My Experience Interning at Headai
29 June 2021
By Ritika Giridhar
My name is Ritika Giridhar. I am a second-year student at Vaasan Ammattikorkeakoulu, University of Applied Sciences (VAMK), and I study information technology, majoring in software engineering. Over the summer, I was fortunate enough to get an internship position at Headai for 7 weeks. If I had to describe this experience in one word, it would be ‘memorable’.
Having started my studies at VAMK just out of high school, I didn’t have any idea of how a company runs, what goes into the development stages, how a product is launched, among other things. As for my knowledge on AI, I had done a couple of courses from the University of Helsinki and Oulun Ammattikorkeakoulu (OAMK), but having a theoretical understanding of a subject isn’t the same as having actual practical knowledge, and knowing what you’re coding and how to code it. In short – I didn’t have much knowledge of artificial intelligence (AI) before I started my internship.
“Having a theoretical understanding of a subject isn’t the same as having actual practical knowledge, and knowing what you’re coding and how to code it.”
My task was to recode their text-to-keywords program in Python, thus also making it open-source. The program was to accept a docx/pdf file as an input, extract the text (in the case of a pdf, parse it), send the extracted text to Headai’s server via their APIs, and get JSON links in return (to get keywords and build a mind-map). I’d like to say that this task was super easy and it only took me about 2-3 weeks to do it, but I’d be lying. Building the pdf parser by itself took me about 2 weeks. I kept coding and recoding the parser, finding different tools that would make the process easier and smoother. Then, it was time to implement the APIs, and man, was that a journey. I went from not knowing what’s going on, to being very confused, to finally understanding what I was coding, and back to confusion. It was a turbulent 4 weeks, to say the least. The codes weren’t compiling, my laptop kept crashing because of the bad quality of code, I didn’t know what questions to ask, it was a nightmare for me.
“I went from not knowing what’s going on, to being very confused, to finally understanding what I was coding, and back to confusion.”
Towards the end of the 6th week (which was about last week), I was quite close to giving up. I felt this task was impossible to do for me since I had little to no experience. The problem was that I wasn’t able to connect to Headai’s server – I didn’t know how to code my program in such a way that it sent the extracted text to the server via the APIs. I felt so hopeless and lost, and I was so scared I would end my internship with nothing to show for it. Harri told me that it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t finish this project, it was the knowledge and experience I got during this process that was far more valuable. While I completely agree with that statement, I still wanted to finish this project – not just so that I didn’t waste everyone’s time, but also for my own personal achievement; so I could proudly say “Yes, I successfully worked with APIs.” Things did take a turn over the weekend, as I finally figured out where I went wrong, and I was able to finish the entire project at the start of my 7th week! It was so relieving, almost like an invisible weight was lifted off my chest; kind of like how Atlas would feel if he ever got a permanent break from holding the sky. Here is the link, if you would like to check it out: https://github.com/trashsock/text-to-keywords.
As a personal side project, I also worked with ‘Orange’, which is an open-source data mining software. Orange uses widgets, so all one needs to do is load in a text document, and Orange will produce a word cloud with the most used words in that file. There is more to what Orange could do, but I wasn’t really interested in that, since it didn’t overlap with my current assignment. I was able to successfully render a word-cloud of most commonly used words in a text file, but I wanted to see if I could somehow use this software to implement the APIs. Sadly, I wasn’t very successful in my attempt. Maybe, once I have more experience and knowledge in the future, I will attempt to do it again.
During these 7 weeks, I was exposed to the workings of the corporate world. Even though all of us were working remotely (me from India, Andrés from Colombia, the rest of the team from Finland), there was never any shortage of communication between everyone. Anu made sure I was included in daily morning meet-ups, and I even got to participate in the team development meetings! I had 2 sessions of lectures with Hussain in which he explained how he does his documentation process, and how Headai’s APIs work. I also attended a session in which Andrés explained about ‘Docker’. These meetings were extremely interesting to be a part of, as well as very hands-on.
“During these 7 weeks, I was exposed to the workings of the corporate world. Even though all of us were working remotely (me from India, Andrés from Colombia, the rest of the team from Finland), there was never any shortage of communication between everyone.”
The thing I liked the most about interning at Headai is that everyone is so friendly and approachable. They were ready to answer any questions I had, no matter how small and insignificant. Harri always told me “There are no right or wrong questions. The important thing is that you ask the questions. Everything you do is a learning process, and if you do make a mistake or your code doesn’t run, take it as a positive.” Obviously, I would have preferred it if I could have actually worked in the Pori office, but given the unfortunate circumstances, I was unable to. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my internship, and it was an experience I will never forget.
“The thing I liked the most about interning at Headai is that everyone is so friendly and approachable. They were ready to answer any questions I had, no matter how small and insignificant.”
I am ever so grateful to Harri, for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime. I would also like to thank Anu, Antti, Jari, Andrés, Eero, Hussain, and everyone else who made these 7 weeks so wonderful and full of knowledge. I have learned more in 7 weeks than I would’ve learned in any course. I will take all that I have learned, and use it as stepping stones for my future. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!