Through the Goggles of a Graduate: Hitesh Singla

Hitesh Singla pursued an M.S. Thermal Engineering Degree (2014-17) at IIT Madras. He currently holds the position of Mechanical Engineer Sr. I with Lam Research India Pvt. Limited.

IIT Madras: A Graduate’s School of Dreams

Before joining IIT Madras for my Master’s course, I was a mere tiny dot, almost non-existent with directionless thoughts and having the understanding of just two languages Hindi and Punjabi (my lingo) which could do no good to me outside my home, apparently. I was hopeless to get even a job, let alone a good package. IIT Madras changed my life in a holistic manner. I hail from the small town of Kotkapura and the most minuscule college (not in terms of size but in terms of credentials). I lost my 4 years in such randomness that it actually made me forget the name of my college (I swear!). My life was doomed.

You know, sometimes, when things are not moving at a desirable pace in your life and suddenly some day, you step out of your door, and a savior voice comes and convinces you to get some shit done, to be at the top of your game, which turns your career majestically, but you don’t actually remember later how that happened?  Beatifically, that’s what happened to me. Suddenly I got serious about my career and I cracked IIT Madras through GATE (though not a big deal when compared to JEE). But it was like the Taj Mahal for me, coming from a sub-par college, being stuck in a pothole and therefore, I didn’t have anything to lose but to learn and rise. IIT Madras was like a mother’s lap and I was rest assured it would provide me the requisite direction by brushing up my skills (though I had no skills at all).

During my first year, I endeavored to keep up with high grades as I always wanted a job with Rolls-Royce. As a part of its qualifying criteria (based on the limited placement knowledge I was having then), I was trying to keep my CGPA above 9 but I knew managing 4 subjects along with research work was going to be a herculean task and hence I failed. Eventually I hit 8.75 and dreams of getting into Rolls-Royce started fading. You want to know how IITians get into depression? This was just the beginning of it. To add more agony to it, you begin taking extracurricular activities alongside thinking that it will compensate for the lost grades. Ridiculous, ain’t it? The best thing about premier institutes is you get to meet smart people and I was lucky to have few of them as my friends. As a result, I was pushed for Hostel Social Secretary post (2014-2015), as the post was vacant (else who would have voted for me?) and I didn’t know the first thing about it. Could you believe, a guy knowing no English and coming from sub-par college, miraculously getting into IIT, was now going to convince 400 hostel inmates in the General Body Meeting in a few days’ time (though not everybody attended the GBMs to my respite)? Interesting but utterly unbelievable trajectory, really. The best part was nobody knew anything about my background and I think I did fairly good job for my post eventually (Did I not mention I had smart friends alongside?). Thanks to Harsh Shah and Arun Kumar.

Now a year passed as I didn’t do much in my 2nd semester except reading research papers and effortlessly trying to find an apt problem statement for my master’s degree which was the primary reason why I was in IIT Madras. Of course my term of social Secretary hadn’t ended as yet.

As I entered into my 3rd semester, I was more confident (used to wear IIT T-shirts while going home; swag?) and liked to believe quite highly of myself back then, though nobody else thought the same way (silly people!). By that time I had realised research is actually going to take a long time, so I decided to take more PORs to compensate for the lost grades. And fortunately being a part of IIT fraternity, you are also conceived as Indian Sherlocks by universities abroad who are always ready to shell out hundreds of scholarships for you to come and work over there as a part of internship or exchange program. Cool, right? Why not give it a shot? Who said I didn’t?

I joined as a coordinator in placement team (2015-2016) (yes placement now became my primary work, you know, because research takes a long time) and outside work I used to prepare my application and throw random emails to professors abroad by attaching my gaudy resume, trying to bait them. One of them fell for it, a professor from Australian National University (ANU) in my 4th semester. I was over the moon and I think I was having then the best time of my life. But just when you start thinking you are getting close to victory, a sudden gush of wind may take you so far away that you just lose everything in a moment. That’s why they say, there is always a thin line between not getting success and actually tasting it. I did not go to ANU even after the acceptance of my application as I had the choice between sitting for placements and going to Australia. It was made to look like a choice, though it was actually enforced decision (long story). That means no Australia, only research and placements. Amplification of 10 folds to the state of depression. But IIT Madras is a temple of opportunities. You lose one, you get ample more. That is the moment I realized success is a journey and not a destination. I became RSD (Sponsorship) Core (2016-2017), Media & Student Relations (Shaastra) core (2016-2017) and I joined the best club of IIT Madras – the Toastmasters Club IITM chapter (2016-2017). Joining this club was the second best decision I had taken in my life, after that of joining IIT Madras. This club had the best guys and we were home outside home. It still gives me goosebumps when I look back on my 3 years and think about Toastmasters. This club had the grammar zealot Sindhu Sekar, some of the best speakers I have met in my life Rini Sharon, Shara Rhagha Wardhan, Kush Tripathi, Sreekanth Damodara and some uninterrupted smiling faces; Kaustubh Khamkar was the highlight, then Bhaumik Shah, Sachin S and Rohit Salunke as laughing trios.

All of them were exceptional and very strong in their respective domains. My learning was exponential and I became a better human being after joining this club. I was no longer wearing IIT T-shirts while going home, as my alma mater reflected in my conversations (at least I was trying). Soon I won the Rising Star title in Division Conference, Toastmaster’s Club (thanks to Sachin S) and I also became Vice President (Public Relations) of the Toastmasters Club IITM chapter (2017).

5th sem started with placement hype and I was the Shaastra core. Getting to work with the best brains of insti was a blissful moment for me. It was truly a remarkable time. Shaastra taught me how to give your ideas life, what it is like to experiment with things and this edition was really “breaking conventions” then.

All of these PORs actually removed my fear of getting rejected in placements which were of meagre importance to me now as I knew that I could be the driver of my career, irrespective of the small failures along the way. Getting a job was not a big concern to me anymore, as the only thing that kept me worried was what I should do in my career. Though I ended up getting multiple offers during placements (none of them were Rolls-Royce) I realised one thing – never settle for less. If you do, then you are committing the biggest sin of your life.

IIT Madras gave me a lot, and I would like to thank everyone who enriched my life, during my stay here. They do not call it the institute of dreams for no reason. Everyone here has stories to tell and some may tell far better stories than me. This, however, is my story. I am really grateful to IIT Madras for teaching me everything, giving me wings to fly (yes I went to Japan and Sri Lanka, if not Australia) and truly making me understand the importance of a career. A career is actually not where it just goes but where you intend to take it. Today I wish to become a change that is desirable, doable and durable, and hope to make my alma mater proud someday.


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