The Master Of All Trades: Nishanth Ballal
On the eve of 15th Convocation, Team Monday Morning met the immensely popular Nishanth Ballal to know about his journey so far. A person who has redefined what hard work is and has excelled in almost everything he had set his heart to, serves as a true inspiration for his juniors and friends alike. The Placement Coordinator of the Department of Mathematics for the current academic year and the ex-President of Synergy shares his stories of life as we sauntered along under the warm boughs of the Scholar Avenue.
THE RETICENT KID
In the pristine locales of Karnataka was born the taciturn child with a positively restless soul. Nishanth took birth and spent the delicate days of his childhood in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The quaint towns of Udupi, Mangalore let the playful yet calm being of Nishanth blossom into a child with his own mind, but fate knew he would crave for a more exuberant and exciting life. In a perfect turn of events, Nishanth’s father got transferred to Pune. The vibrancy and pace of the cosmopolitan city caught on, as he got opportunities to explore his talents. It was at Pune where the bug of dancing and basketball bit him. He finished his schooling at Pune. He claims to be just decent in studies during his school days, and more interested in the co-curricular activities.
A POLE STAR IN HOME SKY: HIS BROTHER
However, his parents expected more from him in terms of academics, as his elder brother was termed as a prodigy by the people surrounding Nishanth’s family. His elder brother was exemplary in studies, sports and probably everything that he set heart to. He was already a student of one of the prestigious IITs by the time Nishanth began his 11th Standard. He was a benchmark for Nishanth. Unlike others, Nishanth didn’t take the constant comparison with his brother in a detrimental way. He says:
My brother was the most crucial influence of my adolescence. Instead of perceiving the juxtaposition as something to feel humiliated of, I took him as an example of dedication and perseverance. I told myself, there is nothing he can do that I can’t.
THE USUAL METICULOUS KOTAite:
Having already seen the advantages of studying in a centrally funded prestigious institute, he took it upon himself to make it into one of the NITs or IITs. He confesses of not having a specific branch in mind while preparing for JEE. He just wanted to be admitted to a place where he could get the maximum exposure. His first attempt at IIT JEE and AIEEE turned out to be miserable, and he decided to give himself another chance after preparing for a year in Kota. His score in JEE MAINS 2013 rendered him eligible for a seat in the NITs. He came across NIT Rourkela for the first time during the counseling, but the reviews about NIT Rourkela’s culture made him opt for Integrated M.Sc. in Mathematics at NITR, as mathematics also happened to be his favorite among all the other subjects.
THE START OF A REMARKABLE PHASE: NITR HAPPENED!
His admission into NITR happened through spot rounds. It was on the 5th of August, 2013, that he stepped into the campus for his first class. The first thing that excited him on the day was a poster publicizing Synergy Inductions. Being a part of a dance club was one of his ulterior motives after joining an Institute. Talking about his expectations from the Institute during the initial days, he said:
I wanted to do a lot of things once I reached college. I just wished that wherever I go, there should be great facilities for co-curricular activities. I was secretly wishing to get an opportunity to be a part of a dance club at the college. I honestly did not have any academic expectations. I just wanted noteworthy sporting and dancing facilities.
He nostalgically recalls his Synergy Inductions as:
Having spent a couple of days in NITR, I did not get any time to prepare a full-fledged choreography for the inductions. I decided to take it lightly and played my favourite Shahid Kapoor track. I casually did the hook step and surprisingly received lots of cheers. It convinced the seniors that I deserved to be part of Synergy and I became a part of the rigorous practice sessions of Synergy from the very next day.
Being a fitness enthusiast and Basketball player, Nishanth also got an entry into the Institute basketball team through the Institute vs Freshers match. Much of his first year went in balancing time between the basketball team and Synergy. Practice sessions for synergy in the evening were followed by practice sessions of the basketball team. Just like the majority of NITRians, last night cramming became his savior during semester examinations, but he had no qualms. He was living life in the way he wanted to, making most of his time in NITR.
