Thursday, May 15, 2014

Post IIT: Dilemma and solution

I don't know whether I'm the only IITian thinking about this or there are many. There are higher expectations from life after IIT in terms of career and ambitions. And you often end up with relative failure. Why?

1. Is it a case of high expectations or just an alignment to appropriate levels based on your capabilities? 
2. Is it change in your methodologies/ways that leads to such a situation or are different skills required to tackle a more practical and not-so meritocratic system in the outside world?

As an IITian I keep measuring myself against my peers, against my expectations and against society as a whole. And more often than not results are disappointing. And then I think further about personal circumstances, the choices I make/made given certain constraints, how coming from different backgrounds and having different starting points have an effect. Should money or successful professional career be the only metric for success? If they indeed are, do you have control over them? If yes, how much control?

Looking for answers  ----

1. Warren Buffet is biased towards brainy people and yet he feels its a small ingredient in the overall "success" of a person. He attributes his success to emotional stability, doing what he loves for a living, starting early and being born in US(concedes he was lucky to be born in a capitalistic society). He also says the book by his teacher Ben Graham on investing changed his life. A very good idea he shares is look for people whom you like and whom you don't like, write down 5 qualities which you like/dislike about them. Practice to follow the ones you like and the ones you dislike to become better all the time. In the long term, you will automatically become the most liked person you wanted to become at the first place. Key takeaways from Warren: Do simple things right all the time. Seems easy but its quite tough to follow. 

2. Sachin Tendulkar says become a good person first and then you can give a shot at something else. We all listened to the great man in his farewell speech. However talented and gifted you may be; preparation, discipline, hardwork and overall work ethic are extremely important. Playing in the right spirit never hurts. Ricky Ponting was a great player but the kind of love, respect and admiration Sachin garnered was truly exceptional; a testimony to the great man's way of carrying himself.

3. Sanjay Bakshi, professor at MDI Gurgaon and a value investor teaches and teaches well. In my small world, I have never heard of a professor who has so many followers, well wishers and who is so respected. A lot of teachers would do well to learn from him. Reading is so important to know about people, experiences, ways to act and solve problems is a thing to learn from him. How to develop clarity of thought and keep the focus right is important. He also says envy is the most dangerous sin out of seven sins (gluttony, wrath, sloth, anger, greed, lust, envy).      

4. Victor Frankl (Man's search for meaning) - The book that was recommended by Frank Martin(a fund manager) to all young people changed the way I think. In the book he says "You should measure yourself by not what life gives to you but what you give to life" (a bit like BhagavadGita's philosophy) and that for me is a very important lesson. As you mature, you begin to understand that each life is unique and each life has a course which is not comparable to any other. So focus on what you DO right here and not what happens with you. 

SO what is the essence of all the above?
1. We all know what's right and wrong. And more often that not we have a choice between right and wrong. Choose "RIGHT" always.
2. Consistently do "RIGHT" to do well.
3. You do not have control over most important things in life. But control what you can.
4. Avoid envy, don't compare and try to avoid all seven sins. 

Confession: All the four examples/rules cited above solved confusion of my restless mind but still have to find something better to console my heart. :)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Don't confuse IITians with technocrats

Its an irony that best ones selected to study in the best institutes of technology of the country do not really share the tech tag among themselves. In my opinion they share the zeal to crack levels and become better all the time. They share motivation, belief and hunger. They share intellect and intelligence for sure but its not so much hard coded qualities that defines them.

The post is more like a tweet than a blog actually and it ends here. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Seize it (IIT Life)

It might be taking things too far but nevertheless its good to know and one should always keep this at the back of his/her mind. People have a tendency to look at the success stories only, maybe rightly so and thus its always good to be on that side. The point I am trying to make and which few realize is the days at IIT can shape your future ahead. There is a tendency to get into relax mode once you enter IIT. Those two years of JEE make you feel so. Little do we realize we have decades to go and a lot more to achieve before you relax. Taking time off is never a bad idea. But getting off the track is. Its worth pointing out that most of the IITians that are making it big may not have realized the point I'm making here and may not be the best examples to prove my point either. But they must be doing some things right. They must be doing something different.

Things that you should focus on while you are at IIT should definitely include networking, preparing yourself to work on your risk taking abilities and reading. I would say with changing dynamics across the world there are a lot of opportunities so you should be aware about them and figure out your strengths. But some qualities are just common in all successful people.

