Monday, December 31, 2012

A sharp mind, is it enough?

Now this post is not for the exceptionally stud dudes of IITs and not for the ones who are all-positive individuals who like to believe such things are unimportant.

People tend to assume that sharp minds that are blessed with intellect and strong reasoning skills have everything to make it big. But having seen the way it works for the last several years amid the brightest minds, a lot of other factors play a crucial role. And I would not like to get into other skill sets which add dimensions to one's personality apart from a sharp mind in this post. My focus is the circumstances, the background and the choices one makes for his life. The upbringing and family plays an important part. I have seen post IIT after that hostel life people's choices of higher education, jobs they get into, marriage etc are all mostly dependent on their backgrounds rather than solely based on the career prospects. Obviously for similar caliber IITians that takes them to different places. Circumstances are specific situations that people find themselves for some inexplicable reasons. Some for good and some for bad. A seemingly good job on campus may not work wonders and not so desired options take people places. Foresight is one thing but landing up with better opportunities can be just a matter of chance as we all have learnt over the years. Then there are choices that we make, some because of preferences and some due to above mentioned factors. Truly they play a very important role.

Surely I am writing this post after 4.5 years passing out from IIT and the people I come across have long careers ahead of them but I am pretty confident that permutations would become even more complex from here. Its like walking on a chain of paths created by a multinodal tree. The reason of writing this one is simple. Each one of us has tendency to make comparisons. And especially as IITians there are high expectations and pressure. And even though we do not look for excuses for our failures and success reflects intense efforts according to us but as mere mortals we do have certain blessings and limitations that need to be acknowledged for our positions. And for non-IITians please do not assume that sharp mind is all you need. Its equally tough and baffling for even the best minds to attain greater heights. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Why its no wonder when NIT, IIIT Hyd student outperforms IITians!

I was reading one of the articles on how success can lead to failure. Interconnected is the reason for many IITians who start to lose the plot once they clear the hurdle of JEE. Over-analysis and having too many choices.

To begin, people often tend to over analyze once in IIT and belong to the elite group. So in turn there is more pressure and sense of responsibility that you carry as an IITian. Comparisons are made regarding jobs, work profiles and salaries. Many of us have discussed in informal gatherings how our relatives, parents and friends perceptions are totally based on the best IITian benchmarks  and how their expectations are so skewed for us. Often it results in poor and pressurized decision making on the part of IITians. Well, one of the actual reasons of failure after IIT or under performance compared to peers or a person's own abilities is a direct result of distractions. An IITian has far too many directions as options to consider and often the choices results in poor focus. To give an example people aim for CAT, GRE, GMAT and then they have a go at tech, consult, finance etc - all kinds of jobs. Without a concentrated effort two things happen - one you are unaware of your future which leads to apprehensions, second you fail develop skillsets to outperform the masses in one particular area.

So say a guy from IIIT Hyderabad who gets into a coding kind of culture, where people share the passion of programming he quickly has the route to success. He might know just one way to make to the top league and he's got into a company that will take him there. An NIT person may start preparing for CAT right from the second year. He knows that to get that MBA from the best institutes of India you still have a chance. Most IITians, spoilt for choices, relax or tend to lose focus. Essentially making them weaker in their pursuit once the pool gets together in jobs and MBAs. Having said that I would still bet on an IITian to take the lead in the longer term once he gets his focus back. Its important to understand that backing your strengths and focusing on one specific target is very important.

Comparisons made across geographies, sectors and in different phases of careers are not fair. An Infosys employee who joined in periods prior to economic boom and having had worked in US for some years, owning property in Bangalore should not be compared to an IITian who worked on a failed startup and joined the workforce after say 2008. Again, there are exceptions of brilliant non-IITians, not undermining anybody here. Just trying to explain the various reasons behind the differences that prop up over time. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is CGPA the most important thing in IIT life?

