Against All Odds: Parichay Barpanda
Parichay Barpanda, a man who doesn’t fit into the stereotypes that the society has built for us, has fought against all odds to become the magnanimous success and driving force that he is today. With a semester backlog not affecting his morale, he has sailed against all odds to master various projects, including the prestigious G-Soc internship and a very coveted placement at Udaan. Team MM has caught up with him to share his story of grit and inspiration.
MM: Walk us through your childhood in Sambalpur.
PB: I was born in New Delhi and we shifted to Sambalpur later when I was in 2nd class. My schooling was in St. Joseph high school and for higher secondary, I went to SAI international in Bhubaneswar. I like football and I am keen on computers and tech.
In school, I was kind of a bratty and mischievous student. My elder sister was a very ideal student, which didn’t work in my favour as everyone appreciated her but complained about me. I was the captain of my house in 10th class and I loved playing sports. I Rarely studied so never got above 90% till 10th class. I was an average student initially but then I realised I had to get a little focused. I didn’t do that good in 11th and 12th either but I somehow managed to get into NITR.
MM: So did you plan on joining NITR before or did you just happen to join it and how has been your college life? Tell us about your internships and projects and the skills you inculcated.
PB: I never really knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to do engineering but wasn’t sure about the branch. so this is the best I could have gotten into. And they have a good reputation too so that is why I chose NITR because of the home state quota and the good reputation. I wanted CSE but I got ECE. I expected it to be related but it wasn’t as such so I messed up. Coming to my college years, in 1st year I was pretty much an extrovert and I was elected as the Technical Secretary. In second year, I was a part of SAC so I worked a lot and gained management experience. That year was kind of a bad year for the technical society as we had a fallout with the alpha team and a group of elected individuals and the fest didn't turn out as expected. The fest was successful in terms of student participation growth and revenue too but the ‘behind the scenes’ was a chaotic and it was disturbing as I was not doing that great in academics. During third year, I was just trying to discover myself. I was a part of a start-up that my friend started - Subtechies, he was the lead and made the website but that also didn't work out. So I was trying to learn software programming from internet but it was difficult and also there was pressure from academics and I didn't like my branch and we had to attend more classes due to more credits.
So the third year, passed by amidst a lot of classes and the year wasn't that eventful. At the end of the third year, I tried for an internship in a trading company- Future's fast, got selected in the demo trading round after 14 days of virtual trading and it felt good because I thought this will be fresh start again and I also had put a lot of effort for it in those 14 days. But when I went to Kolkata for the interview round, I didn't get it due to my lack of preparation. And then I applied through internshala but then again, I wasn't selected because I wasn't properly prepared. Yet, I thought it’s not over until it’s over. I went to Pune for an unpaid internship and it wasn't that great but in my alone time there, I introspected a lot and realised that I needed to try harder. I really got into programming after that, read books, got focused, practised every day. And when I came back, I wanted to change my lifestyle into a more disciplined one so as to perform efficiently and maximize output. I went to classes, played football, did programming, read books and found books more helpful and interesting than the internet. I started collecting a lot of information on Android, web development and software development. So most of my 4th year was programming and football. When I entered my fifth year, despite a good profile I wasn’t able to sit for placements due an extra semester. And that was what happened, so now I focused on making things more than learning. I build a bot from scratch. My father's business of camera distribution in western Odisha was facing a downfall so I suggested him to open a start-up. As he is a good cook, he started a biryani shop and I named it ‘biryanifi’ . I wanted to help customers book their orders online with zero investment. I used Google forms to take their orders and developed an app to collect the orders from the Google form.
I learned that you get a lot more from a real-world project than a project done in a lab. So, when I started web development and got android development, I hosted the website too. As I wanted to do a winter internship, a senior and his friend contacted me and asked if was interested to work for their startup ‘net-tantra’, which was basically web development and blockchain. As I was interested in those, I went for it. We had a discussion about the work and one of them asked if I was placed. I said I wasn't and will try for G-SOC. He went on to say how G-SOC is not good and why I shouldn't try for that. After that, he asked me my CGPA and I told him I had 6.58. He slammed me for not having a good CGPA and clearly told me I will not be hired by anyone. So that was disheartening to hear but I realised I didn't want to work for a guy with such an orthodox mentality.
