Faces on Campus – Mrinal Sourav
Mrinal Sourav moved to the United States from his home in West Bengal, India less than a year ago. Moving to a new country is a very daunting prospect for most people, but Mrinal has already started to immerse himself in Seattle’s booming tech-industry. He has worked as a PDP TA for the CCIS program at Northeastern University – Seattle and has recently been involved in an exciting new experiential startup program titled XN Labs. Mrinal gives us some insight into what XN Labs is and what it may mean for NU-Seattle in the future.
Hi Mrinal! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m from a small town called Kalimpong, next to the Himalayas in West Bengal, India. I moved to Seattle in Fall 2016. Before moving to the US, I was a software engineer working for Accenture at Hyderabad in India. I moved here to study for my Master’s in Computer Science and explore the tech industry around the Seattle area.
What influenced your decision to study Computer Science at Northeastern University – Seattle?
There were a lot of factors influencing my decision to study at NU-Seattle. My decision was ultimately based on moving into and learning about new fields and trends in computer science. I wanted to switch from the business intelligence background and looked forward to learning more about machine learning and data analytics. The faculty are very experienced and have a wealth of knowledge from working in the technology industry around Seattle. I want to learn from them and implement the knowledge that I gain here to move my career forward.
You are currently involved in the XN Labs program. Tell us a little bit about what XN labs is and what the impact may be for NU-Seattle in future.
XN labs, as I understand it, is a tie between Northeastern University – Seattle and local companies; in this case BBB (Better Business Bureau). Although this project was for BBB, there could be more tie-ins with projects from other local firms in the future. This project involved enlarging the current BBB database from three other data sources while ensuring that we did not incorporate or duplicate a record that already existed. We needed to accommodate for approximate “edit distance” matches between strings too.
Moving forward, XN Labs may be focused on a different project, which may require more adaptability. The XN labs program is very interesting, as it offers space for both collaborative work and individual effort. The result is mutually beneficial because it increases the interaction and collaboration between the staff and faculty at Northeastern Seattle, as well as between the university and the local industries.
It was great to work with my teammate and colleague Yang Li and brainstorm ideas with him. It was also nice to interact with the faculty on a more personal and professional level. We got a lot of guidance from Jim Knapik, Dr. Ian Gorton, and Ric McLaughlin. We worked closely with Jim who coordinated and supervised the project, while Ric helped us to elaborate upon and launch the project on AWS.
The initial positive feedback from the program is that it is very experiential. The students involved in XN labs have a great opportunity to gain experience in implementing solutions for small or mid-level firms.
What inspired you to get involved with XN labs?
The opportunity to build a solution from scratch really appealed to me. The requirement initially seemed vague, but we were encouraged to think for ourselves and do our best to come up with solutions. There was a scope of creativity and experimentation, we sometimes used techniques and ways of thinking that we generally wouldn’t try in a strictly academic environment. We had to implement novel ideas and come up with solutions to potential problems as they arose. The work we were undertaking was also similar to what I was doing initially at Accenture as an SAP BI consultant, in that we had to take data from multiple sources and try and generate a resultant data hub/report that has more value for the client. My previous experience meant that it was comfortable for me to transition and adapt to the requirement.
What do you hope to achieve after you graduate?
Lots of things! Future opportunities in computing are without boundaries. I hope to evolve in the field of Computer Science academically and also gain some exposure on how the technology industry operates in the Seattle area. I also want to be able to apply the skills I have acquired at NU-Seattle into building innovative solutions for wherever they can be applied.
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about studying Computer Science at Northeastern – Seattle?
Studying computer science at Northeastern University – Seattle is a great learning experience. The faculty are really nice at NU-Seattle and are very approachable and helpful. They also have a wealth of experience, so it’s a really good opportunity to learn from them. It feels great to see the campus evolving with opportunities like XN Labs and various other events like seminars and hackathons that keep happening troughout the year. The Seattle campus is also a nice place to network with other students who have similar backgrounds and interests, yet you also meet people from different cultures, who have different ways of thinking and working. It’s a very interesting mix and a great exposure towards the diversity we would be facing in our careers later. I have already learned a lot from studying here and I am looking forward to seeing what the future brings.
If you or your company would like to learn more about XN Labs, please contact Jim Knapk at [email protected]