Dhairya Dalal

NLP and Machine Learning @ Talla
Research
Boston, Massachusetts
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Dhairya's career stories

What is the most useful piece of career advice you got as a student, and who gave it to you?

Being a student is super-power! Interested in a cool company or organization. Be bold and email, tweet, or linkedin contact the CEO or president or any other leader in the organization. Professionals enjoy supporting and mentoring students, providing advice, and even helping them find opportunities. So if you see a company working on cool projects or see someone who has your dream job, drop them a line. Worst case scenario they don't respond. But you'll be surprised how accessible senior professionals are and willing to help you learn more about your dream job.

When you were a student, did you do anything outside of school to build skills or get knowledge that has helped your career?

Volunteer with non-profits! I currently work in artificial intelligence and natural language processing research. But I came from non-tech background. I studied creative writing in college! I was able to gain a lot of my technical skills and experience volunteering with non-profits. It started off simple with things like building a website and setting up social media accounts for non-profits. But quickly, I gained more complex experience with data analysis, programming, and data visualization. Non-profits are traditionally understaffed and there is a lot of interesting work that needs to get done. Volunteers get to try out and gain professional experience quickly and also make the work a better place.

Did anyone ever oppose your career plans when you were young or push you in a direction you did not want to go?

I come from a very risk averse family. My parents are both immigrants from India and struggled when they moved to the US. Understandably they wanted the best for their children (my sister and I) and felt careers in stable fields like medicine, pharmaceuticals, accounting, and engineering were the safe path to prosperity and stability. As a result, we've butted head several times over my college degree and career transitions. I bucked the trend in college. I studied English and created my own major with a focus on political science, philosophy, and economics. My parents were very unhappy with the decision but I held my own ground and cultivated diverse experiences studying abroad, volunteering with nonprofits, and interning with a NGO. Ironically, when I graduated the first job out of college was working in IT with an insurance company. It was a solid safe job that my parents were thrilled I got. But I was incredibly bored and frustrated so I left. This didn't sit well with my parents, but I chose to pursue opportunities I felt were right for me at that time. My next job was at Harvard, first working as a business analyst. Again I found myself under challenged and bored, so I switched to a research analyst position with the Office of the President and Provost instead. It was a prestigious position and an interesting job, which I did for 2.5 years. When I found myself limited in growth and advancement opportunities, I knew it was time to change. My parents were very unhappy with that decision. But it was right decision because it gave me a chance to both grow financially (paid significantly more) and change into a field I found very exciting and challenging (Artificial Intelligence). I've spent the last year learning as much as I can about artificial intelligence and machine learning at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the Allen Institute for Brain Science. I'll be transitioning again to work at startup as a data scientist, where I'll be developing AI bots. You'll find in my story that I've changed jobs many times. Every change was met with resistance from my parents, because they were afraid of the risks I was taking leaving a stable job. However, each risk I took was a calculated one and each one paid off (higher salaries, new skills, and most importantly learning what I didn't enjoy). It's ok not to know what you want to do in life. Honestly, after 5 jobs in 4 different fields over 10 years, I'm still not sure. But that's the beauty of taking risks, experimenting, and being open new opportunities - you'll learn new things and increase the probability of finding that opportunity that may you life calling. If you are met with opposition along the way, be respectful but also be willing to push past it.

How did you start building your network?

Honestly, I'm pretty terrible at developing a traditional networking (I still don't have a business card). My philosophy is simple, be kind, compassionate, and surround yourself by people who share the same values as you. My professional network really is set of people I've come to know through volunteering, having similar intellectual and professional interests as me, and people I've directly worked with. If I see someone that I admire working on projects in an area I find interesting, I'll reach out and see if there is any way I can volunteer to help them and as a result learn more about their work.


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Posted on May 24 '16 at 02:55

Ever since I took my first college class last semester, an online English class, I knew I liked to edit. Part of our assignment was that we had to edit other students papers before they turned them in for their final grade. Now I'm enrolled in community college and planning to transfer to an undecided four year university, hopefully next year. I want to major in English and pursue a career in editing.

Context: I'm already taking steps to reach my goal. I've enrolled in college, which is the most important step. Another step I have taken is that I am already editing for people online. I want to be ready for my career and having some experience under my belt is sure to help.
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Posted on May 12 '16 at 22:07

I want to double major in economics and political science and possibly go after a law degree and work in the government possibly becoming a politician or a economic advisor to legislatures.

