Don’t fit in

I am from India. This sentence might have instantly projected several stereotypes in your mind. I am certainly not denying the fact that those circumstances still exist in Indian Society but, I am really thankful that I was raised by a family which constantly encourages me to build a career. But overcoming these drawbacks isn’t enough. There was a whole new internal battle that I had to fight. I am currently in the pre-final year of my bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and this is my story about how I overcame my misconceptions about the need to ‘fit in’.

On my first day of college , I was really surprised to see way more female students than I expected(obviously still incomparable to the strength of guys). The first thing that struck my mind was, if there are so many girls studying engineering then were do they go after graduation? Obviously I got my answer when I finished my sophomore year, when majority of my female classmates were thinking about either getting placed in a non-core company or preparing for CAT (entrance examination for MBA). To be fair, there was a good strength of guys too who have the same plan, but then again their total strength was incomparable. I, however, plan to stick to my core.

In the third year, our curriculum mandates us to undergo an internship program of an entire 6th semester. I got through several rounds of selection and am currently interning at a multinational FMCG company, Johnson & Johnson Pvt. Ltd. The first day of the internship basically was just me trying to spot girls throughout the plant. Sadly, I only found 5 (smh). Also, they belong to every other department (HR/ documentation/ finance/ quality), but engineering. I was initially uncomfortable but sensitive and cooperating employees of the company didn’t let this feeling last for long.

In first two months, I forced my thinking to change in accordance to what the current flow of procedure demanded. I was not able to give any productive input. This is when these thoughts began to raid my mind that maybe this is why they don’t have any female employees in this department. Maybe, I don’t fit here. Maybe I am making a wrong decision.

But all my misconceptions were pleasantly shattered when a senior addressed us on the occasion of International Women’s Day, about how the industries are craving to be seen from a woman’s perspective. It was a moment of epiphany that I had been doing it all wrong. I was thrashing my brain to work just like the existing employees, which did nothing but projecting towards a dead end of thought process. About one thing I was certain — I am not supposed to fit in.

I am now beginning to let my thought process flow the way I am wired, the way they crave. Its been 3 weeks since and I’m happy with my, still little but, effective contribution. The journey continues.

I believe that this internal battle was not about women or engineering or even gender diversity, it’s about celebrating your uniqueness because how can you stand out if you are trying so hard to fit in?