A Multifaceted Enigma: Debaprasad Badajena
Fostering an admirable personality and honing versatile skills in the arena of entrepreneurship, ‘campus politics’ and technology, Debaprasad Badajena a final year student from Department of Electronics and Instrumentation, is a quintessence of a campus personality. Holding myriads of responsibilities such as the Convenor of Innovision-2019, Secretary at DBA Hall of Residence and representing the institute at various competitions, his work ethics made him a rare gem and a perfect role model for all those who admire him.
Debaprasad has interned at the prestigious ISI Kolkata, American Express and finally, has bagged a coveted job at TATA Digital.
Team MM met with Debaprasad Badajena over an online video call along with his close companions and discussed his voyage of 4 years at NIT Rourkela. The following is an excerpt from his interview:
TRAVELLING DOWN THE MEMORY LANE
Hailing from the capital city of Odisha, Debaprasad Badajena has come a long way after a humble beginning to his life.
Monday Morning (MM): Walk us through the days of your life before NIT Rourkela; your schooling, your childhood days, etc.
Debaprasad Badajena(DPB): I joined NIT Rourkela in 2016. Before that, I completed my 12th from Mother's Public School, Bhubaneswar. And earlier to that, I was in Demonstration Multipurpose School where most of my childhood days were spent. I was not an extraordinary student, but I used to cope with academics back then quite decently- nothing extraordinary or out of the blue but quite a peaceful way of life (chuckles).
BEGINNING OF A NEW CHAPTER: NIT DAYS
It's not easy to bag a seat in a premier institution like NIT Rourkela after clearing one of the most competitive examinations, JEE. However, Debaprasad Badajena managed to clear JEE not once but twice, first in 2016 and again in 2017 for a better branch and to pursue his interest in coding. He had the following to say-
MM: What was the reason behind choosing NIT, Rourkela? Were Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering your choice, or your fate?
DPB: Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering did happen to me in the year 2017. I took admission at NIT Rourkela in 2016 in the Dept. of Food Process Engineering. The admission process was different from the present process back then, i.e., 60% weightage was given to JEE scores, whereas 40% was dedicated to the 12th board percentage. After spending almost a year at NIT Rourkela, I realised I have greater potential in coding and hence I wanted a circuital branch for myself. So, I tried again in the subsequent year for the JEE Mains exam and got a better rank. Since I was inclined towards the domain of robotics at that particular time, I was inclined towards Computer Science Engineering and Electronics and Instrumentation to end up in the latter branch.
MM: How difficult was it for you to manage the preparation for the JEE Mains examination again and focus on academics at the college?
DPB: Initially, I was not much inclined towards making a career in Food Process engineering. At the back of my mind, I had already decided to pursue an MBA if I didn't qualify for JEE Mains again and change my branch as back then, there was no choice of changing the branch based on CGPA after the first year. I had several backup plans then, and I was a part of several clubs, and I ensured that whatever exposure I was getting through them, I should be able to utilise them effectively. So, focusing on academics at the college was not what was on my mind on the front wheel.
MM: What kind of impression did you frame of NIT Rourkela initially during your first year and how did everything go initially, because you would be staying away from home for the very first time for the next four years to come?
DPB: I had a decent idea about the life I would get at NIT Rourkela and what possible difficulties I would face, as my brother was already a part of the college. Before that, it was a completely new place for me to explore. There was a certain type of aura around that time with a tinge of possible chances of ragging. As I was quite comfortable around my seniors, I never had to be that freshie who had certain rules to follow or certain decorum to maintain. I had the freedom to explore things around me without hesitation which eventually helped me a lot.
THE JACK OF ALL TRADES
College is the best place where you can explore various fields and get to know which field suits your interest. From being a budding entrepreneur to one of the zealous Data Science enthusiasts, Debaprasad Badajena has explored various fields and has aced in all of them. This is what he had to say regarding his journey through multiple domains as a student in NIT Rourkela-
MM: You pursued an inclination towards entrepreneurship owing to which you were also an integral part of the start-up called Dekho Market in the first year itself. How did it all start and how was the experience taking a lead role in a start-up?
