LEADING THE WAY: SWADHIN NAYAK

LEADING THE WAY: SWADHIN NAYAK

His clear opinions, words, and logic are a force to be reckoned with. A born and cultured leader, Swadhin Nayak, is a people's person, who wouldn't hesitate to find and solve problems to make sure that the populace doesn't suffer. Having held many positions of responsibility at NITR, he has a firm and clear understanding of how the system works, which is required from a leader of today. With only a few months left to his studentship at NITR, MM caught up with him for an insight into his life and works. We bring to you excerpts from the ensuing conversation.

GROWING UP

He was born and brought up in Berhampur, near the southern border of Odisha. He studied in St. Vincent's Convent School till his matriculation. He describes himself being not good at studies then, and also not being serious about it either. Even then though, he had recognized the importance of interaction between seniors and juniors and he would make an effort to get to know them and socialize with them. He proudly counts off a few names who have followed him here to NITR, from his school.

He changed schools after the tenth standard and started paying attention to his studies. The realization that career is an important part of life and that his formative and productive years were running out, had dawned upon him. He performed well in his twelfth boards but had never prepared separately for the entrance examinations. Being comparatively weak in maths, he was thankful to his preparations in physics and chemistry for acing JEE (Mains) examination and getting into NIT, Rourkela. He had interests in Computer Science, but fate intervened and Mining Engineering chose him instead.

As a kid, he had seen his father struggle with his business and later on, join politics. He has observed politics and the system at a close range and learned from his father's mistakes and experiences. He laughs and says,

My father is a very different person; he's more of a socialist while I have always thought that I am more of a clever person.

His family has indeed influenced his leadership qualities and his life. He has held many positions of responsibility, starting from being a House Captain in his School Cabinet to being a Secretary for the Film and Music Society, and then being a General Secretary for Vikram Sarabhai Hall of Residence. At his house, the gates would be thrown open in the morning, for people to trickle in, bringing in their grievances, issues, problems, and wishes. Sometimes, in his father's absence, he would take up some of the work. During elections, he used to observe things closely and he learned a lot from that. Family, peers and one's environment play a major role in determining and making a leader out of a person, he says. According to him, a leader should face challenging situations and take risks, as that is what sets him apart from the followers.

His family has been very laid back about his scores and grades, giving him enough freedom to explore his interests. He never misused his freedom and he made sure that he concentrated on his studies and career. He is of the opinion that most of the people who are struggling in the world fall into two categories; the ones who do not know what they are passionate about and the ones who do know where their interests lie but are unable to pursue it. He believes that he belongs to the latter category considering the fact that he is very passionate about politics and the political system; but is unable to venture into it, given his father's wishes that he stays away from politics. Politician or not, he believes he can serve the society in other ways and work for the betterment of the people.

GETTING USED TO A SECOND HOME

When he first came to NITR, he used to miss his family and friends and the food back home. Though he had the comfort of knowing his roommate previously, he still felt alone. He was very afraid of seniors and was soon called upon to ‘interact’ with them. He is not a supporter of ragging but indeed does support interaction between students of different batches. Respect for one's senior is important, he says; because unless one respects them, one won't listen to their advice and suggestions, which are meant for one's betterment only. He has a great deal of love for his seniors; he believes what he is now, is built and molded by them. Their love for NITR and experiences has passed down to him.

FINDING HIS CALLING

He soon got elected as the Secretary to the Film and Music Society from the Second Year Constituency. Upon being asked why he contested in the elections in the first place, his answer was that he didn't want his name to disappear among so many people in this institute. Having a penchant for leadership and coming from a cosy, closed town where everyone knew everyone; he wanted to have the same feel, here at NITR. He wanted to do something so that people would get to know and remember his name.

He started working closely at SAC and for fests from 2015. The INNOVISION of 2015 was the year when the techno-managerial fest of NITR got a facelift; it was completely revamped. The graphs showed a positive growth spurt in all aspects. He worked as a coordinator for various teams and purposes like security, accommodation, and the likes. One of the persons he worked closely with was Prasang Singh Parihar. They initiated a structured "Alpha" team which broke the prejudices. For instance, that was the time when comedians were not all the rage but they were surely new and upcoming. The team decided to take a risk and invite a comedian. They convinced the faculty knowing that the students would enjoy the comedians more than the conventional celebrity. Finally, after convincing a whole ladder of people, East India Comedy came and performed, and the event was described to be a great success. He attributes a great deal of the success to the work done by the restructured publicity team as well.

