Tuesday, 5 August 2014


Bodhisatta Roy always wanted to work with computers because he was attracted to computer games, but his father refused to let him shoot aliens or race around virtual worlds. Because of that, he’s never played any computer game – not even when he got his first tablet a couple of years ago. Bodhi was a Graduate Research Student here from Jan 2012 to July 2013, working with A/P Liang Zhenkai. He plays the guitar, loves the sunshine and beaches, has been going to Sentosa for a picnic at the end of every semester since he’s been here in Singapore, and can’t get enough of vanilla ice-cream.

Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in a small town called Garifa on the eastern coast of India. The best way to describe it would be a half-way house between a “kampung” and a small-sized city, but with a “kampung” spirit. Cycle rickshaws are still a widely-used mode of transport, the social circle extends well beyond the immediate family to a long list of neighbors. [There are] mostly small houses with gardens in front. Apartment complexes have only sprung up in the last decade. There are also a lot of ponds (one in front of my house, to be exact!). Cricket is still considered a religion, though I prefer soccer.
I had a very disciplined upbringing; both at home and school. I remember crossing a river in a train via a bridge which is over a hundred and fifty years old. It has structurally degraded [to the extent] that the trains are restricted to go [a maximum of] 10 kilometres per hour on it. I did walk to-and-fro on that bridge several times and it was quite scary: watching the river flow over a hundred meters below and just pieces of wooden plank prevented me from swimming below.
Studying in a Catholic school has been quite instrumental in my life: the administration was not only insistent on providing quality education, but also taught me essential life skills. Though I had always managed to escape the cane, there were a few instances where I, along with my fellow friends, had to stand in the sun for a whole day. Ironically, I was innocent on those occasions, just caught in the wrong spot at the wrong time! It, however, made me realise that the best way to avoid punishment is to get good grades and be treated with more respect (the top-five students in my class always got off with no punishment). I studied harder, and I was treated leniently on several occasions after committing “crimes” henceforth. 
Undergraduate was crazier: I guess I was plain unlucky. My undergrad school was so strict that we were not allowed to leave the premises unless the lectures were over: and we had seven lectures, five days a week! If a lecturer was absent, some other lecturer would come over and teach the module. It was hilarious, and outright dictatorial, and completely ridiculous because nobody understood the logic behind forcing adults to sit and study for 6 hours in stuffy classrooms with more than a hundred students. Oh, we did not have air-conditioned classrooms as well. And the student attendance rate could not be less than 80%.
Masters was slightly better: we were no longer bothered with attendance percentages, the classes had air-conditioning, and the Professors were quite serious in ensuring that the coursework was rigorous. Despite getting an opportunity to do a 6-month internship for a IT MNC, I chose to do a Master’s thesis and it was a very insane decision I consider myself lucky enough to graduate. Ha ha!

What do you do now? 
I work as the sole IT Analyst at the Business Analytics Centre since October ’13 :-/. This is a joint setup between NUS Business School, NUS SoC and IBM. My primary responsibilities are teaching programming technologies to the MSBA students. I’ve only been here for close to a year and one of the few perks of academia is that you get paid to read and then read some more. I also work closely with the Director of the Centre, Prof. Jorge Sanz, on a few research ideas while I’m not doing something useful! I need to do so to keep my brain excited with new challenges.
As an instructor, I try to ensure that my students learn something useful for their professional career. However, it becomes slightly challenging as most of my students are in their mid-30s, and one is even in his 40s, while I’m still in my mid-20s! But I guess the feedback reports are quite good, so all hope is not lost yet! I’ve always enjoyed teaching. I [was] a Teaching Assistant during the entire senior year of my Masters back in India and it [was] a gratifying experience for me. After my Masters, I was associated with a university in India; working for a project to build virtual classrooms for university students with low-speed internet connections (< 256 Kbps; typical in India and other developing countries). Even in NUS, I was a Teaching Assistant in SoC for a semester. 
I’ve also always dealt with Graduate students as a Teaching Assistant. During my research candidature in NUS, I was a Senior Facilitator of Facilitators@NUS, teaching NUS team leaders and student cohort life skills via experiential learning. It has been an incredible experience for me, and I can safely say the same for the NUS students who’ve taken part in these camps and workshops. Some of these overnight camps were held in Pulau Ubin, and there was even one in Kota Tinggi, Malaysia! This is a completely different methodology of enriching student lives, and I try to incorporate some of them during my classroom sessions in the MSBA program as well.

What is the one thing you would change about SoC?
A few of my colleagues complain that they have to go to The Deck (FASS food court) to get decent coffee. And to accompany them, I’ve to make the long walk from the far end of COM2. Solely to avoid the 10-minute walk each way, can we please have a nice coffee machine in the staff room? Even if three staff members go to the Deck to get coffee, that’s one man-hour wasted. 

What do you count as your most significant achievement to date? 
I think I’ve been lucky in enjoying what I do, mostly because my managers have never pestered me. Choosing the right manager and the right job, I think, is a significant achievement. This helps any employee explore a lot of ideas and translate them into viable projects, with a business goal in mind. Of course, sometimes you do a project without any specifically defined business values, but that is a perk solely enjoyed in academia.

What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I read a lot of fiction: Tom Clancy happens to be my favorite. I’m currently reading “The Cobra” by Frederick Forsyth. I try to read 50-70 paperbacks every year. When I'm out of good books, I "steal" a few books on economics from Prof. Sanz's bookshelves.

Quick-Fire: Worst experience with public transportation?
My home was about two-and-a-half hours away from my undergraduate school. During my final semester exams, the mercury crossed 40 degrees Celsius every single day. It was a bit difficult to travel in public transport, because there are no air conditioners in local buses or trains back home.

Pet peeve?
Wasting food.

Three things you can’t live without?
They’d have to be the following, and not necessarily in that order:
  • Holidays: the opportunity to see my family back home or backpack around
  • A positive attitude: to make a difference to my professional and personal life
  • Reading a few pages of fiction every night, or while I'm commuting. 

Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email tien@nus.edu.sg

No comments:

Post a Comment