In this next segment, Raj discusses his school career. He again claims to be the recipient of good fortune and a bit of luck in terms of getting unique student jobs and positions which helped him develop his technical skills.
SM: What was your experience like at UC Berkeley? RV: While I was at Cal, I had more fortunate blunders. I was working my way through school in the work study program, and the position happened to be in the mail room / main office at the EECS department (I applied for, and probably got the job, because it happened to be the department I was enrolled in as a student).
After a year or so, the IT group happened to have a job opening, I knew the staff from working in the office, they knew I was studying computer science, so it seemed like a win-win for everyone. For the next 2 or so years, I got a tremendous amount of hands-on practical experience with computers and IT. All of that contributed greatly to getting a Research Assistantship during my senior year where I worked on Operating Systems Research (that was my interest and area of emphasis at the time).
SM: What did you do after graduation? RV: Upon graduation from Cal, I realized I enjoyed the research/academic lifestyle and thought I’d continue on with grad school. My “raw numbers” in terms of GPA, test scores, etc., were far from stellar.
Fortunately David Anderson, the professor I was working with as a research assistant, was willing to convert me over to a staff position on one of our projects, so I was able to obtain more research experience for about a year. Along the way, David recommended the Computer Science department at the University of Washington as a possibility for graduate school (he also recommended me to them, which was a great help).
At the time (1988-89), the University of Washington department was an “up and comer” — not firmly established as one of the top CS departments in the country like it is today. As a result, it seemed to be a pretty good fit. They were willing to take a chance on more non-traditional candidates such as myself, and for me it seemed like an environment characterized by a lot of fast-moving change, a good place/time to “jump in and see where things go”. It was also nice that they actually accepted me. So I headed off to Seattle.