Sharing his journey to point others in the right direction
A lot of us from the ‘older generation’ commonly tell ourselves “what I wouldn’t give to be young again”. In an era with information available with a touch of a button, you’d think the possibilities are endless. Easy for me to say. If I were 16 at this very moment, instead of learning about data science, I’d probably be procrastinating by watching too many TikTok dances.
If you were to peruse through Tech With Pratham, you wouldn’t have guessed the website creator has celebrated his sweet 16th birthday this year. What’s more, Pratham Prasoon has officially become a researcher with AIcrowd recently! Read on to understand more about the extraordinary journey of this young student, turned teacher!
Huifang: Congratulations on your first job! How do you feel about it and how do you position yourself in the job?
Pratham: This job is a research internship. My role is to put out relevant content that makes evaluation metrics and machine learning more accessible and easily understood by people. It’s a flexible job that depends on the creativity and direction I want to take.
Huifang: How do you get this job?
Pratham: AICrowd approached me after reading the posts I made on Twitter. They liked the way I explained things in a simple manner.
Huifang: Are you the youngest in the team? And is it normal to have a job at 16 in India?
Pratham: It’s not the norm. Most people think about getting a job after they finish college at around 22 years old. We are still considered to be a minor until the age of 18.
My parents were slightly sceptical about the internship offer initially. I had to show them the conversations with the person in charge in order to convince them. But even if they were not convinced, I’m sure they wouldn’t have shown it. I bet they must have been thinking about how it is possible to get a research internship at the age of just 16?
I think this was made possible because of the internet.
Huifang: While most 16s are still busy with their studies, you’re already an influencer and you’ve got a job. So what do you think makes you different from the rest?
Pratham: To be honest, I didn’t like school that much and even skipped some classes.
I’ve always loved technology and I’m a decent programmer. As the technology captain of the students’ council, I got to manage some of the technology-related tasks in my school. Also, I generally know how to talk to an audience, this reiterates my skills in marketing.
I suppose a combination of these traits helped to distinguish me from everyone else.
(Huifang: I think being able to see his own strengths and putting them to good use is what sets Pratham apart from the rest.)
Huifang: You mentioned that you don’t like school much. What is it specifically about school that you don’t like?
Pratham: A better way to put it is that I’m not a huge fan of how the education system currently works. We’ve not really been encouraged to pursue passion projects, only the subjects on the curriculum. Most of the time, we’re studying topics that we don’t like and probably have no use for.
For me, an ideal education system is one that promotes creativity rather than only focuses on test scores. Creativity is something that can really judge one’s proficiency, so we should encourage it as much as possible.
Huifang: How do you think the education system can encourage creativity?
Pratham: When a question is given to the students, instead of giving them answers, we should give them the freedom to explore. Help them a little by pointing them in the right direction when they are wrong.
Once the students get the solution, they will get a sense of accomplishment from figuring it out on their own. This feeling is more rewarding than being given an answer and told how the problem is supposed to be solved.
In my opinion, making the entire process more rewarding and interesting will help promote curiosity in the students.
Huifang: Having 300+ students is by no means an easy duty. Knowing this shows me you must be skilled. I’m wondering, how did you get started with teaching?
Pratham: I’ve actually made some mistakes throughout my programming journey. I felt that I would have gained more knowledge than what I knew right now if I had followed certain things in the right way.
I see a lot of people making the same mistakes I did when I first started out. So I started teaching in order to help them to achieve things that I did in a far lesser time. It’s very rewarding when I help people and they like my explanations.
Huifang: How did your student base grow so extensively?
Pratham: We’ve been in lockdown over the last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the students had a lot of free time and generally, the sixth and seventh graders wasted their time on non-productive activities, such as playing video games.
So, as part of the student council, I took the initiative to speak to some of the authorities in school. Together with a couple of friends who knew how to program, we conducted two months of Zoom classes for 300 or so middle-schoolers. We kickstarted their journey by teaching basic programming. We did this in the hope that when they’re older they’ll start to enjoy it. They also wouldn’t need to learn everything from scratch if they did eventually want to take it seriously.
Huifang: According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics in India, almost 32% of students pick STEM degrees. This, in turn, produced the most graduates in a total of almost 2.7 million in 2018.
What do you think India is doing well to be so far ahead of other countries?
Pratham: This has to do with the type of upbringing in Indian society where boys are supposed to pursue studies in a STEM field such as science, technology, engineering or math. It’s part of the belief that STEM fields pay a higher rate; and if you studied in a good STEM college, you will have a better opportunity to go abroad or obtain a better job.
Honestly, I think that there’s too much emphasis on STEM. Students feel forced into it even when it’s not their preferred subject.
Huifang: With all the opportunities that are presented to you, do you still think that attending school is important for you?
Pratham: Call me old-fashioned but I want to go college. Colleges aren’t just about getting a degree, not to mention that there are still a lot of things that I don’t know. It’s also where we get to meet new people and get some industry experience.
Whilst some people cannot afford to go to college, I’m fortunate enough to be able to pursue higher education. I want to learn as much as I can and then we’ll see how things go after I get a college degree.
Huifang: What would be your dream job?
Pratham: My dream is to retire at a young age, maybe 25. Then I want to be a full-time content creator since I love teaching. Or maybe I can run a start-up.
I’m not sure about the future yet, but for now, I’m just going to continue making content on Twitter, enjoy the journey and keep on connecting with more people.
Huifang: What are your parents’ reaction when they found out that you are now an influencer with more than 60k followers on Twitter?
Pratham: When I first started tweeting, my parents wouldn’t have approved if they knew I’d be spending so much time just building up my audience. But they got to know about my Twitter ventures better after reading through the content that I’d posted.
Now, my parents understand and are appreciative of what I have accomplished on Twitter.
Huifang: I felt that your kind of job as an influencer and a researcher before graduating signifies a change in career nature for your generation. What kind of advice would you give to fellow peers of your generation?
Pratham: A problem with my generation is that we don’t value our time a lot.
Time is a very important asset and if you spend it wisely, you can do great things.
Most students will just do what everyone else tells them to do and then go off to play. Instead, I think they should just try something out of the box and be creative.
Peers of my generation gets fascinated by social media such as YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. It’s common to dream of becoming an influencer. However, they have to realize that it would require a lot of commitment and hard work to keep it running.
Now that we’ve heard Pratham on his views towards education and some of his future plans, we look at his technical journey in adapting to a new way of learning.