A degree in Life with a minor in Computer Engineering!

Here’s my honest attempt at revisiting my fantastic journey at PVG’s COET. Like most of you all, I came to the college, getting to know from the rickshawala that it’s not PVG’s COET, but Muktangan. On my first day at college, I hardly knew anyone and was confused because, “Arey bhai, ye college to chalu hote hi khatam ho gaya?”

Fast forward to the exciting times, I signed up for the Entrepreneurship Development Cell and took on the responsibility of revamping the website that hadn’t been updated for ages. At our college, taking up responsibilities is what opens up the doors to a lot more. I did an amazing job and was praised by the higher authorities too. Having gained a reputation for building an excellent website for EDC, the ACES committee approached me even before the interviews. See, one door opens another.

I feel sad not being able to comprehend all of my journey at ACES – from having a heated argument with my Team Head when I was still in S.E. to being the General Secretary of this prestigious organization. But it was what made my college life beautiful and exciting. These activities enhanced my classroom experience and allowed me to learn different skills and build relationships that further helped me grow and advance my goals.

It is crucial to find a mentor to guide you through the journey ahead. I was fortunate to find mine in a fantastic senior, Samay Raina. I met him as an opponent at a debate competition’s finale, where undoubtedly, he rendered me speechless. He further introduced me to people who have played an essential role in grooming me for my professional life. Mentors can offer valuable insight into what it takes to get ahead. They can be your guide and “sounding board” for ideas, helping you decide on the best course of action in difficult situations.

I tried my hands at the VLabs too. I was a student of the first cohort of the VLabs program at our college. For me, VLabs has been the best networking opportunity. I met the finest minds of our college here. But I chose to drop out because of some reasons. At some point, you’d experience that life isn’t always fair. It’s always a tough tradeoff deciding if something’s worth fighting for or giving up. Having experienced this always makes you stronger.

Towards the end of my T.E., I yearned to do something that would leave my mark in college. I gave my shot at getting our college’s first TEDx license and successfully got it on the first attempt. The feeling of accomplishment it gave me is unparalleled. There was finally something that I had contributed back to the amazing time I had here. TEDx honed my management and leadership skills to a great extent. All these bits and pieces have shaped me into what I am today.

I started looking out for internships right from my first year at college. My first stint was a Business Development Internship at an Interior designing startup. My first responsibility was tele-calling. Insignificant, right? But this turned around to be something that changed me for the rest of my career. This was the sole reason I gained confidence in my verbal ability and, importantly, my English speaking skills.

Meanwhile, having gained some confidence in web development, I asked my manager if I could help with any technical chores. He allowed me to start working with SEO and digital marketing for the startup. One opportunity always leads to another. My next internship was a web development internship at a career consulting agency, Collegepond. Moving ahead, I took up an app development internship at a local business.

Life gave me lemons too. I had to miss out on Schlumberger’s internship because I had to attend the Smart India Hackathon Finale at Jaipur on those exact dates. The agony of not being able to intern at an MNC bugged me to such an extent that I ended up cold-emailing to 50+ companies one day, asking for internship opportunities. After the first semester of BE, I got my big break, a winter internship at Mercedes Benz.

I am ever grateful to my comrade, Soham, who asked me to the WCE National Hackathon. We won the 2nd Runners Up at our first-ever hackathon and have never looked back. We participated in a lot more competitions, winning various accolades. I had an experience of my lifetime leading my team to victory at the Smart India Hackathon 2019, bringing back to college a legacy to be carried on.

Not to leave the other side of life unexplored, I tried my hands at entrepreneurship. I and some peers from another college formulated a Business Plan and presented it at a national-level startup competition. We won the first rank and a cash prize of Rs. 3,00,000/-. Amazing, right? NO. It confused me more about what I wanted to do with my life. Being good at technology and management is the best thing that can happen to any engineer, but it’s also a curse for a certain period. It confuses you to the extent that you no longer understand if taking up engineering was the right choice in the first place.

I was sure that I wouldn’t be pursuing my masters’ studies in India and hence gave my GRE. For all those planning, T.E. Semester 2 is the perfect time to plan and take your GRE. I got a decent score of 320, though not enough to get into my dream colleges. I’d be retaking my GRE this March. I tried my hands at the CAT exam too. This would be hard to believe, but without studying a single day for it, I scored a decent 96.46%ile. I have got interview calls from a few IIMs, but I plan to give it a second shot with complete preparation this year. I had never considered pursuing an MBA in India yet, but now I do.

Post my college life, I started as a trainee analyst at Principal Global Services. Life has been comfortable there — the best work-life balance compared to most other companies visiting our college.

But, here comes the exciting part. Even after having a well-paying job, I was passionate about exploring what was out there. Product Management had been buzzing in my mind for a while now, and I kept my eye open for opportunities on LinkedIn. I came across an internship opportunity at a Silicon Valley startup and tried applying. The shift timings were almost similar to US timings. My recruiter told me that I would have to stay up till 1 AM sometimes. Convincing myself to get out of my comfort zones, I went ahead, applied and got selected for the internship.

Fast forward to today, the Founder was happy with my work, and the startup has offered me full-time employment with an unprecedented hike over my current salary. My compensation now, including the ESOPs, would probably be the best anyone from our college’s got in recent years. All because I took that leap of getting out of my comfort zone. I now work as a Product Manager at a US-based startup in the InsurTech domain.

Life is also about taking leaps of faith. I took mine, switching from a Fortune 250 to an early-stage startup. You could take yours by asking your crush out. Just kidding. Am I?

Having said all this, I am still confused about my future like most of you. I am still unsure if I want to pursue my master’s abroad or my MBA in India or settle down with my well-paying job. It is entirely natural to be at this point in life. Trust me, if you are confused, you’re here and alive! Things are always fuzzy to an end till they aren’t anymore. That’s life.

Here’re some tips that’d helped me get through my college life:

Be proficient at Googling. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Most of the time, your problem has been solved before.
Be an entrepreneur. After graduation, you aren’t writing sorting algorithms anymore; you’re writing products. If companies solely cared about how fast their products run, they’d all be written in Assembly!
Create a personal project — and complete it! You have to stand out to your interviewers. You have to offer some experience that nobody else can offer.
Completing your undergraduate studies in Computer Engineering does not mean you have to be a Software Engineer. There are a lot of positions out there that require extensive technical knowledge but not coding. Think out of the box, and participate in clubs and organizations on campus. Talk to people and be curious! Another essential piece of advice is to ask a lot of questions.

Abhishek Shah

Abhishek Shah

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