Career Series – Raunak Bardia: Barclays, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Starting today, Insight as part of its Career Series will be 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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Chief Editors: Anshul Avasthi, Chirag Chadha


Author’s Note – “Don’t read the article till half-point, else what you perceive might not be the take-away I wish to convey.”

It’s that time of the year again when laptops are not merely used for watching movies but also for searching out the universities and their graduate school programs and when libraries are not only occupied to study for exams but to prepare for those interviews and aptitude tests. All of us witness a radical shift in the mannerism and behavior of the final year students when they take on their game face. Having survived that phase of trials and failures, Insight has asked me to share my thoughts with you. Let me briefly tell you the path I have tread after IIT. I worked at Barclays Bank, Mumbai for a year and during that time I realized that corporate culture was not really my cup of tea. I applied for MS in Mechanical Engineering and landed into a program at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Now that I think of it, nothing mattered more to me than just getting a job at that time.

After that concise version, let’s blow it up a little. I will go into flashback and I am sure most of the final year students will relate to it quite well. Just before the dreaded placements I had absolutely no clarity about my future. This is the most frustrating and tense time for a student when he/she has no clue where they will end up six months down the line. At one point of time, I was sure that I wanted to go for further studies but when I sat down to write my Statement of Purpose it really didn’t glow a light bulb over my head. This was a turning point as I realized that I didn’t know why I wanted to commit myself to engineering. Then there were the placements which lure you with an overwhelming variety of possibilities. After this thought took seed in my mind, we can fast-forward to, me standing outside Hostel-4 (That’s where interviews used to be till ‘12) in the spick and span formal attire. For someone, who wanted to go for further studies a month back it really didn’t matter which company he landed. Now that I think of it, nothing mattered more to me than just getting a job at that time. My interviews went well with Barclays and I was a relieved man at last. That sense of not-knowing passed away and I was unaware of the abyss of questions that were going to come in the very near future. Let me put a disclaimer here, I had no prior knowledge of Finance and they recruited me solely on the basis that they wanted to train me as per their requirements.

The Barclays Experience

In July 2013, in a room full of fresh recruits I was introduced to a crazy world called “Finance”. We were taken on a roller-coaster ride by a Markets Analyst Veteran named Raghu. It was a mind-boggling experience to know how the banks made money out of anything and everything. I was both amazed and surprised at how little my knowledge was of the “money world”. The honeymoon period of induction paved way to a desk with a relatively small and awesome team. My seniors within the team kept a lively environment and tried their best to get good projects for us. Moreover, their knowledge about the work and markets was quite good. This helped me get up to speed with this field quickly. For those who understand a bit about Finance, I worked as a part of the Risk analysis team for the Derivatives products in the Prime Brokerage Division. In layman terms, our team was responsible to report the risk parameters of the existing trades with the bank as a broker. The occasional projects involved improving the reporting systems or developing better/new interface between the trading desk and our team.

I missed the kind of work I did in my BTP or during my internship. Those were self-driven initiatives whose end results I was able to see and assess.

Gradually, I realized that my work was a little too straightforward and slow. I had little say in what I did and the tangibility of my work’s outcome was nowhere to be observed. It was a feeling I shared with my fellow team members, friends in other banks and different sectors. In the horde of trying to get a job I forgot that I had to get my priorities straight before I start anything. My priority was not money because I barely spent what I earned except on the necessary utilities. It is a fair priority to have but personally I wanted a little more physical world reality to my work. I missed the kind of work I did in my BTP or during my internship. Those were self-driven initiatives whose end results I was able to see and assess.

It would be a good to mention that alongside my 60hrs/week job at Barclays, I was working on my BTP paper and followed it with another small project at IIT. I point this out because I want to emphasize that decisions cannot be made in the blink of an eye. I wanted to be sure that my motivation level exceeded the stress of the workload I was putting myself through.

There are a few points that I would like to make here –
1. I joined this job to understand the corporate culture. I studied it not just from a fresh graduate’s perspective but from the perspective of my boss’s in New York and my lead in India. I couldn’t picture myself in any of those roles and hence, I decided to quit. Jobs are not always boring and repetitive. You need to find something pertinent to your interests and capabilities
2. Pursuing further studies is not the only option out of a job. It is a one-time chip which you should cash out wisely. I wanted to pursue further studies even before and this job made me see things a lot more clearly. My Statement of Purpose came flowing out on the paper this time which was based on just one fact – “knowing what we want to gain out of another professional degree is more important than falling into another rut of getting into the “best” institute”
3. I never once regretted taking this job. It was an amazing experience that gave me a bird’s eye view of a lot of things we are oblivious to when we are studying in IIT.

In Hindsight –

Looking back, there is one thing I could have done better. I could have thought about my priorities and then looked for a job that suited my interests. Most of the senior year students have no clue about their interests but that is not true. I was interested in Mechanical Engineering but ended up taking a job in a bank. Had I not fallen prey to the “get the best possible job” mania I could have looked for a job in the R&D departments of other companies that don’t come for placements and I am sure I would have enjoyed that work a lot more. Signing all the JAF’s is not an answer to your job woes.

Do not think at any point that placements or grad school applications made in the final year are a final verdict on your future.

One last thing I would like to add here that I learned out of my job. It is OK to be uncertain about our career till the time you are actually doing something to get over that uncertainty. Most of us who join the workforce are on the younger side of it. We have a lot to learn and several decisions to make. Do not think at any point that placements or grad school applications made in the final year are a final verdict on your future. The day we start taking these events as a step into our own future and not as a platform to prove yourself to others, is the day you will be able to step ahead confidently.