Why I Walked Away From A Fancy Job To Explore ‘The Real India’

Posted on November 24, 2014 in My Story, Specials

By Avinash Kothuri:

College kids – a bunch of youngsters who run purely on skills, caffeine, and an insatiable hunger to make a mark. It’s been 3 months since I officially graduated – not long enough for me to be overcome by the cynicism that all those preceding me have succumbed to; not long enough for the raw enthusiasm to have been caged by societal rigidity, and certainly not long enough to have gotten over the freedom that college provides one with.

Things clearly didn’t go as per plan. I spring-boarded off of college and was clearly diving seamlessly into the deep end of the WPR (Work, Party, Repeat) cycle that most of my friends splash around in. However, a ship set sail (wait, wasn’t the previous analogy based on a pool?) to a journey that would be best described in clichéd terms, and far-fetched imagery.

How I got the job
(Despite not being overwhelmed by Interstellar at all, I will still refer to the countdown to my first job with ‘T minus…’)

T minus 7 months– My first ever job interview. 5 rounds. Cleared them all. Great relief.

T minus 7 months to T minus 4 days– Dwelled around in nothingness. I wasn’t excited about work, but ‘Life was set’ – the procrastinator in me assured me.

T minus 4 days– I see a post about an opening at Social Cops. I decide to mail in my application (This was not a complete coincidence though; I had volunteered with SocialCops’s previous project ‘SAFE’).

T minus 3 days – First telephonic interview that goes on for an hour. Very impressive, the interviewer was a lot more than I was as I eventually found out. He gives me a task to complete in one day. Unfortunately though, the next day was…

T minus 2 days – JOURNEY DAY! I still had another job at hand – I was still going to Pune. I had a train that night, for which I had to pack the night before. And as fate has it, my body decided to take it to another level by falling ill. I somehow completed it, and set forth to Pune.

T minus 1 day – It was getting tougher to resist the swank accommodation at The Westin that my MNC had provided for us. I finish my final telephonic interview at about 6 in the evening, and that’s when I find out I’ve gotten the job.

T minus 12 hours to T minus 6’ish’ hours – Convincing my dad I’m not crazy/
hot-blooded/naïve/disrespectful/don’t need a haircut, and all the other topics that are raised during a typical conversation with Dad. I bid a sad goodbye to my other friends who did not waiver off of the exciting journey that lay ahead for them with the MNC. I bid a sadder goodbye to the bedroom of dreams at The Westin that I was losing out on.

And there I was, a job application a couple of days before what was supposed to be my first job, and a final interview a day before it – things were clearly happening very quickly. A new place, new people, and a job I wasn’t mentally prepared for – the scepticism that came with all of this got blown to bits by the enthusiasm the college kid in me had.

First day, and I knew that there was something very different about this workplace. It wasn’t the yellow paint or the fact that it was in a basement, was filled with bean bags and had loud music blaring from the speakers. Maybe a little bit, but it was definitely more than just that. There’s the adage that goes ‘A company is nothing without its people’ and I guess it couldn’t be more right when it comes to Social Cops. The idea is great, the vision even more fantastic, but the people is what clearly sets this place apart.

But just when I was coming to terms with the structure of my flexible job, Karnataka happened – a 2 week trip that completely changed how I look at my work. My colleagues warned me during the first couple of weeks that a pilot on-field was enough impetus to drive another 20 working days at least – but nothing could prepare me for this. Being brought up in a semi-metropolitan city by a secure, money-fearing, god-fearing, traffic-fearing, and people-fearing middle class family doesn’t necessarily expose you to the ‘harsh’ ground truths. I mean how different could it be in a slum in one of the less developed villages in a country as populous as India, right? Yeah…

socialcops

I finally saw what the ‘grassroots’ that we were all always talking about during our sales pitch, was actually like. Sure, there were lush farms and tractors all around. That didn’t amaze me. There were people living in rooms that our double beds wouldn’t fit in. Even that probably didn’t amaze me too much. But that the people who lived in this house wouldn’t let me go without a cup of chai, definitely did. That my phone battery died trying to get good network coverage didn’t amaze me. When a guy wouldn’t let me use his phone primarily because I sported a goatee, it did. The fact that there was at least one malnourished child in almost every fourth house wasn’t all too surprising. But the fact that there were people who spent their days visiting houses, identifying malnourished children and helping them till they got better, left me in absolute awe.

socialcops1

I went on-field with a couple of organisations that were working in the health space (malnourished children, and pregnant women respectively) to see how our data collection platform could make their processes more efficient. And probably it was when I met that woman – the last woman of the day – when the impact these guys had dawned on me. Turned out, she was one day overdue in delivering her child, and without these guys intervening, would have never found out. It was remarkable how a person could spend a majority of his/her time helping others lead a better life. And it filled me with pride that our technology could actually help them do their job better.

At the end of those 2 weeks, I realised why I’d initially wanted to take this job up. Fun colleagues, a good work environment, games of Fifa, and being able to show up at work around 11 (or 12?) are awesome, but definitely secondary; the smile I saw on the face of that mother who found out her son wasn’t malnourished anymore, and the fact that one piece of technology that we can provide, can put that same smile on a lot more mothers, appealed to me more than anything else. And that’s when I realised that probably the transitioning out from being a college kid is inevitable, but at least I know that this experience lets me stay one for a little while longer.

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