Please tell us about yourself

Srimannarayana Karthik , a 25 year old Indian International student of University of SouthernCalifornia is a role model for all upcoming engineers. He didn’t compromise hisdream of getting a CORE job for anything else in this world. He pursued his love for VLSI (Very-Large-Scale-Integration) designing and recently joined Intel as a Design Engineer.The following is an excerpt from an interview with Karthik. Young engineers who are on crossroads wondering which way to go shall benefit from this!

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Tell us why did you choose an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career such as Electrical Engineering in Bachelors?

I had a simple reason to choose this line. I joined Electrical because everyone said it was toughand I wanted to take the challenge! Basically, I had to choose between Computer Science and Electrical/Electronics. I knew that I’ll anyway learn computer languages irrespective of the fact that someone teaches me or not. Also I figured out that i can come back to CSE if I wanted to even after I did EEE, but not vice versa. So I joined EEE branch in Sathyabama University, Chennai.
How did you fall in love with VLSI?

In my B.Tech college days, I always wanted to build an autonomous machine and one fine morning there was this advertisement from ALTERA, the chip design company, regarding thesame on the department notice board. I proposed my idea to them and it got accepted. I got funding and my design was selected among top 15 designs in India! I made a presentation inBangalore. I didn’t win the contest, but this incident raised my interest towards VLSI. Later, I participated in NIOS Design Contest and made it to the final round. Then I attended a VLSI conference in Hyderabad. This is where I met a bunch of professors and corporate people, and realized the advances of electronics and which way it was heading. Since then I wanted pursue my career in it.
Was there any specific reason why you did Masters in Electrical Engineering?

Like half of the people I know even I was an IIT aspirant and like majority of them, I failed to get into IITs! After my Bachelors, I got an opportunity to be a Research Assistant for a professor at IIT Mumbai. I stayed there for a week. I noticed that even in IITs there are very few chances to reach the pinnacle in any core field. Moreover, everyone there looks forward to get a job in banking or finance which would give them a salary of 12 lakhs per annum. No one was really that passionate about their specialization. I felt that no one in India does design even in the big companies like Intel, Qualcomm, and AMD. They do testing or support work. I wanted to do design to the core. The best option that I saw was to do my MS in the field I like and work in the field that I love and where the actual designing is done!!

How was your stay in the University of Southern California during your Masters Program?

I would put my USC life as the most interesting phase of my life. For many reasons, I would rate my course (in VLSI) one of the best in world for sure. The course dealt with bottom to top approach. Right from how a Silicon is used to fabricate to building processor based system. I didn’t just learn them, I practically built them too! I cursed my college every night for the amount of work that they gave to do me. But, every time Ifelt like finishing it properly and learning something new out of it and not just doing it for namesake. At the end of the day, I constantly felt that I learned something new and achieved something. I used to study about 14 hours a day. As a matter of fact, we never needed to memorize anything, because we were allowed to carry the required book to the exam! You can only pass a course if you can figure out the solution to the problem. There are no question banks,no predetermined set of questions! I wouldn’t say that all courses and universities are the same.But if you want to learn, Masters in the USA is definitely a viable option. You can complete your degree by taking easy courses or you can take up the challenge by choosing tough courses. Unlike in India, the courses are not mandatory. So you’ll do it only if you want to learn and hence all my courses were of my interest and were challenging!

One more thing that I would like to add is that every time I paid fees in B.Tech, I used to feel that the college was stealing money from me. But during my MS, even though I paid much more than B.Tech, I felt that I got value for my money!

What qualities should an electrical engineer have?

In order to be a good Electrical Engineer, you need to be passionate and hardworking. In fact,many companies in the USA are trying to export parts of VLSI design to India. One insider for you — 80% of people working in technical jobs in US doing highest level of design work is either Indians or Chinese! Just be passionate and start working towards it. Never stop your learning once you come out of college. There are so many things to do around. Many design contests, lots of funding. Just browse around and try to do something on your own apart from what you have to do for college or for marks. You will automatically end up in a good job and feel much better at the end of the day and feel satisfied for the thing you learnt on your own.

Tell us something about your job at Intel?

I am really excited. In fact, super excited!! My position is of a Graphics Hardware Engineer and Iam entering a team that is about to start a new graphics architecture. It will come to market after a couple of years. So I am working on something that the world is unknown of !! My part is basically physical design. To tell a little bit about it, you write a code and fix bugs. This is front end. In back end you take this debugged code and do all the necessary steps to make it to silicon. I’ll be working in the back end.

Describe your interview with Intel?

The interview is mostly technical with about just about two minutes of intro about the team andposition. The Manager contacted me about the position and after that a telephonic interview wasscheduled. Someone from his team then called me up and asked a few questions based upon my resume and their requirements. I actually did well in my telephonic interview and based on my performance, I was called for the on-site interview.The job requirement was for both front-end and back-end design engineer. The on-site interview  was very grilling. One full day of interview for about 5-6 rounds with different team members indifferent fields and each one of them at-least 1 hour long. There was one lunch where you get tomeet the team and socialize with them. I was interviewed on Friday, so they offered me to stay there over the weekend and get to know the location also. They said that they will get back to meon Monday.Interviews are tough. They interviewer wants to see what is your breaking point. They will look the way you approach an issue, were you able to solve it if helped and trust me they are very friendly.They want to know how much you know and not how much you don’t know!!

Describe your job search strategy in detail?

In the US, the ratio of success to application is lesser than 1%, which means if you apply for hundred positions, only one manager would look at your resume!! Understand this, digest it and plan accordingly.I finished up most of my hard course in first 3 semesters and did only one course in final semester so that i can completely dedicate my time for job search. Make sure that you keep applying jobs as many as you can. I mean writing a cover letter for each position separately, and modifying your resume for different positions. Making a good resume is long process and I don’t want to get into that. Just keep it latest and updated. The job search here is so screened. They won’t hire you if they need someone, they’ll hire if they find someone good enough for their requirement!! Resume gets searched for keywords by software and by the Hiring Managers based on the requirements given by Technical Manager. So they have no idea how good you are if your resume is not picked up by their software! The manager then takes a look at your resume and if he likes,he will talk to his team and decide to have interview to support someone for some responsibilities.Then he’ll get back to you. So you need to do your ground work. Look what a specific company is looking for and what your strengths are and then apply to them properly. I used to apply for only 5-10 jobs/day and it took me about 2-3 hrs/day. In one instance when a manager contacted me, I tried to find him on LinkedIn and see what his specialization is, where he studied and stuff like that. Based on that you know how he will approach an interview.I used to be honest in interviews. If I couldn’t answer a question, I would always ask the answer directly to the interviewer and would try to find out more about it. This helped me a lot. This way I learnt so much in interviews more than one can learn in college. Also this shows the manager that you are interested in learning.

At the end of the day, you need a bit of luck. Good luck