The Ingenious Iron Man: Siddharth Manu
An introvert who has fit in the cogs of many a wheel that keeps this institute running – Siddharth Manu is a true genius. He always maintains a low profile, and you might never notice him on campus, but you will thank him for myriad reasons. With his technical acumen, he has transformed the way people in this institute create and work on websites. The unassuming bespectacled web-developer has been instrumental in creating websites of organizations such as Monday Morning, Microsoft Campus Club, and is best known for the Placement Portal. As a techie, and then a Technical-Coordinator of Monday Morning he has been the spearhead of several changes that you see on our current website. Team MM caught up with this genius, who prides himself as Iron Man and idolizes Tony Stark, on a reticent Sunday Morning to catch a glimpse of his incredible journey.
MM: Tell us something about your life before NITR. What were some of the highlights of your childhood?
SM: I did my primary schooling from City Montessori School, Gomti Nagar in Lucknow till Class 5. After my dad’s transfer to Bhubaneswar, I continued my schooling at DAV Public School, Chandrasekharpur. I think the biggest highlight of my student life was securing AIR 3 in the National Cyber Olympiad in my eighth standard for which I won a Lenovo PC. This was significant because this spurred me on to pursue my love for computer science, even though I had recognized the same in my primary classes and every single one of my teachers had acknowledged it too.
Consequently, during my +2, out of the three optional subjects, I naturally chose Computer Science. From then on, I developed an interest in programming which eventually led me to choose Computer Science while joining this institute. I also started web development while I was in school. I made a small website for my class in which I used to post any assignment or lab record to help my classmates. I maintained a similar website for my branch here in NIT Rourkela too.
MM: How has your experience in NITR been so far? What are some of the important lessons that the institute has taught you?
SM: It has been a really great experience for me. I have been a part of two really active clubs, done two internships, worked on a good number of projects and currently am a Placement Coordinator.
The biggest lesson that my four years have taught me is that one needs to learn and grow outside the conventional curriculum. However, pursuing one’s interests here is solely self-motivated – you have to learn it all by yourself and keep practicing to improve.
So, I feel it’s very important to identify what you like doing, during your first year itself, so that you get a chance to work on that skill and develop it further in the consequent years. Always remember that the hard work that you put in, the dedication that you exhibit and the hours you spend on it will eventually shape your personality.
MM: With your background in web designing and coding, you have been doing active technical work in the institute such as creating websites, code sharing in your circle, etc. How has the experience been doing the same?
SM: First of all, I would like to stress that coding and web designing aren’t necessarily the same, they are complementary skills. People generally have this notion that the ones who are good in web designing are good coders but that’s not true. I personally am not very good when it comes to competitive programming and I genuinely regret not giving enough time to it.
Regarding all the work that I have done, I don’t think I have handled any of them independently, except the Placement Portal that went live in the summer of 2016. I might add that I felt really proud when people started sharing screenshots of the congratulations page of the website after getting placed. I never thought I would start a trend in my college! (laughs) I consider it as a personal achievement.
Apart from that, I have also worked as a team for the websites of Monday Morning, Microsoft Campus Club, Alumni Relations, Minare, and Innovision. I was also contacted by an alumnus for web development work for NITRAA Pune Chapter, which I couldn’t do due to certain time constraints. As a web developer, I definitely feel that I have grown both in terms of knowledge and experience and now I have the confidence to take up any new project.
MM: Over the years, you have transitioned from being a rookie to an elite member of the Microsoft Campus Club. How has the journey been both individually and as a part of the team?
SM: My seniors Dhruv Joshi and Ankit Kumar, the former technical coordinators of MM were both part of Microsoft Campus Club and thus, it became customary for an MM tech team member to join the club. Also, I knew most of the senior members of the club since my elder sister was the co-convenor of the club, and hence my interview was a very informal one. My most significant contribution to the club was during the first Appathon wherein we taught Windows 8 App Development to nearly 80 attendees. Inspired by Dhruv bhai, I also started making apps for Windows phone and submitting them to DVLUP, a windows 8 app development rewards program, and won a Nokia Lumia 620. I also used to make questions for Treasherlocked with my club-mate and close friend, Sushovan Das. In my second year like Monday Morning, Microsoft Campus Club also had a ‘Joomla’ website which was handed over to me. I also got a chance to go to Bhopal to attend the MSP Summit as a part of the Microsoft Student Partner program in November 2015.
