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Noor Batra (January 2023 - August 2023)

Name: Noor Batra
School: Missouri University of Science and Technology
Major: Computer Engineering
Co-op period: January 2023 - August 2023


Co-op Experience

What was the interview process like?

During my freshman year career fair, I met Dave Voeller, who was going to become my supervisor, but only after he had talked to my friend a year above me who ended up getting hired instead. I wasn’t that interested since I planned on taking summer classes, so all I did was talk about machine learning and PyTorch. The next year, I talked to him and made sure to stay relaxed and bring up my side projects, which got him interested and I was able to get an interview scheduled quickly.

Most of the time, I ended up not talking about how much I’ve learned in school, but instead talked about the work I’ve done at home on projects that I did after school. This was capturing his interest more than I expected, but now I know that everything I said turned out to be very relevant to my work here at Hunter. Having a friend work under Dave and vouch for me probably also helped, but I believe talking about my own experiences was the most important thing since I was relaxed and easily able to describe everything.


Most students just want experience, but they may not know what type of experience they want. Please describe some of the work you did and what type of skills you needed. It is important to note the skills you could apply from what you’ve learned in school and what you learned on the job.

Surprisingly, I spent a lot of time writing a frontend with ReactJS, which I did not expect. I had little JS experience and was expected to pick up the skill and work on it before getting my hands dirty with PyTorch or anything, so be expected to pick up a skill you may not expect.


What experience do you think will be the most useful for you in the future?

I think working with people in a group setting while also remaining independent (as described later) was the most useful skill. Coordinating with my team on what work needs to be done and how to prioritize and allocate tasks to each of us was something we all tried to work on together, and this sense of equally shared labor was something I really think will help me better for group projects as our work was one massive group project.


How do you think the overall experience will help you in your career?

This is basically a repeat of the above, but as is the case with most jobs, I will have to be working with other people for most of my life. However, entrusting others with working independently and trusting what they come up with was something else I had to learn, and now I feel that I can work with others much easier now than I could before I started this co-op.


What aspect of the work did you enjoy the most?

Sometimes, it would be me and my code, stuck together trying to solve a problem. I would have problems that would take me the most intense thought to solve, multiple attempts to get right, and my thoughts would be solely focused on what it is I’m solving. When my entire mind was dedicated to this, I felt the most productive and most accomplished.


What aspect of the work did you not enjoy?

On the opposite end, there were times when there was a problem that was affecting other people on my team, and we had to come to a decision on how to solve it. Obviously, we all have different ideas and must agree on a solution, so that will not come without some back-and-forth between us deciding and settling on a solution. This always felt like overhead to me, and while it was very necessary, it took me away from what I need to do.


Did you learn anything?

I learned that when I’m in a group with people that genuinely know what’s going on and want to get stuff done, we can accomplish so much more than just each of us alone. I’ve had a history of being one of the only people working in a group project or not communicating very much between my group members, which ended up with us doing parts of it independently and then having conflicts when we try to merge our changes. In this job, I really felt like I could accomplish anything together.


Students often want to know if they will work alone or in a group. Was the work you did more individual or group work, and how does it compare with what you have done in school or at another job?

While I’ve gone on about how I had group work, much of the work was done independently and then just briefly describing what we did to each other. We would seek advice from each other often, but we were still accomplishing our own tasks independently and giving ourselves more work to do. This is much better than what I’ve experienced in school group projects, where people just don’t believe in their own ability to contribute, leading them to create a self-fulfilling prophecy and not contribute because they don’t know what to do. We always had work to do and some of it was more of a priority, so we changed up what we did and had a little bit of flexibility in that aspect.


What were your living arrangements during co-op?  This question is especially important for those that are not from St. Louis.

My family lives in the greater Saint Louis area but in a rural town quite far from Bridgeton, so my commute could end up being 45-75 minutes depending on the amount of car accidents which are very frequent in the area. I saved myself money by not renting an apartment, but this doesn’t feel as much as it’s worth considering I was in a car accident 4 months in my co-op.


How was the supervision?

My boss preferred to reduce the time we spent in formal meetings we had but always have work for us to do, and he would check up on us every now and then just to make sure that we were still getting work done. While he was busy often, he still made sure that we’re always on task and aren’t completely stuck or going down the wrong path of how to accomplish some objective.


Anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself, Hunter Engineering, the co-op program or the work?

I really enjoyed my time here and I would strongly recommend this to anyone in or out of the Saint Louis area. I felt like I was really in charge of myself, my project, and contributed greatly to the projects I worked on. I felt tired at the end of the day but accomplished most of the time, which really got me through.

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