DPB: This whole sequence leading to a start-up started with me surfing through various websites, and I was not satisfied with the service I got from the sites like Amazon and Flipkart. The entire process of showcasing the things available at other places and not getting their shops didn't sit well. I am a frequent offline buyer, purchasing things after many trials and testing, so I thought why not try something for others where we don't have to roam around various shops in the city learning about discounts. That is how Dekho Market popped up in my mind. It was similar to Zomato back then just in place of food; it was clothes and apparels. Eventually, we started preaching about this idea at a few events which led to meeting many entrepreneurs. That helped us to know various processes and methods and also helped us improve our ideas through feedback.
MM: What kind of challenges did you face while taking a lead role in a start-up? Do you still plan on continuing entrepreneurship in the future?
DPB: I was learning to code back then and had some basic ideas about it, but to start an e-commerce website, one needs to know about web development and how websites function. I was a person with an idea but didn't know how to apply it. Choosing an efficient team was the biggest problem I faced initially. With due course of time, I came to know about advertising the website so that it could reach the public and that was another problem as I was just a first-year student and monetary constraints were bound to appear. I even started doing part-time tuitions to make a certain amount of money invested in the website.
Dekho Market is currently not active due to some problems, and from my first experience, I realised that doing a start-up is not at all a piece of cake and one needs the proper guidance and an environment to grow in that field. For instance, SpaceX was not built in a day. I achieved its position after going through various paperwork and numerous testing. If you have a bigger idea to achieve, one has to follow baby steps. After beginning a start-up, I realised that it was beyond my capabilities to cope with the constraints and unavoidable circumstances.
For the time being, I am not looking into that domain as it requires a lot of time, effort as well as a team with proper calibre, but honestly, it was a great learning experience.
MM: Speaking of NIT Conclave now, you represented the institute at NIT Silchar in the year 2017. Please share with us the memories and tell us about the roles you played in the team.
DPB: At NIT Silchar, our team representing our college at NIT Conclave had five members. Initially, I had very little idea about the events other than the knowledge that they would be related to the coding and electronics field. There were flood-like situations in north-western India and Assam as well, so travelling was difficult, and we had travelled in the general section to Kolkata, and then we booked flight tickets from Kolkata to Assam. The events we attended there were great. We got to meet different people from different colleges and multiple cultures, and we learned a lot of things the other NITs have which we could implement in our college. We got to experience a glimpse of infrastructure, the club culture, the working of different NITs. Although we couldn't bring the trophy back home, the journey and the experience we gained were worth every effort.
As there were five members in total, two members were assigned to managing the technical aspects. Back then, I was in the Food Process Engineering department and didn't have much idea about the electronic and electrical technicalities. Since I was an ardent coding enthusiast so, I was assigned with the responsibility of the coding aspect, whereas my other teammate was given the electronics section to handle. The events I represented had several levels, and the final result was calculated based on marks accumulated by taking a certain percentage of score from each level.
MM: As you have already been a part of a team representing our college at different competitions, what challenges do you think NIT Rourkela faces compared to other NITs?
DPB: If we say in comparison, NIT Rourkela is in a better position in the sense that the scope for branches such as Food Process engineering, or an entrepreneurship cell, or a basic ideology of the concept of the club. They miss the environment that we, luckily, at NIT Rourkela get to experience as well as explore. Certainly, there can be events within the campus like picnics that can be added, but other than that, NIT Rourkela is at better standards and has more to offer compared to the NITs present there.
MM: What is your opinion about the various events to encourage start-ups conducted at NIT Conclave? Are they instrumental in the growth of start-ups in our country?
DPB: Honestly speaking, events conducted for start-ups are currently in a very small stage. The events at various other IITs and IIMs are conducted on a very large scale, and investments are achieved in many of them. Currently, the process in NIT Rourkela is to choose among the ideas and then showcase them to the investors. Whether an idea is good or bad can't be determined in such a short time, and investors have a completely different notion about marketing. But this certainly allows us to learn on a small scale from various suggestions and feedback and learn about ideas that never came into our mind, to learn to tackle constraints which helps a newbie groom his start-up differently.
