Studies, Engineering, College, Wasting Time and ME

There I was.

A below average engineering aspirant who wasn’t able enough to crack any of the so called “prestigious-engineering-exams”. I managed good grades until 10th standard, even better than the expectations of my parents and man ! that was the first thing that made me feel so good for the first time in my life.

Engineering, atleast in India, was never my dream. Thanks though that at that time I didn’t knew all the shit they teach in an engineering college in India. Newtonic levels of Logic Design and Electronic communications, basic loops and search algorithms of C and C++, basic theory of Data Structures, Select statements of Oracle DBMS and Get and Post in HTML. Seriously, in engineering?

Mostly through an year and half of my engineering life, I failed miserably in my engineering studies and even in grades (Yes ! there’s whole difference between two. Meet me and I will explain you to death). I got a subject back in first sem, 2 in 3rd sem. I was nowhere. I was hardly into studies and wasn’t even afraid of what all this would lead me upto. Life was miserable, I hardly had any friends apart from the boys in hostel. I was a fail and angry man in my class, because of a fail attempt of hanging out with a girl for a semester. But as they say, sometimes somethings happen magically in your life, unknowingly, which make sure things happen the way they’re planned before. ( I myself did’t understood a word I typed there 😀 , but all that makes sense to me now because I don’t really know or can recollect how and when everything started being sorted out ! ). Started exams of 4th semester, I stared working a bit hard (read: mugging up hard like others) and things went on smoother thereafter.

I learnt one golden rule of any engineering college on this country: “Just get the damn ! first class marks on your semester marksheet anyhow, and nothing else matters”.

I won’t lie. Being the whole new state, food, the racist people, home sickness, always short on pocketmoney and never-ending list of “oh I want them all” and many more shit that a boy does when he gets into a graduate college, college life was never easy for me. But when I look back at the time I started college and the time it all ended, I get whole new levels of pride in what I was and the man I am today. Life changed, emotions, responsibility (discipline went to dogs, as with everyone), social interaction, making awkward conversation starters and jokes, recognizing human behaviour, type of people, handling the worst of situations be it with your professors, friends, girls or a road fight and the huddle with cops, I had’em all :)

My taste changed in food, music, movies and the whole lifestyle. Being a simple boy from a middle-class family and a small town, I was what you love to call a ” total seedha-saada and champu ladka”. One thing that never changed, never got out of my blood and never failed to give me orgasms was my love for computers, gadgets and technology. I literally sleep and eat technology even today, as I used to do before engineering, if you know what it means.

I always used to try random stuff and things on my laptop and people used to call me a lifeless, “computer-chipkoo” guy. Some boys used to say (not to mention the ones with oversense of smartness, marijuana and hooliganism) “just give him a computer and an internet connection and he will never come out of his room”. Hell yeah ! I was more like that most of the time, I loved to do what I wanted to do, rather than going out roaming on road on bike and getting involved in fights. Is it that bad and awkward? Being the only one in the whole college maybe who used to keep tinkering with Linux distros, web design, many failed attempt at web design, blogging and making money and the only professional blogger in college, first one to knew about Android phones and the first one most probably to own one.

Their comments used to disturb me sometimes. But those alone times were the best of my life. I did and learnt so many things, add to that “how to prepare awesome maggie with your eyes closed” :D. I don’t even remember or care about them now. All of them know where they are now and where I am now. It was never about just studying. It was about doing something constructive, something that you’re passionate about and something that you can say you have learnt or achieved in life. I haven’t achieved anything significant, but I can say that I am the best of the worst lot of students that I have been with in the college. Reason enough to be proud?

End of that “in-no-order” flashback. Came last semester and I had some really tough times with my final semester project. I had a group with me who were good in studies, but lacked a lot in understanding of technology and programming. We faced a lot of problems, did a lot of afternoons in CCD discussing ways to connect to MySQL DB and endless nights figuring out passing values to variables from a JSP form to a JAVA bean. But still I am so happy that I didn’t had to purchase a readymade project for submission, which a large majority of students do and did in the college. We just did a simple Java based application for a small company in Bangalore. They are into telecom data analysis and we cleansed their sample database using Java procedures and I did an entire simple dashboard in JSP and HTML on my own to compliment the procedures.

The most recent phase of this story, the one in which I am currently residing. Came placements at the last moment and everyone including me was tensed. The college didn’t had any impressive record of placements and on campus companies. TCS was a welcome surprise, but none of my friends got through and one that I know personally was so shocked and devastated, as like she missed a chance at working in Microsoft. Seriously, if you know the type of work in TCS, you would know what I am ranting here about. The only thing I so badly wanted in the entire 4 years of my engineering life, was a successful engineering degree and a placement in a decent IT company.

