This post focuses on Akhil Raju, a software engineer on DeepMind’s robotics team. Akhil’s interest in artificial intelligence (AI) was sparked when he started participating in LEGO robotics competitions at the age of 12. This experience made him realize that robots were not just a fantasy, but something that could be created in the present. He pursued his passion through robotics competitions and studied computer science with a focus on robotics at MIT.
After working at a startup in San Francisco, Akhil decided to move to London and set his sights on joining DeepMind. Despite thinking that DeepMind only hired people with PhDs, he took a chance and applied. To his surprise, he was able to join the robotics team and it has been an amazing experience ever since.
Akhil’s Typical Day at DeepMind
A typical day for Akhil starts with breakfast with his teammates, which has become a daily routine. He then spends his mornings in the robotics lab, fixing failures from previous experiments or setting up new robots. Akhil enjoys walking around and seeing the robots at work, as it gives him energy.
In the afternoons, Akhil has a mix of meetings, coding, and impromptu chats with colleagues. He takes snack breaks and enjoys listening to US sports podcasts on the balcony when the weather is nice. He continues coding and finishes his work for the day.
Behind the Scenes at DeepMind
The culture at DeepMind combines elements of a university, startup, and large company. People often brainstorm in front of whiteboards and engage in quiet reading of research papers. There is a palpable energy and excitement throughout the organization, and Akhil feels that the robotics team embodies this culture. The team members are not only colleagues but also close friends outside of work.
Working from Home During the Pandemic
Like many others, Akhil initially underestimated the impact of the pandemic and hoped for a quick return to normalcy. However, as the reality set in, he decided to use his free time to explore different hobbies. He went through phases of guitar playing, cooking, puzzles, and tie-dyeing. Despite trying various hobbies, his favorite was tie-dyeing.
Akhil’s Hope for AI’s Impact on the World
Akhil believes that robotics and AI will be a positive force in the world. He is particularly interested in how AI can help mitigate climate change by enabling more efficient energy use and clean energy production. DeepMind researchers are already working on this, and Akhil is hopeful that they will make a significant impact in this space.
Tips for Aspiring DeepMinders
Akhil’s advice for those aspiring to join DeepMind or pursue similar roles is to just go for it. He emphasizes the importance of applying, interviewing, and not giving up, even if you don’t succeed the first time. Akhil shares that he had doubts about his own abilities but realized that he does belong and deserves to work at DeepMind. He encourages others to start their journey by simply trying.