MM: What was your motivation to proceed with the domain of Machine Learning and Data Science? What advice would you give to a newbie who wants to kickstart his journey in the domain of Machine Learning and Data Science?
DBP: The first thing I did in my fresher year was to explore the coding world. I started getting into Web and Application Development, Competitive Coding, but the field which attracted me the most was Machine Learning. I chose to pursue this field because of future opportunities and the prospects of growth as a professional. I was fascinated by the various projects I could work on in this data-driven world.
My advice would be to explore every possible domain and to pursue the domain that suits you the best. Initially, every domain would appear alluring because of some fancy placement stories that you might have heard, but as soon as you start spending time, you will realise which field interests you the most. Do not pursue something that does not excite you.
STEPPING INTO THE ALLURING FIELD OF ‘ELECTIONS’
From winning the hall elections in his second year to securing the post of the elected Convenor of the largest techno-management fest of eastern India i.e. Innovision-19 with a record margin of 500+ votes, he has had his fair share of experience. Here is what Debaprasad has to say regarding the same:
MM: After landing at NIT Rourkela, what drew you towards the election? Who was your inspiration, and what motivated you to pursue several positions of responsibilities?
DPB: Well, there was no specific reason or inspiration to pursue the elections. I had few friends who joined NIT Rourkela in 2017, and with the support of my group of friends, we ‘supported’ a candidate and won the elections. Subsequently, we started seeing elections as an opportunity of representing and implementing ideas. There were certain instances, like sports events that were managed in a more organised way. Soon this made us realise that if we start voicing our ideas, things we wish to change for the better can be practically done.
MM: How did you strategise to contest in the DBA hall elections? What is your take on the impact of the zone concept in elections at NIT Rourkela?
DPB: I have a completely different concept of zones. For instance, as I was from Bhubaneswar and as maximum coaching centres in Odisha are from Bhubaneswar, I expected maximum state students from Bhubaneswar. We already know many people before joining college, and once we enter the campus, we are familiar with each, and a group is formed, which is a small version of a state but of course not a ‘zone’. Those familiar faces help and vote for us in the elections, and no particular strategy is formed just for the purpose of elections.
MM: People usually correlate elections to the concept of zones, and many candidates don't apply for elections in fear of that. What is your opinion about it?
DPB: To make certain things clear here, to miss an opportunity and to lose are very different things and if somebody wins over you or you drop out of the elections, then definitely you are not meant to be a leader. The fundamental concept is to have your stand and raise your voice and not cower under peer pressure to be a good representative of a fraternity.
MM: You were elected as the Convenor for Innovision’19 in your third year with a record margin of 500+ votes. Share your experience, and what challenges did you face while organising one of the best fests the institution has ever witnessed.
DPB: Firstly, I would like to thank Monday Morning for organising the soapbox, Awaaz-e-SAC (link here), as it gave me a platform where I could gain the exposure I wanted and share the ideas I had for the fest with the NIT Rourkela Junta. As far as the massive voting margin is concerned, I would like to say that it was due to the factor that I had friends in two batches simultaneously and hence it had nothing to do with zones. Talking about the problems, I would say since the elections were conducted in the first month of August and the process for the nomination of a Dean's Nominee commenced in the last week of the same month, we faced time constraint as we had to do a lot in two months. However, we somehow managed to pull through; thanks to the great team we had, and the end product was a fest to remember.
MM: What, according to you went right and wrong during the conduction of Innovision 2019, and what according to you, are the ways the organising team of the fests can improve while conducting fests?
DPB: We were successful in doing most of the things we wanted to do barring a few like Internmela. However, it was the first time such an event was conducted, and I'm sure that it will improve in the years to come. The other things that didn't go as planned were mostly due to minor issues in event management. A few events got delayed as the procurement of certain items was not done in time. The events at RM Hall were delayed due to lights and sound issues. Apart from such minor hiccups, I do not think we had any other loopholes I can think of. Bollywood night was a big success. Despite an increase in the registration fee, the fest witnessed record participation.
