What it takes to be different….

What it takes to be different….

Summer of 2013 — I was one among the thousands of kids who flocked to an engineering college for a B.Tech degree.Thankfully, I got admission to one of the premier colleges of the state, namely SCT College of Engineering, Trivandrum. Okay, so the college atmosphere was new to me — from the academics,first year workshops and other extra curricular activities to the innumerous number of strikes in college.

Soon, the academic part of each semester became a stagnant routine. Each semester would begin, we would be taught bits and pieces of a subject whose syllabus was exactly the same as that which our seniors studied a decade ago.Then there would be assignments where the entire class would be submitting copies of the same document and merely submitting that on time would fetch us the entire marks. There would be two series exams and then the final university exams.But where was this actually taking me? Four years would pass by semester after semester in a jiffy and then I would be leaving college with a degree on paper without any substantial takeaways.

One question always pestered my mind.”What after this degree?”.

Yes of course, my college had a decent number of companies coming for placements each year,and like any other student I could hope to get a job in one of them.But,there was so much happening in the technical world that I was unaware of, and I resolved not to go with the tide.

Looking down memory lane,now, after a year and half out of college I would say that this was a decision that made a huge impact on my professional career and where I am now.

In the first year, I became a member of the IEEE student branch in our college, as I felt that while studying for a professional degree becoming the member of a professional organization would be useful.Through IEEE, i got the opportunity to attend various conferences and workshops like the All Kerala Student’s Congress and Android App Development Workshop to name a few.

Towards the beginning of my second year, we had an Arduino workshop at college. The instructor was Sandeep Gopinath,who himself was a student in our college just a year senior to me.It was a spark.That was the first time. as an electronics student,we came to know that things like these do exist and that we could build anything we wanted.

Our first experiment with Arduino… The line follower

From then on,it was a race which was inspired by the curiosity to explore more into the unknowns of a vast technological universe, but during those initial stages it was mostly directionless and we did not know which path to take.A couple of friends and I would usually turn up for any workshop that was conducted in and around the city ranging from various topics like 3d Printing, Hardware,IOT etc.

January 2015, I had just finished my lunch and was walking through the corridor when some seniors came over and asked us to attend a session conducted by the alumni.To my surprise, among the speakers were not only members of our college alumni like Sandeep Zachariah, but also Sijo George,the founding CEO of startup village.They conducted a brief session on the vast opportunities were there outside for students like us and that they could possibly act as a bridge and connect us with the external sources.

As a start, the alumni were willing to sponsor a couple of students to participate in the Arduino Day Event at Bangalore.Also, they were looking for volunteers to carry out the initiatives in college.I volunteered to help them out of curiosity, but little did I know the impact those ties would have on my career.

Rather than going on reciting a timeline of events, let me put out straight all the great lessons that I learned from them:

  1. Writing good emails and using slack.

These were one of the first things that I got used to. Mostly all the conversations with these folks would be through mail. Rethink Community,headed by Sijo, which was driving these initiatives campus wide had a common slack channel where we could interact and share technical stuff.

2. Power of networking.

Sijo introduced me to a lot of people like Praveen Sridhar, Arvind Sanjeev and Nidhiya V Raj whom i met at various events. They shared with me stories of how they drove events in their colleges and started initiatives like Tinkerhub.I got the opportunity to participate in YUMAKATHON, which was a two day event conducted by Technopark-Technology Business Incubator (T-TBI), now called Kerala Startup Mission along with a selected number of students across the state.Also, like I mentioned earlier,the alumni sponsored a few of us along with a teacher to the Arduino Day event at Bangalore.There, we got to see all the crazy stuff which others had made using Arduino.

3. Never be afraid to go and speak out.

One of the biggest lessons that I learnt was that we don’t have to shy out just because the person whom we are talking to is in a higher position.He/She might definitely be willing to strike up a conversation with us. During the YUMAKATHON workshop, Praveen and I got the opportunity to interact with Mr.Jayasankar Prasad, the then chairman of T-TBI. It was the first time I was meeting a person in such a high official status but it gave me the confidence to get out of the cocoon and be bold enough to speak on behalf of my college.

Our first experiment with Arduino… The line follower

4. Writing a good resume

This was something which the alumni gave focus on. It was during my third year that the Qualcomm Wetech Global Scholar’s Program was announced. The alumni gave us good mentorship on crafting a neat resume and writing the Statement of Purpose.Although i ended up being a runner up for the scholarship, the whole exercise provided a new perspective on how to maintain our portfolios in a neat manner.Maintaining an active presence in Linkedin was also a plus.

5. Women In Technology

We came to know that a lot of opportunities are there for women, much more than what men have in terms of the scholarships, grants etc. It was just the matter of us going out there and grabbing those opportunities. The qualcomm scholarships were just a start. Following that, we were informed of scholarships from Adobe, GHC etc. and our juniors ended up winning some of them.

6. Effectively boosting coordination and organisational capabilities

I had the privilege to coordinate the activities in my college which helped me bring those skills which lay hidden in me to the surface.I also remember coordinating a workshop — a one day HackCamp for Women by Microsoft and Venturesity with Nidhiya at LBS College Trivandrum.

Our first experiment with Arduino… The line follower

At the end of four years, I was happy that I had done something out of the ordinary and got offers from three reputed companies.

Currently I have been working with Envestnet for over a year and I am also pursuing a Masters in Software Systems from BITS Pilani through their Work Integrated Learning Program. I strongly believe that all the exposure that I got during my college days have made a huge impact on my career and work-life.

I know there is a lot more unchartered territories left for me to conquer and there is a lot more that I could have done,but let me just wrap up with a few thoughts to my readers :

“ Do not lose your individuality in a crowd.Have the right attitude.”

I do believe that these qualities will help any person dream big and reach greater heights.

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