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Filter coffee: Rhea Parekh

July 1, 2020

From IMG, GSoC, Quantum Computing, Microsoft Redmond - there’s only so much we can keep count of, because Rhea Parekh, a name that doesn’t need much introduction, has been there; done and dusted all of these. However, there’s more to her apart from securing the highest package offered in the campus this year. For us, she’s still the goofy person, sitting with us enthusiastically in WONA meetings, laughing like a maniac at a silly Pheking news idea. Here’s an excerpt from our chat with our very own self-proclaimed connoisseur of bad jokes.

Watch Out! - You were a part of 6 Campus Groups in your first year ranging from GG to WO, IMG-PAG to Drams. How did you manage it then? Also were you able to manage your grades along with these commitments?

Rhea - After the arduous JEE years, I was driven to participate in as many extra-curricular activities as I could in my freshman year, which is the reason why I was so motivated to be a part of these groups. The thrill of being presented these many opportunities overshadowed how time consuming it would be and I had found a strange comfort in being busy. I was always on my toes, running from one meeting to the other, with multiple tasks on hand everyday. In fact, I ended up losing sleep on a lot of days and dozed off during my lectures, but I’ll attribute that to the normalcy of student life in our campus. I also owe it to the fact that a lot of these groups weren’t aren’t as demanding in the first year as they are later, that I was able manage my time well between these engagements. But by the end of my first year, I did realise how difficult it would be to sustain this, but I’ll always be indebted to every group I was a part of, for shaping my life in its own way. My first semester C.G. was 9.4 and I very narrowly missed out on a branch change in my first semester. In a funny contrast, I narrowly missed out on the academic probation in my second semester.

Watch Out! - This big list of achievements that you have, to get here and to have done all this, you must have had to cut down on other fun things. Do you think you missed out on things and if yes do you regret it?

Rhea - I did have to cut down on a lot of things, especially in my second and third year. I was constantly working throughout these years, creating a huge imbalance between my work and social life. However, I don’t regret the decisions I took in this period as I was quite satisfied with my work and started to cherish the free time I had. With that, I hold the belief that these sacrifices were crucial in order for me to reach where I am right now and that it’s an important part of any university student’s life. Plus, I did make up for all the things I missed out on, in my final year, and hence looking back I am content with my choices.

Watch Out! - You were one of the first people to take Quantum Computing seriously. You even had a research paper done on it in your third year. What made you interested in it?

Rhea - I was introduced to Quantum Computing in my second year, when I stumbled upon a blog on Shor’s Algorithm - an algorithm to find the prime factors of an integer. The idea was really perplexing to me, which motivated me to further start reading the theory behind it. I was completely intrigued with this field and it’s potential to change the face of technology in the next few years. IBM was offering it’s quantum computer on the cloud for free which sparked my interest, and I used to play around with it initially, trying to implement different algorithms. Quantum Mechanics has been my favourite subject over the years and I found quantum computing to be the perfect blend of this subject with different fields in computer science.

Watch Out! - You have interned with Microsoft apart from cracking GSoC in your sophomore year and ICPC Regionals too. Despite all this, you went ahead to study Quantum Computing and a remote BTP abroad. Why?

Rhea - I started off with attempting competitive programming and learning software engineering, the way a lot of students do when they first join campus. Even though I had developed a strong liking to software development, I was keen to explore and experiment with other fields. A younger and naive pre-JEE version of myself always thought that I’ll pursue research in Physics and I felt like I owed it to her to try my hand in different physics oriented fields. When I came across quantum computing, it realised that it was the perfect fit for me and I really enjoyed working on different problems in this field. With that, since the beginning of my first year, I had romanticized the idea of going on a semester exchange or an intern abroad and just experiencing the culture and life there. I was lucky enough that Roorkee finally started permitting a remote BTP, when I was in my third year, and hence I jumped on this opportunity.

Watch Out! - Describe your stay in Europe for 6 months, like in 4-1 there’s pressure for placements et al, but you were away in Europe and secured the highest package in the campus at Microsoft Redmond. How did you manage it, or rather how did you prepare for placement tests?