This was followed by his work for NITRutsav (NU) and International Students' Meet (ISM). He describes his second year to be full of managerial work, which he enjoyed a lot. His academics took a backseat in his scurry to get permissions and signatures on slips of papers. He used to stand for hours outside the Security Office, missing his classes and ensuring grade backs. But he recalls it to be worth it because he learned the way the SAC and the system works, and understanding the system is highly essential.

He recalls one incident whereupon they had invited Sunidhi Chauhan, the famous playback singer to perform on the Celebrity Night. As Rourkela's airport doesn't have provisions for night-time flight landings, Ms. Chauhan's flight, which was scheduled to land after it was dark, had to revert back. Since arrangements had already been made and payments were scheduled, the institute was in for a loss. However, Sunidhi Chauhan agreed to reschedule her performance and despite facing a sandstorm, her performance went down as one of the best in NITR's history.

Team MM then engaged with him in a lively conversation to know about his opinion on the present system of the college, his internship experience and many more. Excerpts from the interview are as follows:

MM: What changes do you observe when you compare NITR of 2014 and 2018?

Swadhin Nayak (SN): There are many drastic changes that took place in these four years. Definitely, NITR of 2018 is better compared to NITR of 2014. Yet there are some aspects in which NITR of 2014 stands higher than 2018. One among them is the working culture. During 2014 the work used to be done in simpler and, efficient manner within a shorter time span. In comparison to 2014, the work in 2018 is done after several steps which delay the procedure and hence the problems of students aggravate.

The SAC restructuring was done to ensure a transparent and efficient system. Instead of achieving this objective, the system was made more lengthy and slower. The power got distributed among more number of people.

MM: What do you feel about the SAC Restructuring? While participation in a number of fests is increasing, the wholehearted interest has been on the decline. Students of NITR are more or less disinterested for fests. We would like to know your opinion about this.

SN: The SAC restructuring is not useful. The structure can be simpler. Instead of keeping so many authorities for granting permission, the power can reside in the hands of two-three persons. I agree with the fact that the interests of students are declining in the fests. 

There are two possible reasons for this. The primary reason is lack of proper management and timing. All the fests usually begin on Friday afternoon and are extended up to Sunday Night. On Friday, students have classes till 5:15 PM and they come to know about the suspension of classes in the second half after 12 PM.

They are not informed about the suspension of classes prior to it. This definitely hampers the participation. The authorities can even cancel all the classes on Friday and adjust it on some other day. This would lead to more participation of students. Added to it, NU is conducted immediately after IIT Kharagpur’s Spring Fest which also affects the interests of students. The second reason is lack of proper publicity. Due to delay in finalizing the events the publicity is hampered. It becomes difficult to publicize and grab the attention of students from NIT as well as from other institutes.

MM: Tell us what you think about the interference of faculties in SAC, the reduction in the number of fests, and zonal involvement affecting the quality of fests.

SN: I think the purpose of electing secretaries or deciding the convenors of a fest is to entitle the students with the responsibility of organizing a fest smoothly and efficiently. It should also be understood that the convenors have a better idea regarding the utilization of the budget in a fest. So, along with the faculties, the convenors should have the rights to sign a financial bill and have a say in the distribution of monetary funds for a fest. The reduction in the number of fests is a good decision provided that we ensure the fests conducted see an increment in their standards with an ample budget allotment.

The perception or notion of the zone is subjective, which varies from person to person. Personally, for me, the zone is made by a group of like-minded people with some common goals, desires or aspirations. As far as the fact of affecting the fests is concerned I don’t believe zones affect the quality of fest. I do agree zone has a great influence on elections. But again this is very usual to human behavior. Every individual likes to remain surrounded and supported by the people from his or her locality. It's not possible to root out the feelings for one’s zone. It depends on the individual to prioritize zone or qualities while selecting a candidate.

MM: You have an eye for change and improvement. Not stopping at SAC, you were also elected as the General Secretary of the VS Hall of Residence. Tell us about the changes that you implemented during your tenure.

SN: During my tenure as a General Secretary, we initiated many changes. The lawn was renovated properly. Then coolers were installed. We also fined the mess caterer thrice for incidents of unhygienic food serving. The gym which was under construction was completed. We also painted the entrance of VS Hall by going against the will of Chief Warden Prof. S.K.Patel. I also remember being questioned by MM for spending the money in decoration instead of buying table and chairs for the hostel. The fact is that the budget for the purchase of table and chairs comes from the Institute Infrastructure Committee. So, if the budget allotted to VS was not utilized it would have gone to the Chief Warden’s Funds. Hence we planned to spend the money on painting the entrance to give the Hall an aesthetic look.

