“There must be a few times in life when you stand at a precipice of a decision. When you know there will forever be a Before and an After…I knew there would be no turning back if I designated this moment as my own Prime Meridian from which everything else would be measured.”
– Justina Chen, North of Beautiful
Life purposely places speed-bumps and crossroads throughout the way, testing us time & again by putting us on the spot, in the limelight, to decide then and there. And those decisions are the most important ones we’ll ever make – they shape our lives tremendously, altering our careers, our life-choices, and rewarding or punishing us all the same. At the end of this tale lies an obvious quote which fits picture-perfect into my situation some 4 years back in the summer of 2013, and here’s to hoping I do justice to those lines that I shall portray within quotations.
The Proverbial Precipice
It was June of that year, I had finally ended all random entrance tests and examinations, having appeared for the 12th standard Boards a few months back. I was rather out of choices left in terms of colleges to pursue my Bachelors (in Computer Science). And all tired after the gruelling past few months my patience and focus in appearing for another exam was rapidly dwindling.
My options were two –
- A 50-50 chance of securing a Computer Science branch seat in my local Government College JEC, Assam
- A sure-shot chance of a Computer Science branch in UPES, Dehradun, albeit with half a chance of specialisation in Cloud Computing (Mainframe being priority two and Open Source being the third choice.)
And to top it all on the day of the JEC counselling, I had a booked flight to Delhi (where the counselling for UPES was to happen in 2 days time). So there I was at a decisive point in my life, and out came the yellow pros-cons pad. I went about listing the pros & cons for JEC first and then UPES. And it went something like this
Positives about the JEC decision –
- Almost an insignificant monetary investment
- Known contacts when it came to Computer Science professors, mentors and teachers
- Hometown Girlfriend (Long Distance was kind of a dreaded concept back in those days)
Negatives about the JEC decision –
- The Computer Science branch was not assured due to my secured rank in the oh-so-redundant CEE examination, which, in my opinion, still is a pathetically irrelevant test in this day and age
- Exposure & experiences are something I’d miss out on if I still stayed on in my hometown after these 18 years studying here. And Anubhav being my name, I guess experiences mattered
- Placement and job security was the hottest/scalding topic of discussion in households. It seemed to give neighbours, even far off acquaintances an inane level of bragging rights over their equally haughty neighbours. And here at JEC I wasn’t assured one properly & the idea of an immediate Masters post graduation wasn’t that gilded an offer to entice me to stay back in Assam
But before I get on to the UPES list I’d like to state that my Dehradun or rather the idea of a college life there gave me quiet an untameable excitement and elation. I did know about Ruskin Bond, his stories about the beauty & majesty of the city, Mussorie tales, overall Dehradun environmental scenery (thanks to ICSE Environmental Science). I had already pictured a pristine city with an unblemished natural touch, delicately violent monsoons and the perfect hill station setting in the backdrop, i.e. Mussorie.
Positives about the UPES decision –
- Exposure and new experiences
- I was intrigued about pursuing a degree in CS there because of the diverse specialisations they offered in that branch
Negatives about the UPES decision –
- No Home advantage (strictly speaking from a football fan’s perspective)
- Adjustment issues would arise, but as such I did not have much insecurities.
And the fact that I really enjoyed and appreciated new experiences, new places, whilst subtly observing things, people and happenings all around, made me really pumped up to actually go for UPES over JEC. It was more of a transition from a geeky-dressed introvert to a pre-extrovert, sarcasm-clad bachelor with a long-distance lover. And yea this turned out not as some random negative or setback, but was more of a motivating factor for me – because in the back of my mind somewhere I had it registered that I owed or needed to earn back the money that would be invested in me for my graduation. Roughly 20lacs, being a sincere round-off from my end, was the amount I hoped to earn back, and soon.
And my first ever experience of Dehradun when I got off the train in July for my initial orientation in UPES, college would start in August, was insanely similar to what I had envisaged just a few months and a few paragraphs before. It was awesome – the sudden pouring rainy in the misty dawn, utterly soft-spoken people I met initially (for I was yet to meet #kali & #sethwal). The hotel we stayed up in was brilliant – Chutney Merry, and more than anything the apt weather there made me feel more at home.
“When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look but it was gone. I cannot put my finger on it now. The child is grown, The dream is gone. I have become comfortably numb”
– Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb
Two years down the line
Now fast-track 2 years into the summer vacation of 2015, right after the end of my 2nd year in college doing Mainframe (oh the tedium! I despise the black terminal shenanigans we had to deal with in college back then, and even now, good riddance indeed!). The end semester results were yet to be out and here I was in Bangalore enjoying the vacation.
And 1st day there I decide to not lay waste to a perfectly long vacation, and enrolled myself in an Android course with a totally what the hell kind of attitude. I didn’t have any inherent craze about it, but any additional (read as niche) skill on my resume would always be a plus point for me becoming more corporate-world desirable. The corporate desirability vibe was kind of like the clarion call back then, still is.
