The telecom industry has always been the backbone of next generation technologies that play a pivotal role in driving digital innovation !
Lahari Sengupta, our next pathbreaker, Innovation Engineer at Teoco, solves several research problems related to the telecommunication industry, be it related to the 5G network or optical fibre.
Lahari talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about the applications of machine learning and several other mathematical/statistical techniques in providing measurable insights into network behaviour for telecom customers.
For students, flexibility and adaptability are key traits to inculcate, and be open to every situation in life no matter what the challenges are !
Lahari, Your background?
I was born and brought up in a suburban town of Kolkata. For the primary section, I studied in a local nursery school, and passed my secondary and higher secondary board exams from local Bengali medium government-aided schools. My father is an advocate and worked as a law officer at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. My mother was a school teacher. Being the elder child of a working parent, I have grown up as a responsible person.
Having a working mother blessed me in several ways. From childhood, she made me independent, taught me how to make decisions, and always had faith in me. Along this, our family and extended family both always have a knack for academics. So, it was obvious for me to be sincere in my studies.
During school days, I regularly practised painting and several sports. Till date I am a huge sports-lover and practice several sports.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
Studying science is very common for above-average students in our country. I also chose science subjects during higher secondary schooling and thereafter a bachelor’s degree in Engineering. Though it seemed that this decision was a sort of going with the flow, but with time I realised, I chose the perfect subjects for me to study. I enjoyed every bit of my bachelor’s and master’s degree studies. I completed my B.Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering from the West Bengal University of Technology and then completed M.Tech in Radio Physics and Electronics from the University of Calcutta.
Then after a gap of 5 years, I started pursuing PhD in Computer Science and completed it at the University of Eastern Finland.
What were some of the influences that made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?
During my B.Tech days, unlike most other Electronics Engineering students, I dreamt of working in the R&D section of the core Electronics industry. Or I wished to pursue higher studies. After B.Tech, refusing the job offer from a service-based software company during campus placement, I chose the M.Tech course in Radio Physics and Electronics at the University of Calcutta. During this course, my urge to join an R&D lab grew stronger. So, after my M.Tech, I joined the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) Kolkata, a research and development organization under the Government of India.
During my CDAC Kolkata days, I learnt about research and development in practice for the first time. I spent 5 years there and learnt a lot. I worked in the Agri- and Environmental Electronics group of the centre. The main vision of the group was to introduce technology and automation to support the agricultural industry of our country. I deployed a prototype of a wireless sensor network based monitoring system for tea plantation management. I installed all the environment and soil sensors along with the wireless data acquisition kit at the tea garden and developed a data acquisition and monitoring software. This one was a huge field experience for me. For the first time, I got to know the in-field issues and realised the differences between theoretical knowledge and practical circumstances. I also became experienced in software development, image processing, and data analysis that helped me in my PhD.
During this time, I also understood myself more and discovered my enormous curiosity for learning new things. This way I headed towards pursuing a PhD.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
I have a natural ability for doing research and exploring new things. I am always thrilled to learn new things. So, realizing these abilities, it was obvious for me to pursue a PhD during my CDAC days. But, I was not very sure about doing this at the beginning. Then, I had a personal reason, and my motivation to do a PhD strengthened. I moved to Finland and started my PhD at the University of Eastern Finland. But my PhD was in Computer Science and doing a PhD without having a master’s degree in Computer Science is not easy. I struggled and studied hard over the first year and almost another half of a year to keep up with the flow.
In my PhD, I worked on solving NP-hard combinatorial optimization problems for a location-based mobile game. The game includes a route optimization problem which is a variant of the well-known traveling salesman problem. My research provides a simple and fast algorithm to find the optimized recommended route for the players. I also evaluated and studied players’ performance to increase their motivation. Though I applied my research findings to that specific location-based game, those results can be used for any route optimization problem.
After my PhD, I worked as an academic Post-Doctoral researcher at the University of Eastern Finland, Finland and the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. But, I preferred industrial research and am currently working as an Innovation Engineer at the Innovation hub of TEOCO Corporation.
How did you get your first break?
If I talk about my first break, then it would be CDAC, Kolkata. After completing my MTech thesis project, I applied online for a position at CDAC that a friend of mine informed me about. After a few days, I was called for an interview.
After PhD, getting academic post-doctoral roles were easier. I was involved in academic research for one more year (worked in the UEF and ISI). But after that, I wanted to be involved in industrial research and started looking for a position. As I was out of India for several years, I had to study the recent industrial research trends in India at this time. I started exploring R&D roles aligned with my skills – be it a big organization or a startup. I was looking for a position where I could contribute positively based on my experience and skills. I also worked as a freelance teacher, freelance android developer, and web developer for a couple of months during the pandemic. In the meantime, one of my LinkedIn connections and later a TEOCO colleague, liked my profile and I got an interview call from TEOCO. During the interview sessions, I liked their projects that truly need innovative solutions. I also liked the positive company culture and I easily felt connected. I got selected and joined there.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
When you work for a research industry, it is your job to solve challenges on a daily basis. So, accepting challenges – this is part of my job. Apart from that, shifting from Electronics to Computer Science – was challenging indeed. And I overcame it by taking it positively, studying hard, and being confident about it.
Where do you work now?
I work as an Innovation Engineer at the Innovation hub of TEOCO Corporation.
TEOCO helps in analyzing business, network, and service assurance for telecommunications service providers of the world. TEOCO products provide measurable insights into network behaviour, for example, finding possible network fault reasons, predicting future fault locations, network optimization, deploying new network technologies, 5G planning, and several other network services. Some products provide business automation.
How does your work benefit society?
I solve several research problems related to the telecommunication industry, be it related to the 5G network or optical fibre.
Though the application field is telecommunications, my work is solving complex mathematical problems using machine learning or several other mathematical and statistical techniques. For example, in predicting future faults, we analyse past records of all related parameters and formulate the problem mathematically and then solve it. The main goal is to provide a better service to the users.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
I think my PhD is quite memorable. I changed my stream, learned new things, adjusted to a new country and culture, learned a whole new concept – academic research, etc. A PhD degree itself is very challenging as it is hugely self-motivating. If you lose motivation, you will feel like dropping out. During my PhD days, I also worked as a part-time software developer in a company. So, I had to manage my time very well.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
Consistency is the key to success. Try to be consistent instead of being a one-time star.
Honesty is very important to your study or job and to the people you are involved with in every aspect of life. I don’t think acting overly smart helps at all. Be genuine and down to earth. Try to learn everything in detail and with passion.
Be open to every situation of life. Try to take everything positively. This attitude will pay you back.
Be brave, step out of your comfort zone. This way you will grow every day.
Never compare your grades, your situation, your job profile, or your salary with anybody. Rather compare your past self to the current self and find out the improvements you made.
In the future, I see myself growing my industrial research career and contributing to society. As well as I want to be an educationist and want to spread basic scientific knowledge and viewpoints to the masses in an entertaining way. I already make some YouTube vlogs (https://www.youtube.com/@laharisengupta) based on my travel diaries where I put some information along with the fun parts of that trip. In the future, I want to make a whole new series of videos about the scientific awareness of our daily lives.