MM: As a former member of HMC, what would you say about the importance given to the opinion of students at HMC. Are the authorities willing to listen to the problems and suggestions or they are being suppressed? 

SN: The HMC gives adequate importance to the opinion of students. If any student counters a certain decision with proper logic then the authorities are bound to address his or her grievancesI even agree that sometimes the authorities try to suppress the suggestions of students. Many times it depends on the person who is entitled to power. He needs to be sensitive and understanding to analyze the difficulties of the boarders. Sometimes it's possible to convince them if you think tactfully. It's obvious that the higher authorities would not agree with every decision of students but at the same time, it depends on us how we try to convince them.

When I was a part of the  HMC, I supported the demand for providing mosquito nets in girls hostel. But I was suppressed by saying that VS boys have got it and now they should not interfere in the girls’ hostel matter.  At that time the representatices of CVR could have asked some of the girls who went through the trauma of insect bites to come to HMC. After witnessing the real scenario the authorities might have granted the permission.

MM: What is your opinion on the current Chief Warden and his indefinite silence on pertinent issues?

SN: The Chief Warden’s office is one of the most important places of NITR. It is solely responsible for the well being and difficulties faced by the students. But, the denial of Chief Warden for answering the student’s queries has raised several questions about the accountability of the authorities.

Recently the generator which was used to supply power to hostel areas was shifted for academic use. Now, during power cuts in hostels, there is no alternative source of power supply. There is no point of implementing such decision without considering the opinion of the students. Each and every boarder of NITR pays the electricity bill. Then there should not be any power cuts, even if it happens due to some technical issues there should be an alternative source. Another problem in the hostels is the rat menace. In almost every hostel during night time, rats roam in the mess. This might hamper the health of the students and even lead to someone’s death or an epidemic in near future. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

When we requested the Chief Warden to call up the municipality authorities and flush all the rats out from VS Hall of Residence he clearly denied it. He insisted us to buy rat pads and asked us to reuse them. This was not possible because none of the staffs or the students could be asked to do it. In spite of it we bought few and used them but still, there are a lot of rats. Now there is no one to answer these questions and confide the students with a solution.

MM: What is your opinion on zone culture? How important do you feel zone culture is in maintaining senior-junior interaction? Has SCP taken over the roles that zone had?

SN: Zone plays an important role especially in building a good bond with the seniors. They guide us throughout the 4 years of journey. Zone gives a feeling of a small group of people with many things in common. Being a part of a zone does not imply that an individual would stop interacting with other people. I do agree zonism also has some disadvantages like influencing election results and ragging. But now, NIT Rourkela is one among those engineering colleges who have strict anti-ragging rules which are being implemented efficiently. Hence the question of ragging is ruled out.   

SCP is definitely a good initiative that would help the students. After getting the entire expenditure of the budget of 20lakhs allotted to SCP it can be determined whether it has fulfilled its objective or not. Personally, I feel that SCP has no relation to the zone culture.

MM: Besides being actively involved in several PORs, you managed to grab the famous INSPIRE Internship offered by TATA Steel. What was the procedure of selection? And what hurdles did you face while cracking it?

SN: The procedure of selection includes a written exam initially. And for a Mining Engineer, there is a loophole in the system. It so happens that TATA steel conducts the examination in AMCAT platform. The examination has four different sections- Quantitative Aptitude, Verbal Reasoning, Data Interpretation and Technical Section. The system does not have many professionals for the Department of Mining. So, most of the questions for the technical section come from the previous year’s GATE question papers. One needs to practice those questions thoroughly for cracking the technical round. The aptitude round consists of basic questions from 10th grade Mathematics.

 The next stage was the Group Discussion (GD). There were two groups of 13 and 12 students each. There were many students in the group who were technically sounder than me, students who had focussed on their academics and had maintained good grades, unlike me. The topic of our GD was “Is Mining in India safe when compared to World Standards?” Each student was given a chance to speak for a minute. I was eighth in the line to speak up and by the time my turn arrived, most of the points were already used by the other students. When my turn arrived, I analyzed and criticised the present policies, using valid points, I gained from general knowledge, current affairs, news, politics etc.

