Starting my Microsoft internship at the Media Lab

I still remember how this all came about. I was somewhat nearing the end of my PhD and I was looking around a bit for possible job opportunities. I had had a great passion to work for Microsoft Health one day (well, hard to think of any compsci people who don’t!), and I had in fact explored some opportunities earlier as well. On the way to MIE 2009 conference in Sarajevo, I had arranged to meet with some folks from Singapore whom I knew because I had attended one of the HealthVault related seminars at Microsoft Auckland back in 2008, and had since exchanged a couple of emails related to ontology maintenance tools used at MS. I was transiting via Singapore, so thought I’d meet with these folks to discuss any opportunities they may have. However, MS Singapore does mainly sales and marketing, and not much research/development, so there wasn’t much of an opportunity, although one guy I met there has been pretty nice and offered to forward my CV to a few other places since. Anyway, bottom line is I’ve had a great interest in joining Microsoft Health one day, but none of my attempts had been successful. Oh by the way, I had also emailed a few people from Microsoft UK who do NHS Health/MS CUI (Common User Interface) related work, but they weren’t looking for anyone then and there wasn’t much happening in the CUI space anyway. Again, someone from MSR UK offered to forward my details to a high ranked person within the Health Solutions Group, but I never got a reply from that HSG person despite a few follow-up emails.

Ok, so back to the point after the long narrative..I had been looking around for jobs, and one day I came across this ad on NewScientist that advertised for an MS internship position with the Health Solutions Group. It wasn’t exactly for my specialty, but it also said ‘we also have positions available in these these areas..’ and health informatics was one of them. I was quick to respond, and this was on the 3rd of February. All I could do was just hope I’d get a reply. I didn’t hear back for a week, so I followed-up, and guess what, on the 11th of Feb I get a reply saying that they were impressed by my background and that they’d like to talk to me! Apparently they were going to email just around that time, so I may have emailed them just a day or two earlier. I had three interviews afterwards and I was absolutely delighted to find out that I was successful and that they’d like to offer me an internship! 🙂 Beginning of a dream come true!

So my wife and I flew to Washington DC on the 15th of May and I started on Monday the 17th. Not sure if anyone would be interested in hearing about any details of our stay, so I’ll simply say it was an absolutely fantastic experience working with some great people! My mentor was really nice, very helpful and always available whenever I needed to talk to him about anything; and Microsoft certainly takes very good care of the interns once they are there, and treats the interns pretty darn well. Financial reward is very good too (not sure if I’m allowed to say how much, but it’s not hard to find – just have a look at GlassDoor), but you also get other benefits like subsidised accommodation, rental car subsidy and relocation!

During my internship, we did some interesting things with Amalga, implementing some dialogs to allow the nurses at the Washington hospital emergency department to enter patient vital signs. We didn’t get to evaluate the prototype since we ran into some issues, but it was certainly a good start. In my last week, I was talking to my manager about some stuff and after the end of that conversation he goes ‘so, what are your plans after next week? He [the lab director] said he would like to offer you another internship!’. wow..wasn’t that a pleasant surprise, and of course I was full of joy and said yes! So now I have that to look forward to 🙂 Have to find out if the thesis reviewer reports are back, and when I’d be able to have my thesis defense. Would be great to have that over and done with before starting my next internship.

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