25 April 2007

The road less traveled

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
...Robert Frost

For the better part of my academic years, I didn’t know what I would become. I have seen kids who say “I want to become an engineer” or a scientist at very early ages. But I really didn’t have a single clue about my future.

Many people thought that I will become a doctor because I had this pathetically illegible hand writing. (Some of the skeptics thought that I will become a conductor!). I had such bad hand writing that some times I myself could not read it. So during exams I used to read my colleagues notes!

Talking about the doctors - kids of doctor’s are the only ones in the world who know exactly what they will become! I have a feeling that, when they start talking, first words they utter would be - DOCTOR, not mom or dad like rest of the normal kids. Ask a doctor’s kid what he/she will become when he/she grows up, and the kid will instantly reply – Psychoanalyst!! Or some equally difficult word, which will make no sense at all to normal human beings. Enter a doctor’s house and what you see is a bunch of doctors! Father is a doctor, mother is a doctor, son, daughter, in laws, uncles, aunts everyone is a doctor!

Some how I didn’t have the aptitude to become a doctor, when ever asked about my future I used to say that I will become a priest!! This was a perfect answer, because no God fearing religious person can counter that! This continued till seventh standard.

Mine was the first batch of boys when I joined Little Flower for 8th standard. When I saw the COLOURFUL environment of Little Flower, first time in my whole life I realized, what I am going to miss, if I ever become a priest! After that I never thought of becoming a priest!

During those days, I used to rely on many memory techniques to mug the lessons. This created a lot of problems later, in my professional career, and I was forced to change my way of learning, new things. The fact is, understanding a thing is much easier than simply mugging it.

Let’s see the following example,
Assume yourself in a big play ground
There is a football in the center of it
Unless you kick it or powerful wind blows, the ball will not move.
Now you kick the ball with all your force
The ball will keep moving till it hits a wall or a tree
Once it hits the tree/wall it will either stop or change its direction.

If you are thinking what is so great about the example because it is plain common sense. I would like to remind you that, it is also Newton’s first law of motion or law of inertia! I didn’t know this simple thing during my schooling because I simply used to mug the lessons.

When the time came to select subjects for 11th standard, I had a choice between Commerce, Arts and Science. For me all the three were same, because I didn’t know the difference! I took science mostly because Rajesh Patrao took it. He and I had the same number of marks! Patrao is the one Kinnigolian (or x-Kinnigolian) who has always over shadowed me! I was always next to Patrao, If he is first then I would be second. If he is 10th position in a competition then I would be 11th. It is like Rahul Dravid over shadowed by Sachin Tendulkar. You know both are good, but if you need to select ONLY ONE, then you know who the one is!

When the time came to choose a branch for engineering I didn’t had a doubt this time. I had a fair idea about all the available branches which I could opt for, except ELECTRONICS! That’s precisely why I chose it. First day in the electronics class I realized that it is not my cup of tea and suddenly had a feeling that this is one thing I am going to regret my whole life.

Meanwhile engineering was more fun and less study and some times more number of years to complete the course! I was always hiding from the seniors because of ragging. I had this magnetic kind of attraction towards the seniors who rag juniors! I have the unique distinction in the history of ragging that of, being ragged by a junior! Those of the seniors who in normal conditions, would not kill an ant, have ragged me! One of the famous personalities who have ragged me is Joyer Noronha!!!(Yes! Our own guy-next-door Joy! Moderator of this site). If otherwise a mild harmless character like Joy should rag me, you can imagine how vulnerable I was for ragging.

In the class I was not able to understand anything taught by my lecturers. At the bottom of everything in electronics, there are SEMICONDUCTORS. If you understand what is a semiconductor, then you understand what is electronics, else nothing! It is as simple as that. Semiconductor is some thing between a conductor (like copper) and a non-conductor (like plastic). But there is something more, when given positive power they conduct and in negative they won’t. Still more - if you give a more negative voltage they suddenly become conductors, but at more positive voltage they will not become non conductive. Don’t try to make sense of it, I could not. The more you try to make sense of it the more you get confused. So I simply ignored them!

So imagine my surprise when I was asked by the instructor in the final year of engineering viva , What is a semi conductor?
I promptly said – “I don’t know sir!”
“Mr. Lobo, are you saying that you don’t know a single sentence about semiconductors, in spite of studying about them almost your entire engineering curriculum? “
“Yes Sir! “ I didn’t know what else to say.
There is a saying – Never argue with a fool, because people may not see the difference! I think my instructor knew this saying, because he didn’t argue with me! Instead he asked me simpler questions, somehow I could manage them. Finally before concluding he said
“Lobo, Can I give you a suggestion?”
“Yes, Sir?”
“Stay away from ELECTRONICS, don’t make a career out of it!”
“Sure sir, it’s an excellent suggestion sir!”
“Now get the H*** out of here, before I ………..”
I could not here the final words of the sentence because I ran out of the exam room with such a tremendous speed that can be equaled only by Asafa Powell or Justin Gatlin!

Subsequently I went to Mumbai and started working on legacy systems with outdated technology! I had a fear for new technologies, so didn’t try them for a long time. I was not doing very well on the older stuff, so trying new was out of the question.

One day one of the friends made me sit on a computer and showed me a piece a sample code. The technology was very new in the market. I was appalled by the simplicity of the code, because it was much easier than what I was doing.
“ Hey this is fun, I want more of this. I don’t even need a salary for this! I can do this thing for years.” It was like getting enlightened.
“Guess what?” my friend said ”You will get thrice the amount of money compared to what you get now, if you learn this thing”.

I joined a six months course and studied day and night. Even before completing the course, I got a job in a multinational with a salary slightly more than thrice, what I was getting. Rest is history…

Moral of the story
I am tired of the guys who want a MORAL in everything they read. These guys read hundreds of pages of essays, but if there is not a MORAL OF THE STORY section, they don’t give any credit. This section is for these kinds of guys. If you want the whole thing in a single sentence then it will be -
'Make your hobby your profession and you would not have to work for a single day!'
That’s it, in one simple sentence.

It becomes extremely difficult for me to suggest a future career path, when ever young guys ask me. Suggesting some thing without knowing them is risky! I don’t want to suggest “computers” to a future Henry Ford, who will become a mediocre programmer just because I suggested it. At one point of time individuals should realize what is good for them, rather than depending on others. I know there are many people who just finished education or just need to select a career path. You guys are at a junction. I can only say what Robert Frost said long time back- Take the road less traveled……

Note: You can give the feedback of the article at, http://www.kinnigoli.com/message_board/viewtopic.php?t=111

And while you are at it, have a look at the message board. Lot of brainstorming is happening there. I am learning a lot of new things everyday from youngsters on the message board. May be you can find your gems too.

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