When I entered IITM in 2008, I was awe-struck by the variety of activities that happened. Like a fresher, I tried my hand at many activities –such as playing hockey in quadrangle, participating in quizzes and building catapults in Project X competition. It was confusing at first because there was a vast expanse to choose from, but slowly I understood that tech was my calling. When I had joined Insti in 2008, I was amazed by the talk Sayan Ganguly (CoCAS) had given while introducing Shaastra and CFI. It instilled in me the hunger to learn and nudged my acumen to innovate. From there, started my tech-journey at IITM.
I have observed, participated, conducted and managed various tech events and activities at IIT Madras from a very grass-root level. What I have personally learnt from CFI, Shaastra and Tech-Soc are real-life lessons that continues to help me even after couple of years after passing out. I have listed down a few qualities or lessons that I have learnt in my Insti-tech stint. For example, something I have learnt on my tech-journey is that “Always, invest in people.” Tech at IITM has evolved because people every year for the last 7-8 years have invested in their juniors and have taught them the tricks of the trade.
There are 3 entities of Tech, which has shaped my capabilities: TechSoc, Shaastra and CFI. Each one is unique in its own sense and has provided me different avenues of learning. Getting involved in tech activities will obviously expand your horizon of building things, innovating and trouble-shooting. But, apart from that, there are more treasurable proficiencies that you will gain out of taking up a project at CFI or coordinating a competition in Shaastra or participating in an event on behalf of your beloved hostel in Tech-Soc. Here’s a snippet of what broad life-skills does one learn from tech-activities and events at IITM:
This is a quality that you need most in life. There will be rough times in a project, when having a strong, dependable and knitted team will make all the difference. During Techsoc 2008-09, there were times when bots were not working properly and electronic modules were responding haywire. During Shaastra, sometimes, the events were not coming up as planned; at every step, I could vouch that the teamwork never ever faltered. The opposite is also true. In Robocon 2010, we had very hard-working and smart individuals. But, the team as a cohesive unit did not click. The team work faltered and that was the main reason we bowed out in quarters.
The lesson – “Never ever leave a fellow colleague hanging in a team”
2) Jugaad or Out-of box thinking:
This is something that my hostel had instilled in me from the 1st year of Techsoc. The kind of shoddy bots we made could have made a Product Design guy cringe. But, the main selling point was that they worked. Sometimes, in life, you will get unrealistic deadlines from clients, from managers and you will have to turn it around! Jugaad will help you in giving ugly but working solutions in a time-crunched environment.
The lesson – “The best thing about Jugaad is that in tough situations, you get a license to just care about getting things to work and you don’t have to think about the presentation of the solution”
3) Managing people:
This is a skill-set which B-schools teach you, but I have learnt the most about it at IIT-M. Every person needs to be good at managing people to succeed in life. Since success is a not a single-person centric and is driven by people, managing people is an utmost required skill. Completing a work yourself is always easier than getting it done by someone else. And, that’s what you learn when you become a co-ord/core at Shaastra / Hostel TAS / a team leader in any CFI project. The main thing I have learnt from all of my managerial stints at Insti is spend time with your juniors, talk to them and build solidarity. This is what people forget the most. You can’t just give orders and expect that everything will be taken care of. You have to build trust, bonding and camaraderie with your juniors and that can happen only while discussing and solving problems together.
The lesson – “Build companionship with your sub-ordinates. It is the best way to motivate people”
4) Brainstorm and Think Crazy:
Sometimes, when we used to get stuck at something, especially at Shaastra meetings, we used to take a small break and randomly brainstorm. We used to discuss some really crazy and improbable ideas, but the idea was to think as bat-shit crazy as possible. During one of these crazy brain-storming sessions, we decided to get few projects from CFI and few events from Shaastra and display them in front of Himalaya! And, the idea did wonders. People noticed it and we got a huge surge of Insti publicity, which we had lacked before! In life too, sometimes it is important to do crazy things to get noticed.
The lesson – “Brainstorm together and build upon crazy ideas, you don’t know what might tick”
5) Upward Management:
Unless you become the CEO of your company, there will be managers and directors above you whom you would have to report to. If you are the CEO, imagine that your client is above you. All the time spent interacting with Dean (Students) and Co-curricular Advisor had helped me in realizing the importance of making a person understand a month’s toil in a time slot of fifteen minutes. Here, I learnt the importance of being short, succinct and to-the-point. People higher up cannot go into details, you need to help them in understanding the crux of your story in a very limited time.
The lesson – “While interacting to someone higher-up, it is essential to convey your thoughts in a concise and crisp manner”
6) You Can Win (however bad the odds are stacked against you)
During the end-leg of Techsoc 2011, Narmad was at second position. We needed nothing short of a miracle to win, because only two major events were left: Autonomous Robotics and S-Net. I remember people telling me that Narmad couldn’t win the Tech-Soc, it was practically out of our reach. But, I – being the TAS – told my hostel juniors only one thing: “We had to win this event by a big margin.” Because we wanted to get a lead so big that even if we didn’t place in the last S-Net, we should win. We had slogged all the year round for this and it was the hostel’s dream to get the Tech-Soc back.
We decided that there is only 1 way to win the Tech-Soc trophy – we went with two hostel teams in Autonomous Robotics competition! It was a big risk because historically it had been an event where only a couple of teams had successfully completed the problem statement, but we took the risk. We started preparing very early and we sweated it out; I remember the first and second years literally toiling days and nights to get both of the bots working! It was an event laced with drama. On the D-day, in the first round, one of our bots didn’t work. Though the second bot worked great, we wanted to get the other bot working as soon as possible and win both the 1st and 2nd positions. We quickly went into trouble-shoot mode and got the first bot working (it was a minor glitch). The rest as people remember was history (sic!) and we cruised to victory. We won both the 1st and 2nd positions and we beat Tambi comprehensively to win the TechSoc 2010-11.
The lesson – “Do not believe the non-believers. If you think you can do it, charge ahead”
So, anyone who is confused that how will building a bot/RC car/contraption for Shaastra or TechSoc help him in a finance job or how will participating in FSAE, Robocon, IARC will help you in consulting, the technical skill might not. But, let me tell you that the life-skill will surely help you whatever path you take up.
These life-lessons are the most precious takeaways of my tech journey. The prizes, the certificates and the accolades might wither away, but these experiences will stay with me forever.
–Koustuv “Moral” Roy graduated with a B.Tech in 2012. He was an Events Core for Shaastra 2011 and also the Technical Affairs Secretary for Narmada. He is presently a Business Analytics Associate with ZS Associates, Gurgaon.
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