The First Semester
Like most of us, I was a naive fresher. I had made some small games during schooltime. I had basic knowledge of Python, C#, SQL and HTML (very superficial).
I used to spend a lot of time on academics (your typical “ghissu”). But I tried to attend most of the intro talks held by STC and got to know about SDSLabs. I knew about the group from the freshman guide too and had checked out some of their apps and projects.
A couple of weeks later, SDSLabs announced the Syntax Error hackathon. It was the first big event that happened in my first year (and was my first hackathon too!) so I was pretty psyched about it.
I ended up creating a 2D space shooter for my submission. Though I didn’t make it in the top 10, It was still a great experience for me and is a fond memory (My first hackathon, first of many)
Around this time I started developing an interest in Information Security and CTFs too. I attended some workshops by InfoSecIITR and found the field quite exciting.
Fast Forward to…
SDSLabs held many events for recruitments (Syntax Error, Makers, noobCTF) and a recruitment test. I attempted their recruitment test which was mostly problem solving and basic programming questions. There was a section on technological advancements and questions like “Why do you think coding is a superpower?”. I found this very interesting as this was not there in other groups’ test and though this section carried no weightage, I attempted it (as it piqued my interest).
A few days later, I got a call for interview. The interview was conducted in 2 parts. First one was basic problem solving, and we also discussed basic networking and webapp vulnerabilities.
The second round was based on my interests and my ability to tackle real world problems. I was asked to come up with high levels designs for Tic-Tac-Toe and a library management system. This was also a fanboy moment for me as one of the interviewers was Twarit Waikar (SDSLabs 2021 alumnus), a game developer who had worked extensively on SDSLabs’s game engines Rubeus and Rootex. I had read his blogs and looked at his games and the game engines and was thoroughly impressed by his work (Making a game engine seemed like a very huge undertaking to me). At the end of this round, I was given time to let loose with any queries I had for SDSLabs, an opportunity I made good use of. I asked them about game engines, game development and web security.
The Second Semester
I got a phone call informing me about my induction to SDSLabs. We had an intro chapo (online, coz covid) and got to know everyone there. We were added on the workspace apps and this got the cart rolling.
The semester was filled with lectures on various subjects (Git, Bash scripting, Web development, Game development) and corresponding assignments. The assignments spurred me to learn about something new and implement it within a deadline.
After the assignment season was concluded, we were introduced to the active apps and projects in SDSLabs. We were briefed on the status for each project and a received an overview of the tech stack, ongoing work, future issues and overall vision.
The day came when we were asked to pick up a project from the ongoing ones to complete a minor issue in them. This was sorting-hat-esque where everyone looked at that spreadsheet of projects and open issues and put their name against any one of them. Minors were completed in less than a week.
The Third Semester
By now we started participating in various hackathons (and managing to win some of them!!). Members would come together, form teams among themselves (sometimes even our alumni joined us) and we would participate in the hackathons. Sitting through hours of code sprints and preparing POCs, those were exhilarating hours.
After the minors, we had to choose our Majors: solving a large issue or implementing something important in the ongoing projects. We again met for the sorting and were assigned the responsibilities.
Releasing a Project
When a project comes to fruition and is ready to be open-sourced, everyone at SDSLabs is pretty excited about it. Seeing the hardwork of our members getting released ittruly a moment to be cherished. I witnessed the release of ZapDB and Studyportal.
Not just Dev
It’s not always software develpoment that we work on. We also work on IoT projects to make our workspace smarter (like presence detection using computer vision, WiFi locks). We have members passionate about information security and Data Science. We also have paper discussions in which we all read a research paper on related to CS and discuss it with other members. I was a part of the SDSLabs CSAW CTF team where we stood 2nd in India in the finals.
A big part of what I got from SDSLabs are the amazing seniors and mentors who are ready to help me in every way possible. Be it some code blocker or real life problems, I know I can rely on them to help me out. There are people with diversified interests (Research, Information Security, Data Science to name a few) and there is always someone I can ask for help while exploring something new.
Not just work
SDSLabs is not that all-work-ultra-serious place. We have our chill sessions where people play games, watch movies or just dance to music. For me, it’s the ideal workspace and I spent more time in SDSLabs than anywhere else on campus (sometimes even sleeping over there). Minesweeper showdowns, minecraft adventures and struggling in Nioh is a regular occurence here
Ultimate Geek Heaven
When I got into IITR, I imagined it to be a place full of people passionate about tech and geeky stuff. People who would drool over latest tech advancements and would be interested in trying them out. While this might not be true for all of IITR, but SDSLabs surely fits the bill. It is that ideal place I had imagined, the Ultimate Geek Heaven.
I had a great year at SDSLabs. Hours of code sprints, participating in various hackathons, vouching not to eat or sleep until I finish the issue/challenge, chilling out with friends, ranting away in one of those 2AM random meet sessions, discussing new things we learned about and coming up with new project ideas; it was quite eventful and fun.