Context: I will attend UC San Diego and double major in political science and economics, during my undergrad I will work towards getting internships with economists and government officials to make connections in the community and to also learn under them.
College: N/A
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Job Experience: N/A
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Other: N/A #computer-science #computer-software

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Dhairya's Questions and Answers

Hey Rachel,Great question. Math has a lot of interesting applications and it is definitely worth exploring them to find what inspires you. A few pieces of advice:Ignore the personality and career aptitude test advice in Ken's advice. There is strong evidence that those tests actually do more...

Active 22 hours ago
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Hi Yingyi,Great question and excited to see you're interested in Data Science. Data Science is a not really a unified field and a bit buzzwordy. Data scientist come from all sorts of backgrounds (computer science, political science, physics, statistics, even Creative Writing [me!]) and work on...

Active Jul 31 at 01:32
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Hi Alexandra,Great question, and I think it is important to think about institutional challenges women and minorities face in stem. I'm not a woman, but I've had the privilege to work with many amazing women in the engineering and computer science space and hear their stories. I hope this...

Active Jul 31 at 00:27
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Hi Hanna,Great question! Professor Ruggles' advice above is fantastic. I don't think I can add to that, but I'd love provide some of my personal experiences if it's helpful.First, it totally ok if you're undecided going into college. You should use it as an opportunity to learn as much about...

Active Jul 30 at 22:22
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Hi Keygan,This is a great question. I often have hard time staying focused and know studying can be hard when you're distracted.Here's a few tips I found helpful when I studying in college for my undergrad and masters degree:Have a strategy before you start. I like to create an outline of the...

Active Jul 30 at 21:57
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Hi Hannah,Great question and good job being proactive with your finances. It's always a good idea to start saving early and a Roth IRA is great long term savings vehicle.If you have money saved up today, it's not a bad idea to put away a portion into a Roth IRA. Just be careful that its money...

Active Jul 30 at 21:40
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Honestly it's just an organization people join to put on their college applications. In reality being a part of NHS has no real value or bearing to most of its members. I ended up not joining NHS and it had no effect on my college applications. If it costs money to join, don't do it, it usually...

Active Apr 21 at 09:32
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Hi Sophia,Great question! You're describing an exciting and emerging field known as Human Computer Interaction (HCI).From wikipedia: HCI researches the design and use of computer technology, focused on the interfaces between people and computers. Researchers in the field of HCI both observe the...

Active Mar 16 at 18:12
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Hi Dennis,You might be running into the challenge that many AI internships and residencies are really designed for student enrolled in phd programs. Both AI and data science tend to require more sophisticated statistical knowledge and mathematical knowledge and experience with more complex...

Active Mar 16 at 12:16
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Hi Seema,So it depends on the type of problems you'd like to solve. If you are interested in data science ( economics is a great bridge into data science) and quantitative analysis, I'd take a look at R and Python. R is a statistical programming language that is very popular with people coming...

Active Mar 04 at 15:10
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Hi Anthony,This is a great question! Good job think critically about future trajectories of technology and automation. I've had the opportunity to work at one of the top artificial intelligence research labs and currently do machine learning research for startup whose goal is to develop digital...

Active Mar 04 at 14:53
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Hi Juanez,The wonderful and often challenging part of college is that you're responsible for yourself. You'll have the freedom and agency to make your own choices. So it'll be up to you whether you choose to study for an exam or hang out with friends, or participate in a campus social group....

Active Mar 04 at 14:24
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Hi Samuel, Awesome to see you're interested in programming and computer science! Don't listen to the advice above, with all due respect to Kelly. If she's talking about MS-DOS, which was the operating system for old microsoft computers, then it's irrelevant and outdated. If it's some...

Active Jan 26 at 11:18
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Hi Shelly, Thank you for your service to our country. So honestly, you are more (if not overqualified!) than ready to transition to civilian sector. Honestly, the masters in cybersecurity is probably icing on the cake. I'd recommend go ahead and apply for mid-career and higher level...

Active Jan 26 at 10:55
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Check out internship opportunities offered at both departments: NSA: https://www.intelligencecareers.gov/icstudents.html?Agency=NSA DHS: https://www.dhs.gov/homeland-security-careers/students Additionally, go on linkedin and search for people who work at both organization in a role you're...

Active Jan 25 at 10:41
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