From Erasmus Mundus Internship to Full-Time Employment as an Engineer in Portugal
Mar 9, 2023
4 mins read
Inductive Research Labs
💼 Machine Learning Engineer
⏳ Aug 2022 — Present
✅ Student visa for internship, then Work visa
Inductive Research Labs
👥 11-50 employees
How I got to Portugal
I will start by explaining how I ended up working in Portugal. To get a better sense of my background, check out this post about my undergraduate studies in Turkey.
After finishing my degree, I wanted to gain work experience abroad in a different country. I knew about the Erasmus Scholarship program for internships. Even though this program isn't available in my home country of Kyrgyzstan, I applied for it through my university in Turkey. The program offers funding for internships in Europe for students in their professional fields, and it's pretty easy to get into.
I timed my internship in Portugal for the end of my fourth year of college, so I could smoothly transition from student to intern. The best part was being able to use the scholarship even after graduating. Once I secured the internship in Portugal, I knew I would find a way to stay there longer. With the Erasmus scholarship, I was granted a student visa for the duration of my internship.
I learned that even if you don't end up in your favorite country right away, it's not the end of the world. You never know what opportunities may come your way!
We agreed on a 4-month unpaid internship with Inductive Research Labs. My Erasmus Scholarship covered only two months, so for the rest, I had to pay it myself. It was a tough situation, but I reached out to the company and explained my financial difficulties. They were understanding and agreed to provide me with extra help with accommodation. This made a huge difference and with the help of the company and the Erasmus scholarship, I was able to make ends meet.
After four months the company was impressed with my work and offered me a full-time job!
Strategy for researching companies
When I first started looking for an internship I thought about applying to big tech companies like Google and Amazon. However, I knew my chances of getting accepted were low because it was not an official summer internship program and these companies are very busy receiving countless applications. I decided to look for startups instead. Startups are growing and they need people, so I knew I had a better chance of getting noticed.
I searched for startups in Europe, focusing on countries like Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands. I used LinkedIn and Google to find companies that were working in my area of interest, such as artificial intelligence and tech. Once I found some companies that I was interested in, I checked their LinkedIn profiles and their projects to learn more.
Then, I sent emails to the people who worked at these companies and introduced myself. I explained that I had an Erasmus scholarship and was looking for an internship opportunity. Inductive Research Labs was one of the first ones on my list and they responded positively. They didn't have an official internship program, but I convinced them that they needed me. I knew that startups are always looking for talent.
I provided the company with my CV and had a one-hour interview with the CEO of the company. After that, they gave me a programming challenge and one week to solve it. The coding challenge was different from what you would expect in big companies during coding interviews. Since it was a research lab, they gave me a mathematical problem that does not have a solution yet. I was surprised and stressed at first, but I eventually found my own approach to the problem. Even though my code did not work, I submitted it anyway because I wanted to show how I approached the problem, how I performed my research, and how I put everything together. I believe they wanted to see my thought process, rather than just a working code. After the challenge, we had another interview where we discussed how I solved the challenge. They thought I would be a great fit for the company and offered me an internship position. Once I got accepted, we signed a learning agreement on the Erasmus side.
What I currently do
Now I am working on building an API, which acts as an interface between the simulation tools and the user. This project is a slight deviation from the AI, but I know that I need to have a strong foundation in coding first as I have never worked as a programmer before.
The simulation tool we are working on is quite complex and difficult to use, so our goal is to create an easy-to-use interface for the user. In the future, we plan on adding some artificial intelligence into the simulation tool so that users can simulate with the models that we trained. During my internship, I developed models for coastal protection using machine learning.
The founders of the company come from Amazon and Google, where they faced a lot of burnout. Here, they have made it a point to ensure that the usual workweek is not 40 hours, but rather 35 hours. This way, employees can maintain a healthy work-life balance, and the extra five hours can be spent going for a walk or enjoying a cup of tea.
My working schedule is 7 hours a day, and I have the flexibility to work remotely from home or from the office. During the day, I need to be available online to respond to emails, but if I am more productive at night, I can work at night as well. I believe the work-life balance here is perfect as it gives me plenty of time in the evening to hang out with friends, hit the gym, or work on my personal studies since I'm always looking to gain additional knowledge. However, there are days when deadlines are approaching, and we have to work extra hours. But such days are not frequent.
Salary and Living cost
When you consider the statistics, Portugal's income level is relatively low, and the minimum wage is also quite modest compared to other European countries. Despite this, I'm able to manage my living expenses, such as paying for rent and daily necessities without any difficulty. However, there are limitations to what I can afford, and it's tough to save up or purchase big-ticket items as I don't have much money left after paying my bills.
I am considering different countries for my next role, but for now, I am very happy with my current position!