Or for the Tamil-phones, the best equivalent I can come up with is: ‘Core aa? Enna periya Core da?’.
You’ve finally made it. The dropped courses, night-outs, excruciatingly long fundae sessions, and the right amount of sucking up (shhh); they were all worth it. You have now ascended to the pinnacle of the institute’s organizational hierarchy, an epitome of dedication and hard work. You’re poised to lead your team into the future with a head full of ideas and a heart full of dreams. Your friends are proud of you; freshies look up to you, and corporates cannot wait to hire you. Sounds swell, doesn’t it?
Onto the truth.
In the beginning, there were 2
Picture a headless chicken running around in an open field. Done? That’s how coreship begins. My once bold ‘app’ ideas no longer excited me; my hastily done feasibility checks didn’t seem as robust anymore, and to make things worse, I was all alone with no team to execute my bold vision. Well, no one except for another headless chicken. My co-core.
There were 2 of us.
In all seriousness, those first few weeks were hard. For both of us. Together, we discussed, debated, deliberated, and whined. And boy, did we whine a lot. We grumbled about each other’s ideas, about the apping process, about our interviews, about other teams, about the delayed ACM (That’s where we brainwash freshies to join Shaastra:P), and a whole lot of other things that can only be classified as NSFW. But that’s also how we got tight. And take it from me, the greatest gift for any core is a supportive co-core.
When the going gets tough, you’ll need someone to have your back. And we’ve always had each other’s backs.
Building my chicken army
Make sure the people working for you are the kind of people you would want to work for
One of my ex-cores DM’ed me on insta with this pearl of wisdom. It turned out to be excellent advice. And strangely prophetic as well.
Even for a team as glamorous and sought after as ‘Spons’ (yes, I’d like to think so), recruiting is a pain in the backside. As a core, this is where you give up any semblance of self-respect and go knock on doors to hire people. Well, not quite, but recruiting does involve a lot of cajoling, convincing, and listening, the latter being paramount.
Short fundae sessions turn into long heart-to-hearts about life goals, dreams, and the purpose of life. In the process of recruiting, I’ve had freshies tell me about their ambition to make ‘Core’ and get that coveted McK shortlist. At the same time, I’ve also had sophies passionately argue that PoR’s are entirely worthless and that there’s a life beyond ‘peaks’. The truth, well, that’s probably somewhere in between, but who was I to judge the ruminations of the young.
The common thread and the secret to good recruiting is simple: Everyone wants to be heard. And that’s what I did to build a team from scratch. That and the occasional fiery speech at SAC to get the freshies on my side.
Weren’t the holidays supposed to be fun?
“Surya, you’re f*ckin depressing over call”,
read a text from my PR executive a few minutes after I’d finished an hour-long call with my team where I’d ranted and raved about their inefficiency and indecisiveness.
The text hurt me more than I thought it would. It caused me to spiral into self-doubt and yet another sleepless night. Had I gone overboard with my criticism, or was my team overreacting? My only intention had been to light a fire in their proverbial bellies but I seemed to have achieved the opposite. Ask any core you know, and they’ll narrate a similar incident. In many ways, this anecdote encapsulates what it means to be a core during the holidays.
As a core, you’re new to this leadership game. You’re inexperienced. You’re insecure. You’re indecisive. You’ll ring up ex-cores and beg for advice. You’ll continuously question yourself and your decisions. And if like me, you’re obsessed with the idea of being the ‘greatest core ever’, well, God save you.
Fortunately, the holidays (read: coords) did knock some sense into me. I began to see my coreship for what it was; not my Shaastra swansong, but the Shaastra debut of 18 others, not a position to engage in self-aggrandizement, but a platform to pave the way for the future, not an opportunity to create a legacy, but a chance to build lifelong memories.
This is something that every core goes through, the realization that the next few months aren’t about ‘you’, but about ‘them’. For me, this changed everything. I still cared about being ‘the best’, but I began to care more about my coords, about their lives, their growth, their ambitions, and their heartbreaks.
When I told my mom about this transition, she chuckled and said, “You make it sound as if they are your children.”
That they were. And still are.
Night-Outs, Revolts and everything in between
Manage people, invest your time in building relationships, deliver a few inspiring speeches, and hope against hope that it pays off.
There is no job description for a core, and till date, when people ask me what work I personally did, all I can do is give them a quizzical smile. What I do remember are the workweeks going by in a flash of mind maps, questionable timelines, convoluted ‘coord’ assignments, and hastily drawn attempts at structure. Oh, and insanely long meetings.
‘Death by meetings’ is a thing. Trust me.
As clichéd as it may sound, most of my memories of that semester have nothing to do with work. Instead, when I reminiscence about my coreship, and I do that a lot, all I think about are the times I spent chatting with my coords, laughing at their stupid jokes (:P), and sharing riveting life stories. Occasionally, we even ended up discussing the inherent meaninglessness of life and found ourselves in an existential crisis of our own making. These are my happiest recollections of coreship and quite possibly, my life in insti, and even today, nearly a month after Shaastra, these memories give me company on a gloomy day, brightening up my mercurial mood and making me pine for a chance to recreate them.
Unfortunately, coreship also comes with its fair share of trials and tribulations. Give a team a ludicrous goal and a ticking clock, and you’re bound to ruffle a few feathers. Add competing priorities such as assignments and quizzes, and you begin to hear dissent. Finally, throw in the ‘I want to have a life‘ card, and you’re all set for revolt. As a core in insti, you’re not going to escape rebellion. I would even go so far as to say that if you do, there’s something wrong with you and your team.
The worst thing a core can hear is ‘You don’t care about us enough,’ and somehow, that’s precisely what you’ll hear when your team is unhappy. It will sting. Believe me. After all those long nights, you’ll wonder why this is the thanks you’re getting and where you went wrong as a core.
On that gloomy note, some optimism for future cores: In the end, things will turn out alright. For you and your coords. All you need to do as a ‘core’ is care.
BLINK, and it’s over
True for coreship and this article. Sigh
Things did end up alright for ‘Spons’ and Shaastra. Shaastra 2020 turned out to be one of the most successful editions in recent memory, and speaking of ‘Spons’, if you got the ‘pun’ in the paragraph heading, I’m taking that as a win. The 4 days (and nights:P) of Shaastra and the week leading up to it deserves a whole another article and the only thing I’m gonna say here is that you’d do well not to miss reading it if it ever materializes.
As I lay in bed, after the 4th day of Shaastra 2020, sleepless, battered, and publicly humiliated (:P), alone with my thoughts and waiting for sleep to kick in, I truly appreciated, possibly for the first time, the wealth of my coreship experience. And it was at that moment that I decided to pen down my thoughts on the life of a core.
Coreship has been, hands-down, one of the greatest experiences in my life so far. There is absolutely nothing to compare it with. It is, in my humble opinion, the closest one can get to starting up and parenting at the same time, without actually taking either leap. Of course, many would disagree, but for me, the entire journey has been enriching and immensely fulfilling.
My coreship journey has not been without its challenges, but if I had to do it all over again, I would not change a thing. I would take the same path, complete with its bumps, potholes, and roadblocks, not because it is the best or the easiest path, but because it is the one that’s meant for me. And if you’re a future core reading this, craft your own path.
I’ll end this with a quote from the late Prof. Clayton Christensen.
“Many think of management as cutting deals and laying people off and hiring people and buying and selling companies. That’s not management, that’s deal making. Management is the opportunity to help people become better people. Practiced that way, it’s a magnificent profession.”