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Life After Convocation

July 25, 2014
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Life is simple. We take birth. We survive. We leave a few imprints of our existence. And then we die. However, inevitably, there comes one unruly and inexplicable moment somewhere in between these phases that baffles, frightens and creates anxiety amongst even the most brilliant and organized minds: ‘The end of college life’. Our institute may be visualised as a giant archway into the woods, from which several roads diverge. The roads are long and windy with their ends invisible, with some leading to known or heard of destinations and others leading to unknown paths and destinations. Although this road-traveling analogy may be similar to one famous work of the prolific poet Robert Frost, one can’t really question its relevance in this context. For the first time many people face the predicament of answering the ultimate question: What now? While some who seem to have already ‘figured it all out’, quietly set out to fulfil their destinies (after updating their facebook status, of course). Watch Out! News Agency sets out to explore this mysterious life outside the campus doors; its enigmas, its challenges and the ensuing difficulties people face during their quarter-life crises.

##The traveler, the dreamer and the writer

Tarun Madan, an IIT Roorkee alumnus, is one of the most remarkable pass-outs that exemplify one phrase: from passion to profession. After his B.Tech in Chemical Engineering, a job in Schlum, lots of travelling and finally settling for an MS in Austin Texas, he started his own company: holidayen.com. “I decided to combine my passion for technology and traveling with my new found interest in entrepreneurship, leading to the conceptualization and development of Holidayen,” remarks Tarun. Remembering his student days in Roorkee, he attributes his association with IMG as a catalyst in making that decision. Like all jobs in Schlumberger do, his job facilitated majority of his travels and provided a chance for global interaction. Apart from giving him a lot of content to create a travel blog, these tours brought out the travel aficionado in him which eventually led to his travel startup.

“With a passport falling short of blank pages, I could see that travel was quickly becoming a passion and I knew it would soon be time to move on to some place different. The nostalgia of student life and the yearning to learn more had also kicked in enough by that time to make me apply for graduate school in the US, and I ended up at the University of Texas at Austin”. University of Texas offered a number of opportunities to take courses in diverse fields unrelated to his major. Tarun, being on a constant lookout for trying something different, enrolled for an entrepreneurship course where he worked as an associate with the business school incubation program of Texas Venture Labs. He, along with Mitanshu Garg, also from IIT Roorkee, now runs holidayen.com. It helps international travelers explore and plan their travel around the world.

What Silicon Valley is to a technical entrepreneur, the Vatican is to a creationist. The heroic tales of the valley fascinate every startup enthusiast from the far-off corners of the world. Vikesh Khanna was clearly not the first one to fall in love with the bright Californian sunshine. Graduating from IIT Roorkee in 2007 with a B.Tech. in Computer Science and Engineering, Vikesh joined Microsoft IDC, Hyderabad. Even with enough money in hand to do pretty much everything he wanted, he was not able to extract the necessary satisfaction out of his work. “I was working on a product that did not particularly excite me - partly because it was not my interest area, and also because smaller companies in the valley built cloud backup products years before we even started. IDC is a great place for people who want to settle down, but I wanted to bleed while I was still young”. His dissatisfaction and a sublime interest in the realm of application development were primarily the reasons he pursued courses on Coursera and built apps in his free time. His chrome extension app for Quora (called Quorum) was noticed by a Quora employee. One thing led to another and he was called to Palo Alto for an interview. He failed in the interview but, like any other tech-geek, he immediately got hooked by the eternal pleasures of Silicon Valley. After many unsuccessful Mountain View job interviews and several rejected MS applications, he settled at the divine Silicon-Valley boot camp: Stanford. “The application process for MS is exhausting and takes a lot of time. I was mostly honest about my intentions. I was passionate about software engineering and building consumer products. I got rejected by all the schools I applied to, except Stanford. I had no research background, not even a tech internship during undergrad, no publications - I had a disastrous profile for grad school.” Fortunately, he had many hobby projects up his sleeve and an insatiable attraction to technical startups. Stanford was the place he needed to go to. His life at Stanford calls for a different article altogether. “This place is inspiring beyond words, and the opportunities are endless. It’s really what you make of it, but it’s incredibly exciting. I am doing some really interesting work on data mining, machine learning and graph analysis”.

