I am going to present a story that holds very dear to me through this post.
I just graduated college (It’s a strange and different feeling, but I won’t go there). I officially have a degree now (not literally because there’s still some time in my convocation), but the effort and struggle is over. However I realize that the hard part has just begun. I remember a senior addressing our graduating batch on the recently organised “high tea” during the last days of college. He made us all aware about a very true fact that the path we traveled till now was a very well defined path and something that almost everyone follows. School and then college. But as soon as we step out from college, we get to own each and every decision and choice we make to develop and polish ourselves at the personal as well as professional level. We gotta explore and follow our true passions. And that’s not very easy, and at times it’s so damn hard.
A lot of people ask me about my future plans and it really gets challenging to explain them my passion and aspiration to work for sports. While some get critical and apprehensive of my choice, some get fascinated just because of the niche interest. But in real there are very few who really understand and believe in my choice.
It’s hard to showcase what kind of an effort I have put in to explore the field and find opportunities, how much hours of research has been done to find various possibilities, the number of emails and LinkedIn messages that have been exchanged to find the right connections. The process however has been and still is a hell of an experience. In the pool of conventional people, it’s a pleasure to find like minded people, encouraging and motivating sports enthusiasts. It feels an achievement to hear back and get positive replies on emails. It’s strange how suddenly the vision of a stranger becomes so powerful when it’s aligned with mine.
So, because it’s hard to showcase and explain to everyone what all this means to me, I won’t even try. I would just say that this has been an informed decision and the attempt to work on it goes way back.
Who Am I?
My Brief Introduction
Short Pitch On My Interests, Passion and Vision
I have completed my B.Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering from IIIT-Delhi. I have a strong engineering background with a stronger interest and connection with sports. Hence I aspire to work for sports, and doing so, I want to leverage my skills in the best possible way.
I had streamlined my last year of undergraduate studies towards acquiring expertise knowledge in the field of sports engineering. My passion in sports and the will to solve problems through applied principles of engineering has driven me to take independent studies and projects integrating sports and technology.
I have been a national level tennis player and have traveled a lot across India for my tennis tournaments. I play for my college and I am the contingent leader of the sports team in my college. I am also the sports coordinator and look after the organizational and administrative issues.
In a nutshell, I have a strong connection with sports. After graduation, I want to gain some real business world experience of working in a sports related company and explore the sports industry. I wish to learn and develop skills that are essential to fight real-life problems and get an idea of how these are addressed in business plan of actions. I would also like to hone my skills, learn from my peers, interact with clients and take a step forward in self-development. I have an undying urge to travel a lot, see the world, explore beyond infinities and live independently for a while.
With the right combination of techno managerial skills, I aspire to lead a product team with a vision to give new dimension to the sports industry. I not only want to be a sports engineer but a leader who inspires sports engineers to build cutting edge sports products.
Also I do understand that product manager is a high end aspiration. As a fresher I will have to work in a team as an individual contributor. Understanding things and learning from peers doing something I am passionate about is what I am currently looking for. I am ready to struggle, learn and develop in the process of reaching to my aspirations 🙂
Being a national level tennis player myself, I can’t vouch any less about how much a sport helps an individual grow personally. That is the driving force and my inspiration.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, I have been working on a project with an aim to integrate technology into sports. Here’s my story:
It all started in the 6th semester, when I decided to take an independent study to explore the field of sports engineering. IIIT-Delhi allows students to take such electives. I worked alone under the supervision of Dr. Rahul Purandre who agreed to be my mentor as we shared a common interest for sports and had discussions about sports in the past. He has been my constant mentor and adviser since then. In my independent study, I did an online course related to sports engineering, read research papers written around the research and development of equipment in the sport of tennis and followed case studies of the Center of Sports Engineering Research. I finally came up with a brief report on the evolution of tennis racket (though now I believe that I have gained much more knowledge and perspective having been following the sports technology field for a while, that this report seems novice).
