Week ago I have finished my 6-month journey at Intel Labs Munich. First, couple of words about what is it.
Last years become quite popular among AI-related corporations (Google, Microsoft, Intel, Facebook, etc.) to host internships for PhD students. It is quite different from regular internship. The main idea is to do a scientific paper (CVPR-level) on the topic given by company, but somehow related to your PhD topic.
It is good for student, because:
- safe demo-version, of what work in corporative R&D looks like. If you both like each other, usually you will got an job offer much easier than default screening process.
- expands your experience and CV
- new connections
- well, resulting paper itself.
It is good for company, because:
- safe way to recruit junior researchers (if they are good) in competitive market
So I decided to go for it and, just in time, got proposition from Vladlen Koltun to try myself at Intel Labs. Group is pretty small, but produces very high-level reasearch. OK, lets finish introduction and go stright to the point(s).
- Vladlen lab standards are pretty high and that is about everything: work, experiments, text, presentations. Our submission is more polished, that any of my previous camera-ready. That is cool and tough. I definitely would recommend you to go for internship here.
- Lab has methodology of writing papers and lots of LaTeX/matplotlib snippets. That helps to make good-looking paper at affordable time costs.
- Everyone presents her/his research on lab meetings at least once — and as if it was real external presentation. Goal: to get feedback and internal reviews. And to make everyone in group aware about your results. Moreover, intermediate deadline (presentation) quite helps to shape work one way or another. I like that.
- Don`t try to advance state-of-the-art in new field by new (for you) method during internship. I tried this and failed. Not miserably — we still produced good work, but not as great as I hoped for. You can try new area alone, or new methods in known area, but not both — don`t repeat my mistakes.
- Dig deep and straight to the core. Question everything. My favorite example of such attitude is “Learning to see in the dark” CVPR 2018 paper. Task: get good quality photos in very low light. While other researchers take RGB images as granted, Chen feed into CNN not even RAW image format, but something even less pre-processed. This allowed to obtain quality far beyond previous works.
Time management & general
- 6 month is never 6 month of work time. You will have corporate trainings, onboarding, conferences (I visited both CVPR and ECCV — so minus 3 weeks in total), other interruptions, etc. Better to count on 4–4.5 month.
- Hour spent on writing good and clean code saves you a day in deadline time. And lots of nerves.
- Think, plan and code in the morning. Read, do meetings, debug in evenings.
- Macbook sucks. Never got used to it, especially keyboard shortcuts and lack of “delete” key.
Relocation to Munich
- Intel helps with all needed bureaucracy. That is great, because Germany is…well, lets say, demanding in that sense. Still, it is not possible to go for 6 month with family: reuinion visas are only for >=1 year contracts. Lets face it: the most of academia lifestyle, including internships, are not designed for people with family. And not only academia. I hope, that will change somehow, but now it is as it is.
- Munich is an expensive city. Rent rate is the highest in Germany, moreover it is still hard to find a flat: there are more people than places, so landlords have freedom of choice. Actually, not that hard to find something for you alone: flat for 1 or even room in shared flat. But for family — Munich landlords think that for couple + infant you need 3 bed apartment. Add here 6 month period: too big for airbnb, but too small for typical rent.
- Coffee sucks here. If you love nice, acidic espresso…brace yourself.
- In Ukraine there are lots of 24/7 shops. In Prague, there is at least one Vietnamese food shop nearby, which works until late. In Munich, 8pm is deadline. And if you got used to stereotypical IT-person schedule: come to work at 11, leave at 8…I have very bad news for you.
- Munich technical museum is great. “English Garden” park is great.
- Best pizza in the city — Lo Studente.
So, that is all. Would I recommend you to do the same? If you are single - yes for sure. If not - well, it depends on lots of things: family, citizenship(s), etc.
If you have questions — write them in the comments. If it is not under NDA, I will answer.
Finally, thanks to all my colleagues there: Alexey, Vladlen, Adel, Rene, Katrin, Ozan, Gernot, Stephan, Henry.