During my bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, I was caught up in the AI and Machine Learning hype, and set my eyes on working in Machine Learning for one of the big tech companies (Amazon, Google, Apple, Uber, Palantir, etc).
Two years later, at the end of my master’s, I clinched a research engineer internship at Uber AI in San Francisco.
Here’s my guide on how to get there while in university.
1. Don’t aim for the best possible grade point average but for outstanding grades in a few strategically chosen classes
Technical jobs demand specific skills, not a great GPA. I focused my attention on two lectures per semester (at the most), and spent less than a week studying for the required or less interesting lectures.
2. Look up the professors before picking their lectures
Many professors advise interesting companies and almost always know someone in the companies you want to work for. I took all the lectures of a professor who advised Apple and had close connections to Amazon and Google. His recommendation letter was a total game-changer that opened many doors for me.
3. Work as a student researcher in your university’s research labs
With big tech companies battling to hire Professors and PhD students as “AI-Experts”, you’d be surprised how well connected your university’s research labs are. Getting a student researcher job can be as easy as talking to a PhD student after a lecture. I worked at two research labs in the first three semesters of my master’s and it was a postdoc in the second lab who eventually helped me get an interview at Uber.
4. Be strategic when choosing mandatory university projects
Personal or university projects equally count as practical experience. Think about how these projects could relate to the company you’re interested in. As I had my mind set on Google’s DeepMind research lab, I built a model to play Chrome’s TRex Game using simple models developed by DeepMind’s researchers. In every interview I’ve had so far, I’ve been asked about the project.
5. Go to career fairs
Referrals are the key to getting an interview at one of the big tech companies. Not only does it save you from writing annoying motivation letters, but it also ensures that your application is at least looked at. At career fairs, you will meet at least one person with the right connections. I went to the Talent Summits in Berlin, Paris and London where I met people from all the big players in tech. With the referral and advice from TalentSpace members, I was invited to interviews at Palantir and Facebook in London.