Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Dream come true

When I entered into the fifth year of my studies at IIT Kharagpur, I had two dreams that wanted to fulfill before I graduated out of IIT. The first one was a very long standing dream, something that I had constantly dreamt of since my first year in the campus: To attain a CGPA of over 9 (out of 10). When I managed to secure 8.81 at the end of my first year, I knew it was only a matter of time before this dream got fulfilled. I predicted that I would cross the magic-mark by fourth (if not third) semester. But the scare of second semester (in which I managed to score a mere 8.04 and 8.32 leading to my CGPA falling to 8.52) meant that my dreams were far from over. During that time, I had begun fearing inability to maintain my CGPA over 8.5, and thoughts of a 9.00 were taking a backseat. A lot of hard work for the next four semesters, in which I managed an average GPA of about 9.5, landed me at 8.96 bringing me awfully close to my dream. I knew my job was far from over. I recollected the experience of one of my friend, who even after coming numbing close to the magical figure at 8.99, couldn't manage to break into the 9+ club.

My second dream was to secure a job with Shell (the popular name of Royal Dutch Shell plc). Unlike the previous one, this was not a long-standing dream. Although I knew about Shell for a long time, it was only when it came for campus recruitments for my senior batch did I get interested in the company. Shell was opening an R&D centre in Bangalore and wanted to recruit fresh graduates for the job. Before I heard about Shell's offer, I had trouble deciding which company to prefer. I wanted to work for a large company, preferably in R&D related area. I wanted to be preferably based in India, and wanted a job which promised good growth opportunities. Of all the companies I knew that came for recruitments, none of them fitted the bill. I knew that fresh graduates can't be very demanding about job options, so accepting the situation while trying to figure out my preferences was the best thing to do. Thus, when I heard about the job description of Shell, I couldn't believe it as this was exactly what I had wanted from my job. What was more heartening was the fact that not only was their compensation package non-repulsive, on the contrary it was very attractive, much more than what was offered to Mechanical Engineering graduates in India.

Even with such a clear choice in my mind, the work was far from finished. Not only was I far from clearing the hurdle of passing their selection process, I also had to find a way of not getting placed before Shell came for recruitment. The easiest sounding option would have been to not sit for any interviews before the D-day, but even an amateur would say that this can be suicidal. So I decided to sit for HLL, the only company other than Shell where I would have been happy to get a job with.

I was shortlisted for the final recruitment process by both HLL and Shell. HLL was on Day 1 (as they say), and Shell was on Day 2. I fared well in the group discussion round of HLL, and even cleared the first round of interview. Only me and Sneha Prasad managed to reach the second round of interview, which I later realised was a stress interview. The big-shots of HLL did everything to stress me out, but even though I got stuck a few times, I never lost my cool.

Usually, when people come out of their final interview, they expect that they won't get though, but pray that they do. With me, it was the reverse case: I expected to get an offer from HLL, but prayed that I don't. When the final results arrived, I learned that I couldn't make it to HLL. Looking back I feel that HLL wanted a person from thermal background, and while I was from a Dynamics background, Sneha was from Manufacturing background. All this was now irrelevant as I started preparing for the Shell Recruitment Day (SRD).

The Shell Recruitment Day was so much full of events that it deserves a post of its own. However, I will summarize what their recruiting strategy was. They gave a part of case study (background material) for reading the previous day, and on the SRD, the remaining part of it. After 80 minutes, we were supposed to present a 5 minute summary of our recommendations, followed by 20 minutes for questions and answers. The second round was a technical interview where we were grilled on a couple of our research topics for 30-45 minutes. The third round was group work where the candidates had to discuss and recommend a few projects for Shell to fund. Because of some chaos that resulted in last day's recruitment process, the results were held up till 3 am in the night. As you might have guessed, I got selected in Shell along with 16 other students. My joy knew no bounds when I learnt that after getting a 9.52 in the 9th semester, my CGPA finally became 9.02.

The experience of getting a job was most certainly a fulfilling one, and quite surprisingly, in the days to come, I found bitterness in it. Initially, the bitterness was because I came so close to being nobody. If I were unsuccessful at getting a job with Shell, it would have meant that I would have been left unemployed for many days to come. What was more painful was that I would have landed in a job I quite likely wouldn't have enjoyed in the first place. It is said that those who have seen death closely start understanding life a lot. I was not an exception to the rule. Whenever I tell someone about my job they either start feeling proud of me, or develop envy against me. But none realize how close I had been at being nobody. In the days to come, I saw many friends who were still hanging in that empty zone. While all knew that they would get "some" job, nobody knew which one. I saw so many people applying for every other job, with their aptitude taking a backseat. I saw each of those stories as my own, and placing myself in their shoes, felt the pain they themselves were going through. One of my favorite mantra is "Life isn't meant to be fair". For the first time in my life, I understood it from my heart rather than my mind. Things turned out beautifully for me, and I ought to be happy, but something held me back in enjoying things to the fullest.