Dell was the next one in the line. No one was sure about the package or the type of work or “what the hell will this company make us to do?”. I still remember that day. I woke up casually, had my breakfast after months (live in an engineering hostel and you would know) and  I was without any preparation apart from my resume. Yeah building a hip resume was the “in-thing” in those months of placement and most of the students had no clue of how to make one. Thankfully, I had a better sense and was with a couple of copies of “not-so-interesting” but neither a stereotyped resume. My resume mentioned types of like Android, professional blogging and “published an editorial and a couple of posts in October 2010 issue of Linux Identity magazine, USA”. Cool eh?

Aptitude went easy for Dell (did I mentioned I scored the max? ) and the technical round was tough for me. The person asked me the basics and I was a bit fumbling.

Interview rule 1: Yet, the only thing that matters most in an interview in India is your smile, the level of confidence, and just a hint that you’re trying your best to answer what you know.

I tried best and the person in front of me even helped in literally “taking out” answers for some DBMS queries from me :)

(I forgot the LIMIT for restricting the number of resultset rows and was answering him “Put the Select statement in a FOR loop” :D)

Interview rule 2: But never try to fool your interviewer. Just answer only those things that you know even remotely. Have the right confidence, attitude and body language and the rest will be a breeze. Mark my words here.

I was happy but nervous that I was on my way, clearing all the rounds. In the HR round, the interviewer asked my achievements. I said it’s all marked on my resume. He then asked random questions:

1) Why are your grades just average and consistent to around 65% in engineering? There has to be a reason for that right?

me: Yeah. All that because I never got good marks in my internal exams. Reason? Never attended classes much. Reason? I don’t see a point in attending useless classes which are of no practical use. I bother least and so do professors in giving me internal marks.

In my free time I love to eat properly and sleep and then wake up and do the things from which I can learn most.

2) Have you really published articles and editorial in an international magazine?

me: Yep. I have. You want to see the hard copy? I have it with me now :)

3) Do you use Wikipedia? What is it and how is it made?

me: Quite regularly. It is second on my usage list, only after Google. Wikipedia is infact a very very very big user-contributed dictionary that has all that information about anything that anyone can think of.

4) So can you contribute to Wikipedia? Have you?

me: Yes of course you can. I have done that a couple of times. (an utter lie)

5) How do you think that Google search works?

me: (silly question 😛 given that I had done my technical paper in the last semester on the Algorithm of Google search only, however lame that was) Google crawler crawls and gathers all the information into a DB. The file structure of that DB is arranged into sorts of Barrels and containers neatly. Whenever you input a a query for search, it creates a hash for that query and matches it with meta tags and hashes and other information of the pages that Google crawler has crawled and stored. (I know it is nowhere correct, but sounds good right? ) He wasn’t too convinced either.

6) Didn’t you tried to go for any certifications apart from the regular degree?

me: You know how strict are engineering colleges about attendance and on that we have 3 internal tests per semester for 8 subjects and then external tests, internal tests for lab and then external tests for lab and more. So, that doesn’t give much time for that. Anyhow, I have tried to learn a lot from video and online resources. (anyone would ROFL on that)

I didn’t had to face any Managerial round and was the first one to come out convincingly that I made it to Dell. One HR guy called me, shook hands with me and told me secretly not to tell anyone but most probably I had made it to the successful list and that I should get ready with my passport. It was 9 o’clock and I called up Mom and dad and everyone close to me and that was the best feeling in the world when you actually get a sense of your close ones being happy and smiling, all that magically over  a simple phone. I was on cloud nine :)

Even after that I appeared for just one more company, Mphasis ( HP took over it sometime back). It was not as exciting as the Dell interview but I had fun criticizing my college and professors in the Group discussions :D. I made it to selected list of Mphasis too.

I today work for Dell. I am not being paid a decent salary (according to my expectations), and my work is not that satisfying too. It is more of maintenance rather than development. I worked on Mainframes for almost 2 years, which was the worst duration of my career. But that’s life, it is stranger than fiction.

I am Anurag Upadhaya. Jack of bits and master of none. I still dream of starting my own successful startup. Still want to make a prototype of a search engine. Still want to start a blog and make it big with traffic and revenue.


One Response to “Studies, Engineering, College, Wasting Time and ME”

  1. I have a very similar background and can relate to some of things you have mentioned. My only suggestion for you : Get out of service sector fast and move to some decent product company. If you do not do that asap, consider your career almost destroyed ( sorry for the strong words).

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