiously following one single rule – if you have a written offer from a corporate that visited campus, you can no longer continue to apply for other campus interviews.

Things had worked out very simply for me. Of the twelve companies that visited my campus in 1999, I was very sure of the one I wanted. I researched the company through my seniors, attended their preplacement talk and only then did I turn in my application. Then began the gruelling process of tough tests and personal interviews. The morning after, I still did not have an offer letter. On that very day, a major services company were also hiring on campus. Unsure of where I was placed, I decided that they would be the next best thing. Mid way through the test I was told that my preferred company had made an offer for me and so I would have to give up on my application with the major corporate.

I gladly left the test area – I had made it with the best company on my list. My later experience with the company was greatly sweetened by the detail of my research into the organization, the high quality of the interviews and of course, by the fact that I truly believed that it was the best company to have visited my campus.

My own experience aside, in the depths your mind I am sure you prefer at least one of the following, to either enter the rat race or to stay out of it. If you were to stay out of the rat race, you could continue to be a student and decide to not create any value in the strict economical sense. If that is true for you, I believe you would not be too worried about getting hired on campus.

Unfortunately, you and your friends like you appear to be afraid. Watching the others send in their job applications with the big brand names seems to have weakened your resolve. It appears as if the entire class has submitted an application for every company planning to visit the campus!

I am sure that corporates are aware of this herd effect and covet the first interview slot on your campus. I also suspect that that slot carries a premium. Coincidentally, the same services company that could not have me, have booked the first slot on your campus. On day one of campus placements they had the best look at the top students. As the top ten students were being interviewed, you awaited your turn patiently. I was surprised to hear that the college then announced to those waiting that your preferred company would visit the campus in a weeks time. It no longer made any sense to sit through the current interviews. Subsequently, some of your friends deliberately failed the interview (some cleared inadvertently and were made offers).

What really baked my noodle though is what would the top ten students have done had they heard the same announcement, would they have preempted their own interviews? It only gets better. Within the first three days about 70% of your class had already been recruited and were eliminated. So what is your preferred company to do – they go ahead and cancel their campus visit. Your decision to wait for your choice of employer has now left you stranded. Who gets to decide what your future will look like? Why is it that the current answer appeals the least to me?

I encourage you to renew your faith in yourself. If you have decided you wish to stay out of the rat race, stand by your decision. If you later decide to change your mind, you can definitely apply around your campus placement office. Our current economy and job market only increases the probability that you will be placed with an employer of your choice. Do not be discouraged by the facade of tough interviews, long waits and other mental hurdles. Realise that you are unique. Search the right place for yourself, a place where you won’t need to fight change.

Be your personal best.

Computer Science course books for sale

Update: I no longer have these books on me.

The following C.S. course-books:

1. Code complete. Steve McConnell. First Edition. $3.
2. J2EE Anti-Patterns. Wiley Publishers. $5.
3. Java NIO, Ron Hitchens, O’Reilly. $5.
4. Introduction to Algorithms, Cormen, Rivest, and Lieserson. Second Edition. $7.
5. Computer Architecture – a quantitative approach. Hannessey and Patterson. Second Edition. $3.
6. Data Mining. Jiawei Han and Michelle Kember. $5.
7. Distributed Systems Concepts. $5.
8. Computer Networks, Third Edition. Aaron Tanenbaum. $5.
9. Data Structures in C and C++. Aaron Tanenbaum. $5.
10. Lisp, 3rd Edition, Winston & Horn. $5.
11. The practice of programming. Kernighan & Pike. $6.
12. Java 2. Third Edition. Naughton and Schildt. $2.
13. Database System Concepts. Korth. $3.
14. Operating Systems. Milenkovic. $5.
15. Introduction to Languages and the Theory of Computation, John C. Martin, Second Edition. $2.
16. Distributed Systems Concepts and Design, Coulouris, Dollimore. Third Edition. $5.
17. Test your C++ Skills, Yashvant Kanetkar. $4.
18. Computer Networking, Kurose and Ross. $5.

All books are low-price asian editions, paperback. They have been used/marked with notes. Nothing else wrong with the books. If your interested, please send me an e-mail. I am only willing to accept cash.

KDD 2004

Yesterday, I relived my life as a graduate student after 4 weeks of professional work. I found to my chagrin and disbelief, that I actually loved the sudden change.

