My Internship Experience : Microsoft

Hi! I am Akshat Jindal, a final-year undergraduate in the Computer Science department and I interned with Microsoft IDC(or MSIDC) , Hyderabad in during the summers.

During my 8 week stint, I worked with the Bing Relevance team and entered into a gastronomic collaboration with all the street-food vendors of the city, but that is another story and shall be told another time.

Preparation and Selection Procedure:

For me, the internship was all about testing the waters. As someone who has been perpetually confused between getting into the tech-field or not(Is this guy really from CSE ?), I wanted to get into a hardcore tech-company and hopefully get some clarification.

Microsoft came on the first day of the internship season. The selection procedure was fairly straight-forward. First, there was an online coding round in which students were expected to code 3 questions in about 40 minutes. This was followed by a “group-flyer” round in which a group of 3-4 students sat with a moderator and were expected to code a question or two on paper all the while interacting and discussing with the moderator. After clearing this round, each student had to go through 3 PI rounds which included 2 technical rounds followed by a HR/Project round. Microsoft mostly focused on fundamental algorithms and data structures and I would not label any question they asked me as “difficult”. But, since we are expected to write the entire code on paper, it is important to develop a habit of writing neat and clean code on paper.

My brief involvement with the Aero Club helped me in the final round. Generally, as a sophomore, one does not have a lot of projects to boast about. Hence, even the smallest contribution in any technical project can give you a lot of talking points in the HR/Project round.

As someone who is NOT regular with competitive coding, I prepared by practicing some questions on interviewbit.com and brushed up my DS & Algos(ESO207, geeksforgeeks)

Interview hack : Microsoft is known to assign teams randomly during the internship period. However, making your expectations clear with regards to the field you want to work in during the PI can dramatically reduce the randomness :p.

By making it clear to the interviewer that I wanted to work on an ML related project, I was able to steer the interview in that direction and eventually landed up in the Bing team. Also, while there can be certain randomness in team allotment, we were given a lot of choices to choose the project within the team. For eg : I chose my specific project from a list of around 10-12 projects listed out to me according to my preference.

My 8 weeks with Microsoft

The Bing Relevance team at MSIDC works at improving the search result quality of Microsoft Bing. My project focused on improving the relevance of certain query-patterns by tweaking and augmenting the Bing search pipeline. To broadly state the fields my work encompassed, I used Natural Language Understanding, Data Mining and Information Retrieval principles to improve the various models used and achieve relevance improvement.

To say that the work culture at MSIDC is amazing is an understatement. The MSIDC campus is the closest to a college campus atmosphere that you can get to while working for an MNC. Imagine turning up in a polo t-shirt and trousers on the first day and seeing your manager in a round-neck with shorts and flip-flops!

With the independence to set your own deadlines and no timings, 24/7 open pantry, Xbox gaming stations, pool tables and foosball tables, football fields and tennis lawns, volleyball courts and badminton courts, be rest assured that you are not going to feel that you are working for a corporate. During our internship period, MSIDC also organised numerous outings and on-campus fests, both technical and cultural.

MSIDC does not believe in strict hierarchies and reaching out to anyone was just a matter of pinging them and walking into their cabin. At Microsoft, the entire atmosphere is nurturing. It does not take time to realise that although every individual has a specific job, together, they form the parts of a well-oiled machine of which you are made to feel an indispensable part of, even as an intern.

One thing for which MSIDC gets full credit is that the entire 8 week program was meticulously planned. While the first week began with an orientation and was spent on project understanding, the next 6 weeks were spent on working on the project and the last week was earmarked for project presentations and Microsoft’s yearly conference: Synapse AI Meet. What is even more satisfying is that most of the projects assigned to the interns are slated to go into production.

My internship, fortunately, ended on a high as my work got deployed into production. I guess, when you work on an information retrieval problem for 8 weeks, the most satisfying thing is to open the search engine online, type in a query and see the newer, better search results staring at your face.

Thanks to the conference organised by MSIDC, I also ended up writing a short paper on my work and was awarded the Best Paper in Synapse’18 which calls for papers from all MS employees all over India.

What next ?

I have received and accepted a pre-placement offer from Microsoft IDC as I found my team to be working on very interesting projects and plan on working with Microsoft at least in the near future.

You might want to know : A PPO from MSIDC not only offers you a full time job at the Hyderabad campus, but also enables you to skip right to the final round of the Microsoft Redmond interviews held during the placement season.

Microsoft being one of the largest tech-companies in the world is a storehouse of opportunities. There is great flexibility in switching teams when working full time and with the Hyderabad campus being second only to the Redmond campus in terms of both size and importance, there is a vast array of products one can work on.

While I have tried my best to pen down everything, you can ping me for any queries. Or better so, barge into my room, my doors are always open. Not literally though. Try knocking 🙂

Written by : Akshat Jindal