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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Career plans Dhairya has reviewed

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Posted on May 24 '16 at 06:55 AM

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.
College: N/A
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Other: N/A #computer-science #computer-software

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Posted on May 13 '16 at 02:07 AM

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

In terms of prestige, there are many fantastic universities in Europe to study English/Literature. Top schools like Oxford, University of Cambridge, University College London are well known and prestigious. Funding is tricky. Usually, if you are a UK/EU resident, the tuition is often cheaper...

Active Nov 20 at 07:17 PM
Posted by Dhairya Dalal’s Avatar Dhairya D.

Short answer yes, you should apply. Long answer, you should check the application requirements for the program you are interested in applying for. Depending on the program, some may require the GREs and have minimum GPA requirements. Most masters program don't care what you majored in, as long...

Active Nov 20 at 07:06 PM
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Hi Jose,Great question and good job being proactive. Computer science classes can be challenging and will require good organization and preparation. Here's a few things I found helpful while taking classes both in undergrad and in my masters degree in software engineering.Get familiar with the...

Active Oct 09 at 08:52 PM
Posted by Dhairya Dalal’s Avatar Dhairya D.

I'm a huge fan of double majoring. I double majored in English and a second major I created (mix of Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics). It was a great experience and I felt like I was able really dive deep into both fields. The plus side is you get to study all the things you are...

Active Oct 09 at 06:57 PM
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Hi Ashely, great question! Determining college fit is a subjective thing and differs from person to person. Here's a few things you should consider:How much is tuition and what does the financial aid packages look like. This is probably one of the most important considerations as college is...

Active Oct 09 at 06:47 PM
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:) Maybe. It's not what you studied that matters, but what you learned. I was a creative writing and interdisciplinary double major. An English degree is a great way to learn critical thinking and communications skills. This comes through practice and spending significant time writing and...

Active Oct 07 at 09:16 PM
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Studying abroad is a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and explore new places. College is a rare opportunity where travel to new places for an extended period of time (semester or even a year) without having to consider life responsibilities (works, bills, etc) that later in...

Active Oct 07 at 08:58 PM
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This is a great question. Great advice above. Watch out for multi-level marketing (MLM) jobs, which tend to pray on people desire to make money quickly, be independent, and work flexible hours. There are many different MLM compnanies like Amway, LuluRoe, Mary Kay, Herbalife, World System...

Active Oct 07 at 07:31 PM
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Hey Ben, great question. It's awesome to see more people getting interested and excited about AI, especially around AI safety and ethics. I am an AI researcher (focusing on machine learning and deep learning for natural language problems) at a VC funded startup. There are many different ways to...

Active Oct 07 at 07:16 PM
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Hey Albert, awesome to see you're interested in Data Science. So I've taken Udacity courses (machine learning nano-degree) and bunch of other classes online. Since you're still in college, I would recommend seeing what classes your college offers for machine learning/data science. If you...

Active Oct 07 at 06:40 PM
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Interesting combination. Irrespective of job opportunities, you definitely pursue both majors. You never know where those skills will take you. I also double majored in two disparate areas: creative writing and an interdisciplinary major that combined politics, philosophy and economics. I do AI...

Active Oct 07 at 06:12 PM
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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 Sep 19 at 08:41 PM
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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 05:32 AM
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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 04:27 AM
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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 31 at 02:22 AM
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