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October 31, 2018

A Tale of Two Cities: The Gupta Twins in iX Berlin and Cape Town

Written by

Sugandh Gupta

University of Richmond

It was tempting to call this piece 'twinning and winning'. As that's exactly what identical twin sisters, Sugandh and Surabhi do. If you're an iX 2018 alum, chances are you've encountered the inseparable bubbly duo. And that's because they took, not one, but two iXperience courses, participating in both our Berlin and Cape Town programs. Find out what they learned in each city, why they believe tech is the future, and what they're doing with all of their newly-minted skills.

iXperience Berlin street tour

Sugandh and Surabhi Gupta with their iXperience Berlin class

Getting to grips with the phenomenon that is the Guptas

Q: Where are you both from?

A: Mumbai, India.

Q: Where did you go to school, and what did you study?

A: We grew up in India, but attended the University of Richmond, graduating in 2016. We studied liberal arts and classics, with French and Russian majors – a far cry from what we do now!

Q: What made you both get into tech?

A: We've studied multiple languages because we thought that overcoming language barriers would help us better understand the world's problems, and thereby affect positive change.

While studying, we also travelled extensively. Across 14 countries, we found that although people speak different languages, the single global unifying language was tech. It's transforming industries, and seeing how it's making unprecedented changes, no matter where we went, made us want to get involved. It's amazing what a few lines of code can become.

We came to the realization that affecting change on a broad scale, and having impact at a grass-roots level, could be accomplished by understanding how the 0’s and 1’s come together, rather than attempting to learn every single language in existence. We started at the very beginning, took some online courses and taught ourselves C++ and SQL before finding out about iX.

The iX Journey in Two Cities

Talent show evening

Sugandh and Surabhi performing in the iX Talent Show, Cape Town

Q: How did you find out about iX?

A: We were in Taiwan (to learn Mandarin), and feeling super jet-lagged one random night. We woke up, checked Facebook, as you do, and BOOM! We saw an advert for an “epic summer abroad”. A few months later, we had a cool phone interview, and were blown away by the team's enthusiasm. They really made the program come alive, which propelled us to take the next step and apply.

Q: What made you want to commit to iX?

A: We knew we were looking for a challenging experience, something that would satisfy our problem-solving hunger on another level. We also liked the internship component, with the classroom work complemented by solid work experience. The whole social aspect of travelling and making new friends was also appealing.

In the end, we looked at over 50 study abroad programs, but decided on iX because it felt really authentic, profound, and personalized. With iX, there is the opportunity to own your journey, and adapt the program to your own goals and personality; with a refreshing balance of variability and stability.

Q: What made you choose the Blockchain (in Berlin) and Data Science (in Cape Town) courses?

A: Our thirst for challenges. We get bored very easily, and were seeking something rigorous, tech-heavy and intense. Originally, we were going to do Full Stack and Data Science, but once the Berlin campus opened, we saw that Blockchain was an option. Machine learning is the present and future, and we wanted to get into that without getting lost. Blockchain and Data Science both felt really topical in that regard. Ultimately, we want to see how we can deploy this knowledge to India, and elsewhere, in the future by learning more about it ourselves.

We also felt like our liberal arts background is applicable to tech, because with anything you develop, you have to be mindful of the human who is interacting with the technology. Psychology, customer satisfaction? Liberal arts plays into that beautifully. Being humanistic, with a technical background, is the ultimate combination. It brings together the two halves of your brain, often with powerful results.

Q: Describe your experience of the Blockchain course. What was it like learning about such a new field?

A: It was amazingly structured, despite being such a new field. We learned the fundamentals of how a block works, how to build decentralized applications, how Ethereum and Bitcoin are used, finance and economics behind them, the psychology that surrounds them, as well as the underlying tech and code that they're built on.

The great thing about Blockchain tech is that there's something for everyone, whether you're into economics or CS. We both built our own apps, and became very interested in how the Blockchain could disrupt corruption and clean up the political system, bringing transparency to voting and really ensuring a democratic election process.

Q: What was the Data Science class like?

A: Mind-blowing! Learning how to organize structured and unstructured data, and how to analyze and visually represent it, was really cool. We learned how to use Python and were challenged with coming up with good predictive models. Applying this to machine learning and making our own neural networks, with multiple layers was meaty and tough. Data Science is for those with the stamina and clarity of mind to dive into raw data and retrieve actionable insights. It was a massively steep learning curve.

Q: What was your favorite Berlin excursion?

A: The graffiti tour! We explored the politics and economics behind making a graffiti, analyzed the art, and made our own graffiti.

Q: What was the best thing you did in Cape Town ?

A: The Robben Island tour was really interesting and impactful.

Q: The big one. Which city do you prefer?

A: Berlin moves really fast - it's the tech and art hub of Europe, aesthetically pleasing, and comfortable. Cape Town was equally as incredible. The moment we came out of the airport, we felt embraced. It's a slower, nature-lover's paradise with a city component. We can't choose.

Q: How are you applying your new skills? Where to now?

A: We're currently Computer Vision interns in Tel Aviv, where we're working with deep learning algorithms and AI. It's really interesting, and Tel Aviv is awesome.

Ultimately, we're way less unsure of what we want to do. iX, above all, unexpectedly did that for us.

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