So I enrolled & attended a 2-month course and you would not believe I was the youngest in the entire batch of Android. Lucky me? Probably, but me being the youngest & the most boyish looking in a gathering of similar aged (Plus-minus a year or two) was a regular happening. And this is in clear relation to my experiences attending the national Teen of The Year finals at Mumbai as a 9th standard student back in 2009.
Now the people in my android batch were almost graduates, CAT/GATE aspirants, or graduates, and here I was getting to class daily, eager to modestly showoff my quick java skills (owe it all to ICSE and Sumita Arora) & interested to grasp android quickly as it did truly intrigue me then. Now I feel iOS is the better platform, and I’ve heard a lot of praise for React JS in becoming such a new breakthrough language; but yea all of it is totally debatable over shooters, gin and ginger ale.
So seeing all these seniors in my batch vying for android experience made me realise that it was quite fortunate & somewhat wise of me to take up Android, a subject completely outside of my totally boring & monotonous mainframe college syllabus. And taking it up not because I wanted placement in that field of expertise but rather as something that adds a feather, a minute feather, to my cap of knowledge.
“I believe Android will be stronger in the developing world than it is in the developed world.”
– Fred Wilson
My learning Curve
Someone said learning never stops, only applications do. Apologies for the shallow pun, but yea it doesn’t stop. From learning to flush the toilet, to excusing myself after an impromptu burp, to bootcamps on Udacity & Udemy, and finally to preparing myself for an interview, I’ve taken in a lot of ‘gyaan’ aka knowledge. From handy tips, methods, tricks and perfected habits, to mere observations, instantaneous improvisations, I’ve grown, learning all along the way. And am kind of proud of my artistic learning curve.
It always makes sense to stay ahead of the system. No, I don’t mean trying to break the system (wheel) as Daenarys proclaimed in Game of Thrones, nor do I mean link your Adhaar to your Uber account. No!, what I mean is that when you have the internet, one with palpable speeds of about 1mbps, and knowledgeable people around you, you get to explore myriad avenues of the world wide web (some in incognito as well, wink! wink!). But more importantly when I realised that there is more to simply Googling an answer, I found out links, sites and material that actually helped me grow as a developer and as a person.
Beyond random YouTube subject video courses, the vast & detailed bootcamps and Nano-degrees on Coursera, Udacity & Lynda are intense and gauntlet styled, but are incredibly informative, gripping, involving & intricately conjured with a perfectly balanced combination of real world applications, future scopes, problem solutions, mini-projects. And these have been tailor-made for budding developers and enthusiasts by experts in those concerning fields and or domains with proper archival, forum support and an overall sense of reality in a virtual classroom.
“In order to create an engaging learning experience, the role of instructor is optional, but the role of learner is essential.”
– Bernard Bull
Among a few mentionable mentors and experts I have been learning from include Rob Percival (Web Developer & Teacher), Mark Price (CEO Devslopes and a Mobile Developer), Carlos Guestrin (Amazon Professor of Machine Learning). These people have been rolling out courses, materials, freebies and whatnot, and over the course of the entire lesson they give you a sense of proper understanding with meticulous & an informal manner of educating coders in their respective fields.
The Startup World
I guess my early touch with the term ‘startup’ & being aware of such thriving, promising and disruptive ecosystems in today’s corporate world became a sort of beacon of hope & motivation for me. The fact is I have had aversions about a 9-5 cul-de-sac corporate lifestyle, I still do, and my early enthusiasm into startups came out of this total disregard for a fixed work schedule. I am someone who regularly listens to music, when am coding, when am blogging, when am bathing and when am free. My work schedule is all about me being in the best possible mood that I can conjure up in my home environment.
So realise and learn to take your own decisions. Howsoever persuasive relatives & those never-ending stream of well-wishers can be, ignore them when it comes to YOUR CAREER. No one expects you to begin at the top. You take one step at a time, and to put it in today’s perspective, you take the lift from the basement/parking-lot, climbing one floor at a time till you reach the top. Start today, discover your passion, realise your interests clearly and Google it. Grab a book that relates to you & your passion, and finish it.
Create something today, create something daily. Instead of singing praises about some cult icon on Twitter, or expressing your feelings in a random Facebook post via those incessant emojis, do something different by creating something new. Write a simple sentence in a blog, code a print statement onto a terminal, list down the things that you are grateful for, the people who inspire you and more importantly note down the activities that you’ve done so far for which you are truly proud of. Experiment and explore new things, worry not about the failure, but rather smile because you’ve done something different, something outside what you’d normally do. And slowly but surely that’ll make a difference in the way you think, work and react.
“Everything we come across inspires us in subtle doses. So, explore and experience new things. Be uncouth, be different, allow your mind to roam free; forget not the creative genius inside you.
This is something that I try to live by daily. Now before I go off the map into something of a fictional rant I’d bring you back to that day where I was at a crossroads in my life – having to chose between a hometown Government college or a private one in a totally different part of the country. And aptly here I shall quote Robert Frost, howsoever cliched it may seem –
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages & ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
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