Monday, February 24, 2014

On getting a job.

I suddenly remembered the "placement season" at my undergrad for no reason. To the uninitiated, the placement season in Southern Indian engineering colleges are when software companies recruit engineering students en masse. This generally happens just before the start of the final year of engineering. This is the coming-of-age ritual that every engineering student undergoes.

After a nasty childish spat with a neighboring college (which I am sure readers of this blog will remember) I received more than one ugly note saying that how I would be dealt with during the pooled placement season that happens on their campus. I bring this up because, it is funny to think that they wanted to punish me with a job that I would miss out on for my (admittedly) bad behavior. One could sell anything to anyone if they attach a "placement" tag to it. Oh so much for campus placements, the petty issues, the mad race and the hacks. I am surprised that they don't sell powdered dragon claws as a performance boosters (or do they?) during the season. I remember ludicrous stories of how "cotton salwars" were the only accepted dress code and how guys would get rejected if the interviewers sniff out the fact that they had used a particularly misogynistic brand of deodorant. There were special classes to crack these mock tests for which people paid good deal of money.

In this fiasco, the placement coordinators (PCs) are the ones who truly deserve a lot of credit. The amount of bullshit they take during placement season, for the greater good of their peers (who are not particularly nice to them) is mind boggling. They have the nerve wrecking job of having to deal with some of the most narcissistic and egregious blokes who saunter into campus in the guise of interviewers and dangle placements, money and hope over these poor PCs. The PCs with their limitless patience are completely answerable to their peers and to their professors and are often the casualties of nasty college politics and get majorly footballed around during the season. The PCs would wait on the interviewers hand and foot and treat them like royalty. I remember hearing horror stories how some of these interviewers would send the PCs off at midnight on a mission to procure a particular brand of chicken or liquor and how the PCs would wordlessly comply.

I understand that people spend a lot of money on engineering colleges (excluding the state schools, of course) just because they can get a job. But the whole deal becomes futile if the sole focus is on getting a job than becoming employable which are two different things altogether. One cannot simply become good at something by dreaming about tantalizing notion of landing a lucrative job or by cheap hacks or doing things just to have a good resume. It shows up as glaring inadequacies in the first ten minutes of of an interview.

I recently overheard a CMU undergrad giving his phone interview to some company as I was lounging in the sunny corridors of Gates building. As he talked on, I was starting to feel awestruck at the things this guy knew. I was beginning to feel bad about the futility of my undergrad when this guy mentioned that he was in his first year (looks like he was pitching for an internship) and my jaw dropped. In my first year, I had given up on Electronics as a chosen career path after my first bungled tryst with Norton's and Thevenin's theorm and was moping around about how I had made a big, irreversible mistake. In contrast, here was a first year student who had built things that were clearly beyond my comprehension and apparently he had been building such things since eighth grade. Seriously, if we dream of competing in a global arena and think beyond the standard software placements, cramming up Agarwal's Quantitative aptitude or buttressing our engineering ability by reading "selections" of frequently asked questions, is NOT going to help. The "Group Discussion" rounds are such a farce. It makes me smile just think about how people believed that they can become proficient in topics worth having a group discussion about, by reading the newspaper for two days before the dreaded GD. Also, how on earth a person's analytical ability or his propensity to communicate and work in a team can come out in such a carefully constructed tableau?

I don't know if the status quo will change. I hope it does.

On a side note, in retrospect, it amuses me that I somehow always managed to wangle my way out of doing things that I didn't want to do - like never having to cram up the nuances of C such as linked lists & pointers or even think about attending pooled placements for dream companies (that I was cutely threatened with). My parents just let me take twenty days off and be at home during the placement season because I couldn't stand being on the campus what with the peer pressure driving me insane. Not everyone gets to watch reruns of House MD while grappling with an identity crisis, oblivious to the world outside. Somehow, my parents were more confident about my employability than I was and were just waiting around for me to sort out my issues (which anyway took me the next four years).

Despite my incessant bitching about life, I think I should really be thankful for these small pleasures.

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