At this time’s submit 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)?
After 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 may very well be created within the current. Additionally, it seems that enjoying with robots is extremely enjoyable.
What got here subsequent?
Lots! From there I continued with robotics competitions, began college at MIT, and spent loads of time finding out pc science with a give attention to robotics. After commencement, I utterly pivoted away from the sector and joined a startup in San Francisco for a number of years earlier than shifting to Google.
It was nice however I would all the time needed to stay 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 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 group wasn’t on my radar till my recruiter requested me, “By the best way, you have got 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 superb ever since.
Are you able to stroll us by means 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 turn out to be 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 establishing new robots. Even when there’s not a lot to be finished, 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 loads over the previous few years, and you’ll really feel it whereas strolling round our house.
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 one in all my favorite components of being within the workplace – the random catch-ups and whiteboard periods that assist me study and transfer rapidly. From there I’ll take a fast snack break, and if the climate is sweet, head to the balcony to atone 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 while longer.
What’s it like behind the scenes at DeepMind?
The tradition at DeepMind is among the greatest components of being right here. From my perspective, we’ve discovered a pleasant steadiness between a college, start-up, and huge firm. Many of the work tradition comes from the primary two.
It’s commonplace to search out individuals brainstorming in entrance of whiteboards with maths scrawled throughout it, or somebody tucked away in a quiet nook studying the newest analysis papers. Much like a start-up, there’s a palpable power all through – you may actually really feel everybody’s pleasure.
It could be cliché, however once you love what you do it would 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. The vast majority of our conferences and collaborations moved on-line which was an fascinating 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 number 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 constructive 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 basically – will likely be a constructive power on the earth, and it’s thrilling to have the ability to assist transfer that ahead.
On the entire, I’m notably serious about seeing how AI will help mitigate local weather change – whether or not that’s by discovering methods to make use of power extra effectively, or enabling us to supply clear power. Researchers at DeepMind are already fascinated by this, so I’m hopeful that we’ll be capable of transfer the world ahead and make an impression on this house.
Any suggestions for aspiring DeepMinders? Or somebody seeking to get into the same position?
If you wish to be at DeepMind, go for it. Apply, interview, and simply attempt. You may not get it the primary time however that doesn’t imply you may’t attempt once more. I didn’t assume I’d get a job at DeepMind, and once I bought the supply, my preliminary thought was – certainly this can be a mistake! Everybody doubts themselves – I’ve by no means felt like the neatest individual within the room. I’ve usually felt the other. However I’ve realized that, regardless of these emotions, I do belong and I do should work at a spot like this. And that journey, for me, began with simply attempting.
Study extra about robotics at DeepMind and seek for open roles immediately