Keeping these discussions aside, I often find people wondering why I didn't go for higher studies or pursued MBA at IIMs. It has been tough for me to explain these things to everyone, but I think that I should document my opinions on the issue once and for all. Most of the people who know me (but not closely enough) take it for granted that I will be going for higher studies. I must say that I often feel surprised at it as I have never said or done anything that remotely indicates my aptitude or passion for higher studies. The people who assume this about me either owe their belief to my intelligence, or the hard work that I put in studies that gets reflected in my academics through my CGPA. I never knew that using the Grey Matter was linked to going for higher studies. Also, while it is true that most people who put extra-hard work on their academics go for higher studies, I don't see any reason why the former should cause the latter. As a student, I feel that it is our responsibility to do well in academics, irrespective of the career line we choose to pursue later. The reason why I never went for higher studies is that I don't have aptitude for higher education. My experience with research has been that at the doctorate level, people become overly obsessed about a topic of a minor significance, something which I find myself incapable of handling. Also, add to the fact that the best you can do is choose the field of your major research, with the exact topic of your research decided by the whims of a professor you hardly know before start working with him. The atmosphere of indefinite detention also doesn't help. What lies beyond the Ph.D. degree also doesn't thrill me. One either goes for an R&D job at an industry or enters academics. If I were to choose the former, why not choose it at the graduate level (As a matter of fact, I got an R&D job with Shell). The latter is not something I relish. We all have heard about professors who understand their subject very well, but are unable to teach their subjects effectively. Some may respect them, but they get ridiculed by most of the class. This is something that I would not like happening with me. Those who wonder why I didn't go for MBA surprise me even more. Throughout my educational career, I have hardly done anything that would showcase my talent or aptitude for management. So when I have showcased enough aptitude and talent for technical job, why on earth should I move over to a field that I don't even know I would relish or not? I presume most of those who pursue the IIMs do it so because of money. They join the rat-race of getting more and more money, realizing little that money would stop mattering even before you turn 30. This is something that people from all walks of life would tell you. In the end, it is job satisfaction that matters. It is not that I am averse to management; but what is the point in jumping when you have no clue of what would greet you. Adventures aside, I consider it suicidal, not to mention outrightly stupid. I don't know if someone asks me this question again, do I repeat this whole story, or redirect them to this blog post.



It really amazes me how clear and precise ur thought process is ,
the to-the-point & succinct manner in which u have justified ur career choices is truly incredible!!

sourav singh said...

Your description of the placement process made an interesting read. Its very good that you have a very clear idea of what you are willing to do in life. Your job should be something you should be ready to do for free,hence going for your dream in this case was the best thing to do. But there are a few points i don't really agree with, like your description of job-profile for the MBA aspirants.One should not demean any particular stream just because he is not interested in it.

Ambuj Saxena said...

The fact that most people go for MBA just for money is as true as people doing BTech from IITs for money. I don't think that saying this demeans anyone. What I meant to say is that most people assume that I am in the IITs for the glamour that surrounds it, and generalize that for same reasons I would be interested in MBA from IIMs.

Ask any IITian and you will find out that they are either chasing someone else's dream, are doing it out of peer pressure, or are actually interested in science instead. Only a small minority of them are actually interested in engineering as a career choice. The story is very similar if you do such a survey in the IIMs.

In fact some of my relatives made a strong case for me doing MBA from IIM just because IIT+IIM is a "deadly combination". I had a tough time explaining them that when I am not even interested in management, why should I do it just for the heck of it. MBA is a great career path if you are interested, and can turn out to be a horrible decision if management isn't one of your aptitudes.

Tony said...

thats from a true determinant mind. all the best dear friend. hope I will see you in Shell, Bangalore soon.

Praveen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

jus happened to read ur post by chance..i have a question for u..would u have been NOBODY if u hadn't got that job?is ur "self" jus determined by a job?does cgpa ..8.96..9.02 lol!matter so much..isn't it a bit too juvenile??newaz..i hope u hav bigger dreamz now n greater self worth..life is much bigger than watever u've mentioned..n u r much more than just an engineer workin in an organization..i hope u've realised that now..:)ATB to u..

Ambuj Saxena said...

@Anon, I would gladly answer your questions. But before that, I am pretty sure you are not just a guy commenting on a blog. May I have your name?