Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Progressive Nishanth

Nishanth Sudharsanam studied Computer Engineering and graduated in 2012. Before moving to Singapore and leaving the country for the first time at age 16, he lived in Chennai, India. He reads a lot of non-fiction, biographies and biopics to get more perspective on life, is a fan of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, enjoys south Indian classical music, cooking, and staring at the wall and day dreaming (but he calls it "assimilation" to make himself feel better). The man also deserves a ginormous award for his response to the quick-fire question, ‘Worst fashion trend?’ – he said ‘Heels’. *mic drop*

What do you do now? 
I founded Klinify, a healthcare start-up. Our vision is to unlock medical data and use it to save lives. The most popular and sadly, the most usable tool for managing patient records right now is paper. Data locked away in paper folders isn’t very useful. So, the first step is to ease the workflow of doctors by giving them better tools to manage patient data. The next step would be to help them use the data to drive healthcare forward.
As a computer engineer, I was shocked by the inefficiency in the healthcare system, and I wanted to fix it. At first sight it seems like doctors are tech-averse, but that's not so. They use and operate some pretty hi-tech machinery. They are however busy people operating in a high stress environment, so they have a strong preference for systems that get out of their way and allow them to focus on their practice. The tools available to manage patient records are too clunky, so they keep reverting to paper.
I felt this was very fixable with modern tablets and text-recognition technology, and the lack of usable data is greatly holding back data-backed innovation in healthcare. [I think in the next decade, this field will result in] better, smarter and more accessible healthcare, and computer aided diagnoses.
Klinify definitely [is my most significant achievement to date]. The whole process of starting from scratch, identifying a problem, a potential solution, selling it, and the convincing others to join you for the ride (be it investors or colleagues) has been quite a journey and I feel good when I look back at how far we have come and how much I have learnt. It is a very incomplete achievement though. There is a long way to go before I [will] feel a sense of pride at what we have accomplished.

Describe your SoC experience.
I like math and computer science, so the modules were obviously fun. The environment at SoC is casual, and had a feel of self-initiated learning as opposed to strictly imposed curriculum. There was lot of room to explore and play around, so it was a great atmosphere to be in.
[What I found most interesting and useful was] the focus on learning reusable concepts, like algorithms, architecture instead of programming languages, specific implementations. It helped me start thinking in terms of systems, processes and algorithm as opposed to one-off fixes. It is a very practical skill that extends far beyond computing, and I believe I honed that skill at SoC.
[The one thing I would have done differently during my time here would be to have] picked specific modules, perhaps one per semester and gone all out to gain really in-depth knowledge about it. 

What is the one thing you would change about SoC?
CS1101C seems to have the effect of making most non-programming (typically non-SoC) students develop a strong aversion to programming, which makes me sad, because many of these are smart people scarred by that one intense experience. Given that programming is such an important skill these days, part of me wonders if the initiation could have been gentler. Perhaps focussed less on C and more on the concepts behind it?

Which faculty members made impressions on you?
Wow, that's a long list, because I enjoyed most of my modules. The most prominent were probably -
Profs Juzar Motiwalla, Martin Henz, and Pete Kellock for their guidance and genuine support, even when they knew we had no clue what we were doing initially.
Prof Ben Leong, for introducing me into SoC with that awesome scheme module that remains among my best at SoC.
Profs Wong Weng Fai and Lee Wee Sun, for the ATAP that led to my FYP and the SPC programme respectively. They helped me explore my interest in Comp. Sci. research. Something I hope to get back to someday.
Prof Damith for an extremely useful software engineering course, the importance of which I failed to appreciate until 1 year after graduation when I had to maintain and collaborate on a project that was becoming a little too large for me to hack my way through.

What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
I was extremely interested in becoming a quantitative analyst in an investment bank in the first couple of years of university. I did a minor in financial maths, an internship in Credit Suisse, finished my CFA level 1 and also signed up for level 2. And then the start-up bug bit me, and investment banking began to seem a little boring. I'd still like to finish my CFA sometime, more for fun though than to become a banker.

Quick-Fire: Most interesting use of or development in technology this year?
HP's The Machine sounds very interesting. Practical experiments in Quantum teleportation have started to validate theory, which is huuge!

Pet peeve?
So often I see the loudest - not the soundest argument wins.

Three ultimate dinner party guests 
Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates (I’d just serve food and listen to them talk to each other)

Tell us who we should we talk to next. Email

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