The brand new white Van Heusen shirt stared at me from the corner of my room. The black Allen Solly trouser that hung on the hangar was screaming for my attention. So was the cute tie that I had borrowed from Arul who stayed down the wing. Everything was set except for the most important thing. Me. I was still not sure whether I needed to join the bandwagon. It was the first day of the placement season and Wipro was the company on campus. After a lot of wrangling the CIC reps had managed to open Wipro up for Chemical. Everyone in my class had been gung-ho but the news had meant nothing to me. I was one of those “focused students” who had lived my 2 years in the department praying for that job in either ICI or Reliance. But then someone told me that Wipro’s first round was a written aptitude test. Wanting to test myself against the rest of the guys in my batch, I reluctantly dressed up and appeared for the test. 90 mts later I walked out with a satisfied smug – I knew I had aced it. Mission accomplished. Little did I realize then that it meant I had to appear for the interview.
The OCTAGON is a name that is very famous in Engineering Circles. For the uninitiated, it is RECTs computer centre boasting of one of the finest LANs amongst academic institutions. Though I had shifted to the hostel from my second year under the guise of needing to utilize the OCTA better, I hated computers so much that the only reasons I ever went to the OCTA were to drink water from the cooler, use the remarkably clean Johnny and of course, check PMAIL :-) Imagine my consternation when I was told that my interview was scheduled for around 3 pm at the OCTA.
Preparing myself for a horrible afternoon, I waited patiently outside the interview room whilst student after student went in and returned narrating horror stories of how technical the line of questioning had been. While the rest of my Chemical batchmates (we were 5 who got through) got jittery I was thrilled coz I didn’t see any reason now to botch up deliberately. I realized I just needed to be myself. Finally when my turn came, it was around 5:30 pm – Plainly irritated by the long wait and horribly hungry by now, I went in deciding to get on the offensive. They started off asking me personal questions to which I answered rather indifferently. It was when they got to the technical part that the fun began. They quizzed me on the computer courses that were part of Chemical Engineering - we had done nothing but obviously the CIC rep had lied so I fibbed that I had not chosen any of those electives. They asked me some stupid question in C to which I confessed that I didn’t have a clue to the answer. Then they tried another question which had me equally flabbergasted. I tried to explain that all I knew was BASIC and FORTRAN :-) The goons who had come were either deaf or plain dumb coz the next question was in C++. It was at that point that I gave up and sat back and enjoyed myself. 10 minutes later the interview ended and when they told me I had got 128 out of 140 in the apti (the second highest score on campus) I realized what a fool I had made of myself :-(
After that debacle on Day 1, I knew straight away software wasn’t my future. Gave Infosys, IBM, CTS, Newgen, NCR a miss. Three weeks flew by and most of the Computer Science and Electronics guys were placed and only software companies kept coming. I thought it was time to keep in touch with aptitude tests again and so Sonata Software was the next battlefield. Their aptitude test was a refreshing change – 50 questions in 8 minutes. The questions were very simple and it was just a question of speed and accuracy. I attempted 47 and could have got two more except that I got bored 7 minutes into the test. C’mon, finding the odd man out from Monday, Friday, Sunday, January and Saturday wasn’t exactly my idea of an intellectual challenge. Needless to say I made it to the interview shortlist. Not wanting to make an ass of myself, I got updated in the break on details of the company as revealed from their presentation. My interview started off with the usual “Tell me about yourself” crap – after a short and crisp soft selling I was asked a few trivia questions since I had mentioned quizzing as one of my hobbies. They interspersed these personal stuff with a polite question or two in between on software which I muffed as expected. Soon the discussion veered around to cricket and I got a little animated. The climax was when they asked me how much a cricket ball weighed. Eager to impress, I gave them an answer in the FPS system to emphasize that I was a stickler for tradition. They could barely suppress their smiles and the interview was over. Only when I came out did I realize that my answer translated to around 1.1 kg – they must have thought I used a shot put in cricket ;-)
A few more software companies came by and I gave them all a pass waiting for my dream technical companies. Things took a turn for the worse the day Reliance and ICI confirmed that they were not coming and that was when I could see Software plastered all over my forehead. Within hours of hearing the bad news, I decided to sit for MBT which was on campus that day. Their aptitude test was modeled on GMAT and they had a very tough verbal section. I did pretty well but for the first time I was not sure I would make it to the interview. The pressure was surely telling and I was a very relieved man when I saw my name on the shortlist. Unfortunately they had short listed almost 24 students and the interviews started at 7 pm. I was slotted for around 10 pm and was getting more and more nervous as people who had finished their interview had nothing but nice things to say about their performance. The panel took their dinner break at 10 pm and there were still a dozen people left. Soon it was 11 and then midnight and I was tired of waiting. We tried convincing them to hold interviews for the rest of the students the next morning but since they had a flight at 8 am they declined the offer. At 1:30 in the morning, the third last candidate came out furious because his interview had been a joke - the technical guy had fallen asleep and the HR lady kept asking the same questions. I was now scared and did not want to get in. We ordered for some hot coffee and sent it in. Twenty minutes later, at around 1:50 am I got in. Thankfully the two interviewers were wide awake – in fact, Juhi Srivastav the plump HR lady was smoking a Marlboro and even offered me one. I went in for the kill and gave what is undoubtedly my best interview till date. I explained in detail about all my extra-curriculars starting from my social service to my culturals to cricket. I also confessed upfront that my software skills were limited but that I was prepared to learn. The technical guy was a Mechanical Engineer turned software engineer and he was all sympathy for me. He asked me a few bare basic tech stuff and I got most of them. After a very satisfying 25 minutes, I walked out confident for the first time about the outcome of an interview. The results were to be declared the next morning and I had a fitful sleep more out of excitement than fear. While most of my batchmates sat for the MASCOT test the next morning, I was so cocky that I gave it a skip and awaited the results in the placement room. When I saw the final list and my name in it, strangely, I felt no excitement and went about pulling the rest of the guys who had made it out of the MASCOT test. After some quiet celebrations with my closest friends, I went home and broke the news a good half an hour after I got in :-) My folks could not believe that a company had actually hired me as a software engineer – There are times when I still think I am in the middle of a dream and will probably wake up with oil in my hands in a process plant at 11 pm in Hazira - I guess there is a thing called destiny after all :-)