14-year-old Tanmay Bakshi who is a software programming whiz, is currently making headlines across continents as one of the youngest developers building applications around Watson, IBM’s artificial intelligence platform.
The young boy who is known for his high level of intelligence, is currently working for Google with a salary of $1.25 Million. He has developed multiple apps, published a book, hosted a TEDx Talk and spoken at IBM Watson summits around the world including Finland, New Zealand, Denmark and Australia.
Though he first caught the attention of IBM at age 11, Bakshi’s rise in the tech industry began much earlier. While peers were stacking Legos and playing make-believe, a five-year-old Bakshi was learning how to code.
His father Puneet Bakshi worked as a computer programmer for a number of years. As the elder Bakshi typed out codes, his enthralled son watched the process.
“It was so fascinating to me how computers could really do anything,” Bakshi told CNBC Make It. “I wanted to know what goes on behind the back-end and see how you can control the computers and tell them what to do.”
While a large number of people are keen to see what amazing thing Mr Bakshi develops over the next few years especially after hearing him speak in many granted interviews, it was gathered that his father taught him how to program. From there, Bakshi began using the internet on his own and reading books on programming.
At age seven, Bakshi set up a YouTube channel where he posted tutorials on coding and web development. With each video upload, he received thousands of questions from people all over the world.
Realizing that there was a lack of knowledge about programming and machine learning, he made it his YouTube channel’s mission to help 100,000 aspiring kids and beginners along their coding journey. Today, he has over 200,000 subscribers.
At age eight, Tanmay Bakshi taught himself how to develop iOS apps. By age nine, he had his very first app, which teaches multiplication, accepted into the Apple store.
But as time went on, Bakshi lost interest in programming. “I always felt that technology was very limited. I always felt that the moment you put something in, it would become obsolete,” says the teen.
His work took a new turn at age 11. While uploading a YouTube video, he stumbled across a documentary on the “question answering” machine IBM Watson and how it played Jeopardy. This was his first time hearing about artificial intelligence and it instantly cured his boredom. “From there, I was just immediately hooked to IBM Watson and AI,” Tanmay Bakshi recalls.
Within a week, he had built his first Watson app. Named “Ask Tanmay,” the app responds back to questions by weighing the best possible answers before spitting out a response. Shortly thereafter, he came across an IBM service called Document Conversion, which was in alpha at the time. The software’s main objective is to convert documents from one format, such as a PDF, to another format like HTML.
Within minutes of playing around with the software, Bakshi discovered a bug. He posted his findings on a programming website and on his personal Twitter. Some IBMers who were working on the technical side soon took note and contacted him. “It was really really exciting,” says Bakshi. “All these IBMers reaching out to me.”
Two of those initial contacts eventually became his mentors and assisted him in collaborating with IBM.