Thursday, March 8, 2012

IIT hostels were a mess

IITs boast of housing best talents but the hostels were in a state of mess. 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 presenting on their trip to IIT and India. The quality of presentation, level of inter-personal and communication skills were far superior than IITians in general could deliver. 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 presentation and effective communication. Our education has to stress on this aspect. I would not blame completely IITs as schools also should be responsible for it. Our academicians are a disjoint set from business leaders and more often than not the professors in India lack personalities to inspire the modern generation. Students tend to learn more from teachers whom they respect. Gathering attention and arousing interest is the first step to teach subjects which sadly assumes lesser importance in Indian education system. And quite clearly it reflects in students as well unless they are groomed by industry. 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.