Monday, September 17, 2012

Need for critical judgement

We see something and we get carried away and then realise that the thing is not the same thing that we initially thought it to be. I have had this experience several times. I see a dress and get so carried away that I think that I HAVE to buy it. I buy it. I wear it and then find that, it was not that great after all. Then was it my imagination that the dress was good? Or may be I just didnt know that the color wouldnt suit me. We look at some food material and think that it must be tasty and take a lot of it. We then find that the food is not tasty at all and we should not have got carried away. How many times have we not experienced something similar to this?

So, how do we fix this? We should use our judgement always. We should always be completely aware of what we are doing.

We are very fond of one more habit. Taking opinions about something or someone. We always need opinions. We are scared to try it out on our own and experiment it. For eg., it happened to me when I was deciding to leave Intel and join for Ph.D at IITB. And this happened to me, when I had already got an admit, and had just about enough time to resign. The fear of the unknown. Should I need to do a Ph.D? Is leaving Intel the right decision? Is going away from home worth it? Do I need this change now? Where am I heading?
So, ideally I should have thought about all this before applying for the institute. But I thought, "let me try it. If I get an admit, I will decide later." Then when it came to the time when I had to make a decision, I started talking to people. The first person I talked to, said- "Ph.D? Why?Do you want to become an academician? Do you know what you will do with it? If not, you should not go. Leaving Intel and going? Who will leave Intel? This IS the place to be. You can always do research here if you are motivated. Why do you have to quit? You get a good pay. You stay at home. What makes you think that you should leave all this?"

I had about few days to put down my papers, to meet the required notice period. Considering the above advice, it made me think a lot of things. I tried to answer each of those questions to myself. And I couldnt convince myself. I tried to see if there is some way in which I can get the best of all worlds- that is- to stay at Intel, to do a PhD, and to be at my hometown. First step, I spoke to my manager if there is some way in which I can pursue this while staying at Intel., that is, if they can give me a leave of absence for an year to complete my coursework and then I would do the Ph.D part-time. My manager and his boss asked me - "Why should I do this favor to you? You might be extraordinary, but if I do this to you, others will also ask me. You better leave. And you are always welcome if you want to rejoin. I have done favors to your colleagues earlier. They all took the favor, ditched us and left. What is the guarantee that you will not do the same?"

I was stunned at the way in which these people spoke. I thought, "He is asking me to leave. I will not leave. I will speak to higher authorities." Meanwhile, time was running out. So, I requested for a deferral in my admission, by a semester, so that I could take a decision in the meantime.

I went upto the level of the Intel India President. There are these extended education support programs, and they never work beyond the paper on which the guidelines are written. So, I spoke to him if this can be supported. He suggested that I speak to different teams who are willing to take me in and sponsor my leave and Ph.D as well. Like an idiot, I spoke to a few team managers. They asked me what area I was going to work on. I had no idea at that time. In fact, even after 1.5 years after coming to IITB, I still have no idea!! They took my interview.. and I had no clue what they were talking. They said that it doesnt make sense for them to increase a headcount and send her on leave. So, they suggested that I quit and then come back after a year if I wish.

I spoke to atleast 10 managers and got the same response. I was fed up. It was about 4 months of discussion and thinking by now. Every day, I used to discuss at home, on what direction I need to take and what makes sense. I used to discuss in the bus on the way back home. I probably spoke to 50 people within Intel, out of which only 2 people suggested strongly that I SHOULD quit Intel and go at any cost.
I said that I am not finding strong reasons to quit Intel. They said that they can help me with that!! :-)

Out of the 50 discussions, some are worth quoting. One of them was an IITB graduate several years ago. He took an interview and asked me some basics about capacitors, transistors etc.,. I couldnt answer convincingly. Of course, if you are at Intel for about 5 years, you would have lost all confidence in yourself, that you wouldnt even know how a MOSFET works. So, he gave his verdict- "See, you dont even know the basics. What Ph.D will you do? If you leave Intel now, are you confident that you can get a job here again after you are done? No.(he had decided it for me). So, why do you leave? My guide also calls me and asks me to join for Ph.D. I am also from IITB. But I am happy here, making lots of money. I like circuit design and I have published lots of papers, which I will do if I join for Ph.D too. But with the stipend they pay, I cant look after my family and kids. So, why should I suffer there? I like teaching and for that, I dont have to quit Intel. I take evening courses on basics here at Intel. You can attend my classes and strengthen your basics. Dont leave Intel. Ultimately your Ph.D guide will also look at you like a resource, who will work for him. It is similar to industry in that sense. So, whats the fun?"

