Cambridge Systems and Networking

Intern Success Stories

Bo Zong

 

In the summer of 2013, I did an internship at MSRC, working with Milan Vojnovic and Christos Gkantsidis. After some years, I might forget which pub is my favorite, which beer will knock me out, or how long the day time is in the summer of Cambridge. However, I know the numerous discussions with my mentors will stay in my mind for a long time: those discussions not only resulted in the joy of progressing, but also brought me precious lessons.

If we present our ideas to an audience in an effective way, we will receive valuable feedback from them. In the first half of my internship, I worked on problem definition, and the goal of our discussions was to evaluate the appeal of the formulated problem. In many discussions, I talked with Milan about related work and possible theoretical results that we could deliver. I did some confusing presentations in our early discussions: spamming symbols without serious definition and making whiteboard notes like doodles. Fortunately, I had a patient and kind audience who pointed out my presentation issues and gave me advice to make them clearer. Those suggestions indeed helped: I could keep my audience engaged even in a two-hour long discussion. Moreover, I started receiving valuable comments, including the fault in my proof, new ideas to analyze the results, and new directions to explore.

Christos once told me "In most cases, we don't know if we are going to fail; however, we can see if we fail fast". After a problem is defined, it is time to find out solutions. We worked on a hard problem, and there was no clue of how to deliver good solutions. At that moment, we had some intuitive solutions, however, we did not know how well they would perform and were struggling to find any theoretical support. In short, we were stuck, and I found Christos to share the pain. In the discussions, Christos encouraged me to perform empirical study: as long as we could quickly see that any proposed solutions did not work, we’d have time to switch directions; moreover, he shared suggestions on experiment design and result analysis. It is the empirical results that inspired us to deliver good solutions to that problem afterwards.

 

Sebastian Angel

 

My experience as an intern at Microsoft Research Cambridge in Fall 2013 greatly surpassed my expectations. In particular, I was surprised by the amount of flexibility and input that I had when specifying a project, as well as the generous feedback that I received throughout the process. This allowed me to work on a project that I found to be challenging, rewarding, and doable within the given time-frame. Although this was very important in ensuring that my experience was extraordinary, the true magic of Microsoft Research was the warmth of its people (and the exquisite British cuisine of course!). From thought-provoking weekly meetings that highlighted ongoing and future work, to ad-hoc discussions around the espresso machine, I always felt welcomed and valued. The comments and suggestions that I received, both personal and professional, are sure to stick with me for a long time.

I was particularly lucky to have the opportunity to work directly with a rather large number of exceptional people. It was a different dynamic than what I was accustomed to, but I personally thought that it was effective and fun. Not to mention that it was a great way to get the project kick-started due to a healthy volume of focused brainstorming sessions. There is no denying that the work environment, people, and access to resources at MSRC is second to none. It is also a place blooming with innovative ideas and I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to intern there and experience some of them.

 

Ioan Stefanovici

I interned at MSR Cambridge twice (in summer 2013, and winter 2014), and worked primarily with my mentor, Eno Thereska, as well as other members of the Predictable Data Centers project. I can honestly say that interning at MSR Cambridge was the best experience I’ve had in my career so far. Aside from working on very real and important problems for the upcoming generation of data centers, I feel like I have developed immensely as a researcher during my time there, thanks mostly to the constant interactions with my mentor, and all the other exceptional people in the Systems and Networking group, all of whom treated me as an equal throughout.

I was involved in every part of the project, from brainstorming ideas, through some initial prototyping, and finally a full-featured implementation, and subsequent write-up of our work. One crucial skill I developed throughout this entire process over numerous discussions and meetings with my mentor, is how to really develop and focus the key technical contributions of our work, all the while managing the inevitable complexities of large-scale systems research.

I think one of the most unique things about Microsoft Research Cambridge is the high calibre of everyone working there, in terms of talent, breadth of experience, passion for their research, but also warmth and openness. Going into work every day always felt like an opportunity to better myself by learning as much as possible from everyone around me, be it over meetings, or just discussions at lunch, or in the hallway. There's no doubt in my mind that Microsoft Research Cambridge is a world-class research lab, and I am very grateful for the time I spent working there.

 

Stanko Novakovic

I interned at Microsoft Research Cambridge (MSRC) in 2013 (Aug-Oct), under the supervision of Aleksandar Dragojevic, Dushyanth Narayanan, and Miguel Castro. I joined an ongoing project and was given a challenging problem right upon arrival, which made the three-month period an extremely interesting experience for me. What I found particularly exciting about the project, is that it included both a research and an actual coding part, and I think Microsoft Research is really unique in that respect. Throughout my internship I was constantly involved in discussions, either in meetings or over lunch, brainstorming and refining ideas with my mentors, and finally building a real, working system. This allowed me to strengthen my critical technical and research skills, remind myself of some theory, and simply enjoy working on something that is really cool, exciting, and (by the way) matters a lot.

During my stay I had the pleasure to meet many senior people and fellow interns, and had productive discussions about various research topics. Everyone was excited to share their current status on the project, ask for help, and help others, and because of that I found MSRC a very healthy environment for doing research. I was also impressed with the infrastructure and in general how well Microsoft Research as a company is organized. So the amount of ‘side effects’, such as setting up a development environment, was minimized. Moreover, I had access to all the facilities and services as any other full time employee, which I think is truly amazing.

Finally, besides research, I and other interns watched movies together, went punting, played tennis (on x-box, of course), etc. MSRC offers an environment that allows interns to meet each other on daily basis, discuss research, but also have fun and, for example, go out for lunch/dinner together.