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Alumni Spotlight | Gautam Hathi ’17

Alumni Spotlight | Gautam Hathi ’17

 

Graduation Year: 2017
Degree: Computer Science
Other activities while at Duke: Wrote for The Chronicle and at the Duke Reporters’ Lab

Q. Tell us a little about yourself…what you do now, what you’ve done since graduating.

A. I work as a software engineer at Google in the Bay Area. Before I started at Google, I spent the summer of 2017 as an intern on the Interactive News desk of the New York Times.

Q. In what ways did AGS impact your goals, current profession, etc.? How did AGS prepare you to enter the “real world”?

A. AGS taught me to not be afraid of asking questions, especially in large groups, when necessary. Even though I’m now working in a technical field, being able to speak up and ask questions when you don’t understand things or when you think something is wrong is still quite useful. As a computer science major, AGS also gave me a path to explore interests and opportunities that I might not have encountered through my coursework.

Q. Looking back on your time at Duke and with AGS, what would you say was the most valuable lesson you learned?

A. I’d say there were two key lessons I took away from AGS. The first, as mentioned before, is the value of asking lots of questions, even in cases where you might feel a little intimidated to speak up. I found that I learned really well by engaging with AGS speakers and professors in this way, and I’ve found that being willing to speak up and ask a question is often much appreciated by those around me.

Another important thing I got out of AGS was an understanding that most important decisions at the highest levels are hard, and that while it is easy to criticize people you disagree with in hindsight, things are not so clear in the moment. When decision makers come came to Duke through AGS, they often were able to explain why or how they took controversial decisions (which I may have had disagreements with). In almost every case, it becomes much harder to criticize someone when you hear firsthand how little information was available when making a decision or the constraints a decision was made under. I think that having this perspective on decision making has allowed me to have more empathy and understanding when trying to understand why people around me make decisions.

Q. Did you meet anyone during your time at AGS who deeply inspired you? Tell us about them and what about their life impacted you.

A. I’d have to say that the people I met through AGS who most inspired me were the other students who became my friends through the program. They all did various amazing things at Duke and in some cases led me to really cool opportunities that I wouldn’t have found by myself. I can’t wait to see what all the AGSers I met during my time at Duke do in the future.

Q. Do you wish there was anything you could go back and change about your time at Duke or with AGS? What would you do differently if you had another chance?

A. I think in general the things you wish you could change are always missed opportunities. I was able to take advantage of a lot of opportunities at Duke, many of those through my involvement in AGS, but AGS provides such a wealth of opportunities that it’s difficult to take advantage of all of them in the time available. In particular, I think it might have been interesting to further explore possible research opportunities that might have involved the intersection of national security or political science and technology. I was also only able to go on one of the international staff rides during my time at Duke, and looking back I do wish I’d gone on another one.

Q. Do you have advice or inspiration to offer current AGS students?

A. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to people whose titles and accomplishments are impressive or even a little bit intimidating. This is true both in class and at events with the big names that AGS brings to Duke. Asking questions is often a great way to learn from those people’s experience and you’re generally not the only one in the room wondering about the same thing. Also, take more math and science courses! Learn to write code! The ability to understand, use, and create technical systems is an incredibly handy tool no matter what field you go into.

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