Well, this is debatable and IITians would be divided in answering this one. I'll pen down my perspective here. The answer is even though it is important, its not definitely the most important thing. Now the next part is - it depends. If you are planning for higher studies in engineering it may be the most important thing. If you are going for higher studies in other fields, maybe not so important. For someone who is looking at jobs or startups in the future definitely not the top of your agenda. CGPA definitely sends out a signal to a person looking at your profile about your sincerity and hardwork. So if you are dealing with people with conventional mindset and who view academics as the screening factor it can be very important. If you are looking at IIMs then again its one of the criteria to score over others. Not to forget a lot of shortlists and final selections in placements are based on your grades.
Sounds contradictory, right. Well even though I've mentioned points in which grades can be the most important differentiating factor let me tell you why I think its not the most important factor. The answer is success and my definition of success here is excelling in one's particular field in the long run. And to me, the things that matter more would be the quality of the person, his passion, hardwork and directed effort in his field. Decisions at important junctures and luck are also important based on experience. CGPA is too minuscule a thing to capture all those aspects to play as the most important factor in the long run. But again, if you've got relaxed and thinking about caring less about your grades let me warn you if you compromise on grades you should back it up with something else to show that its not just lax attitude or lack of competitiveness that got you there. In my experience, people with better CGPA are more often than not are more hardworking, sincere and likely to succeed in future. Also lower grades often lowers your confidence which may hamper your prospects in the short run. Its one of those things that you rather would like to have than not. 
Seen people with 5,6,7 GPA doing better than 8 pointers and definitely seen the other way round. So know that there is no rule. My best advise would be to treat them as school percentages, always better to keep them high to keep parents, peers and society happy. A balanced approach is the best approach at the end of  the day.
  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How does it start at 15?

Memories have to roll back 10 years to get this at one place. Do things change drastically once you start preparing for the much coveted IITs? What gets the motivation going? What changes take place in your thinking? Think it would be different for everyone so will pen down here my experience. Please do not feel its generic because its not. So lets begin. I was one simple unimportant boy who kept mostly to himself and to close ones around him. Remember watching other people and friends doing well in Quizzes ( remember one friend getting to BQC), someone doing nice things in Astronomy, Olympiads, MBD talent search etc etc and standing in the crowd watching people winning in those sports meet, sitting in audience watching debates. Always wondered when would my turn come to receive one of those awards, how does it feel to hear your name announced etc etc. It was very kiddish and very childish but nonetheless it was an obsession at that time. Had to find something where you were the best. Watching the show all the time was saddening. And although I was consistently among top 5 in my class in those school exams neither there was any sense of achievement nor did I respect myself for cramming stuff up and getting good results. Something more satisfactory was needed to pacify the feeling of underachievement and commonness. IIT was a tough nut to crack, maybe the toughest we all considered. It could be that thing. As was common after X boards I and my friends joined one of those coaching classes for JEE. It was too fast for me and for one month I really could not catch up and understand anything. Changed the coaching but the confidence was down. Then came the X board results. Was shocked and devastated to see that all my friends had done better than me. I felt cheated and felt a lot of hardwork had been wasted. That acted as the trigger. Deep down I knew the board results are erratic and true quality and hardwork would be fairly rewarded in the competitive exams. I was very confident about my IQ and maths but never confident about my motivation and hardwork. Deep inside I never felt anything great about scoring marks in exams. But this was a different challenge. It got you respect in society. It tested your brain and perseverance. So still remember my father telling me if you have to get to IIT it would take 2 years of dedicated effort. "Tapasya" was the word. Now all this sounds big but somebody who is going through that age and who wants to know about my experience it was exactly like that. Like one simple foolish boy feeling too bad about those maybe "not so important things". You mature and grow and most people including myself would laugh now but this was how it was. Those 2-3 months really left me hungry and motivated. I felt sad and had to vindicate myself. The moment was 2 years ahead of me but I wasn't prepared to let anything come between me and my success. I was very sincere, focused and determined for the next 2 years. Yes tough times, ups and downs were there but the fire to get there was much more. I am sure for all those looking at JEE would definitely find their set of stories and reasons to get them fired up. One thing that hasn't changed in my mind over these 10 years is the belief that you never go the distance until you are prepared and desperate to slog it out. So find your reasons, maybe better ones than I had but do give your best. Nobody but you will feel nice about it later.
(Thanks to Shreyasi for suggesting the topic, hope it helps)   

