June 16, 2004

What I Do Here (Besides Complain)

Some of you have probably been wondering what I do here, so I will hold you in suspsense no longer. Basically, the group for whom I am working has this large piece of software that they have written that is extremely useful in doing artificial intelligence (AI) research; however, the user interface for the software leaves a lot to be desired. Thus, I have been officially tasked with "making it more marketable," as the group would like to market their software to interested parties.

Surprisingly, I am not writing a lot of code; on the contrary, I'm trying to write as little code as possible myself. You see, they have been extremely helpful here in providing me with the resources I need, and in my case, "people" count as a resource. In addition to the laptop they have loaned me for the summer, they have also given me two trainees to indoctrinate.

So what is a trainee? I know what you're picturing: some spry young kid wearing suspenders, 37 pieces of flair, and a large yellow button that says "TRAINEE" in big, block letters who wants to know if I'm interested in hearing today's specials, but that is not the case. Trainees are younger students from other schools in India (lower tier than the IITs, I suppose) who are just here for the summer to learn whatever they can.

So my two trainees are Sumeet and Rakhi. Basically, I've been designing the software, writing a skeletal implementation, and then passing it off to them to fill in the rest -- outsourcing at its best, I suppose. I've never really had a "staff" before, so I'm learning a little about managing people. Ideally, this will free up my time to think more about the design and perform user tests on my interface.

Overall, this project seems like a good fit for me since it forces me to draw heavily on the tools in my skillset: teaching, software engineering, and designing and implementing user interfaces. Most of the time, I walk around the campus with this confused look on my face, but in the lab, I feel right at home.

Posted by Michael at June 16, 2004 11:20 PM