People who making it big soon after getting out of IITs atleast in the initial five years mostly focus on businesses. Be it their own startups, trading or private equity the skill sets are not hardcore technical or based on engineering but on the qualities that I mentioned above. Agreed there are some very good opportunities in tech as well but they are pretty limited to Comp Sc graduates. If you are in any other department and just too impatient to make it big just after graduation you have to develop in those areas. The other careers either have a long gestation times or have small payouts.

Being in IIT is a huge advantage. I do not want to say that exert extra pressure on yourself in your college days but be aware that you have to start thinking big and prepare yourself in a way to get there because while you are in IIT you have all the resources, are in the network of best minds you will find and exposed to a lot of areas at one time. The opportunity is tremendous. Don't limit your dreams and constrain your efforts only to regret later. The cost of working hard later is much more and tedious. The differences between people, the return on efforts and ambitions gets huge. Thinking ahead is the best preparation for the future.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Junk technocrats

As ironical it might sound, there would be some if not many IITians who might fall into this category. I am a bit embarrassed to be one of those. The term "Junk technocrat" here is coined by my stupid brain by combining junk bonds and technology. Its common sense to expect IITians as technology graduates to have a better sense and awareness of newer technologies and their intricacies. Or atleast not to be clumsy and outdated in the area. But yet they are. There is no direct correlation between the quality of an IITian and the technical expertise the person possesses. From IIT, you would expect that won't you.

To share a few personal feelings on the subject, it gets a bit embarrassing and sometimes irritating when people expect that I am the one that can get them the next app, website and what not made with ease. I think its the perception that the word technology creates. The reason here is two fold. Firstly, IIT never tests you as a technocrat before letting you in. Neither your ability nor your interest. Whether its possible or not its a different matter. True, people good in PCM can be expected to be fit in engineering but in a age of computers and when almost every new breakthrough innovation in technology is through computers, these three clearly are not good enough. Also in hindsight, alignment of interests of student and an institute's vision should match. Interviews could be very helpful in that regard. Secondly, as I've explained in blogs before the quality of education is still far away from it should be. The professors are not innovative and inspiring enough to embed the importance of technology in students and fail to get them motivated to gain knowledge. They have to learn to connect to students in a much better fashion. Students can be blamed to an extent only.

After joining the industry, working in technology and now in finance studying global trends I definitely see a lack of innovative spirit in our students. Its because of our education not fostering that culture and also due to the financial condition of our people. But as a country we have to realize be it US, be it Germany, be it Japan all leading nations have to depend on technology to maintain a lead in international markets. As the best institutes in technology and with the kind of recognition that IITs already get they have to do better.

To conclude, the purpose of this blog is to show the mismatch between what should we be achieving and what are we achieving through an IITian. Either we should start labelling them as universities where our top brain study from or else as a technology institutes they should welcome students only with a "techie" mindset. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

JEE - Staying motivated all along and comparisons

Going back to the preparation for IIT-JEE, there's no denying its tough and takes a toll on the student. Simply because at that stage the intensity and focus required can be hard to attain. So you have to find reasons to be always up there with your effort. Now also understand that effort varies with each individual. Think for yourself is the first important point. You cannot look around for your answer. It has to come within you. For a 15-16 year old the reasons have to be simple. As simple as find motivation within the family, you could do it for your parents or to prove a point to someone who does not believe in your abilities. It could be about feeling better about yourself because that's what achievements do to you. They make you a happier person. Embed the importance of the exam in your head so that you do not lose focus. Again, people have their own reasons and ways of going about doing things. So would reiterate that you have to find your reasons. The next part - how to handle downfalls? Never lose faith and hope, till the exam is over. I have friends who told me after 11th that they cannot clear JEE and were thinking of leaving the preparation mid way but for some reason continued and ultimately studied at IIT. Downfalls are just opportunities to regather yourself and work that bit harder so that you give yourself another chance. Its not over till the last chance. I remember from my experience wherein I went into a period of overconfidence and got a series of low scores  which affected my confidence in turn but the only way to get back to your peak is to be there and keep working hard, hit the right notes and persist. The good thing about working hard and staying there is that you keep yourself in the hunt. Nobody can promise you success in JEE and life but only you can increase your chances.

