Adventures and Innovation

Sandip Agrawal island-hopped across Thailand on his first day of graduate school at Georgia Tech. Agrawal’s wanderlust inspired the itinerant scholar to backpack throughout Southeast Asia for three months. But he didn’t miss a single class during the trip.

As a student in the online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) program at Georgia Tech, traveling and career don’t have to stop as Agrawal earns his next degree.

The adventurous Agrawal is a late technological bloomer, unintentionally. He lived in Nepal from birth until college, but his limited exposure to technology was no issue when Agrawal began his first engineering classes at Duke University. In one class, he built a small robot that could navigate obstacles and communicate with other bots with ease. The biomedical engineering major later developed a system prototype that allowed mobile phones to recognize human writing when simulating a pen. Agrawal published several research papers and won multiple awards for this work.

Technology quickly became Agrawal’s calling. After graduation, he began work as a tech consultant, but was intrigued by startup life. In 2012, Agrawal joined a new company focused around a mobile app for sports betting. Yahoo acquired it a year later. Simultaneously, Agrawal co-founded, built, and designed a mobile-friendly e-learning platform for Nepalese students to prepare for the professional medical and engineering examinations. The website is still active with more than 5,000 users.

Although Agrawal had an abundance of success as a software engineer, he still coveted an advanced education. But, he was hesitant about returning to school full-time. After hearing about the launch of the OMS CS program, Agrawal applied almost immediately. He was admitted in the program’s first cohort and has not been disappointed.   

“I’ve been really impressed with the quality of the video lectures and the amount of time instructors spend answering questions on Piazza,” Agrawal said. “It’s also amazing to see how students help each other on the discussion forum.”

Agrawal is virtually surrounded by like-minded students in the OMS CS program. David Joyner, adjunct instructor and Udacity course developer at Georgia Tech, believes the program’s accessibility attracts a particular type of student.

“Our affordability and flexibility allow us to attract students who are passionate simply about learning, which leads to more energy and engagement in the classroom,” Joyner said, based on student surveys and conversations. “What makes the OMS program great, in my opinion, is it attracts amazing students, and then it gives those students room to be amazing.”

The program’s flexibility cannot be understated for Agrawal. He’s now a software engineer at Google, where he’s worked extensively on YouTube. Agrawal helped build the recently launched YouTube Music Insights tool. The tool allows artists to explore how their music is performing and where their fans are located.

Agrawal is also rapidly accumulating new passport stamps. He returns to Nepal at least once a year and has visited more than 20 countries worldwide.

“The idea of carrying a backpack, hopping on a plane, and just going somewhere with absolutely no plans thrills me,” Agrawal said.

You can bet he’ll finish his homework, too.