My Life … My Career … My Decision
Pedigree is like a college caste system. IIT best, REC second best …
Just like Farhan in 3 Idiots, I was born an Engineer. And not just an Engineer, I was born an IIT Engineer because what worth is an Engineer if he or she is not from IIT. I grew up in a world where Engineering meant IIT, Medicine meant AIIMS, Management meant IIM and extraordinary brilliance meant IAS. I remember my daily routine since I was in Class III, everyday my Dad used to take me jogging to a boundary wall and then point his finger at the building inside saying “I want to see you there”. The building was Institute of Engineering and Technology, Lucknow and I am not quite sure if my father knew that IET was different from IIT. Nevertheless, unlike my father who was the son of a farmer, who studied in a Hindi medium government school; I was the son of a Sub Inspector in Police, who studied in an English medium private school. I was pretty sure right from Class IV that I definitely had to become an Engineer, that too from IIT and not from IET.
I still remember my friend in Class VI Bhushan (name changed) who suddenly stopped playing football with us. Bhushan got to know that the elder brother of his classmate got selected to IIT and he had been preparing since Class V. Bhushan felt he was already too late. We were three friends in our neighborhood, united in our passion to become IIT Engineers. And we always looked forward to hours long power cuts, so that we had a genuine reason not to study and have long discussions over our walk. Bhushan vanished from the football field and also from these walks. We could see a candle in his room but his parents would say that he is not at home so that we did not disturb his preparations. Sometimes I felt I was losing out to Bhushan but then I reminded myself that I am super smart, I will study hard starting Class IX and I will crack the IIT entrance exam in the first attempt. My over confidence was never shaken by the fact that I never actually got good marks in my class in either Science or in Maths. In retrospect I was an overconfident fool who would just refuse to trust the school marking system.
In Class IX, we relocated to another neighborhood not extremely far from my old one. I would often see my other friend but I never ever met Bhushan again. Unfortunately not till date. With the new address I also got a new School. My old school City Montessori School, Aliganj Branch was only till VIII and I never thought of changing my school as CMS is considered the best school for serious students in Lucknow. I was fortunate to be admitted to our Station Road branch which was 16 kms from Jankipuram (my new neighborhood). Using public transport was both expensive and time consuming. For an IIT aspirant in Class IX, every second counts. I ended up cycling 32 kms everyday to school. Unfortunately, this led to me sleeping throughout my classes. But that did not matter, I assumed I was doing well in PCM and I did not care about Social Studies, Literature or for anything else. I had a simple rule, in Class IX I started studying PCM of Class X, the plan was to study PCM of 1st year Engineering in Class XII so if I can understand one year ahead of my peers, cracking the IIT entrance exam will be easy.
In Class XII I realized that I did not even want to be an Engineer (how this happened is a story in itself and I will cover it later). I made a simple rule for myself: I will only study subjects which will help me with a career in Finance. This did work for me and I had relative success in my corporate career. I lived in Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, London, Barcelona, New York, Ann Arbor, Dublin, Munich and finally settled down in Dehradun. In 2016 I had Dengue, my first serious sickness ever. I rushed to a Doctor recommended by my friends and followed him blindly, after three weeks I was completely cured. As I observed the sunset in my balcony, I questioned my stupidity, I did not even enquire if the Doctor I was consulting was from AIIMS, actually I did not even bother to find out if he had an MBBS degree. I was so sick that if he was a Baba who was healing people with his powers I would not even have thought twice to go to him.
What about you? When you fall sick do you make sure that the doctor is from AIIMS or do you just follow the recommendations of your friends? The best doctor in Dehradun is not for AIIMS, the best Civil Engineer is not from IIT, the CEO of the largest company here is not from IIM, the longest serving DM of Dehradun was a veterinary Doctor. Where is the pedigree in real life? I do not see it anywhere. My friend, life is very simple. I give you a salary of 20,000 that means I expect work of 40,000 if you give me work worth 50,000 you get promoted and if you give me work worth 39,000 you get replaced. That is it. If you work for me and I give you an analysis to do, after some time, you come to me and say “Sorry I could not do the analysis but I am from IIT, IIM”. How do you think I would react? How will you react?
Education is a means to an end; it is not an end in itself. The idea of joining a college is to develop one’s ability to deliver. And, the ability to deliver is the only thing which matters in real life. I fail to understand why in India we are so crazy for pedigree. If you take 100 successful people and see how many of them are from pedigree colleges you will realize that not even 20% are from the so called top colleges. In fact, people who made a really big difference to the world like Bill Gates, Mark Zukerberg, Steve Jobs, Dhirubhai Ambani … were all college dropouts.
I have lived and worked in over 6 countries, this is how people work towards their goal outside India. Let’s assume I am in School in UK and at some point of time in my life I decide I want to be a Civil Engineer. I will try to get into Oxford or Cambridge. If I cannot I will try for Imperial or City College. If I cannot I will try for Leeds or Lancaster. The college I actually get into will depend on my capacity and competition that year. But even If I get into the lowest ranked college, I will work hard during college so that I come out as a jolly good Civil Engineer. Simply because I know that the only thing which will matter in real life is the ability to deliver.
Here is how we do it in India. Parents sell their lands to put their kids into IIT coaching and students study 16 hours a day from Class V to prepare for the IIT entrance examination. 70 of the 100 who make it to IIT realize on the very first day that they do not want to become Engineers, they are more interested in Management, Bureaucracy … Why on Earth they did not realize this earlier? Not only have they taken up a seat and prevented someone who really wanted to become an Engineer to actually become one. These people have messed up their own career as I am pretty sure that 4 years of mechanical engineering will be of no use in a Banking career. They sacrificed sports, friends, and social life for the past 10 years or so for something which they did not even want. The most disheartening bit is that only 2% make it to IIT so the remaining 98% are depressed for the rest of their life because they could not reach IIT only to realize that they do not want to be Engineers. All this only because we do not care about the ability to deliver all we care about is Pedigree.
The LifePage Story has chapters from a book currently being written by Mr Kapil Rawat, Founder of LifePage.