Many views were similar to this. But there was one guy who said- "Part-time may not be a good option unless you have no other way. We have financial and family committments. So, we do part-time. If you have no such committments, you should do it full-time. But again, it is my opinion. You should do what you feel like doing". This was the only person who gave me this advice.

Then, I finally met one manager in analog design team who was ready to hire me and send me on a leave. He was leaving to the US. So, he was in a hurry and left. The next day, I was supposed to mail him my decision. I came home. I slept in the evening and woke up after a while. I thought, enough is enough. I will quit. The next day, I spoke to the big boss asking him when would he relieve me. He said- "You can go tomorrow itself, if you want". I thought, I should have gone long ago. Anyway, enough was enough! That day, I made a decision and I didnt have any emotions after that or any questions if that decision was right. Even when I left home, I didnt have emotions, considering the fact that I had gone through 5 months of highly emotional thinking about which way to go.

I came here to IITB in Jan 2011. I checked out the department. The first week of classes- impressive. I could absorb the vibrations of the department! I found that it was awesome. In a couple of weeks, I knew that it is great to be here. By the end of the semester, I grew so much in confidence that I knew that I had made the right decision. I had almost 98% chances of not joining, given the different opinions of people that I had heard. But somehow, something brought me to this place, made me meet the "people" that I HAD to meet (I had no option :-)) and have the experiences that I HAD to have. That something, I call God :-) Since we do not see that unknown force, for lack of better words, we call him God. Well, I thank God. Immensely. That I am here today. If not for anything else, my sense of judgement has grown. My level of confidence has grown. I can now THINK. Yes, I can now think on my own. Even here, I have been carried away by a lot of things, but I have got my judgement back.

We need to be able to see things as they are. That is important. And that is THE MOST important lesson that I have learnt in life. We should not get carried away by anything or anybody. I repeat. We need to be able to see things as they are. When we do this, nothing can deceive us. Our perception will be clear. We can use our judgement properly and make the right decision for us to be happy. Ultimately that is what matters.

Here, I tend to think that Professors are Gods and we HAVE to follow their way, when I get carried away by some Prof's teaching. But again, that is wrong. I should not accept something just because a senior Prof says. I can always question and have my own view. Who knows? The Prof might learn something from my way of thinking. We NEED fresh ways of looking at the same old things. That is why we need young and fresh minds and encourage these youngsters to do research in Indian universities. If all the talent from the IITs goes to foreign universities, how will India move ahead? The talent was after all, from India. Why cant it make India a better nation?

Make mistakes, thats fine. Sometimes I felt that I should not have taken those extra 6 months to make a decision to leave Intel. But unless I did that, I wouldnt have learnt my lessons. It is important to learn, no matter how much time it takes. And it is important to grow. I might negate my entire time at Intel and call it useless.. but it was required, to help me negate that strong addiction that I had for Intel, that it was THE only place to be. No, there are better places :-)
Similarly, now I feel the same for IITB. But I am more careful when I make such decisions or strong feelings. The thing is that, when you are carried away, you are not aware of it at that time. That is when you need friends or people close to you to say that. It might be harsh, but you need to be made aware of the fact that you are being carried away. Whether you listen to them or not is a different question. But you need such friends who are your well-wishers and whom you trust. Then you will be more watchful and not make mistakes. Else, there is no other way. You will have to go through the tough experiences, make mistakes and learn some day. There is no other way buddy! This is the way through this world :-)

I am not saying that, you should not discuss anything with anyone. You SHOULD. Discuss by all means. But remember that those opinions were THEIR OPINIONS. It is what THEY would have done, for their own reasons, if they were in your position. That is it. It does not define what YOU should do in your current position. I am still not angry at those people who gave me such opinions. But I was such a fool to listen to them and get worried about my decision for those few months. Again, thank God that I could take the right decision or the decision that turned out to be right :-)
Discussions might give you ideas. It might help you improve many a times. Take those back home. And make your own decision. You are a different personality from them. How can you live the life someone else lived or is living? If you get a fever, you need to take a treatment for fever which suits you. A tablet that suited someone else for fever MAY NOT suit you. And all fevers need not indicate that you have the same disease!
The point is that, dont get carried away. Use your judgement. Make your decisions. Be responsible for it. At every step. Be aware of yourself.
You have your own brain. You have your own intellect. And you have your own personality and individuality! Live it up!

1 comment:

Vinay said...

Well said...It was a good recap of the events I had heard directly from you :) Being in industry for 5 years you lose confidence and coming out gets your judgement back. I liked it :). Many are afraid to take that big step. Fear of failure. I don't understand how can they manage so easily. It is more difficult than trying new.