Comparisons are the other part. I strongly believe you start comparing when you feel a bit down in the competition. You start looking at others, caring about their views and try to copy them to attain what you are looking for. Now even though the basics are same for everybody, comparison never help but only lead to distractions. Its tough not to compare specially when you are lagging behind. But so is to lead in a competition. Trust me, everybody is better off not comparing. The process will not only help you to focus but also give your best. Also remember its okay to observe people who are better or to derive inspiration and techniques from people but you are better off not being judgmental about them.

So keep these points in mind and am sure you will be satisfied with the results whatever they may be. Good practices never cause any harm. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

IIT Delhi, Mumbai vs the rest

Okay this post is going to be less fact based and more of observation and opinion. So those who are going to get offended are free to counter it and if some things are wrong can correct them too.

Its been close to five years since passing out and after observing IITians in multiple sectors and places, there are some topsy findings and observations I'd like to share. In our counselling days, IIT Bombay used to be the top choice and little did anybody know for practical reasons why? Like everything else in India it was once of those herd mentality. No doubt placements and city were the key criteria but the kind of excitement and attraction IIT Powai generated was exceptional. Its clear to me why now. While being at IIT-Delhi I always used to think that Delhi was a huge plus. Staying in a place like IIT, always felt the need to get out and be away from IIT life for sometime specially in the third and fourth years when some of us felt overdozed with the interhostel and IIT events and acads life. Wherein lies the point that apart from factors like placements, faculties and facilities a thing that most people neglect is the city. I would say its very very important and that is where Delhi and Mumbai are a huge positive not only in those four years but later on as well. Now the opinionated parts - It seems like Mumbai is indeed the best IIT in terms of smartness of students that it churns out. In my observation, students of IIT Mumbai are a touch ahead of their counterparts especially when technical knowledge or exposure is concerned. Delhi I would say is slightly better if you have an entrepreneur in you although Bombay would be close. It is the best in distracting you away from acads which in some ways is good also. Chennai embeds the south India mindset in you where foreign univs education becomes a must and most coveted. Where you develop not only hatred for north India and IIT-D but also begin to question the intellectual quotient of most Indians. One common observation for all non-Delhi and non-Mumbai IITians is that they tend to become weird with their personalities. By very nature, most IITians are nerds or/and introverts. The other IITs seems to amplify those qualities. Specially Kharagpur and Kanpur. Students in these IITs in general seem to be consumed for years in their IIT life and their lingos even post IIT. Needless to say, it becomes boring and irritating for others around.

Now obviously this post needs a lot of editing and induction of better thoughts, ideas and better articulation but leave it for sometime in the future.

Also if you find the post biased towards two of the IITs it is.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

3 idiots distractions - 2

Okay a lot of people have stopped wondering post 3 idiots what IITians are doing post engineering in some of the fields like investment banking, theatres(even films), writing books etc etc. Its something which has been explained as passion. Its kind of newly accepted wisdom post speeches of Steve Jobs (Stanford one) and some latest movies that unless you follow passions its improbable to make it big. Without doubt that is true. But the negative effect of all this that is happening is IITians are lost between two worlds.

Where my thoughts are coming from is the corporate world. IITians in their newly garnered belief of pursuing passions and interests have invariably have got themselves into a situation where they neither focus on their company's work nor their personal interests. In effect, you fail to perform in both areas. Most of the work in the corporate world is below par for them and not challenging and rewarding enough to put their complete energies in. Its then reflected in the results they come up with.

The other part is distractions are a direct result of always looking out for something better. Its pretty natural that academics and hardwork take a backseat and glamour attracts students in their teens. The short term attraction may make you believe what is not really the case. Just performing well in college dramatics and being appreciated for it doesn't make it a great career option. Once you figure out the practicalities at a wiser age things can turn out to be pretty different. Also for an average lower of middle class IITians distractions can be punishing. Passion no doubt rewards but always do remember odds are stacked against you. So before taking the plunge its necessary to evaluate one's psychology and assess whether you are ready to bear the risk of the difficult path ahead. Also its necessary to differentiate between distractions and passion.
Remember that when you get attracted by jazzy world of sportstars, actors and hedge fund managers your probability of getting there is very low and price of losing pretty high.

The reason that I write this post is not to discourage IITians from taking risk and pursuing different paths but give a lit bit of thought before taking the plunge. Not even asking to over-analyse because not many successful people do that but know your strengths and weaknesses before blindly following the trend.
And do remember the preparation time of JEE, when most of us shunned the distractions around us to pursue the greater goal of achieving something big at that stage. The key is focus and persistence. Don't get into something where you can hope to neglect those two things.

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