MM: You have been a part of the technical team of Monday Morning and were later promoted to the post of technical co-ordinator of the same. How was the experience in both the aforementioned scenarios?
SM: My sister, Smriti Singh, who is two years senior to me, had missed the MM inductions even though she had wanted to join and therefore had instructed me to appear for the inductions once I joined the institute. Having this in mind, I had started preparing for the same, by creating simple websites using ‘Joomla’. After being inducted, I joined the MM tech team which comprised of three second years, Sandeep, Vikrant and myself, led by Ankit Kumar from the third year. As always, I think our first issue was the most difficult one – the site was not working properly and even though we had successfully uploaded all the articles, there were some errors. We worked under tremendous pressure and somehow managed to complete our work in the nick of time, at 6 o’ clock in the morning. Most Sunday nights were sleepless ever since. But they were made very memorable by the late-night chats with my CCs - Rahul bhai, Abhipsa di and Prem bhai - who’d stay awake with us till the issue was published. Sambit Sahoo, a teammate, and dear friend, also used to post songs in our Facebook group to help keep us awake while the content team raced against time to finish the articles in time. A MM post-holder must have a cooperative roommate when it comes to weekend work and I have been really lucky in that regard. Om Prakash Acharya was very helpful and non-complaning when I used to work overnight.
Then at the end of my second year, I was interviewed for the post of Technical Coordinator. I was skeptical whether I would be able to devote enough time towards it. However, my Chief Coordinators convinced me that I should take up the responsibility and I finally accepted the post. In the following summer, I was doing my internship at TCS Siruseri, Chennai and therefore I used to spend the daytime in office and worked towards the development of the MM website in the night. Working along with Snehasis, Anubhav, Anshuman, and Sushovan was really memorable.
As a Technical Coordinator, I didn’t have many difficulties as most of my junior teammates did their work responsibly. The major problem that the MM website was facing was that it consumed too much space on the institute server and the time taken to load was also high. This was because it was Joomla-based. Thus, the need to create a faster, dynamic html website was absolutely necessary. Dilip Raj Baral, a talented junior of mine in the Microsoft Campus Club, had already developed the websites of Treasherlocked and ISM single-handedly. By the end of my third year, I had convinced him, my co-CCs and mentors to approve a collaboration between Microsoft Campus Club and Monday Morning in order to build a fast, sleek and attractive version of the MM website.
MM: In your circle, you have been fondly regarded as a benevolent techie. The unity of the CS batch of 2012 is largely credited to your efforts in administering the groups on social media. How important do you think unity in a batch is from a student’s perspective?
SM: I primarily made the groups and helped to manage them because I am a very inclusive person, and even though I don’t talk very much, I like to make friends and maintain good relations with everyone. Improving the branch unity was more of an effect than a cause in my motive of getting to know the people of my branch, and creating a forum where we could pass information like canceled classes, examination syllabus, etc. It also resulted in people helping each other out with assignments, getting internships, group crash courses on the night before the exams, improved participation in intra- and inter-institute competitions and of course branch parties, picnics, etc. For example, in my case 11 of us went for a Network Management training by Nettech at IIT Kharagpur in the summer of the second year; and I also participated in Build the Shield, an inter-college capture the flag competition conducted by Microsoft, in which 8 of us went to Microsoft Hyderabad as a part of two 4 member teams representing NITR. Both of these were great experiences. We also had a really memorable time in the ISM of 2016, when people from our department participated in the final year group dance, choreographed and taught to us by our synergy branch mates Swetaswini Nayak and Shivanee Gupta. We spent many fun-filled nights in preparation which further strengthened the bond between us branch mates, and our department social media groups remain very active even today.
MM: Over the course of the four years of your stay in NITR, you have held several leadership roles. According to you, what are some key traits of becoming an effective leader? Further, how do such experiences help shape one’s personality?
SM: I would say that as a leader you should be friendly and approachable to your peers and juniors and devote sufficient time towards helping and guiding them. Taking the ideas and suggestions of your teammates while taking any decision is also a mark of a good leader. I have worked under and learned a lot from really awesome leaders like Dhruv Joshi, D Yogendra Rao, Shantanu Kumar, Ankit Kumar, Ipsit Pradhan, and my MM CCs. I also have had a chance to work with many talented and hardworking juniors like Dilip, Aryaman, Ranganath and Astitva. For instance, Dilip was more technically advanced than I, and I think it would be fair to say that I learned more from him than he did from me. The only knowledge I could share with him was about how the work could be carried out more efficiently and how things run in NITR, due to my prior experience.
