Things do come full circle - I mean as a son of a teacher, I had never even thought that I would have students call me ‘sir’ and wish me Happy Teachers Day, but here I am - and I couldn’t be happier about it.
I’d always been a meritorious student, thanks to my mom, but I was a natural at computers and math. When I got my computer, it felt like I had the entire world to explore at my fingertips. So when the time came to choose my graduation branch, it seemed like a no-brainer that I should opt for IT or Computer Science -- and these were the only branches I filled during the counselling sessions. I was okay to compromise with the college, but not the branch. And when I got IT branch at BIT Mesra, I didn’t even hesitate.
The next couple of years were good learning-wise. The coding culture was pretty good -- we even had an ACM ICPC chapter in our college -- but I wasn’t a part of any group because I didn’t understand the importance of what my batchmates were doing. I was happy with what was being taught in class, and I was scoring well so I didn’t participate in the coding competitions that were happening. I realised it much later that I had lost a big opportunity. I didn’t do well in my placement interviews, and the only offer I had was from Infosys, so I went ahead with it, hoping to redo my career path somehow.
In the next three years, while working for Infosys, I did a lot of things -- I gave GRE, TOEFL, I applied to foreign universities for MS courses, applied to IIMs through CAT and GRE for Fellowship program, gave interviews for other companies -- but nothing seemed to be working in my favor. I even gave a round of interviews for Amazon that spanned 2 months, yet somehow I bombed the last round and lost that offer.
Disappointment wouldn't do justice to what I was feeling at that point -- I even stopped looking at DS Algo for the next six months. Coincidentally, I got an interview with Microsoft through a friend. I still remember how it went -- I had revised for three days all that I had been preparing for in the last three years, and I managed to crack the interview. Finally my hard work, my learnings from my failures, and my resilience had borne fruit, and I started working at Microsoft.
A few months later, I got an offer from Adobe. For the next 4 years, I focused on my work and my growth. Then last year, I got an email from Scaler Academy about the program and if I would like to join as a mentor. After the initial surprise that I was approached for this opportunity, I was honestly reluctant since I didn’t know what the role entailed. But after I attended the introductory sessions with Anshuman sir, I understood what would be expected of me.
It sounded interesting -- to be able to pass on my learnings to young students -- but what really spurred my decision was my own experience. Back in my college days, lack of guidance had made me lose out on precious years of learning, and it wasn’t until I met my friend and mentor, Akash, that I was able to work better on my career. Now, years later, I was getting a chance to guide students and help them -- and I at least wanted to give that a shot.
The mentees that were assigned to me were so much more focused than I was in college, that sessions with them effortless. They were passionate, had already done a lot of homework, so whatever level I spoke to them at, they were comfortable and could grasp everything I shared with them. I also answered their questions about which choice was better -- front end, back end, or full stack -- since I had experience, I could tell them what exactly happens in the industry, and share some stories and examples that made it all clearer for them.
Some moments in my mentorship journey have truly felt rewarding. One of my mentees, from IIIT Hyderabad, was an extremely good coder -- in fact he was better than what I am today! -- but he had a tendency of blurting out answers without thinking of the corner cases. I repeatedly told him to take a couple of moments, and ask for requirements when he was given a question, because spelling out the answer immediately gave the impression of having memorized the solution, and I knew that this could cost him dearly.
He didn’t understand the implications of this at first, but when he got rejected in a couple of interviews, he started listening closely. In our discussions after his interviews, I gave him certain tips to follow -- and once he started following those, he went on to crack the Google interview! Sadly, due to some information mismatch, his offer was revoked, but hey, he almost made it into Google -- and I couldn’t be prouder of him.
Till that day, I had never given a Google interview myself, but the fact that I could guide someone who did, was a gratifying moment. To be able to mentor someone, to find out what was stopping them from growing and help correct their course -- nobody can learn these from books. I had learnt these from so many rejections, and my own reflections of my journey -- and that is why I knew the importance of passing them onto my mentees.
I was lucky to have been mentored by my friend and few others in the companies where I worked -- they kept motivating and pushing me to do my best. Having a mentor in life helps you save time, avoid mistakes that can cost you interviews at good companies, get better insights, and be prepared for things that come your way. I do believe that if you get a mentor, great, if not, find one in your friends or circle, because you never know who you might learn from.
Thinking back, I do feel grateful for my decision of joining Scaler Academy. Being a part of this Academy has helped me give back to my community. But I didn’t know then that in helping the mentees, I would get to learn from them too. When I started mentoring, I noticed some glaring gaps in my own preparation, so I started working on that. One year down the line, I could switch relatively easily to my current company, Walmart. Watching these students put their best foot forward motivates me to not be complacent, and keep working on myself. It has indeed been a blessing in disguise.
I would like to end with the words that I had heard from Ratan Tata, ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get’. So my advice to you students is to start -- things might look difficult at times, but don’t let anything stop you from starting. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now. Begin whatever you have planned, work hard, and give yourself the time -- because you deserve the best and more...