I had a short 20 minute window to talk about a paper I worked on with other folks from RIT at KDD 2004. I spent a good portion of Saturday and Sunday working on this, with little regret.

Interesting KDD 2004 statistics:
01. The longest amount of time a speaker rambled on – 1 hour 30 minutes
02. The average duration of time for any talk – 15 minutes
03. Pretty women in the conference – 5
04. Stares they invited – 100+ per minute
05. Surfboarders at the conference – 3
06. People schmoozing upto the awards committee – 200+
07. Powerpoint slides displayed on the first day – 10^3
08. Slides that were original – 9
10. Attendees – easily 300+
11. People who had $300 to throw away – 100+
12. People who actually published in KDD – Significant attendees
01. Joshua Goodman & Geoff Hulten (
02. Ronn Feldman (Clearforest)
03. Jafar Adibi
04. Usama Fayyed
05. Soumen Chakraborti
06. Ankur Teredesai (my Master’s thesis advisor)
07. Jiawei Han (Winner of the innovations award for KDD-’04)
08. Ronny Kohavi (
09. Heiki Mannilla
10. Mohammed Zaki ( & Vineet’s new advisor)

Link KDD 2004

Finally, some information on how and where some of our work will appear. The paper was written over the Summer, summarising a few experiments with Social Networks. Link KDD 2004 is the forum for the talk!

August 22nd, Sunday:
11:10 to 11:30 Extracting Social Networks from Instant Messaging Populations


So lets see how things turn out for me today! One thing is for sure, I am going to give it my best shot! Come what may, I have to move on Wednesday to Seattle. I will miss the people here!

The Blue Angels flying over my roof

Master’s in C.S.

I think I have finally burnt out! So I must use hindsight.

These have been 4 tough months. Unlike India, where work was interjected with other concerns and occasional play, all I have done lately is work single-mindedly on my thesis and make a fair attempt to build my career. This usually takes up my whole day, 7 days a week, all days of the month.

Coupled with a surely too disciplined focus, things are starting to fall apart around me. Summer pay has been refused and I am going to have to draw out my savings. As if that was not bad enough, the heat wave is taking a toll on my overall well-being. If I stick to the basics, plan goals well, stay motivated, work smart, I am sure I will make the deadlines.

I like to think that I think I made it quite far in terms of balancing the discipline that is the hallmark of the west, and my hard working background. I was never born with much, neither did I have too less, lucky in that respect.

In the movie 'A House of Sand and Fog' the protagonist, aptly played by Ben Kingsley, is of Iranian origin. His slight contempt for the American way of life is evident from his quote, from the movie: "Americans have the eyes of little children, always distracted by the next toy that they see. They don't want to have any of the responsibility". I think he is being a little too harsh. He fails to highlight the other end of the spectrum.

I acknowledge that I would not trade my experience in RIT for a Master's in any other school outside the USA. One late evening with Rishabh and Arun while travelling through the University District in Seattle, I vehemently argued that a Master's here is not worth all the sacrifice. I acknowledge that I was wrong! It's not just education that people come seeking here, it is something a lot bigger than that, it is the opportunity to be all you can be.

My judgement was obscured by broken promises made by a few others, who I will most likely forget with time. I forgot that in the end, this society is built around the individual. Thus, in the end what your share is, is exactly what your willing to work for, to build for yourself. Selfish, but factual.

A few farewells have been said, Vin & Vis are graduating. Vishal graduated, having defended his thesis. I wish Vineet all the best with the future.

Almost 2 years at RIT, tonight is Senior Night…

My Master's were the 2 years where I gained the most value in all my life. The end is finally in sight, I don't have to wonder where I am going to be. Especially since, I am already on my way.

MS hurts prospects

We are trained to think in terms of associations, a Bachelor’s degree increases your probability of getting a job. A Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, it seems, the probability of getting a job is high too.

However, There maybe a negative dependence between getting a Master’s Degree and job prospects, although it is true that they pay more. The apriori probability of getting a job with a Bachelor’s degree is greater than the probability of doing a Master’s given that you already have a Bachelor’s degree!! I don’t have the data to confirm this, but I think it would not be too hard to prove! This is based on the notion that employers would prefer to hire either freshers or senior professionals rather than a Master’s student with a focus on one area of C.S.