My internship at A2I2: Jai Kannan
In this series, we’re spending time with some of our staff who began their journeys at A2I2 through our internship program. To begin, we spoke with Jai Kannan, a current PhD student at the Institute, about his internship at A2I2 and to learn about the exciting journey he’s been on since.
What got you interested in doing an internship with A2I2?
It all began while I was studying a Master’s of Virtual Reality (VR) and IT Services here at Deakin. I had a goal to work in the gaming industry, although this changed when one of my lecturers introduced me to A2I2’s Head of Translational Research, Professor Raj Vasa.
I still remember that first conversation with him. We spoke for at least two hours – mostly about Blockchain! I was given such a fantastic insight into the way the people at A2I2 think and analyse. The Master’s course gave me the option to complete an internship unit, so I mentioned it to Raj during the same conversation. We spoke on a Friday, and on the following Monday I started my internship with the Institute. I was hooked!
Was there anything about A2I2 that appealed most to you?
From the moment I set foot in the Institute, I just felt at home. It possesses the right conditions to help me achieve my long term goals in the field. For example, when I’m having trouble with programming, at A2I2 I can openly express this to the engineers and my supervisors. This was not acceptable at my previous workplaces.
“The staff at A2I2 have always given me their time to explain solutions and ensure that I walk away having gained a new piece of knowledge. There are no barriers to learning here, and working at the Institute has given me the flexibility to develop my skill set very broadly.”
What were the most exciting things that you did during your internship?
As soon as I began, the team put me on a project working on improving an Internet of Things (IoT) device, similar to Amazon’s Alexa devices. It was amazing! I’d never worked with anything like it before, and I was given the chance to develop creative software for an emerging technology.
It never felt like work. I really enjoyed the opportunities I was given in the six months of the internship, and I wanted to be around the Institute as much as possible. I could feel how my skill set was developing, particularly in regards to improving myself as a software engineer, and providing me with the fundamentals of conducting research.
Since completing the internship, where has it led you?
The institute offered me part-time work once the internship finished, and I was immediately put on an industry-based project. This involved creating simulations for a client, and I was working with one of A2I2’s senior developers and project managers. I learnt how to write production code for this project, and it felt very rewarding to work on something that would go out into the real world.
Following my completion of the Master’s course, I moved into a full-time software engineering role at A2I2, and I could not have been more enthusiastic about this!
You’ve recently decided to take on a PhD with A2I2, what led you to choose this?
One day I hope to start my own lab that will research ways to make AI more usesable, production-worthy, and antifragile. To do this, I need to learn how to think and plan like a researcher. Whilst my Master’s course gave me lots of technical skills, conducting effective research is something I’m just learning about now.
I’ve spent much time broadening my knowledge of software development and various IoT and embedded systems while working at A2I2. Doing this requires reading through many academic papers, and it gave me insight to what life as a researcher might be like. I quite enjoy it.
“…being surrounded by people who you can communicate with openly, and who inspire you is very important. A2I2 has people like this, and they’ve helped me gain knowledge, develop skills and aim to achieve my best.”
Did you imagine yourself doing this 5 years ago?
Not at all! I had a vague idea that I would one day like to work in the R&D space, but I didn’t know how to do it. Being at A2I2 gave me the direction, motivation and approach to do what I really want in the field.
What advice would you give to someone looking to do an internship in AI/software engineering?
Be mindful about the environment you choose to work in. We all need supportive environments to help us develop tangible skills, particularly in software engineering.
There will be times when you feel you don’t know what you’re doing, and being surrounded by people who you can communicate with openly, and who inspire you is very important. A2I2 has people like this, and they’ve helped me gain knowledge, develop skills and aim to achieve my best.
How is A2I2 enabling you to pursue what you want to achieve?
Working at A2I2 is enabling me to think and analyse like a researcher should. I aim to work on a wide scope of issues and solve the more critical problems in AI, such as antifragile AI, and production-worthy AI. Every day I’m here is an opportunity to develop new skills and abilities as a researcher, ask plenty of questions without barriers, and, ultimately, get closer to fulfil my future goal of leading a research lab.
Applications for the A2I2 High Achievers Internship Program are currently open. Visit our Internships page for more information.