Jack studies both mathematics and software engineering at the University of Queensland and is a Backend Engineer at Maxwell Plus
On my first day as an intern at Maxwell Plus, I walk into the Brisbane office to the excitement of our Chief Dognostics Officer, Kelsey, jumping up to my hips and biting a hole in my favourite jumper. Maybe this whole job thing isn’t for me, I thought.
Joining Maxwell Plus back in April marked a significant shift in my lifestyle, adding two days of work a week to my commitments as a full-time student. In light of this (and with some gentle encouragement by my boss, Paula) I thought it may be timely to reflect back on the last few chaotic months. Hopefully, you’ll get a glimpse into life at Maxwell, being an intern and what I’ve learned from this juggling act.
Officially, I’m a Backend Engineer working on our Maxwell Plus Cloud platform. This means I work on tasks ranging from developing data processing pipelines for labeling and processing our raw medical images to tinkering with our machine learning models running on our local or cloud infrastructure. Unofficially, my first three months have been a whirlwind period of fun, challenges, and figuring stuff out. Here are some of the key lessons I’ve learned since I started.
Why did they hire me?
This is exactly how I felt in my first couple of weeks. As I struggled to understand the complex architecture of our systems I began just hoping to survive the 30 day purgatory period. I got stumped on problems that could be solved instantly by my colleagues when I asked. How are all these people so smart? There seemed to be a whole world of technology that was completely foreign to me. I still remember Lewis talking to one of our Founders at the table next to me about batch normalisation of his prostate legion detection model with a large monitor filled with tensor boards and several others filled with code, papers and probably his solution to all problems in quantum physics.
By no means a novel idea, but imposter syndrome is still worth mentioning. Especially for students who may be scared to apply for a part-time job or are just starting out. As the weeks progressed, however, I found myself becoming more familiar with our systems and asking fewer questions.
On top of this, Maxwell invests a lot into developing our expert knowledge, whether that’s medical imaging, artificial intelligence or web development. In fact I just came back from the Nvidia AI conference in Sydney in which we were inception sponsors for. We’re always experimenting with ways to enhance our knowledge and skills from in-house presentations to dedicated learning blocks penciled into our days. It was just recently that Khoa, one of our full-time AI engineers was giving a presentation to me and some of the other interns about best practices of deploying Tensorflow servables using Docker. Although it seemed completely irrelevant to me at the time, about a month later I found myself dealing with getting Docker up and running on our local GPU cluster.
At first, I was astonished to learn just how willing Maxwell was to assist in its employees’ development. In my first few weeks, I couldn’t believe just how many people were off to conferences and seminars. I had this expectation that being paid to do work would imply that I would be capable to do, let say 80–90%, of the tasks, asked of me and I would be expected to sit down and work for 16 hours a day. Not quite. There is an abundance of opportunities to continue learning and developing new skills when you’re in the workforce.
Not another team project
Granted that everyone has bad experiences with team projects in uni, to my delight working here has been nothing of the sort. At Maxwell, it’s refreshing to be able to spend time working with others to ensure we’ve designed and produced features that are robust, clean and scalable. This mentality is especially present at Maxwell as we’re building a powerful medical platform. The other big draw to team projects at Maxwell is the true resemblance of a team. Again, it’s hard for university courses to deliver this: most students take four subjects, have a social life and maybe a part-time job which leaves at most four hours a week to discuss the project. It’s hard to create a focused team in that environment. I spend more than four hours a day interacting with the team at Maxwell. When I’m at work it’s easy to tell that what we have is a true team. Everyone works well together, but more importantly is that everyone truly cares about each other.
If you’ve played your cards right (or are just fortunate like me), maybe the best thing about team projects is you’re able to make meaningful contributions to tasks that you can be proud of. It’s good to know that what we’re working on can provide real value to people suffering from cancer or other diseases. I’ve never worked on a uni project as fulfilling as working towards post-scarcity healthcare.
One of the first things I noticed when increasing my workload was whether I could fit all of it into my schedule. Basic arithmetic shows that if I add two extra days at work, I lose two days somewhere else. However, that shouldn’t imply that I should miss out on everything I want to do whilst at university. The first change I made was this very boring, mundane concept of planning. Knowing exactly what I had on, what work I have and when things were due helped stop any potential avalanches. I found a small, physical notebook best: it’s simple, travels well, completely customisable and fits in my pocket. But that may not work for you. I tried using google calendar for a month before realising I would never remember to check it. The second change was around opportunity cost. There were so many snippets of time in my day I was wasting. The trip to work is around 25 minutes and I initially wasted it every morning. For me, this is a great time to check emails, go over my next week’s schedule or review lecture content. The major change in all of this for me was just taking more responsibility for my commitments. And so far, it’s absolutely been worth it.
I know that I’ve just begun my journey with Maxwell and I’m looking forward to what’s next. Fortunately, I’ve been assigned to tasks I’ve found interesting and stimulating. I want to continue to make an impact on the data side of Maxwell and how we can handle vast quantities of data securely and efficiently at scale. Complementary, the more I’ve learnt about machine learning, especially in the medical field, has only grabbed more of my interest and maybe (hopefully) might guide my thesis decision. The last thing that really excited me about Maxwell is growth: now feeling a part of the team, I’m very proud and excited about our future and the trajectory with which we can deliver change.
This post originally appeared on medium.com by Jack Eadie