Postman Student Leader: How I Founded a Data Science and AI Global Student Conference

This is a guest post written by Tanishq Sandhu, a Postman Student Leader attending Georgia Tech.

As a certified Postman Student Leader attending Georgia Tech, I was proud to recently spearhead the first annual Data Science & AI Leaders of Tomorrow (DSAILT) Conference & Expo, which took place April 24-25, 2021. In this blog post, I will share some of my reflections on that impactful experience chairing a global conference from start to finish (for my first time) and what the resulting online event offered to those in attendance.

A pandemic, a Postman Student Leader, and an idea

The Data Science & AI Leaders of Tomorrow came to fruition due to the dearth of connectivity and resources amid the COVID-19 pandemic. One of my main goals was to focus on collaboration rather than competition—from the purpose of the conference to its very planning and design. I wanted to design a conference that would provide a plethora of opportunities to students who were distanced from their campuses and/or other professional and educational opportunities. The conference needed to be led by students for the benefit of students.

The idea of a student-led virtual conference excited many across top schools such as Georgia Tech, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley, and University of Texas at Austin. This positive reception allowed me to receive mentorship from many accomplished and talented individuals from the undergraduate level all the way up to MBAs, graduate students, and even industry professionals. The novel idea was met with enthusiasm at the corporate level; we were able to secure Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Nvidia, and 8VC as corporate partners who collected resumes, connected us with speakers at their respective companies, shared job opportunities, held raffles, and sent swag.

After months of meeting with Christen Steele, director of computing career services at Georgia Tech, and Alicia Palmquist, event coordinator for career services at Georgia Tech, I was able to define the scope of the conference and receive funding to make it happen. The theme of “Diverse applications of data science and intelligence” was kept broad to encourage increased participation and speakers within the short runway we had for planning the conference.

Events by students and industry professionals

The DSAILT conference spanned a day and a half, and it took place at the end of the semester (just before finals). The conference was an expo led by students at Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley, and UT Austin, who all shared their creative data science-based and artificial intelligence-based solutions to societal problems. In between these student presentations, industry professionals hosted tech talks and participated in panel sessions, and students also had the opportunity to network with each other.

A presentation by UC Berkeley students
A presentation by UC Berkeley students

The industry professionals’ sessions were impressive, with tech talks ranging from “A.I., M.L., and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: The Future of Work in a Post-Automation World” to “Designing AI for Speed.”

A session led by an industry professional
A session led by an industry professional

Along with these tech talks, the conference hosted three panel sessions. One corporate panel featured accomplished data scientists at Nvidia and Microsoft. Another panel session had research scientists from Facebook AI Research, Google Brain, and Nvidia. The final panel session discussing start-up culture was hosted by 8VC, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, and CTOs and CEOs from its portfolio companies.

A corporate panel session
A corporate panel session

Another certified Postman Student Leader, Abir Pal, led a lunch-and-learn session titled “API and Data Science Using Postman” during the networking lunch break. Abir’s session was unique in that it was hands-on in giving tangible learnings to conference attendees who witnessed firsthand how APIs and the Postman API platform are instrumental in supporting data science and big data applications.

A full house during the Postman API platform session
A full house during the Postman API platform session

A successful global event—stay tuned for more

When all was said and done, and the inaugural DSAILT Conference & Expo signed off for 2021, we successfully had over 4,000 students RSVP from 65 different universities worldwide and hosted a total of 45 speakers.

Although the thought of spearheading and chairing a conference seemed daunting at first, the ability to provide an opportunity for curious students across the globe to gain exposure, learn, and network was well worth the work. Also, it was quite heartening to see how peers and professionals—such as recruiters, faculty members, and even MBA candidates at MIT—were eager to help me with my goal. The support I received by way of donated resources, time, and most importantly, invaluable constructive criticism was incredible. This experience was truly motivating, and I hope to continue helping the global student community with more interschool collaborative events.


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