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What to do at IIT

Well let me not make you read this if you are looking for a magic formula if you are looking for one. There isn't any. Many people think better grades will get them there, others rely on too much extra-curricular activities to make it etc etc. There are many viewpoints but there's no single thing that you can point out that people did at IIT that took them where there are at lives. But I am not here to say there aren't better choices that people make. Infact I write down this post to pen my viewpoint based on my experiences and post analysis looking back what could have been done better and who were the people that were doing better as its much clear and easier to explain things in hindsight. Intellect is one thing as an IITian which you need to develop while you are there. IIT gives you loads of opportunities and even most IITians may disagree when they are in IIT there is a lot of time at disposal. Explore would be my advice. You have the best facilities be it sports, books, labs, professors, LAN, exceptional people around etc etc. Look at them very seriously and as opportunities which you may not find easily post IIT life. Do what you are most interested in but never lie down around doing nothing. Don't waste time talking around on petty issues (yes ie ba**hodi). There you build a network of people which can use to learn and grow as a person all your life. Also if are basically somebody who does not love mingling with people this is the time to learn it. The world is quite big outside IIT but the things you can pick up in IIT life will empower you to excel in your future life. Also its very important that you read a lot, watch a lot of documentaries and explore the world in this life. As IITians let me tell you nobody is going to doubt your technical skills and IQ but most successful IITians also focus on their interpersonal skills to make a mark. Its very important in these times where businesses and societies have got so integrated that the soft skills that you carry with you are as important if not more important sometimes to gain recognition and grab opportunities. The easiest part is in college its too easy to naturally enjoy all these things and develop simultaneously. The point of this post is to stress the importance of not losing focus and get distracted when you get to IIT. I am not really talking about the ones who will work on the next best technology in the world but its more applicable to IITians who look to enter the job market sooner or later or maybe thinking about their own firms. How you add on to yourself as a person is going to be very important determiner of your success in future. From what I see many who developed themselves, utilized time and maybe enjoyed also more than others are reaping benefits. So key take away understand the JEE exam is over, realize the outstanding facilities and exposure you have access to, make full use of them to excel and stretch yourself but this time in a holistic way. The focus on all round development and breadthwise expansion may be the key for 4 years stay there. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Preparation: Smart vs Hard work

Anybody will tell you that both are important. But the question which one is more important. Often people say its all about talent and if not its then about passion and hardwork. Loving the game, engrossing yourself in it is very important but only if your first step is right. The first step is technique ie how you approach the game. Trust me, you are not going very far if you haven't got your basics right. At each and every thing that I've experienced in life, I have learnt you conquer ultimately only if your base is strong. Yes its a cliche but would still stress and emphasize the point here. When I was preparing my maths used to be very strong, it came naturally and so was quite confident about it. Physics and chemistry were weak for starters. I am sure most IITians would have strengths and weakness between the three. So even though ultimately I cleared JEE I was still a failure preparing for it a lot of times. There were instances when I got single digit marks out of 60. So even though I could have afforded to be confident about my maths I had to figure out to crack the other two. I never did. Actually I just managed them. Still the tougher question would make me uncomfortable. So there was physics, in which I felt the need to master the concepts well before I could attack the questions there was chemistry where I did not know how to do it. Believe me all through out my preparation I went back to reading those basics in both the subjects again and again just to ensure that they were ingrained in my head. For chemistry, I got a shock in screening when I was able to attempt something like 50% of questions properly and focused only on it post screening till mains.  Smartwork was to understand how the time allocation was required and where. When you are good at something you can beat the rest anyways. Be smart at picking what to do and how to do which might help save you a lot of time and focus much better. Don't get bogged down if you are some weak in areas as they will be there. Just plan it out well. So its about hard work but most successes are achieved by smartly working hard. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wake up call!