Then after getting a hang of things and an idea at the surface level of how technology is being integrated with sports, I wanted to dig deeper and work on one specific research problem and get my hands dirty by actually doing a project.
I had another sports enthusiast friend, who comes from the similar background of being a national level tennis player. I pitched him the idea and we teamed up to work on understanding the engineering involved in a smart tennis racket getting inspired from these products. He is a CSE guy and I am an ECE guy, so it was technical good fit as well. We talked with an ECE faculty member who seemed to be welcoming of different and interesting ideas and would enthusiastically help us on the challenging journey. So finally, along with my friend I took up a Research Track BTP (B.Tech Project) under the guidance of Dr. Alexander Fell.
And not just this BTP, during the 7th semester, I streamlined my other courses also around that. I was researching about the product in my BTP with an aim to bring it to some prototype level with a proof of concept. I took up another elective “Smart Sensing of Internet of Things” in which our team built the wireless model of the same project. I took up the course of Entrepreneurship in which I explored the industry and market of this product.
The research problem is as follows:-
In sports, after learning the basics of playing the sport, what comes as the next challenge is to improve the performance as a player. In individual racket sports, in order to improve, it is very important to track the performance and see where lies the scope of improvement. It will be easier for players and coaches to plan and strategize the practice sessions if they know how the player is performing.
For example, in tennis, if a player can see various performance parameters like the total number of shots hit during a session, how many of those were forehands, and how many were backhands. From which part of the racket were most of them hit and what was the power generated in the shots, etc… it would help the player understand on which area does he need improvement. Is he not hitting the shots from the centre of the racket, or is he hitting the shots too slow and not generating enough pace and power. A smart tennis sensor package which could be placed on any racket and come along a smartphone app would enable the player to analyze his performance himself and coach himself to improve.
In the BTP, we put some sensors on the tennis racket, connected with a micro-controller and focused on determining only two parameters; “The impact location (centre vs side)” and “the shot type (forehand vs backhand)”. Last semester we were able to able to get positive results from the accelerometer sensor data to distinguish between the shot types and this semester we have got positive results from the gyroscope sensor data to determine the shot location.
Here is the presentation prepared for evaluation during the last semester. Attached is the final poster prepared for evaluation for this semester. It has been a very interesting journey so far working on this project. The not so technical challenges we have faced like prototyping, creating the test bench, etc are a glimpse of the adventure this has been. I don’t think I can express everything over this blog post.
The presentation does have few photos of the prototype. I will put a couple here as well:-
I believe having the experience of playing the sport helped in understanding the problem a tennis player faces. It was easy for us to think as a player ourselves.
To add to the tale:-
I sat for campus placements and had got placed in a startup with a role “Management Trainee – Product”. But that was just to secure a backup and gain the experience of sitting through campus placements. I had planned beforehand to seek job opportunities in companies and startups working in the field of sports to pursue my passion and carry forward the research and projects I have been doing for the last 1.5 years in college.
So for the last couple of months I have been searching job opportunities in the industry of sports. My aim is to enter the sports industry with roles related to sports technology and/or operations. I would prefer a role related to sports technology above operations but that has been harder to find since there are only a countable number of sports startups (as far as my knowledge goes) who are working on building products. All established sports goods firms also have their products designed, engineered and manufactured mostly outside India and hence it becomes harder and more challenging to connect with them.
But I am trying and it has been an awesome journey so far. Let’s see where I end up 😀
My Resume | Here
That is my story and I feel proud to have identified what I want to do and choose this path 🙂 Peace. Wish you most and more. Always follow your passion, keep exploring until you find and don’t feel stuck with one passion. Passions change and evolve too 😀
Any help, guidance, inputs and discussions are more than welcomed 😀
Actually I would request all my well wishers, peers, friends, acquaintances, relatives to please connect me with those working, researching and exploring this field. Companies, startups, research groups or professors I am in a lookout for all.