How I got pretty darned good at speaking English

It was the final year at college. I was one of the few who had successfully stumbled through almost three years of Mathematics Honors — a graduation course that, I was told, had great scope.

I didn’t attend around 60% of the classes in three years. I was busy with friends, music, politics and my first ever serious relationship (that lasted way too long than it should have. Over 6 years, if you’d insist on knowing).

A little prelude — I had literally no idea what I wanted to do, and by that virtue, no idea on what discipline I must pursue for further studies, or to look for a job. I wanted to be a musician.

One of my professors in graduation used to tell me in front of the class, “If you can understand music, then understanding the theorems of Real Analysis should be a piece of cake”.

I don’t fully understand the connection between the ability to understand music and the ability to understand complex derivation of a boring problem you made up in the first place — But I believed it initially, which made me score a decent grade in first year, but that’s when popularity (through music), politics, and love hit — all at once. And I was bored.
That’s me performing at one of the events

Wait a minute. What has all this got to do with my prowess at spoken English? I have been a sucker for novels — mostly fiction — since I was 10. Add to that a strong interest in weird movies and a very fertile imagination, (I was always buried in books that had nothing to do with what they were teaching at school. In one phase of my life, I was actually known as “the scientist” purely because they had no clue what I was reading!).

Back to the third year of college — It was that time of the year when companies swooped in to choose the pick of their lot. I was picked up by Wipro BPO.

Since I was in my final year, and had no idea what to do with life, except maybe start doing gigs professionally (had a head start there), and the recruiter interviewing me asked me to try this out for 3 months — I went ahead with it.

Though I worked at Wipro BPO for only 3 months, that is where I got to talk in English the whole freaking day! I was ‘Brian from the Solution Centre’, who helped employees of one of the biggest banks in the United States deal with the technical issues they faced.

Me and my friends — lets call them Uday and Jaggi — got pretty good at it pretty fast. Since we hung out together all the time, we were put in different shifts by our supervisors.

I’m digressing again. Anyway, I got bored of it all pretty fast — the sheer mechanical way of handling issues, and the routine — Oh my god don’t get me started. I quit within 3 months.

But that got me really good at giving interviews. It allowed me to actually speak in English 24x7, and all that reading and watching movies and trying to sing English songs on tapes bought with hard earned (pocket) money— came together at the right time.

But most of all, it gave me a purpose, a solid direction that I could professionally take. It introduced me to the power of communication, and how with a little bit of creativity, one can affect opinions, mindsets, and outcomes.

It has been over 10 years since Wipro BPO and that interest in communication, coupled with an MBA in Marketing, and the unfortunate timing of the 2007–08 global financial crisis — helped me develop a passion and chops for Marketing that’s psychological, communication centric, measurable, and scalable.

I would have been a good psychologist. Or a crime scene investigator. Or a politician. I could have become anything.

But I am a Marketer (or is it Marketeer?). And I love it.

How did you learn a skill, or applied it to a (your?) greater good? How did you decide what direction to take in life, especially when you were young? Or did you choose to just go with the flow? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter / LinkedIn.