Guest AuthorPavan Soni

An evening at my alma mater – NITIE Mumbai

By | Dr Pavan Soni | IIM-B Innovation Evangelist 

While we all know that things become most precious when we are well past those, fewer things are more valuable than a good education. I keep reminding myself and other around that – a good education is a great insurance.  A good education not only gives you a benefit of doubt when attempting something new but also helps you bounce back when you fail. My time at NITIE Mumbai, a decade back, qualifies very much for that good time (ever since). If there was one turning point in my life/ career, NITIE was certainly the one. While walking down the lush lawns in the otherwise resource scarce city of Mumbai, I couldn’t help but think of my wonderful days spent there, and how lucky I was (am) to be there. I have this urge to reflect on how I got in and out of the campus, and how life change ever since.  
Getting into NITIE
I was then a third-year student at Electronics and Communications Engineering at MBM Engineering College Jodhpur, one of India’s oldest colleges. Like most engineering college graduates, then, I wasn’t sure of what next to expect in life. The IT industry was in its infancy, and I was in a rather remote part of the country- Jodhpur, known rather for its heritage than advancement. There were three clear options- taking a job, going for an MBA, or going from a M.Tech. I was incidentally the branch topper (speaks rather much about my colleagues than me!), and the three options seemed quite equifinal. So in third-year I appeared for CAT, did reasonable well, and in final year I wrote GATE (for M.Tech entrance) and did good too, and also got through a campus placement well before my exit. Admission to NITIE occurred to me, for in my radar there was never such a college that gives a MBA-like program with an entrance through GATE! I discovered this college through one of my seniors- Rahul Mohnot, then a student at NITIE. So I filled up the form, appeared for an interview and a Group Discussion, and within days got a call.  Man was I luck? I think I have always been. 
So on June 24th 2003 I was at NITIE Powai. 
Hai, before I share my NITIE days, I can’t miss mentioning about one of my secret mentors at MBM- Ratul Ghosh. Ratul was a super start of our college. He was good in almost everything except studies (if I may), and more so he was amazing at inspiring people. I started copying his talking style, dressing sense, even walking style, and if there is any good in communication in me today, it’s owing to that one guy. Interestingly, Ratul doesn’t even know how much he has inspired me. May be I can convey my thanks through one of these posts. 
So back to NITIE, at the campus.
At NITIE campus
The first few days at NITIE were thrilling. We were into everything except studies. So many event management clubs, and committee, and the screening to get into those. The pinnacle of these committees was the Placement Committee, called the PAPCO in our college. With no work experience getting into NITIE, I wanted to desperately get into the PAPCO. But I had no chance. So I was asked to get into the sponsorship committee, responsible for racking in funds to organize our flagship event- Lakshya. Oh boy, what an event Lakshya was. It was as if getting into NITIE was to support Lakshya and not study! The super start of the batch would be the Lakshya Coordinator, which happen to be my buddy- Raushan Rishu. It was fun, mostly at the cost of studies. 
Organizing events, late night parties, going to companies to make a placement pitch, occasional badminton matches, and batch dynamics. The studies were never taxing or bothering. Incidentally on one of the occasions I got selected as a PAPCO member, just to realize that it took me further away from books. Only towards the last few month, after I was asked to step down from the PAPCO committee, that I started visiting library. A love affair that continue till date. 
Let me fast forward to getting out of NITIE.
Off from NITIE
It was a fateful day of 4th January 2005 when our final placements were on, and it was Day- Zero. The first company on campus was at 6 AM, and then there was over 50 companies visiting us in a matter of 15 hours. I got through five interviews- DHL, Infosys, Satyam, Oracle, Wipro and Infosys, of which I got offers from all but DHL, something no one would know until the placement coordinator Prof. Pundir would call us in to his den. At 2 AM on 5th January while we were all waiting eagerly to be called in. Here I was standing right in front of our PAPCO members- Vikas YadavSugam Kumar, and Manoj Patil, and of course, Prof. Pundir. I had 2 minutes to make a choice between Satyam, Oracle, Wipro and Infosys, such that the remaining offers could be rolled out to next in line. At that Vikas nudged me saying – “यार Wipro लेले वरना अगले साल नहीं आएगी ” (buddy take Wipro, else it won’t come next year). This was because Wipro made very few offers and if no one, or very, people join, the company may not come again. So I said yes!
Looking back, one of the most crucial decisions in my life wasn’t really made by me in the right earnest. That’s a true Black Swan episode. Am I happy with the decision? The decision, thanks to Vikas on the hindsight, changed my entire life.
So here’s my narration of NITIE journey, how it’s been luck punctuated with some realization. So much for the role of agency in nature!
Take care, and looking forward to being at the campus sometime soon.
Who knows a similar Black Swan awaits my exit at IIM Bangalore. Since I can’t know in advance, why bother!
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