Scene - A student was sitting on the last seat in a class of computer science professor who was supposed to be one of the most arrogant and shrewd ones in the campus. This was the second semester at IIT and the first course in computer science for the students from various branches. The student found it hard to comprehend what he has been upto now although one-third of the semester was over. It was all there in the notes which came in the exam and the lectures told something out of his zone. So he was not interested happily sleeping. And then suddenly like always there was buzz around. Papers of Minor I, the first exam in a semester usually responsible for 20-25% of total course were being distributed. Time to wakeup and wait for yours. People were getting different ranges of marks between 0 to 40 out of 40. He expected his to be somewhere in between. Paper was okay and expectations were average. The name came, paper stopped with different people, the red marks could be seen from a distance and stupid gestures were giving some anxious moments.Finally, it reached but unlike always it was a 1/40. Not the number to believe. Disbelief and shock. It could not be right. It wasn't so bad at all. All through IIT people share the same feeling which was not shared before. You always get marks below your expectations. But 1/40 when you expected 15-20/40 was a bit too much. The paper was structured in a way that you had 4-5 questions and if you could get through the first, then only you could answer the rest. It's a mistake the student thought. Ohh! these MTechs who act as teaching assistants never really understand our procedures and profs make them correct our papers. How stupid. So he went straight to the prof. Prof said aha, so you deserve more. Lets see. Check again, you've got the right marks he says. Student is even more shock confirms but cannot figure out whats wrong with the algorithm. Prof has his moment, can you tell me what does sum(a,b) does in your algorithm? Student - It adds obviously (now smiling). Prof - Where do you mention that? Student checks and says Gosh nowhere. Boom! So here you go. No more arguments, no more explanations. And so the poor thing goes back. And only in a week's time, one more shock. He actually misses the deadline for the second assignment as he mailed his on the wrong email id by mistake. Now on the brink of his first failure because the prof has a reputation of setting tough papers ahead. It was all too plastic. That is the way world is in IIT sometimes for no reason. The student finally passed the course with a bad grade, making one of the toughest assignments (which could not be copied as a software matched them while checking), but not before taking a lot of stress. Call it carelessness, call it his stupidity, call it bad luck that's what IIT does to you sometimes. Profs can be relentless sometimes, so can be the situation. Lesson learnt probably for him and others. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Do IITians lack personality?

This was one of the searches on google which led somebody to my blog. This question has not been answered in any of the posts. Good time to do it now. The answer is yes, most of them do. And a rather sorry part is many of them unwilling to change that. But not all as some IITians do possess impressive personalities, some develop and some are keen to. As my current manager always stresses in each of his advises and conversations - "You guys are terrific when it comes to solving mathematical problems and modelling solutions but you still need to read and develop interpersonal skills to get to the top". And if you go by facts many IITians do reach the top. And in life its also about phases and experiences that model your personality. So most of the IITians when they are entering IITs have never explored themselves, have only concentrated on one aspect and did not work in different directions or had to work on different challenges. But as time goes by they do and they improve. Also by the very nature of our country IITians consider themselves successful too soon in their lives being always at top in their academic pursuits, getting all the attention and accolades. And as I pointed out earlier IITs do help in improving students in developing better personalities. Infact, when I think further most of my friends of IIT improved a lot more compared to all my other non-IIT friends while at college. There could be difference of opinion here though.
A lot of people often around IITians like to balance their complex by undermining their personality. So let me put it this way, IITians entering IITs fall behind the curve, IITians after IIT are on an average scale, IITians always lag behind for me when personality is the primary requirement for a role and IITians can compete when personality is one of the requirements. To conclude, yes its their weakness in general but given their very nature they have the tendency to get things right. And truly believe, it is something you can fix and develop with time.

