Yashwanth Tummala (BT/ME/09) was the  Publicity Core for Shaastra 2008. Following is what he had to say about his experiences.

How was your experience being a Shaastra Core?

I loved being a Shaastra 2008 core member. It was a great experience. Some of the most memorable, fun-filled, and sometimes stressful days during my stay at IIT Madras were during those days as a core member. 2008 – 2009 was the Golden Jubilee year for IIT Madras and it was my senior year in college. As stressful as that year was, it was also a lot of fun. I still remember the long meetings we had in hostel common rooms. I think we used to have them in Ganga at the time. Those meetings lasted almost an entire evening if not the whole day. In my opinion, being a core member is like being a Vice President of something for an organization. You are the leader. You build your team. Your ideas are implemented and your success depends on how well your team performs. I liked that and thoroughly enjoyed every day of my responsibility as a core member. I learned a lot of things as well. Till date I’ve never had such a holistic experience again.

What made you apply for the position of Core, and what would be your message to aspiring core candidates?

Stepping into IIT Madras, I was a very shy lad. I realized I had to get over my shyness and the best way to do that is to talk to a lot of people. So I chose to be a part of external publicity where I got to travel, meet a lot of people, and talk to them about all the festivals that happen at IIT Madras. I also like traveling. Hence, I was into External Publicity all my years at IIT Madras. I started as a volunteer for Shaastra, Saarang, and Mechanica. I liked what I was doing. I became a coordinator for Shaastra in my junior year. While I was a coordinator, I saw what the External Pubilcity core member was responsible for and really liked his role. So, I decided to give it a try. I also thought that such a position would help with some leadership skills and as a matter of fact, it did. My role as an External Publicity core member for Mechanica 2008 and the fact that it was a golden jubilee year further fortified my interest in being a core member for Shaastra. Usually there was only one core member for external pubilicity but since it was golden jubilee year and Shaastra 2008 was going to be big, they had two core member positions that year.

A lot of students, especially undergraduates, put in a lot of energy and time into organizing Shaastra and Saarang. Not to mention the elections and other things. Being a part of that whole process is definitely a great extra-curricular activity. But at the same time, I would like to ask them to take a step back and think about how much time they really want to spend on this kind of stuff. They should remember/realize that the opportunity cost is very high during their stay at IIT Madras. Also, in my opinion, Shaastra and Saarang are not the only good things/experiences at IIT Madras. A student’s core competency is in his/her ability to be a technical expert. After all, you cleared the JEE and have the means for it. Many students also think that these extra-curricular activities like being a coordinator and/or core member really helps them with their resume, interviews, and jobs etc. At least that was the case during my time. I am not going to say that it’s not true but in hindsight, it’s not really that important. To help with my argument further, I have never used that I was a core member anywhere after I graduated from IIT Madras. This is probably the first time in five years that I am talking about my core-ship. It was a great learning experience nonetheless.

That being said, here’s my advice to an aspiring core member: Do your homework well, have some background, put in some sincere effort into the application process, have some good ‘out of the box’ ideas and execute them if you are chosen to be one. Execution is important if not the most important of all. You will have an amazing time being a core member. I did.

What were the things among your Core duties that you enjoyed doing the most?

The duties I enjoyed the most were – team building and planning. In my opinion, choosing the right team is always the most difficult task. I had a lot of good applicants and choosing the ones I was going to work with was very important to me. That defined how the team was going to perform in different regions of the country. It was a little strategic and I liked that. Once the team was formed, we had to figure out the logistics of external publicity. That included analyzing past data, figuring out colleges to go to, when and what to present at those colleges and things like that. My team’s goal was to improve the numbers from certain regions. Last thing was making sure that the plan was well implemented. I didn’t do much here but I am glad my team members did well on the implementing side of things. We were using Google documents and spreadsheets extensively. Our meetings were very productive. It was a lot of fun.

Do you think the responsibility of being a Core helped you in your later life?

Yes! It sure did. Just like almost everybody, I was a core member in my senior year. That year was particularly stressful for me because I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do after graduation. I had a few ideas but I couldn’t decide on one thing. My responsibilities as a core member for External Publicity started in spring of 2008. I was considerably busy with those responsibilities all through summer and fall of 2008 since Shaastra was really big that year. During the same time, I had 26 credits in my sixth semester, an internship at Asian Paints, travel to Australia for two weeks in the summer, and 22 credits during my seventh semester. Also, l really liked what I was learning in those courses that year and hence was keen on doing well in academics as well. Anybody who knows about grad school applications will agree that the fall of senior year is very important. The whole application process takes a lot of time and effort not to mention GRE and TOEFL. With all of this, I had no choice but to manage my time properly and be efficient. Time management is an important skill and I am glad I learned that through my responsibility as a core member. I am still not good at it though.

I also learned how to identify good team members, build a strong team, and be a team player. It was an all-round personality development thing and I definitely needed that at the time. That responsibility also helped me realize what I really like and do not like in life. Sometimes, realizing that I do not like something is more valuable to me than realizing that I like something. Being a core member definitely did not help me with my technical career.

Describe in one line : I love Shaastra because….

I love Shaastra because of the technical innovations that happen during those few days.

Describe in one line : I love Insti because….

I love IIT Madras because of the people there and the environment.

Describing in one sentence was really difficult. Here’s a little bit more.

Every person on that campus is amazing at what they do and to get so many of them at one place, as huge as IIT Madras, is just incredible. I am glad to have met my peers, friends in hostels, professors, and many others who make the campus what it is. The opportunities and resources (both materialist and human) on the campus are more than what I could have ever asked for. Those were very critical and instrumental in shaping my personality and hence defining who I am today. In a very short period of time, during my adolescent days there, I learned so many things in life from the people there. That would have normally taken a decade or even more. I am talking about everything in life and not just engineering. The environment there is very conducive to learning. I also like it because students can learn what they are interested in and pursue their passions without any reservations if they have the motivation for it. There are so many other people in the country and world that deserve such opportunities and resources but unfortunately cannot get them for whatever reason. I consider myself really lucky to be able to go to IIT Madras.