We begin the series with an interview with Shivaram Venkataraman who was recruited by the Intelligent Infrastructure Lab.

Hewlett-Packard has a long and proud tradition of recruiting top university students seeking to get exposure inside a high tech company like HP. This tradition is particularly well-established at HP Labs, where some of the best and brightest graduate and post-graduate students from around the world come to begin their professional development under the guidance and mentorship of some of the high tech industry’s most accomplished and distinguished researchers.

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Please tell us about yourself

Raised in Chennai, India, Shivaram Venkataraman graduated from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science and then worked for several years at Google’s Bangalore engineering office before deciding to pursue his graduate studies. In 2011 Shivaram received an MS in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and this Fall he’ll begin a PhD in computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. Among Shivaram’s passions are hiking and literature. He’s also a huge tennis and pro-soccer fan.

HP: How did you hear about HP’s internship program?

This is my second internship at HP Labs.  In 2009, while I was pursuing my master’s degree, there was a conference being held at Urbana-Champaign and I met some HP Labs researchers who were presenting there and they encouraged me to apply.  Most of the interns here are PhD students who are already in their program, so I felt very fortunate that I was encouraged to apply as a master’s student.

HP: What have you been working on at HP Labs?

Well, last year I was working on software systems for next-generation memory architectures. A lot of people at HP Labs are working on this new class of memory called non-volatile memory and my project looked at how you could design structures for storing data more effectively on these devices.  This year I’m working with the same HP Labs manger, Partha Ranganathan, and I’m developing a distributed execution engine for analytics over large data. It’s answering the question of what infrastructure is needed to efficiently execute complex algorithms on a large in-memory data store.

HP: What’s been the best thing about being an intern at HP Labs?

The best thing for me has been that I’ve had interactions with a large number of researchers at HP Labs who are experts in different areas. Because there’s a lot of interaction between the different labs here, I’ve been able to present my own research to people in other labs and they’ve given me very helpful feedback. Having all of their input has helped my own research tremendously.

HP: Has interning at HP Labs changed your own career focus?

It’s certainly exposed me to a lot of research that’s being done that I wasn’t aware of.  It’s also really helped me broaden my perspective.  There are a lot of people here that are very influential in the industry, so I’m also getting to meet interesting people when I go to conferences, for example.  That’s really helped me find my place in the industry and grow into the systems research community.

HP: How will your internship at HP connect to your PhD research?

I’ll be joining a lab at Berkeley that’s looking at the problem of doing complex analytics on really large amounts of data. My mentor, Indrajit Roy and his colleagues here have been very helpful in coming up with a topic for me to work on over the summer that aligns with what I’ll be looking at in my PhD.  In fact, one of my goals this summer is not just to solve some problems but to discover more problems so that I can work on them over the course of my PhD.  So the synergy is really nice.

HP: Do you have any advice to others coming to HP Labs for an internship?

I’d say go and talk to a lot of people while you are here, learn about what they are doing.  It’s very easy to just get on with your project and do nothing else. That’s part of the goal, but not the entire goal.  You don’t want to miss out on what you can gain from talking with people who are experts in their own domains.