{All through the post probably you can feel me defending the IITians :)}

Friday, July 20, 2012

3 idiots - Interest in IIT life - 1

Some parts were true, most were not. People have to realize commercial cinema cannot be 100% reality. What are the key differences? Well there is no Aamir Khan at IIT. People are not so mature and niether there is only one hero in IIT. Everybody is to an extent. Some of the personality traits of professor shown are true but no one Prof at IIT dominates to an extent as shown in the movie. Suicide thing is not common if you by chance believed it so. But yes, many people do realize that they are interested in something else other than engineering at IIT and that is what I would like to concentrate on in this post. There are so many societies/clubs/sports at IIT to focus on that many students who never maybe had a chance to pursue their hobbies and to think about what they actually like do so. One of the main reasons that I think that IIT does that to you in the sense of achievement that you get at an early age. If you remember the character of Madhavan and how he finally decides to pursue photography and wonder whether that actually happens the answer is yes. There are some mad IITians who get mad not about any academic research but about dramatics, sports, social work, reading etc etc. The other day I saw a status on facebook of my friend who went to IIM after IIT, then did 2 jobs moving to 4 different places, read over 300 books in two years and has left it all to read and maybe write in the future. He has been an extraordinary student and a good friend. Why am I writing all this here? Does that even matter? Do you take bad impressions about IITians post this that they do things they are not supposed to do? Well, I write to all those people who think not going to IIT is a terrible pullback and failure and get too disappointed. Take heart. There are still who get disenchanted. There are still IITians who don't know what to do with their lives, who after working so hard to get there leave it all for something else. So its never too late to start, you can make it big anytime. And even after getting somewhere you may have to start all over again. What 3 idiots told you correctly was yes there are a lot of idiots in IIT who for no reason do things which nobody expects them to do. I've ended up writing a post which looks quite disorderly, forgive me for that as I am in a hurry to finish this up. Hope to write more on this topic though. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Qualms about preparation

The other day I was discussing with one of my close friends about his "things to know" about IIT/IITians and was quite surprised to know that he still wondered how IITians manage their time while preparing for JEE. Although I've touched upon my preparation earlier, but let me approach this topic again. Being their in the vicinity of IITians for so long now, I've realized its not really about time management alone. The fact is most IITians are faster when it comes to solving problems, have better IQs and grasp concepts faster. Nothing new but the point I'd like to emphasize to all students is don't worry about time management too much. Its not that all IITians put a lot of extra effort compared to others. Yes, nobody takes the exam lightly. But it also isn't the case where they are preparing for 12 hrs a day for the whole 2 years of their preparation. My average would be close to be around 4-5 hrs excluding coaching hrs in a day. Coaching was 12-16hrs a week  And yes including weekends. Being a lazy person, I never compromised on my sleep which always averaged somewhere between 7-8 hrs. Yes, I and my coaching teachers thought I should put in more effort but if anyways you are not able to concentrate you automatically are not getting anywhere. My best guess is the number of hours on an average an IITian prepares would be normally distributed around 6. Again, I would stress people who are quick in their thought process require far less time and prepare with ease compared to the less luckier ones. When I look at the top 20 rankers of JEE I feel irrespective of the number of hours I put in I can never score more in a subject than them and invariably that is true. It might sound as if hardwork and amount of time is irrelevant but its not. It does make a difference, the only thing to remember is it can only help to an extent. You have been blessed or not blessed with certain IQs and your understanding, liking and preferences are unique. Everybody's style is different. Be comfortable with it. One more thing, hardwork becomes important as it helps in building momentum and confidence and keeps you focused and on your toes. So never underestimate its importance. So if you are one of those you are not so gifted but are always dedicated and can put it those 12-14hrs kind of study hrs go for it. Because it only can take you higher. But if you are one of those who can't concentrate for more than 6hrs just chill because there are many like you. Don't look around too much for depression but only for inspiration. Do your best. One thing that always helped me in that exam was competing with myself. Call it ignorance or anything else but I was too immersed in my preparation all the time. I would recommend the same if you are serious about your results. And to conclude, its immaterial to think too much how to manage your time better n all, just do as much as you can and relax. Easier said than done though. But yes, please do not conclude that 1-2hrs a day would do unless you are a genius :P

