On Sunday morning I booked an Uber to get across to Bangalore airport for my flight to Pune. It was still early, so the only other being in the street was a cow.
It was busier when I arrived at Bangalore airport.
And more Christmassy, too.
I got myself some idli sambar (the breakfast is better at the domestic terminal than the international one, by all accounts), and then waited by the gate for my SpiceJet flight.
The flight was slightly delayed, but basically uneventful – it takes a little over an hour to get from Bangalore to Pune.
This was my first time to Pune, which sometimes comes as a surprise to people. Pune is the CAD capital of Bangalore: most CAD and simulation vendors have offices in the city. Autodesk now has a very large one there (although I wasn’t visiting it on this trip). I’d lived in Bangalore in 2003-2005 and had certainly interviewed a number of candidates from Pune, but somehow hadn’t had a reason to visit until now.
Nem from the Centre for Computational Technologies (CCTech) picked me up at the airport and drove me to the hotel. I’d already heard it from a number of people, but Pune feels a lot like Bangalore did 30 years ago. Before the IT revolution led to explosive growth and all that came with it. Although in fairness it was also Sunday afternoon, so there was probably less traffic than on a weekday.
The hotel I’d been booked into was very comfortable. It’s standard practice at hotels and restaurants in the area – presumably since the Mumbai bombings – to have metal detectors at their entrances.
I remember this from Bangalore, too… they’re typically just to pay lip-service to regulations and in most cases the people using the equipment (especially the magic bomb-detecting wands that beep like mad when they scan your computer bag but are somehow safe to ignore) probably wouldn’t know what to do if they did find a bomb. Certainly the checks of cars’ underneaths (using mirrors) as well as the engine compartments and boots/trunks seem very cursory.
It’s not often you get to see scanning equipment from this side, though. Well, unless you work at airport security.
The hotel was also feeling Christmassy.
On check-in I found I’d been upgraded to one of the hotel’s six suites. Sweet, indeed!
After a brief sit-down, Sandip picked me up with Nem and Vijay – the CCTech management team – to go for an excursion to the nearby hills. (Sandip and Vijay founded CCTech, back in 2006 or so, and are CEO and CTO respectively.)
We drove about halfway along the Mumbai-Pune highway. On the way we had a minor delay at a toll station: apparently electronic tags were being introduced that day, and the system was experiencing some teething problems.
The drive took us to a national reserve, the last section of which had close to off-road conditions.
Here’s a panorama I captured at our first stop along the road.
The views were really magical from up there, with great light at that time of day.
We drove a little further on and stopped again just past a tea stall.
We walked to the edge from the car…
… to have yet more spectacular views.
We drove yet a little further and then parked up so that we could walk down to a nearby reservoir.
It was very peaceful.
Aside from enjoying the peace and quiet, we also skimmed a few stones.
Heading back to the car, we came across a military-looking vehicle labelled “D.A.T.A.” for “Della Adventure Training Academy”. Apparently it’s an organisation that does corporate team-building etc. in a pseudo-military environment.
There was another one further up that said “counter-terrorism unit” on the side, which was perhaps a little weird.
On the drive to the Della Resort – where we were to have dinner – we passed grazing buffalo.
The Della Resort apparently attracts a lot Mumbai residents during the weekend, but by Sunday night it was nice and quiet.
It has some interesting decor.
The person who started it is called Jimmy Mistry, and he certainly has some interesting ideas about design.
We had drinks by the poolside before going inside for dinner.
The decor in the restrooms is provocative, especially by local standards. People often get performance anxiety when using the urinals, it seems.
From here we headed back to Pune.
After a comfortable night, on Monday morning Nem picked me up and took me into CCTech’s office.
I’ve worked with CCTech for many years at Autodesk – first when we collaborated on Project Falcon, later on when they helped us with projects related to a number of AutoCAD verticals, and more recently in my role at Autodesk Research – but this is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of visiting them in Pune. I certainly received a warmer-than-warm welcome!
CCTech has a staff of around 60 people in Pune, most of whom work with Autodesk technology.
The morning (and the beginning of the afternoon), was a chance for me to learn more about CCTech’s history and activities, so various teams came through and presented their projects. It was really interesting.
I’ve been working with Vinayak for the last year or two, and I’ve been really impressed with the work he and his team have done on our projects.
While I was familiar with simulationHub – CCTech’s first major foray into creating a software product and service, rather then working on training and consulting delivery – it was great to see how it has developed in recent years/months.
They’re really pushing the visualization capabilities of the Forge viewer to the limits.
At lunchtime we headed outside and found some cute puppies curled up by the car. They seemed a little sleepy…
… and sure enough they were mostly asleep by the time we came back from lunch.
After lunch – and another technical session – it was time for an All Hands with the whole team. It started with me being presented with flowers, which was incredibly sweet. It’s the first time I’ve ever received flowers, that I can remember.
I had my photo taken with CCTech’s management team.
Then we started on what ended up being a long session where I talked about my career at Autodesk and answered any questions the CCTech team had. Many of the CCTech team already knew me from this blog – or from joint projects – so it proved to be a lot of fun. We talked about my motivations for blogging – something the CCTech team is being encouraged to do more of – so I’m hopeful we’ll all soon be learning more about the perspectives of – and the work being done by – this group of passionate young people.
I’d brought some Swiss chocolates across with me, and handed them out as an incentive for people to ask questions. I don’t think the audience really needed much prompting, but who doesn’t like Swiss chocolate?
We had a photo taken with the whole team. It was a big group, but we managed to fit everyone in.
After this was over, we headed for our second dinner together. As the puppies had hidden beneath Sandip’s car, we took some time to make sure they weren’t going to get hurt as we reversed.
Dinner was at the Copa Capabana.
It was nice to sit outside.
After dinner we indulged in a little paan.
On Tuesday morning, after checking out, we headed to the CCTech office to wrap things up. We’d covered a lot of ground the day before, so the areas that remained were for me to present a session on generative design using Dynamo and Refinery, and for CCTech’s research team to present regarding their various projects.
I repeated my session on Project [Re]Discover from AU Las Vegas, but took my time so that we could go more in-depth into the use of Dynamo and Refinery. The CCTech team had already seen a presentation the week before regarding multi-objective optimisation, which was a fantastic foundation for me to build upon.
We stopped for lunch. Nem, Vijay and Sandip brought tiffins from home, and generously shared some home-cooked delicacies with me.
CCTech’s research team is doing some really interesting work – a lot of which has been posted online. One of my favourite projects relates to generative valve design: they’re already using NSGA2 in their own project (much as we do via Refinery) to optimise the generation of various design options for valves based on particular flow rates or actuation torque.
Sandip talked about a number of projects CCTech is working on relating to digital twins.
CCTech have some really interesting machine learning-driven mesh segmentation technology, too.
After we were done, CCTech’s research lead, Subhransu, kindly drove me across town to the airport. I took a few snaps on the way, of course.
I took my SpiceJet flight (which had propellers, confusingly) back to Bangalore. I have one more day there – mainly to wrap up loose administrative ends, in case any still exist – before I fly back to Switzerland for the holidays.
My trip to Pune was absolutely fantastic. I’m very grateful to the whole CCTech team for taking so much time to make me feel so welcome. I’m looking forward to our collaboration continuing for a long time to come, and for me to get the chance to come back again soon.