2017 — A Self Reflection

2017 was a great ride!

I celebrated my last new year at Jagriti Yatra. The Yatra itself was a pretty good experience. It gave me a lot of time to reflect upon my past, my mistakes, my values and what it is that I really would like to do.

That is when I had decided to spend more time in my college as my last few days had arrived. This was a time when even spotting me in the class was sparse. I decided to go to class more often, involve in my final year project, catchup with friends and just be there more often.

I had a great time enjoying the last few days in my college. I certainly do not regret doing this.

All those jolly good days came to an end as placements started coming in and my parents wanted me to attend them. None of the companies recruiting picked my interest. I decided not to attend any placements. Many people tried to convince me otherwise but my decision stemmed from the thought that there would be undue pressure to push me to pursue the job I did not enjoy if I had one. In a way, I was also pushing myself to look for other opportunities that excited me.

That was a time when I started exploring more opportunities on Linkedin and applied to the Young India Fellowship.

I got through the first few rounds for the fellowship and had an interview scheduled for sometime soon.

This is when Sijo and I met. Rethink had just gotten incorporated and he discussed the idea of joining the team and leading a project of my own. For some reason, I knew instantly that this is something I’m going to do and did not need a lot of time introspecting. I cancelled my interview with YIF and hopped onboard!

I don’t exactly remember how I got my parents onboard. But they seemed okay with the idea. For their comfort, I had mentioned that I would also be preparing for my GMAT and would pursue an MBA soon enough. This bought me some time to start working and convince them that what I’m doing is a real job!

I moved to Cochin and struggled with finding a decent place to live. I moved to 3 places and finally decided to pick up my own apartment and move in alone. Baby steps to being independent! Since I’m a people person, I struggled a bit initially. I’m slowly getting used to it and also enjoying it to some extent ;)

Coming to what I am doing currently — I lead the Opportunity Project at Rethink. This is a focussed project to help students and youngsters in our state learn more about the opportunities they have and apply towards these. I absolutely bought this idea because I’m myself a beneficiary of many such scholarships and opportunities.

During the first month at work, I had to get the girls from Kerala apply towards the GHCI scholarship. We reached close to 1700 girls and around 250 of them finally applied. We have 42 scholars from Kerala this year and we make up 21% of the scholars. Not bad at all! :)

Now, Sijo keeps saying that GHCI was a breeze, that we did not have to do a lot but to me, this being one of the first instances of unconventional execution at scale, was scary and tedious. I’d be in control of the entire execution one day and the next, I’d be lost. Navigating through all of this while having moved to a new city was quite challenging for me personally and I had to pull myself up every now and then to keep going.

But soon, I got the hang of things. We then did an outreach effort for the Adobe WIT scholarship. Their results aren’t out yet. So I’m hoping we have few scholars from the state!

Meanwhile, we heard about Felix getting the Google Venkat Scholarship and I still remember the disbelief and surprise the news gave me. When he was pestering us to review his application for the umpteenth time, I had not expected him to get through, TBH. But super happy that he finally did and that he finally went to the valley :)

I also got to assist Sijo in conducting the Women Entrepreneurship Quest, which is ABI’s flagship contest for women entrepreneurs. That again was a different yet delightful experience.

We explored doing Facebook lives with previous winners as a means of sharing information about the opportunities they have bagged and it appears to work quite well. We also started with an email project to fix the email culture in our campuses and it was going great until the students had exams come in. This project is definitely something that we might pursue but probably not as a focussed one.

The emails I get every now and then from students across the state thanking us for the work we do keeps me going. There was something my sister told my mother to help her understand the impact of our work — “When Arya got the WeTech Scholarship, do you remember how happy you were? There are 42 GHCI scholars form Kerala this year. 42 homes will be brimming with happiness today and Arya had a role to play in it.”

I had never thought about my work this way :) Thanks to her.

I did have a personal goal of starting to read more books. I finished 4 non-fiction books in the last 6 months which itself is quite an achievement for me! To those curious — the books were The difference, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, The ONE thing and Permission Marketing. Good reads, all four.

Now it does seem like 2017 was a year of highs but to balance it all out, I was down with sickness during November and half of December. Nothing serious, it turns out but was quite a time to pull through.

December brought in some good news.

After school, I wanted to pursue Physics and be a scientist. But I had not put in even 1% of effort towards my aspiration and ended up pursuing engineering. Electronics and communication that too! I remember hating everything to do with electricity in my class 12. I did not write the IISER entrance exam and had quite neatly screwed up my JEE exam as well. I had attended an interview at IIST in 2012 and gotten rejected.

On our way back from the interview I remember being sad and my father telling me, “Arya, I will not console you today. If you did not get through, that is because you did not even try. There is no point being sad if you did not even attempt to put in effort”.

That somehow stuck with me throughout and when I joined college, my ambition was to get into IIMA for my MBA. In my first year I googled for the UG grade requirements to get into IIMA and I learned that candidates with 80% or more in UG would have a higher weightage while selection. That’s when I decided that I will be targeting for 85% so that it is a safe margin.

This time, I really did try. I was adamant to prove to myself that I have it in me to excel beyond the ordinary. Despite all my extra-curricular activities, I put in diligent effort towards getting a good score in my exams. Partly because good scores convinced my parents to let me do more of the extra-curricular activities. I could always tell my mother, “Amma, I’m doing this not at the expense of my studies. I had good marks and you can see that for yourself”.

Last day I went to my university and learned that I’ve graduated Engineering securing a First class with honours. It’s 8.44/10. 84% that is. I’m quite proud of myself :)

I’ve finally started working towards my long term goal of getting to Stanford GSB for MBA with the Reliance Dhirubhai Ambani Scholarship. This scares me out. When I imagine me getting into Stanford, it seems quite impossible. But as I start with researching and putting in effort, I can slowly visualise it all happening.

In 2018, I definitely have to work on my health. The one and half months of downtime was more than enough to put a brake on my wonderful happening life and I quickly learned that nothing is going to happen without me being fit and able to make them happen.

Focussing on one thing and putting in consistent effort towards it is not something I’m used to. I’m usually all over the place. But I’ve realised that excellent results come when you put in consistent, focussed effort towards one thing at a time. So this is where I’d like to get. I’d be seen putting in lot more effort towards my long term goal, the hows of which should develop over time.

By then end of next year, I wish to successfully add independent to my list of attributes. A short hairdo was to tell myself every time I look in the mirror that I can be strong and independent. That I’m enough for myself.

In summary, 2017 was amazing! Some baking, some travelling, some reading, some writing, some doodling, some good work and a lot of great memories to take back.

Thanks to everyone who was a part of 2017. Thanks for making it a great one for me :)

I hope 2018 brings in lot more fun, learning and happiness, not just to me but also each and every one of you.

Happy new year!