Rhea - My stay in Europe was as dreamy as it could have been. I thoroughly enjoyed my work with the team there and it exposed me to a lot of new opportunities, which acted as a launchpad for my research career. With that, it was thrilling to immerse myself in a different culture altogether, meeting people from all across Europe, travelling to and exploring different cities, attending concerts of my favourite artists. This experience made me grow and changed my perspective in a way I would have never imagined. I didn’t face any pressure for placements as I already had a PPO from Microsoft India as a back-up and my main goal then was to apply to different universities for graduate studies. The turn of events was extremely surprising, as being away from the campus, I wasn’t expecting to get an opportunity to interview for this position at Redmond in the first place, until I found out that a call was scheduled online. I only had about one-two week’s time to prepare for this interview which I used to brush up on different topics, however, I mostly relied on my past experiences for this the call.

Watch Out! - Apart from this Machau Rhea, you were very well known for being the demi-God of bad jokes in IMG and your commercial trips-half selfies are well known too. Tell us something about this side of Rhea.

Rhea - I wittingly tried to build this reputation. To benchmark the intensity of my bad jokes, my go-to would be this anti-joke: I’ll say “Ask me if I am a car?”. When they would ask me, I’d reply with a simple “no”. This is probably as cringeworthy now as it was before, but I enjoyed being the cause of it. With that, I always enjoyed partaking in occasional roasts of my friends. I also have this tendency to cause uncomfortable and awkward scenarios just for the thrill of it, and yes, Michael Scott is my ultimate role model.

Watch Out! - You’ve been in so many groups,you must know all the hard work that goes in the functioning of one . So, If you could, given you had the time and the resources, what group would you have wanted to start?

Rhea - We did plan on starting a discussion group for Quantum computing with ACM IIT Roorkee. We took a lecture at the beginning of the semester and were supposed to continue these lectures as well as conduct workshops after the mid-semester break. We intended to lay down a foundation for this group, which was then going to be carried forward by our juniors. Sadly, all of these plans were thwarted by the Covid situation. However, seeing an increasing number of people showing interest in this field from our campus, I do hope the campus will see this group in the next few years.

Watch Out! - How has being a part of WatchOut been so far?

Rhea - WatchOut has always been my escape on the campus, a break from my hectic schedule. Every week I’d look forward to those two hours where we’d discuss our thoughts ranging from serious issues to rambles about some conspiracy theory that dogs are forming a secret cult in the campus. To put it in words, the time I spent with this group felt like a blissful scroll on reddit. WatchOut has aided me in overcoming my lifelong fear of speaking my mind in front of a huge group. Finally, I met some of the best people I know (hint: you guys) through this group, and for that I’ll always be thankful.

Watch Out! - What is it about Roorkee(campus) that you like the most?

Rhea - It’s most definitely the people I met here, which makes Roorkee complete. A senior once told me “Once you graduate, when you come back to the campus after a few years, you don’t feel it’s the same because you barely recognise the faces as you walk by”. It’s the people who were always involved in some shenanigans with you, who you hung out with till sunrise, who taught you more things than any professor in the campus, who lent you a shoulder to cry on or who beat you up on your birthday which make this taxing student life on the campus seem joyous and almost exhilarating.

Watch Out! - How do you like the concept of Chaapos?

Rhea - Suffice it to say I did not have to spend any money on food in my first year. Being a part of multiple groups had its own perks in a way. To be frank, I have received way more chapos than I have given. This concept is utterly brilliant until you reach your final year and realise you have no one left to coax into giving a chapo. Jokes apart, this is one of the best traditions of Roorkee that’ll stay life long with a person - it a platform for people to avail their bragging rights and share/get some gyaan, a reason to dance your stress away, celebrate achievements or maybe just a deceptive method of flirting with someone.

Wona or IMG? IMG
Your chapo toll? Can’t keep count :P
Lowest grade point you’ve ever got? 6
Fav eatery in Roorkee? Rustic, Hands down