Friday, July 6, 2012

First day at IIT hostel

Yes, like every other IITian I also had a lot of inhibitions, expectations and an imaginary picture of what IIT and its hostels would look like. But having seen a good part of IIT-B in the counselling sessions and with a few online pics it wasn't too much of a surprise also. IIT Delhi looked much more homely and neat than IIT Bombay, more like a place inside city than the latter. However apart from the structure and the campus there was different atmosphere to the one I had imagined. The first was the air, it felt like the one I experienced in my childhood in the streets of old Delhi. The air was old and had a stillness about it even though it was July. The hostel building was even older with everything having a "sarkari" feel. And even though we were lucky to be assigned the new part of the hostel the feeling I got was common home was so much better. This is not the place I would live for the next 4 years as a reward for passing the toughest exam of engineering in the country. And inside I knew that was going to happen. Nothing too big about it but it overwhelms you in those moments. Next was observing the seniors. The image I had in my mind of the seniors was the ones who I had seen clearing JEE from Bhopal and it was very small number till then. The image of seniors was they would be people like me some a bit smarter and a larger chunk the studious, nerd kind ofs. But little did I realize it was the other way around. IITians were smarter, better looking and were just "normal" people. Some quiet, some chirpy, some good looking, some not so, some cocky, some arrogant, some polite, some not bothered. The feeling was mutual among all the freshers. In the first week, I remember discussing with many how their seniors were so much more smart, talented and brilliant than they expected. It was depressing in one sense because every IIT fresher is on a "high" getting into IIT and expects the future life to be less challenging than past. And that's when the feeling of being the one you look down upon dawns on you. One of our seniors said in the initial few meetings of the batch that he can get a better guy in the institute in any field that we choose we think we are best at be it any sport, cultural activity or any subject. And it was true. Unless you are one of those national players etc etc which 99% are not, there's always a senior in the first year who does stuff better than you. The reason being IIT gives you so much opportunities to hone your skills in your areas of interest that people become better and better at it while their stay at IIT. Its a place in a sense which helps you grow as a person too. Its not something to brag about but culture at IIT helps in developing personalities also. So yes, coming back to that first day - its a day of a lot of feelings going on inside and its a day which gives you a lot to think about. My day was one of realization and coming to terms with reality which was quite different from imagination. And also one of those which makes me think how unaware I was. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Advantage of being a nerd to be successful

Yes, its a very different perspective that I present. Its something over the years that I've realized is quite true. To do a task successfully or to be good at something you need focus and dedication. Why nerds are such a big success in our society is because of that very reason. Their power of concentration or rather should I point their quality of not being distracted make the difference. Most of the things we do are not in itself difficult for anyone of us. Its just that many of us fail due to lack of concentrated effort. Either we are too smart to get down to the basics and solve the problem and put enough time in it or we are too lazy. Quality of being nerd helps in that way which helps you to behave like an obedient person and do the task in as theoretically correct as possible. The thing about being nerd is it lets you keep the negative energy and oversmartness out of the task. Most of the things require some degree of very simple basics to be performed before being overcome. Therein the nerd scores over. Just a simple thought which helps IITians doing things better till the point the feeling of IITian doesn't overwhelm them. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

IIT selection criteria changes

Lets me be straight about it. IITians are the cream of the nation. There is no doubt about it. And if you ask most of the IITians the reason for such quality out flux is that one test. The one test I surely know is toughest that I have gone through and most IITians share the same view. So when people talking about the board exams being one of the deciding factors they are asking you to choose something which can never screen talent and the quality that IIT deserves. There's a certain degree of respect that comes along with the tag IIT and make no mistake if you make those entry criterias subjective and based on exams which prosper on rote learning and depends mostly on memory retention and also can have doubtful scoring patterns be rest assured you are going to get quality dilution. There have been a lot of IITians in the past who can't boast of great scores in the board exams and take my word they have every right to be in IIT and more so than many others whom have better scores in these exams. Its a choice as a country that we make whom we give those elitist tags to. If we reward people for baseless reasons so be it. If we want to make a mockery of our image in the world because of dirty politics so be it. IIMs have already made their process quite weird with all those percentage allocations to boards and grades at college. But anyways IIM never have that global visibility as IIT to some extent has. I quite fail to understand how they have so much time to screw the processes more when in fact we as a nation have so many issues to fix. Politics at every level is the roadblock that we face. Its surprising that a man like Kapil Sibal with such impressive educational background is leading this stupid exercise. But the other way of looking at it is anyways crucial part of each individual's life and the challenge that we face day to day is politics, so lets teach the children from starting how to get used to it. Chalta hai!  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

