Immersed in AI: How Aparna Chhajed Dove Into NVIDIA DeepStream

by Samantha Unnikrishnan

A stroke of serendipity led Aparna Chhajed to the NVIDIA DeepStream team, which in 2019 was looking for experienced program managers.

Chhajed — who was at the time consulting for technology and car photography startups in business, process and program management roles — reunited with former colleagues from 20 years prior who referred her to the position.

The job opening, which highlighted the importance of blending communication and leadership skills, was just what she was looking for. And meeting with people in diverse, sometimes decades-long careers at NVIDIA ignited her curiosity about the company, despite not having a background in AI.

Since joining NVIDIA, Pune, India-based Chhajed has worked on DeepStream — a software development kit that helps users easily build vision AI pipelines, as well as on automated optical inspection and the upcoming DeepStream Libraries. She’s managed every DeepStream release as the SDK’s user base grew from a few hundred to nearly 250,000 downloads last year.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced? 

  • When I joined NVIDIA, I discovered that here, people go with the flow. While this was a refreshing change, my process-oriented self initially struggled with it. Confronting a lack of set steps felt like getting thrown in a pool and learning how to swim. However, over time, I uncovered team processes and documented everything I learned.
  • Documenting our group’s processes helped to make them visible, find gaps that could be fixed and provide resources for others. Today, seeing these processes being adopted by other groups in the embedded software organization gives me immense satisfaction.

Is there an accomplishment you’re most proud of?

  • As a program manager for DeepStream, I’ve seen the technology feed into other company products, like NVIDIA Metropolis, NVIDIA Maxine and NVIDIA Riva.
  • When I joined the team, there were two separate code bases: one for the Tegra processors used in NVIDIA Jetson and the other for x86. The first major release I worked on involved combining both of these streams into one solid code base. Since then, with every release, DeepStream has grown exponentially. I’m extremely proud of this team accomplishment and the impact we’ve made.

What does it mean to you to do your life’s work at NVIDIA? 

  • I’m a super-proud NVIDIAN. We’re industry leaders, but what isn’t widely spoken about is our human-oriented leadership. Plus, I get to work on the bleeding edge of world-changing technology while maintaining a work-life balance. I love how NVIDIA supports employees to have time to focus on their families.
Chhajed trying off-roading in her free time.

What advice do you have for colleagues in your field of work? 

  • Follow your heart and take risks.
  • Trust the mentors and managers who encourage you to push boundaries in your role.
  • Putting people first is one of the biggest reasons I love NVIDIA. I choose my work based on the great people I get to work with.

What do you have going on outside NVIDIA?

  • Just like my career experiences, my hobbies are varied. I love traveling, reading and writing movie reviews for my friends.
  • During the pandemic, I taught myself watercolor painting and dabbled in amateur photography.
  • I recently bought a 4X4 SUV and have caught the off-roading bug!

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