I went to Kharagpur open-source winter of code which was an interesting one month and also was my first open-source contribution. After the convocation, I was focused on G-SOC and from around March, I was starting to contact companies and usually, people try for 2 to 3 companies to increase your chances but I wanted to focus on one. I chose Jenkins because I always wanted to work with Java. Java was good and object-oriented making it very readable. My mentors were cordial and helpful. My project was about integrating Jenkins with Gatelab. You don't need to know everything before in order to contribute so that misconception stops many from applying to G-Soc and such companies. For that single project, they had two applicants and I was rethinking my choice of not applying for anything else but I was confident enough and I saw the proposals that were hosted online thanks to some IITians and I prepared a 20-21 pages proposal. Usually, people summarise theirs with 4-5 pages but I wanted to show that I was genuinely interested and had done good enough research and they couldn’t turn down a student who's that interested in contributing. It was a great moment. I worked hard and whenever I hit a low, I took a break and when I came back, I would solve it. A fresh start always helped. My programming experience helped too.
I fixed a lot of bugs, implemented around 20000 lines of code and released two plugins and interacted with 30 users for their feedback. Both the plugins were installed in plenty numbers and this was another real-world project which taught me a lot. It felt good that I built something which will actually be helpful to someone somewhere. I got a stipend and paid for my extra-sem fee without bothering my parents.
MM: Tell us about your placement and how you secured it.
PB: I never had formal education in computer science courses like DSA but it was asked in almost all companies. I thought of doing it in the summer but because of G-soc project, I couldn't. I sat for 2- 3 companies. One of them was Udaan. I used to write the code in my local ID and when I tried to copy-paste it online to submit, they didn't allow it. Basically, I wrote a code for about 1 and half hour only to find out that they don't allow copy-paste. So, I couldn't submit it. A compilation error also took place. My main chance was this as they had asked something API based but not DSA related. The other 2-3 companies also didn't work out so I was feeling low. I thought of going home and there was a company in Delhi which wanted to offer me an internship. I thought of doing that and went home. The next day at 2:30 pm one of the PC called me and said that the Udaan guys have come and we are pushing them for increasing selection for the interview so they wanted to do CV shortlisting and told me to forward my CV. That was another big chance for me as I had a good CV with the projects I had done. They asked certain technical questions in the interview. It was a very exhaustive day and the results were announced after 6 hours. The co-founder of Udaan and CTO of Flipkart were there and he broke the good news of my selection to me. It was a good moment because it was a bumpy ride before this. The institute never supported me because of my bad CGPA and my Faculty Advisor would never help and there were long lines before the Assistant Registrar’s office, which was demotivating as well. Every student in the institute goes through this judgement and it’s very sad.
MM: From being a house captain in your school to being the secretary of Technical society, you've always exhibited leadership qualities. From where did you inculcate it?
PB: My sister was an extrovert who performed in many activities. She was my inspiration and my parents also pushed me to stand out. Socialising and being amicable also helps.
MM: Who is your inspiration?
PB: Mark Zuckerberg was my inspiration. He dropped out of college and made something phenomenal. It might seem strange but I take inspiration from football too. Cristiano Ronaldo was one of the most doubted people but he turned out to be a very successful player in spite of odds. You need to sacrifice a lot for your goals. When you start out, you know the process’s difficult but you have to achieve the final goal. I like to complete whatever I start. You have to face the upstream and self-devote yourself to the work.
MM: Do you have any regrets?
PB: In my third sem, I slacked and got the extra semester. I used to party a lot and even if I studied, I knew I couldn’t do well in the exam as I had missed classes. Before Analog Electronics, I partied in Polaris and I didn’t know anything about the syllabus. I don’t really regret it because I had fun. But I do miss losing people in the process of achieving my goals. I don’t regret the fun I had as it gave me memories and life is short. But I do regret joining college and confining to the norms of formal education.
MM: What is your success mantra?
Choose your specialisation and do what you’re good at. The college courses are very orthodox and not very real-world oriented. The professors are not very motivating but you can’t blame them. You need to fix your goals and work for it.
Team MM wishes him all the best for his future endeavours and hopes he powers through all difficulties in the future too.