With my performance in GD, the moderator was impressed and he selected me along with five other students from both the panels. I was fourth in terms of CGPA among the six students. I knew that TATA steel always recruited students with high CGPAs. So, I was sure that I won’t be selected as I wasn’t technically sound like the others and I also had a problem with my English. 

But TATA Steel looks for students with keen interest in one particular topic. Prior to the interview, I had chosen a particular subject- Blasting and Explosives (as it was easy and nobody had taken it). I dedicated myself to study 4-5 hours of the course for ten days, prior to the interview. I collected materials and perfected myself for 10 days. In the interview, I performed overwhelmingly well, even better than what I had expected. 

There came a time during the interview, when the interviewers asked me about my past internships, I had to tell them the truth that I had no prior experience but I expressed it in an optimistic way. I told them that the core departmental subjects started at the beginning of the third year. So what would be the point of doing an internship for gaining practical experience if I don’t have any theoretical knowledge? In fact, this is the right time and the best opportunity for an internship at TATA Steel as I have thoroughly gained a lot of theoretical knowledge since the beginning of the third year.

At the end of the interview after almost 45 minutes, the panelists asked me if I had any questions for them. At that point, I had figured out that the students who were interviewed before me had better technical knowledge. So, I grabbed the opportunity and asked, “Is the duty of a Mining Engineer at TATA Steel more of a managerial job or a technical job?” At that point, I had asked the right person, the right question- (One of the panellists was a manager and the other was a technical expert). They went on to explain the answer for 5 minutes. After that, they asked, “Why did you ask the question?” to which I promptly replied by describing the managerial experience that I gained during my tenure at SAC and HMC.

MM: Tell us about the internship period and you experience at one of the most ethical companies in the world. You have also been offered a PPO by TATA steel. Share your learnings and experience during the internship.

SN: The internship was pretty good. I was posted in Jamshedpur for 4-5 days. And I stayed on the fourth floor without any air conditioner (smiles). After that, I was posted at the mines in Noamundi. They used to provide me with a car. Since I was working as an intern there, they gave me an actual developmental project which they didn’t have time to do. I was supposed to complete the project under 2 months which was not a difficult task. I had to understand the system and analyze it. I had to go and collect the required data which was easily procurable. The senior executives who were working along with me never helped me but they did teach me to stand on my own feet. Between the internship, I had a mid sem evaluation where my guide, various Chiefs, and GMs used to analyze my progress and ask questions on improving the company’s production.

At the end of the internship, I had a presentation that helped me a lot and the scrutinizers were quite impressed with it. The only thing I felt bad about was the fact that I hadn’t done any internship prior to my TATA Steel Internship. I thus request all my juniors to at least involve themselves in internships from their second years to improve their CV.

MM: Belonging to a political family, and having been actively involved in student politics in the institute, do you have any aspirations to engage in politics in the future? If yes, why?

SN: If I get the opportunity to live in another country, I will be able to freely think about getting into politics. Maybe, after 10-15 years, I will get a chance to get into it, which I have dreamed of and which I want to. It’s my passion. And I don’t want to belong to that part of the group who know their passions but can’t pursue it. Also, it’s up to my parents; if they are convinced that I’ll be safe and lead a peaceful life, I will surely take up politics.

Q: What are your future plans? Where do you see yourself five years from today?

SN: I see myself in TATA steel for at least the next two years. They are providing me with so many amenities. Also, at TATA steel there is more probability of acing through the corporate ladder if you join as an MTT (Management Trainee). So, I want to get a glimpse of the professional life and TATA Steel is a company which practices these professional ethics.

If I get a chance to pursue MBA at a good college, I may leave. But till then, I’m staying at TATA Steel. I am also thinking of saving money and preparing for GMAT in the coming year because I would be free for most of the time.

MM: Do you have any regrets in your life so far?

SN: My only regret is that I have no regrets. I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay in this institute by exploring different sectors. I have closely associated myself with SAC and HMC and have tried my best to solve the problems that common NITRian faces. But like everything, these experiences also came at some expenses. But in an hindsight, I don’t think that I have any regrets.

MM: What would be your final message for our readers?

SN: I would like to suggest all my juniors to enjoy their stay in the institue. They need to be tensed about academics, but they shouldn’t run blindly to achieve good grades. They should use the vibrant platform provided by this institute to build a stellar personality which would help them to fall apart from the crowd. Almost every senior complains about the montonous life after getting into the corporate world. So, its very important that one should use time judiciously and experiment with everything that interests him/her while being in this institute.

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