Future tech tycoon

Meet Harshith Senthilkumaran, a Computer Science and Engineering major at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). We spoke with Harshith about his keen interest in start-up culture, his wealth of industry experience, and his incredible experience at university.

Lovely Los Angeles

Harshith first described his university as having excellent extracurricular activities, fantastic events, and facilities. “There's a lot of benefits that students get, and there's a lot of activities that one can take part in." Throughout our discussion, Harshith painted a unique picture of UCLA’s location. “My university is in West LA, so it’s pretty close to Beverly Hills and Westwood, so there’s a lot of nightlife and history to explore in relation to Hollywood. There’s a lot to do.” Harshith paints LA as bustling, vibrant, and diverse – “It’s a very free-spirited community here at UCLA; everyone’s willing to help.”

Crazy quarters

During our discussion, Harshith discussed the course structure and how this influenced his decision to study at UCLA. “I’m not sure if many universities do this, but UCLA works on a quarter system, so there are four quarters a year, and every ten weeks you have an exam.” Students like Harshith favor this structure as he can “forget about the class and start the next quarter fresh.” He mentioned that there are exams every two to three weeks if you take into account midterms. “It’s pretty academically rigorous, but it’s for ten weeks, and then you get a week’s breather.” This intense method of studying and learning certainly spoke to Harshith. ‘This influenced my decision along with the Californian weather and the competitive university atmosphere.” However, this wasn’t the only facet of UCLA that appealed to this Computer Science and Engineering major. “The university itself is excellent for computer science,” Harshith expressed. “That’s definitely something that impacted my decision-making. There’s also a lot of networking going on at UCLA. The area has a robust start-up culture, which I want to get involved with.” Harshith assessed his options and decided to pursue a university with all the attributes he sought – an outstanding computer science course, good weather, and a budding entrepreneurial atmosphere.

Newfound love of computing

One of the driving forces for Harshith’s decision to undertake his Computer Science and Engineering course was his discovery of tech from an early age. ‘I think the first time I ever completed any computer-based project was in the tenth grade, where I created a virtual reality version of the old school Pac-Man game. I thought this was an exciting experience, and from that moment, I knew I wanted to do something like this for the rest of my life.” Not only did his passion for tech help guide Harshith towards his new vocation, but another aspect of his personality helped forge a deeper connection with this newfound passion. “I love helping people, and I feel like helping people through the medium of technology is the best way to do it, as you can reach many people quickly.” Alongside his passion for tech, some other logistical factors helped Harshith decide on his future discipline. “Computer science involved too much math, and I don’t like math, and computer engineering was more on the hardware side. However, computer science and engineering is a great mix of the two disciplines.”

Life lessons

There were a few life lessons that Harshith learned the hard way when he entered university. “When I was back home, I was pampered. I got everything done for me, but you must do everything independently coming here. It’s a big culture shock and a time commitment as you must manage your studies and understand a new way of learning that doesn’t require a textbook.” Harshith is an international student from India, so he expressed how different the Indian education system is from the U.S. system. “The U.S. system is much more of a conceptual style rather than rely on memorization. At UCLA, the theory is more of a prerequisite to the practical work.” Due to the rigorous academic practice conducted at UCLA, Harshith mentioned that international students should get into their work quickly to avoid delays or midnight cramming sessions. “Get started the day you land because that was my biggest shock. I waited three to four weeks before getting into my work, and I didn’t realize that this time was half of my quarter.” If you don’t start studying soon enough, you will get stuck with a backlog of work that requires long nights.”

Exceptional experience

Harshith told Cybernews Academy about his industry experience and the club he co-founded. “My most notable experience was the summer of 2022 when I worked for a mid-size company called NicheSolv, which was working on an AI app that acted as a tennis coach. “I was involved in the R and D for that. I was involved in developing the AI and tuning the AI model by training it with data to improve its accuracy.” Another amazing achievement Harshith has accomplished while at university is establishing his artificial intelligence club, Bruin AI. “One of my favorite memories about my time at university so far has been the coffee chats and interviews with new potential Bruin AI members.” This is when Harshith felt that strong sense of accomplishment regarding his time at university. “You’re sitting there, asking people questions, and you suddenly realize you have finally made this work. It was four or five months in the making, so it was a real sense of achievement.”

As our discussion ended, Harshith and I discussed his plans for the future. “I’ve told everyone I want to retire by 30,” he chuckled, “so entrepreneurship is the space where I can create some tech solution that hopefully becomes big.” Harshith hopes he can one day become a VC and support young entrepreneurs like himself. Before parting ways, Harshith had one piece of advice for our audience. “Remember, do something you love because otherwise, you’ll find every excuse not to do it.”