Initially, I was a very reserved and introverted person, and having held these positions of responsibility brought me in contact with many people from various walks of life, and understand how the real world works. I learned how to interact and deal with each type of person and get the work done in spite of obstacles. Hence these experiences have been very effective in shaping the person I am today.
MM: You have also been the Placement Co-ordinator of the CS Branch (Dual) and a Core Committee member. According to you, what are some of the key aspects of the placement scenario in our institute?
SM: My sister and D Yogendra Rao had been the Placement Coordinator of CS Dual Degree and B. Tech. respectively two years prior to me, and my friend Navin Modi was the PC of the Computer Science B. Tech. batch in the year before. I used to assist them in information sharing about internships and jobs with my batchmates in my third year and fourth year. I too wanted to hold the post and I applied for it at the end of my fourth year. My most valuable contribution was the development of the online Placement Portal. The scenario back then was that whenever a new company came, a google doc had to be created where students had to fill their academic details. The process was redundantly repeated for each company. This was the reason behind the development of placement portal where students’ data could be stored by us and used whenever required.
As far as placement scenario of this year goes, the number of companies has crossed 100. We have been very fortunate to add new names like Qualcomm, DBS, D. E. Shaw, Swiggy, Adobe, etc. On the other hand, we are also very unfortunate because some very reputed recruiters like Goldman Sachs and Microsoft did not hire FTEs this year. Additionally, recruiters like Samsung R&D (Delhi and Noida), Oracle, Swiggy, Futures First, etc. went with zero selections. We have observed that many students are taking the placement season very lightly. Under-preparedness and lack of confidence during interviews are two major reasons for this scenario. Due to the changes in placement policy, the number of people with multiple job offers has reduced significantly as compared to the previous season. We still have 4 months left and hope that companies keep visiting our institute and hire in good numbers.
MM: Being a CS dual student, how far do you think is the degree credible as far as the integrated Masters is concerned. Are the opportunities comparable to their B. Tech counterparts?
SM: In terms of opportunities, dual degree students fall behind as compared to B.Tech. students because companies like Samsung, C-Dot, HSBC, UHG, Philips, Verizon, DBS, etc did not allow dual degrees to appear for their process this year. However, duals enjoy the benefit when it comes to companies that allow only M.Tech. students and duals are by default eligible for the same. Some companies recognize the dual degree course differently and offer a higher compensation as compared to B.Tech. students.
One of the best parts about being a dual degree student is that you get to take labs for your juniors. I got to take C and C++ labs of first years. It feels awesome returning to the same laboratory, albeit with a reversal of roles. It’s really fun and kind of reminds of the old days. You feel like a hero! (Laughs) Running from one student to the other, answering their queries with such ease and leaving them in awe. I like teaching them. Evaluation is the difficult part. You will feel like giving 10 out of 10 to everyone but you can’t.
MM: Do you have any role model or somebody you look up to for inspiration, through all these years?
SM: Of course, my elder sister Smriti Singh has always been a role model for me. She used to oversee my studies and help me with my projects since my school days, and that continues till today. Being in the same institute as her also helped me gain a lot of friendly and helpful seniors in NITR. I have always tried to follow her footsteps as far as possible, but I think it is a case of remarkable co-incidence that we were admitted to the same branch of the same institute, involved in similar positions of responsibility and we have both been recruited into the same company. It is also important to note that none of this would have been possible without her guidance and support.
MM: Now that you have been placed in Teradata, what are your future plans?
SM: I don’t have any plans to pursue higher studies right now since I am already leaving with an M.Tech. Degree from here. My dream company is Google and I would like to work there someday in the future. I don’t know whether it would be possible to achieve or fulfill this dream. Nonetheless, my college days have taught me to persevere and I will continue to work hard and try my best to make this dream a reality. I also wish to start Stark Industries one day! (laughs)
MM: What message do you have for our readers?
SM: I am Iron Man. (laughs) Everyone needs to make the best use of the time and opportunities in college. Often as a part of the clubs, you’ll be required to do tasks that you don’t have much idea about. These are the challenges that’ll help you improve and become better at your work. Procastinating the work until you think you are perfect to do it, is not going to help. Rather, the best way to learn is to take up projects and be willing to learn from your mistakes. As Tony Stark says, ”Sometimes you gotta run before you can walk.”