To IIT JEE students post results

Well if you are one of the those who have smiles after the JEE results congratulations. You have earned for yourself a lifetime of respect, not without a reason. Hopefully this would make you one of the better-offs in India in the future. For those who are not happy with their ranks etc take it in your stride and be happy about going to IIT. That much for those who are successful. They will not be the ones to care much about actually.
I would love to talk to or send a message to people who did not make it. First of all chill. If you had put in a lot of effort and failed my heart goes for you. But remember its just the starting of a new life. A life where success has different meanings. Trust me, if you are upset about your result now its ok but if you are concerned about your future and success in the future you will do fine. People come back and people take different paths to reach greater heights. If I were you maybe I wouldn't realize and share the thought now but as time passes it will sink in. And therein lies your chance. And to pump up your spirits, these days a good PG can overshadow your UG degree. So go out and tell your parents, relatives and friends that an IITian said its ok not to be in IIT. Instead help yourself in finding a goal which interests and inspires you and work towards it. Its not easy but that's the only way to get to what you are actually looking for. Remember you are too young to lose heart. Remember you are very young for a successful life ahead. Best of luck for your college lives. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

IIT hostels were a mess

IITs may boast of producing best talents but their hostels remain in a state of mess all the time. My observation is mostly restricted to the hostels of IIT Delhi but it would not be much different for most of the other IITs. Poor infrastructure in India is justified by providing budding talents with hardships to get them ready for the hard realities of life. But the argument is far from convincing. The poor state of the toilets comes to mind. Half of them were broken and were never repaired for years even when their numbers were very less given the hygiene that should be maintained and if at all everybody had to attend the classes religiously and regularly. Its difficult for me to imagine getting back to them and I find it truly ridiculous for a world class institution to have such poor facilities and one should hope that no outsider sees them. Their cleanliness was also a very big concern. Geysers in winters were a bit hard to find on each floors. Coming to the rooms. We were not allowed to use coolers during summers and Delhi which has an extreme climate and harsh summers and winters it was difficult to stay in hostels during that time just on fans. Their congested construction and improper ventilation was also a concern. The mess was although not so bad but it wasn't up to the standards either. In totality IITs should look to concentrate on channelizing funds properly or raising fees for the matter if that is needed to end all this. Another aspect which is different but totally neglected is the medicare of students. IITs may have their medicare units but the availability of doctors and facilities is questionable leave apart their quality. So IITs definitely need to be more careful on all these aspects. 

IIT vs Harvard a session's observation

Observations from a session at IIT Delhi at which about 10-15 students from Harvard came over as part of an exchange program. The students from Harvard were giving a presentation on their trip to IIT and India. It was an eye opener really. The quality of presentation, level of inter-personal and communication skills were far superior than IITians. As students if we were comparing future leaders in the making it wasn't really a very pleasing experience sitting on the end I was. Very few of IITians could have matched them if at all. It was quite embarrassing when our director sir bragged about us being the best of the best of the best. The reason behind are many but the main reasons were they were being educated in a developed world, their experiences were diverse for example a girl had taught in Africa's poor territories as part of her intern and to me the quality of education imparted to them was far superior than we receive at our best institutes in India. The other important thing to notice was the flexibility they had in choosing their curriculum. They didn't have to choose a major like us in engineering at starting of their graduation. They were free to decide their electives right from the beginning, plan their schedules and come up at the end of day with the number of credits required. And thus they can choose to complete the requirements of their major and minor degrees as they go on their stint at the university. So a student who gets an entrance can explore and pursue his interests once they are exposed to all the subjects around them unlike us who choose their engineering subjects mostly due to the All India ranks that we get in JEE and that is true for any other engineering graduate in this country. Clearly we have a long way to go in terms of the flexibility we provide to our students while they are at college.The ease with which they presented themselves and their work was truly worth learning and giving importance too. Often we forget the importance of presenting the work we do and in platforms such as these often communication and showing what've you got effectively is very important. Our education has to seriously improve on this aspect. I would not blame completely IIT for this as this is something that should be developed in one's schooling period. Effective teachers are so very important for a society. Maybe the difference is also because our academic leaders are completely different from business leaders and more often than not the professors and teachers in India lack personalities which inspire the modern generation of students. Often in a classroom to make students learn you have to earn respect and gather attention and arouse interest first to get on with subjects which sadly they fail to understand or probably are just poor in those skills. And quite clearly it reflects in students as well unless they are groomed by industry. So all in all a few things here and there maybe I've got the point across. We are a long way behind compared to the best of the best of the best outputs that we can achieve and will require some effort to get there. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

