From An R&D Engineer To IIM Lucknow – One Hel(L) Of A Journey
“You know that chip that you have in your mobile, that you use to upgrade the ‘RAM’, as you call it, to increase its speed when you play games? Well, I used to design its circuit!” I explained to my best friend at IIM Lucknow, who keeps forgetting what exactly I did as an R&D Engineer, and confuses me with “some IT/software/computer stuff” in her words.
I joined IIM Lucknow exactly 4 months back today to experience the dreaded life at “Hel(L)” as they like to call it. But it was not a cakewalk as it may seem. I was working as a level-II R&D Engineer at chip design organisation (yeah, the cool stuff I mentioned above!). I had joined the organisation as an intern and received a PPO after 7 months. I was working on many high-end projects which required me to work for over 14 hours almost every day. But the work was interesting, hence it didn’t seem overwhelming. I was also mentoring 2 interns, which was a fulfilling experience in itself. In fact, it was during the training and mentoring, that I realized that I was more interested in the managerial aspect of business than technical aspect. But it was easier said than done.
I had way too many responsibilities to shoulder in the projects I was handling, to even think of preparing for CAT. But, I somehow mustered the courage to google “How to prepare for CAT?” and was flooded with the search results of all the coaching institutes. But, as I was working on the weekends as well, there was no time for coaching. I bought the “most recommended” books for QA/VA/LRDI. The moment I opened my QA book, I realised I had forgotten all that I had studied in school (as Quant basics are those we have studied till 10th standard). Brushing up the basics and the formulae was a task in itself. Yet, I had to begin from somewhere. But, I decided to take out at least an hour each day, no matter what, to study. I would come back home at 11 at night and would be dead tired to even have dinner, let alone study. Once, I remember, I had finished working at 2 am and my eyes were drooping due to sleep-deprivation. Yet, somehow, I kept going. I believe that is what makes all the difference. Consistency in endeavour is more important than intermittent spikes in effort. I used to push myself for that extra one hour each day for 6 months.
After I had gained a little confidence in the preparation, I decided to enrol for mock test series. It is advisable to sit for as many mock tests as possible before CAT, as it provides a stimulatory environment and trains the mind to work in a time-constrained structure with varied difficulty levels. I was expecting bad results for my first mock, but surprising I got around 90 percentile (I considered that good enough for my first attempt). That motivated me to prepare in a more focused manner. Around a month before CAT, I dedicatedly studied for at least 3-4 hours each day (even if it meant compromising on leisure time and sleep). And finally, all the effort paid off and I got admission in the prestigious institute I had always wanted.
But resigning from a position of such high responsibility was not easy. I expressed my desire to pursue higher studies to my manager who was gracious enough to support me, but wanted me to be sure of my decision, as I was an essential contributor in my organisation. Eventually, he was convinced. Parting with something you have been a part of, for so long, is not easy. But, nothing comes easy in life. My team threw me a wonderful party and gave me a parting gift with a collage of the team members and me. It is sitting on my study-table here in my hostel room, as I write and grow nostalgic. But that’s the beauty of life I guess. It lets you grow, and growth is never easy, growth requires you to stretch and strain. But the end result ought to make it worthwhile. Well, here’s hoping.