Disclaimer: This can be one of those self-praising articles, as my flat-mates like to call it.
When one is resource constrained or not supremely talented, they are forced to become resilient and come up with solutions out of thin-air. Though doing well is a combination of doing the right thing at the right moment at the right place, I think resilience determines how many times the wrongs take place for all the rights to fall in-place.
I used to take part in a lot of quizzes since the very beginning, but my first exposure to competitive quizzing was in ninth grade, when I took part in the TCS IT Wiz. I was amazed by the aura of people pressing buzzers in split second differences and answering weird questions. Obviously, I could not do well and so I came back next year, slightly better prepared. It was my 10th boards exam year and I had to study hard for it, but instead I spent my time preparing for the quiz. I fumbled in the competition, and was ridiculed for wasting time on such frivolous things. Come 11th grade, and I now had to study even harder for my IIT JEE examinations, but I studied even harder for the quiz and failed again. Then came the mighty 12th grade, where I had to study the hardest to compete with 110,000 other students and secure admission into a good engineering college. I studied harder for the quiz, and this time I won! Eventually, I was lucky to join a decent engineering college, which was the last college I applied to and was the last one to offer me an admission.
Come engineering, and the same story repeated itself. I failed Tata Crucible thrice, before winning Rajasthan finals, then qualifying from North Zone, and then becoming the National and International runners-up in my last attempt. Ours remain the only team from Jaipur to achieve this feat, if you would like to call it that way. Career wise, I must have been rejected and failed innumerable times. I wanted to explore the venture capital, CSR consulting and Management consulting industries and again the same story, but eventually the rejections gave up. I simply did not want to join an IT consultancy after college, and was one of the few to leave without a job. Eventually, InnovAccer and QCRI happened.
UW was the only admission that I had for MS and I was very skeptical of the MSIM degree. I was sure of two things that I wanted to work in ICTD, and I was not going to pay my tuition. After getting several rejections to work with Professors, few responded and luckily Kurtis came to UW and I got a chance to work with him. Even then, my application to become a Research Assistant got declined. One fine day, the persistence paid off and then the application was approved. And because of the RAship, Facebook happened. This glory was also short-lived as I could not convert it into a full-time thing!
I then decided to apply for PhD programs. I gave all I could to write my essays, but got rejections from all the places I applied to. The only option that was left was to look for jobs. I was skeptical since I wanted to work on emerging market problems, and there were not many companies working on them. I again got innumerable rejections, but on another fine day Grab happened. Theo, the CTO was my long-time LinkedIn acquaintance and was also at Facebook at the same time as myself. He liked my intern presentation and when he joined Grab, he decided to bring me aboard.
I thought that I had cracked the pattern for life. I sort of got obsessed with the notion of being resilient and trying to find solutions, until I got what I wanted. I felt that the end would justify the means eventually.
I have this analogy that relationships and career are not that different. You apply and if there’s a vacancy, you get a chance and if there isn’t, you find something else. The the outcome is not in your hands, no matter how good a fit you could be. I stumbled upon a situation, where the efforts would have no effect at all. But is being resilient the best way to go?
I think not. This birthday, the advice that I would like to give myself is that its okay to lose sometimes. Not all battles have to be won, if you are out there to win the war!