At the end of the first year, the inductions of Monday Morning knocked on the doors. Despite having a hectic schedule, Nishanth felt an urge to get in touch with his writing abilities again. He recalls being introduced to Monday Morning by reading a final year interview during the lab session to kill boredom. The opportunity to interview authorities and seniors, and get in touch with so many aspects of the Institute fascinated him to no ends. In the written test for inductions of Monday Morning, he sat through the paper for a whopping 2 hours 30 mins. He recalls:
The paper had long questions testing our writing skills and knowledge of the campus in a strikingly comprehensive manner. It reminded me more of the English examinations of school.
It was a day after his birthday that he appeared for the interview of Monday Morning in front of half a dozen students holding positions of responsibilities in MM. He was elated on finally making his way through the grueling interview and becoming a content writer for Monday Morning. He credits MM for the patience, time management, and team spirit that it inculcated in him. As a writer, he strived hard to impact in the Institute through his articles. Recounting one of his proudest moments as part of MM, he said:
Working for MM was an absolute pleasure. One of the articles that I am the proudest of is related to a Bike Stunt show organised by a professor on the basketball court. The basketball court at that point of time was in a dilapidated condition. The entire basketball team turned up to stop the show and it was instead done on the tennis court by the stuntsmen. What disturbed us was the fact that the authorities sanctioned an activity which negatively impacted the sports facilities, specifically built for the students. I took up the issue with a fellow journalist and went beyond my comfort zone to indulge in some genuine journalism. I made the authorities answer and it made me content when I saw that I could take up a genuine issue and make a positive impact through the power vested in me.
REMINISCENCES OF THE DAZZLING DANCER
IIT Kharagpur’s dance competition during Spring Fest has always been considered a prestigious dance platform. It was in 2015 and Nishanth was casually challenged by one of his brother’s junior in IIT KGP, that NITR and it’s dancing community did not stand a chance of winning at the stage of IIT Kharagpur. This challenge shook Nishanth and he determined to take his team there after working tremendously hard from December to January. His hard work finally paid off, and it was a historic moment for NIT Rourkela when Synergy succeeded in winning the silver medal at IIT KGP. The feeling after that accomplishment was savored for a long time by Nishanth. This also resulted in seniors of Synergy realizing the amount of grit and potential Nishanth had, and he was thus passed on the baton of Presidentship of Synergy in his 3rd year.
Synergians were content and thought that the performance was only as good for a National Institute’s fest. The Vice President of Synergy during that period however felt otherwise, and he thus submitted a video of the performance at IIT KGP for the prelims of the Indian Hip Hop Championship. Nishant’s joy and surprise knew no bounds when they were informed that the team had qualified for the prelims of Indian Hip Hop Dance Championship. With a renewed vigor, Synergy decided to encash the golden opportunity. Then started the herculean task of assimilating the team for the performance. Unfortunately, the original team was not available in entirety due to a clash of Internship periods of a number of team members with the period of training for the competition. This led to the inception of the idea of a collaboration between Synergy and Mavericks, aimed at forming a strong team for the final competition. The SnM (an acronym for Synergy and Mavericks) Crew was thus forged. They worked in unison and trained for a minimum of 8 hours in the sweltering heat of summer, with the hope of making it to the top in the competition. While Nishanth, was single-handedly managing the travel arrangements, other senior club members supported with the choreography. They wanted to make the best use of the allotted 4-minute stage time and played with formations. He fondly recalls the performance at Indian Hip Hop Dance Championship as the most vivid and momentous performance of his life. They were judged by the winners of the International Hip-Hop championship and awarded with the prestigious silver medal. He still wants to convert that silver medal into gold, while cherishing the silver medal kept safely at his home! After the performance, they were also eligible to visit Los Angeles for the final round of Hip Hop championship, but couldn’t due to monetary issues and other commitments of the final year members of the crew.
EARLY INTERN YEARS: THE LIVELY YOUTH!
Nishanth Ballal grabbed his first internship at the end of the first year, under a programme called Scholar for Change at IIM Ahmedabad. Being used to the active life on campus, the long summer vacations felt like a house arrest for this dynamic youth! It was a social campaign to teach Mathematics, launched by IIM Ahmedabad. His second internship at the end of 4th Semester was also for a content creation role for an educational startup-scholar. Despite not having a high inclination towards teaching, he decided to make use of his vacations in a productive way through these internships. These two internships didn’t help him advance towards his career path but provided him with a good learning experience.