If we rank all the available jobs in this world on the basis of the risk involved, the job of a field engineer in Schlumberger will stand somewhere between that of Batman’s and of the guy responsible for cleaning windows of Burj-Khalifa. The job of a writer, on the other hand, involving fatal risks of paper cuts is comparatively less adventurous. Anirudh Arun realizes both of these into one personality. A 2011 pass-out with a PPO in the Oil and Gas exploration company, Anirudh published his novel “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” in July 2013. The novel focuses on the life of a teenager who must fight against society’s expectations and pressures in order to assert his own dreams. Inspite of having spent considerable time travelling every day, in the unforgiving terrain of deserts, oil fields and rough seas, Anirudh, unlike most protagonists in follow-your-heart-and-fly-high movies, still enjoys his job. “Schlumberger’s job profile is exciting and fast paced. Sometimes, I wish for a break or for stability, but at other times I get to experience things that most other jobs will never allow me to.” Taking a break from his job was something he never had to do. Apparently, the writer inside him had never left him. “Writing a novel took a lot of my time, and I started during my final year in college. I changed and revised much of what I wrote after leaving Roorkee, and as the novel progressed, my writing became more regular and intense”, adds Anirudh. While working, writing served him as a stress-buster as well as a nonchalant hobby. He recounts that the only troublesome part he experienced during the writing period was when he approached the publishers. The post-editing stages of the novel involved ample hardwork and patience from his side. Eventually, it paid off and the book was finally published. It has received very positive reviews so far by many established newspapers and critics. Anirudh Arun, a WONA and EDC alumnus is a fine example of work, life & leisure management. He still believes in himself. He still has the knack of writing. He still has the penchant for entrepreneurship. But most remarkably, even after all of this, he still has his job.

##The placement step

In recent years, the offer obtained at the placement cell has become merely a stepping stone in the lives of many individuals. Truly, the paths of an engineer seem to converge to an inevitable MBA. Ashok Tyagi, the current CFO of DLF and a ‘83 batch pass-out, however doesn’t believe so. “I have seen people working tirelessly, even today as an engineer in very prominent roles with only their B.Tech. degree”, says Mr. Tyagi, ”But seeing today’s trend, most people find MBA a quick entry into managerial decision making. It is an advisable option since after 10-15 years of experience, your task primarily involves managing the projects. An MBA, just gives you a deeper insight into that.” Mr. Tyagi with a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad in 1985, has dealt mostly in the field of finance, corporate planning and real estate his entire life. After working with the big players: ISSCO and Genpact, Mr. Tyagi now holds the post of Chief Financial Officer in DLF, a famous real estate giant. He attributes his success to his deep fascination with the world of finance. He serves as a remarkable advisor when it comes to corporate decision making.

To the ones who don’t take the cliched Job+MBA road, there is another elegant career which demands an indistinct knack of people skills and decision making: the public sector. Mr. K.K. Sharma was the first Director General of Competition Commission of India (CCI). He has also been head of Antitrust Division, Commissioner in IRS of India, Commissioner of Income Tax and a very active member of ICN, Merger Working Group. After finishing his M.Tech in Mechanical Engineering in 1988, Mr. Sharma joined the Indian Revenue Services (IRS) through UPSC exam.

Acknowledging the sheer depth of his resume he adds, “You can google me and write about my degrees. Let’s talk about something else.” After a law degree, a Ph.D. in Competition Law (Bangor University, UK), a PG Diplomas in Economics (King’s College London) and another diploma in IPR Laws (NLSU Bangalore), Mr. Sharma (now retired) heads an international law firm, dealing in strategic consulting. “After completing my masters degree in Roorkee, I had a few offers in my hand through the Campus interviews, TATA being one of them. But since the beginning, I wanted to go for UPSC, because the idea of working in the public sector is something that was very popular in those days.” He, according to him, is having the time of his life. In his cheerful demeanour he adds, “The job is very exciting. While working as an IRS officer I found a deep fascination towards law, especially antitrust and merger control. I continued my studies even after securing an office.” His voluntary retirement a few years back came as no surprise.

All of the stories mentioned above clearly show how spectacular the life of a student from IIT Roorkee can be. The confidence and the exposure instilled in a student after spending 4 or more years in the environment of a college like IIT Roorkee, transform him into a balanced individual with a constant hunger for new experiences and a thirst for knowledge. This freedom of thought and independence of action along with technical dexterity shapes the student’s personality in the real world. It is more than evident that once we are out in the open, the world is ours to take. The only thing that is left for us to do is to get out of our comfort zones and take it!