Career Series – Chinmay Deo: ITC & Avanti Fellows

As a part of our on-going Career Series, we are covering the experiences of several recent alumni who joined various companies and universities after their stay at IIT Bombay. If you are interested in contributing a piece, please feel free to get in touch with us.

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Chinmay Deo
“To start off, I’d just like to say it is very hard to answer these questions without mentioning the same “ghise-pite fundae” you may already have heard before. I have tried my best to avoid them, but when you spot them – sorry yaar.
Anyways, here’s my background i.e. answer to “Kaun ho aap? Aapka scene kya hai?”
I studied in IIT Bombay from 2008-13, and was a Mech Dual Degree student from Hostel 8. I did two internships, one at Tata Motors (“core”) and another one at UC Berkeley (“foreign intern”). I wanted to do a PhD and decided to take a dual degree project that would enable me to gain admission to a top university. I willingly took up a very demanding DDP because my motive was to do good quality research.”

What options did you have in hand? And why did you choose to take up a job?
I basically had two options – either go for a PhD (which I was inclined to) or take up a job. I did not want to get into an MBA program right after college for two reasons:
1) I did not see the purpose of sitting in classes about business without some business experience
2) I saw the MBA as a great way to switch jobs/roles/sectors

This is why, to me, it made more sense to do it after I had explored at least one job.

My area of research, if I took up a PhD, would restrict me to a narrow field, and I was not ready to settle for that

I would not say I decided to take a job because I did not enjoy my DDP. It was a great experience and, like most good experiences, it was frustrating and fun in equal measures. My main problem was that I could not commit myself to doing the same thing for five years (ghisa pita funda #1). This feeling was compounded when I realized the fact that my area of research, if I took up a PhD, would restrict me to a narrow field, and I was not ready to settle for that.

Why specifically ITC? Was the profile different from what you had anticipated?
In the placement process, decisions on which company to join are motivated primarily by one thing – what people around you say about the company. I applied for, and aspired to join ITC because everybody else said that it was a great company to work for. I can try to justify it by adding that I wanted to do a “techno-managerial role” but that is far from the point. The company, through it’s PPT, through the people working there, and through its reputation on campus, convinced me that it would be a good opportunity for me.

In the placement process, decisions on which company to join are motivated primarily by one thing – what people around you say about the company.

Having worked at ITC, I truly do believe ITC is a company that does great work. I learnt how large organizations work. The profile was quite similar to what was “advertised” in the PPT. The problem was that I never really knew what job I wanted after ruling out doing a PhD. I could convince myself that this job would be most suited for me because I had little direction. What I learnt from this is – when people are misguided/have little purpose, they are malleable and tend to make bad decisions.

When people are misguided or have little purpose, they are malleable and tend to make bad decisions.

It is easy to brainwash yourself into believing that job X is what your entire life has been leading to, when you have no clue what to do.

Why did you make the switch to Avanti? Is there anything that you are missing out on at Avanti?
After spending a few months in ITC, I realized that as diverse as the roles on offer were, I did not see myself doing any of them. There was also the fact that I was not seeing direct impact of the work I was doing everyday (ghisa pita funda #2).

I sat down in a small, damp room with one chair, one table, and one flickering yellow bulb so I could introspect. This was the hardest part. I started writing everything I thought I was good at, and I realized two things about myself –
1.) I liked directly helping people and seeing them change because of my actions
2.) I like doing things which are unconventional

I sat down in a small, damp room with one chair, one table, and one flickering yellow bulb so I could introspect. This was the hardest part.

These might sound obvious to you. But to me, realizing that these were a part of my personality and that everything I do should relate to these two things (preferences) was crucial. Like most people at IIT Bombay, I have been aware of Avanti since it was launched. I switched to Avanti for 3 reasons –
1.) I could see that Avanti was an organization that had the idea of helping people at the core of it’s mission
2.) I was really impressed to learn that there was an organization tackling the biggest barrier to social mobility i.e. providing low income students access to high quality education. The reason I mention this is because most of us are aware that IIT campuses are dominated by students from middle or upper middle class families. Almost everybody has this tingling feeling in their heart that they want to do something for society. Here was a social problem that I had seen first hand, so it made sense to be associated with solving it.
3.) The team was kickass!

Almost everybody has this tingling feeling in their heart that they want to do something for society. Here was a social problem that I had seen first hand, so it made sense to be associated with solving it.

Once this was in place, I was convinced that this switch was right for me. Was it possible that I was falling into the same trap of brainwashing myself like the last time?
Having spent some time at Avanti, I can happily say that I am enjoying my work and it has exceeded all my expectations. I feel challenged everyday, both by my teammates and our students. I feel a strong connection to the vision of the organization. I like the fact that we are working on a model that has the potential to change the face of education in India. It feels good to know that through everything Avanti does, we are impacting the lives of students who did not have access to something similar in quality. I like inspiring and motivating students everyday – it is what keeps me going.

There are differences between working at ITC and Avanti. The scale of operations, the nature of the work, the work culture and the skills needed are completely different. I do miss eating freshly baked chocolate biscuits from manufacturing lines though!

Any specific advice that you have for junta sitting for placements?

When making an unconventional career choice (like I did) – the most important step is to make the leap of faith and trust yourself

1.) Be harsh and truthful with yourself about your abilities, and what you can achieve – be realistic
2.) You are, most likely, not going to stick to or enjoy your first job – accept it
3.) Making mistakes in your career choices is part of the process of learning about yourself. No matter how many people come and blast you with gyaan, no matter who they are, you will only truly learn when you make mistakes yourself.
4.) Do not take a job for the money, unless you are facing financial difficulties. It feels great when a truckload of money hits your bank account at the end of the month – it would be silly to deny that. This feeling will last for about 3 months. Each salary after that starts raising serious questions.
5.) Age 22-26 is the time to learn & do what you love (ghisa pita funda #3)
6.) When making an unconventional career choice (like I did) – the most important step is to make the leap of faith and trust yourself
7.) Bonus Tip: Have access to a small, damp room with one chair, one table, and one flickering yellow bulb

Hindustan Unilever Limited, Reckitt Benckiser, Proctor & Gamble and several other FMCGs (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) recruit students from IIT Bombay regularly. Keep following Insight for more interviews by alumni in the FMCG sector and otherwise.