ACING PROFESSIONALLY: THE ANALYTICS SCHOLAR!
The sophomore year is dubbed as the deciding factor for one’s professional career. Nishanth Ballal can be clubbed with the league of individuals who got a headstart in their academic career due to the efforts they put in self-improvement in their sophomore year. In a bid to challenge the common perception that the career opportunities available to the graduates of basic sciences span no wider than teaching and research, he explored many of the futuristic professional services. Soon enough, he zeroed down on Analytics as his field of Interest. His clarity about his career goals and strategy to achieve it could have been termed nothing short of unusual at that point of time. Equally unusual was the alacrity with which he set to build his skill set in accordance with the needs of the Data Analytics Industry. He started devoting an hour daily after finishing the chores of the day, in pursuing the online resources available, to help him build a strong foundation. Having built a satisfactory portfolio for analytics by the end of his 6th semester, he was determined to secure an analytics internship. He eventually did secure an internship in the domain but decided to give it a miss in order to devote his energy wholly to the practice of Indian Hip-Hop championship. He was always more focused on paving a bridge for his analytics interest, rather than college academics. After the culmination of his 8th semester, he was lucky to come in contact with a freelance consultant through a social media platform for aspiring analysts. The consultant examined Nishanth’s work and upon getting satisfied with his skills, proposed a strong recommendation for him in Newgen Software. Thereby, he spent 11 weeks of his summer in Noida after his fourth year and successfully completed his praiseworthy internship.
IN PLACEMENT COMMITTEE: THE FOSTERED PC
In his prefinal year, the batch of 2018 of Integrated M.Sc. was in dire need of a representative who would allow them to escape the rut of mediocre opportunities and uninteresting roles. Despite the need, there was hardly anyone who considered himself or herself worthy of the role. Conscience kicked Nishanth, who knew he had it in himself to kick-start the placement scenario of Integrated M.Sc. Mathematics, through his ability to slog and push beyond limits. For a person, who had determined his goals as early as the sophomore year and pragmatically aligned his routines, skills, and strengths in line with his aim, it was clear that he could be the vehicle for others to climb the ladder too. However, his faith in himself was not enough. He had to prove his versatility in front of the selectors of the Placement Committee, whose demands made one dizzy. Nishanth scraped through the selection process and set his heart on approaching as many varied companies as he could, who had roles which fitted the accomplishments and interests of students of Mathematics. The placement season of 2017-18 still has 4 months to go, and the statistics show that the no. of offers the students of Int. M.Sc. have is far more than the cumulative number of offers of the previous academic session. He contributed in removing the notion of Int. M.Sc. in Mathematics only providing a teaching job, and companies who till last year didn’t allow mathematics students to sit in placements were now allowing them for the technical roles. Speaking of placements and the roles, he says:
It can always be better, and it’s the efforts of both the Placement Committe and students to make the placement season successful. According to me, everyone should be aware of their goals, atleast, since their pre-final year to make themselves competent in the contentious industry.
DONE AND DUSTED: AFFINE ANALYTICS!
Though he was never inclined towards software jobs, initially, he appeared for a few companies during the placement session of 2017-18. His first company was BRIDGEi2i, where he went till the final round but couldn’t make it through due to some unbrushed old concepts. Then came Affine Analytics, in which he was quite confident to get through and emerged with flying colors.
BY HIM, FOR HIM!
On asking him about three words to describe himself, he after a little thinking replied:
PASSIONATE HARDWORKING SLOGGER, because be it anything, being a dancer, or a basketball player, an intern or a placement coordinator, I have always given my best and justified all the responsibilities that I’ve been assigned till the last minutes.
On being asked about what message he would like to leave for the juniors, he says:
One should prioritize himself and give full efforts to improve every aspect of life. Passion, hardwork, and dedication have no substitute and they never go waste!
As Nishanth steps into his final semester, we bid him with all the luck and wish to see him achieving greater heights in future.