Dropping The Master Plan

Back when I was in my first and second year of engineering, I was very optimistic about my future. I liked the idea of starting my own venture, and I really believed that by the end of my graduation, I’ll have something that would sustain me without having to look for a job elsewhere. Believe it or not, I really tried to make that happen. Two tech blogs, numerous startup ideas, bug bounty dreams and a lot of side projects, all for various reasons, but a common denominator was to become self sustained.

But again, that was what I had envisioned. Of course, it didn’t work out as planned. There wasn’t sufficient maturity in me then, and if only everything was that easy, isn’t it? By the first half of third year, I knew things were not going to change. It takes a great deal of talent to create something amazing at such an early stage. I didn’t have it. Suddenly, the belief I had in myself, my hard work and my skills fell apart. I was no longer confident about my future, and I feared failing way too much to be comfortable with that fact. I was vulnerable then.

To add to the agony, people around me were planning things. They were joining GRE and TOEFL classes to get into a great foreign university. They were doing everything that would get them a certificate, and validate their skills in front of someone; Java, Android and what not. I didn’t have a single certificate for any extra curricular. I remember thinking, How am I going to prove to somebody that I know something about anything. I just can’t.. The deterioration of thoughts accelerated even further when people started to ask each other what are they doing after graduation. Job? Masters? I thought they were too few options to be given to just about anybody regarding a career path. Why was no one talking about starting something after college, or maybe preparing to work at some dream company, or perusing research in the field of their liking, or working as a freelancer for whatever intrigues them. Am I missing something obvious here?

The What are your plans after college? questions started hitting me as well. I had to take a decision from the two options that were presented to me. Job or masters. I feared a job, and took masters. M. Tech. from some IIT would look cool, I thought. Started researching about GATE examination, and decided to go for it.

I told my decision to a few friends, and immediately realized that M. Tech. wasn’t the masters everyone was talking about. At least most of them. This masters is M.S. and it is done by going to the United States and studying there. Masters in India is not cool. It is just like Bachelors, in a specialized field. I don’t have a great opinion about the bachelors study in India, and if masters was going to be like that, I am better off not doing it.

So I decided to go for masters. I knew it was going to be very expensive, but quickly learned finance is available. Okay, so if we stretch a bit, I might get into a college in the US, do my masters, work part time to finance my day-to-day expenses, get into a good company, work for a year or two to repay the loan, and then, life is sorted. A better lifestyle, more exposure to good startups and companies, a good salary and everything I would ever ask for. I would be able to give a better lifestyle to my family, fulfill their dreams and more. Now that’s called a plan. More than anything, it felt safe. Plus all the other smart people are doing it so cannot go wrong with this.

By the end of July, I was totally sure about masters. Abhishek and Dhananjay were going to leave for it soon, and I was thinking about the schedule for my GRE and TOEFL. I had convinced mom and dad, and they even had started to talk about the great things I would see and feel a year from now. I would be the first person from my family to fly abroad for higher education. Or fly abroad. Or fly, for that matter. I really liked that feeling. All sunshine and rainbow.

Later in August this year, I spoke with my mentor about this grand plan of mine. I knew for sure he’d be excited. He was not. He started questioning my decision, and I think he realized that me going to the US was more like the only option I saw, rather than a solid goal in itself. We spoke for sometime, and the more I spoke to him, the more I realized that the other over ambitious plans of mine were not at all over ambitious. They were just as possible as the other safe options, only I’ll have to work a little harder to get to them. The extraordinary people I look up to and admire are just ordinary people who did something extraordinary. And given that you only get one shot at life, let’s aim for something similar, something full of uncertainties, something that is fun and something that I actually want to be doing! That was all the motivation I needed to pursue my heart. That conversation opened me up to the numerous possible career options I had as an engineer.

I created a decision matrix to evaluate my options and find out the best one for me. It gave me my end goal. Now I was free to peruse it the way I wanted. It definitely saved me a lot of time and money. But most importantly it gave me back what all of us are taught during our childhoods. The you can do anything if you try spirit. I am glad I took everything I came across with an open mind. I tried my options, and chose what was best for me. Thinking over it again, I think there is risk involved in everything. The safe path was never safe. The current path is full of risks as well. But it is just a matter of what risks I am more comfortable with.

Finally, a great learning experience. Now the question I ask myself, will I ever consider a masters, again? I remember talking to Sukhpreet about the same. He’s the guy you want to bet on, who knows how to get work done and deliver. He had told me there’s an inner calling that helps you to take decisions. Masters is one such decision. He never had that calling. He has learned all that he needed while working. I haven’t had that calling yet. If ever I do, then yes, why not. Until then, I’ll be sticking to self learning, a deeper version of it. Let’s see how it goes! Thank you for reading.