IITians working in a backoffice

A feeling and a realization that goes in every IITian who works in a back office has to be shared for the next group of IITians coming along after us. There are trends where IITians run to in certain periods and its mostly peer pressure that drives them. I am not talking about exceptionally talented IITians but more towards the average ones. Guess there was trend of doing MS in 90s, it was jobs for a while then and then came MBA and the world of investment banks after 2005. The trend of ibanks, consultancies and analytics have ensured IITians are now working for these companies even after the financial crisis. Even though these companies have been better paymasters in the initial years and more often than not they provide good exposures before going in for an MBA but there are a list of downsides as well. IITians are not happy with the second fiddle treatment they get in these jobs. Make no mistake you are not the decision makers in these roles. You are a just better than your peers product for them who has no superior knowledge of their particular industries. Whether its US, Europe, Singapore or Hongkong it takes something to get to something in which you have a say. You are just data feeders, data manipulators or at best some strategy planners. Its lot of excel, it may be programming, it may be DBMS or at worst just punching data. Don't be fooled about it no IITian loves it and nobody enjoys such a job responsibility. Its just a rush to get to these places because they pay relatively better than the PSUs of the world and the so called Indian companies. You get definitely better workplaces to work in and professional environment but you also get no feel of the work you do, no real credit and no work satisfaction out of these jobs. Its difficult to explain to people why your degree earned such a job. It fails to please and it inexplicable in a holistic sense how exactly are you making your credentials earn you some respect which you got in your IIT days. The point is not to analyze all of them individually but important thing whether as IITians you look forward to such places. I did not for myself and definitely most IITians would not because in the long run is not beneficial. Your growth is limited beyond a point and treatment can be bad. So if you are looking at these roles just be skeptical. Better is to get higher degrees and join at better positions. I know its an individuals call but this entry is just to let you know as an IITian that you need to be skeptical about these setups and can do better to avoid them. You are made for something bigger.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Special

Felt special cracking JEE but never felt that its something one should take credit for. Cracking IIT felt good because I never thought about it how easy was it compared to thousands of students who tried probably harder than me. Now after failing consistently in many other things I know it was a gift and a blessing. Came easier to me than many other around. A fact that I can be proud of but am not so proud of, anyway. Hasn't taken me anywhere apart from the feeling of being respected and liked for it. The achievement resulted in getting an access to an institution which is supposed to impart quality education. Technology was not my type but to be fair had no idea about earlier. In effect the whole thing was nothing more than a waste of my time as well as the resources that were spent on me. Feels so guilty about using them now. I'm not alone. My guilt is reduced by the fact the systemic processes at IIT are nowhere near what they are supposed to be. IITians reading this would be saying this is going too far and thinking too much about not so important issue. Non-IITians would react probably in a different way and think how stupid and how ridiculously undeserving. Both are right and wrong. To give an access to "special" people in so called quality institutions when their motivation is confused and questionable is like building a team with players who are talented but are never part of the force that a team is build up with (Symonds comes to my mind). Society like "special" talents but there's something else that is required to make it happen. To get the output as big there's a lot of hardwork and other inputs that need to be fed in. And so it doesn't feel special about the product I am, this day. God wired me in a certain way and fortunately or unfortunately that helped me crack a very tough exam. Yes, coaching and hardwork were also a part of it but there was something inside that made it easy and has left me as a achiever and non-achiever at the same time. Its being special for something without feeling special. Its a problem of what you are blessed with and what you want to do with life. Have no qualms in admitting that some things that come naturally to me puts me off and somethings that excites me I keep failing in them. Such a shame and a confusing problem. A dilemma: To use what you have or to pursue what you want to have but will take something special. And this special is not gifted. It has to be earned. So you see that is what takes IITians to a different arena and to pursue different challenges. Its about the gift that probably they actually want from life. IIT life is about these paradoxes which is so difficult to understand and not so beautiful to live with. And trust me every person irrespective of his degree has to comprehend this story of his life to make it big. What is "special" for the world is not special for you and what's special for you is the ultimate thing that will take something special out of you anyway. The conclusion is IIT life on its own is not desirably special but its very much same as any other life in its journey towards a special one.

Laptop