Sarvesh Madhu Agrawal, is a Civil Engineering Dual Degree graduate (Class of 2006) and worked for 5 years in Analytics domain before starting Internshala (http://www.internshala.com) – an online internship portal – in 2011. He was also the Hostel Affairs Secretary of IIT Madras (2003-04). Here’s what he has to say.

Life is what happens when you are busy planning it.

I have no idea why I wrote the line above. But I have a feeling that, as it has happened many times with me, it would somehow make sense to the theme of article by the time I finish writing it.

While every single moment of the 5 years that I spent at IIT Madras was memorable, the last year was particularly defining. Not because I did anything stellar academically or otherwise, but because it allowed me the luxury of free thinking (thanks to the reduced academic load in the last year)about things that had not occupied my mind before.

At the start of your college life, you have the agenda set of next 4/5 years – a clearly laid out plan of what will happen and when and your only task is to execute that agenda well. Its only in the final year, it hits you that the days of certainty will be over soon and you would graduate into this vast wild world to face it all by yourself and you have no f***ing clue how?

This fear/excitement, combined with the sadness of leaving the best 4/5 years of your life behind, is, in my mind, describes a final year student the best – while in front of juniors or family, you may be the stud, deep down you feel vulnerable and wish the support system that IIT had been continued even afterwards. I was in no different state then and 8 years later I want to share things that I have learned which you may benefit knowing now or may be not.

  1. Beyond the gates of IIT, you are just anybody else – sure, IIT helped you get a headstart and all your relatives scolded their off springs for not making it to IIT while you did but once you are out there, you would find that you still have to prove yourself at every stage. You have to earn the stud tag all over again.
  2. You will meet people, at work place and otherwise, who went to ordinary colleges – and still doing as good or even better than you. At times you would be pleading with them to give you that raise, that sexy project, or that deal – get used to it.
  3. It is very easy to get sucked into the comforts of a corporate life and once you get used to it, it is very difficult to break the mould. 99% of us would lead the life like any other person (and nothing wrong with that!) – a big fat pay cheque, a big car, a lovely family and a few EMIs – but if you want to be 1%, you will have to constantly ask yourself what you want to do with your life, does what you are doing really matter and keep putting yourself outside your comfort zone.
  4. You will find out that soft skills are far more important than technical skills or intelligence – you may have the best of the ideas but if you can’t get people to buy it, it would not happen. While on the other hand an average idea equipped with better execution will sail through.
  5. At workplace, your boss will be the single most important factor in determining whether you are happy or not – if you have a choice, work for a person you can respect and can learn from.
  6. In first few years of your work life, don’t work on strategy or excel sheets – get your hands dirty with operations – actually doing things, making stuff happen.
  7. No matter what you choose to do, you will never sleep hungry or have no roof on your head (unless you are protesting with Arvind Kejriwal out of your own will! ) – that much safety net IIT provides you. Use it to your advantage.
  8. Given the kind of education and resources you have had access to, it would be a shame if not more than 1% among you turn out to be innovators, entrepreneurs, and change-makers. Sure, you may have got into IIT without any aptitude or passion for Engineering, but it’s never too late to start discovering what may truly excite you and follow that.
  9. Always remember – great minds discuss ideas, mediocre minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people – it is a good scale to measure you day to day life on.
  10. Finally, despite all the planning and gyaan, there are just far too many variables that impact your life which are beyond your control and it is OK if 5 years down the line you are doing something totally different than what you had thought or if you are still figuring out what to do with your life. If you don’t know what makes you happy, atleast don’t choose things that you know make you unhappy.

Hope it makes sense, to atleast some of you. I am still figuring out how does that first line fit into the theme of the article.

The author has published an article in The Fifth Estate which you can view here.