I want to state one thing that I tried to incorporate to make this edition the best one. I gave the freedom of expression to the lower strata of the team that is the first and second-year students as they are the ones that build the fest from very scratch and their opinions on various matters need to have some value. Innovision is all about imagination. So my first advice would be to give the first and second-year students the freedom of exploring various avenues. The other advice I would share is to value the work put in by every team member as it motivates them to do things in the right way.
MM: How did you manage to strike a perfect chord with your academics and extracurricular after being involved in so many activities? What clubs were you a part of and what is your take on the institute's club culture?
DPB: I think you might be wrong in this regard (laughs). Academics have never been my strongest suit. I even had a backlog after the 5th semester owing to involvement in various clubs and Innovision. Club activities and fest involvement are voluntary, but academics are not. So you always have to prioritise the things you love to do or the things you are supposed to do. I went with the latter.
I was a part of various clubs like Spawn, Axiom, Cognizen, AASRA (for a few months though) and E-Cell. Talking about the club culture at NIT Rourkela, I think the technical society is lagging behind the other societies .The dedication and work output you see from clubs belonging to other societies is much higher compared to that of some of the technical clubs. I have been part of a technical club myself, and I can say that very few learning sessions are held from my personal experience. Moreover, most of the meetings are concerned with participation in a future event or related to budgetary issues of some kind. Such practices do not serve the correct purpose, and as a result, a club member fails to get the exposure he seeks.
Getting three great internship offers from distinguished organisations is not everyone’s cup of tea. Debaprasad Badajena proved his mettle by bagging great offers in domains like IoT and Data Science. From bagging an internship offer from a dream company like ‘American Express’ to working as a research intern at ‘ISI Kolkata’, Debaprasad Badajena gained a lot of professional experience or research experience, which helped him in the long run.
MM: Share with us your very first internship at the ExpertsHub industry skill development centre as an IoT intern?
DBP: I had applied for an internship at ISI Bangalore and a few other colleges in the winter vacation of my first year. However, I was relatively new to the domain of Machine Learning, and as a result, none of my applications was accepted. At this point, I came to know about ExpertsHub, and I applied for an internship in the domain of IoT, and my application was accepted. The experience of interning was excellent. I was rewarded as the Best Coordinator for my work. However, over time my interest in IoT faded away, and hence, I did not choose to pursue it anymore.
MM: You were an intern at ISI, Kolkata. Brief us about its application process and the work you did there?
DBP: I got to know about ISI Kolkata from Ayush Pradhan, my classmate from the 2016 batch. He told me about various projects that the interns could work on, which interested me a lot! The application process starts by the end of April. The shortlisting of candidates is done based on their resumes. When I joined ISI as an intern, five other interns were working there. The experience of working with them was incredible, and the exposure we got out of that internship was invaluable.
We worked on a neural network project titled ‘Human Activity Recognition' to classify the different human actions based on the UCF 101 and Kaggle dataset. Using dense optical flow, features were generated which was then fed to CNN and LSTM for classification along with some late fusion techniques. Our application could also trigger an e-mail in case of abnormal human activity detection.
MM. What role do you think a research internship plays in the life of an engineer and how important is it in bagging a good job in the future?
DBP: The most important thing a research internship does is it expands your vision. One gets hands-on time with heavily equipped devices and industry-leading technology. This aspect gives an edge over others while seeking a job. The other thing a research internship does is it helps lend perspective. I have seen several instances where a person decided to switch domains because he found his research internship to be monotonous.
MM: How did you bag an internship at American Express (AMEX)? Share us your experience in working with one of the largest analyst companies.
DPB: Honestly Speaking, I didn't prepare much for the AMEX interview. It was a basic aptitude test having some basic questions of Machine Learning. Since these questions came under my domain, I cleared them with ease. The next round revolved mostly around my projects which I had undertaken at ISI Kolkata. Majority of the companies providing internship offers often look into various previous internships or projects that the candidate has done to check the candidate's knowledge of various fields and the depth of knowledge in that field. They don't expect you to have experience working on huge projects.
I had three rounds for AMEX where two rounds focused on my ISI project, and the other round involved puzzles, aptitude questions that can be easily found on Geeks for Geeks.
Amidst the pandemic stricken life, Debaprasad Badajena bagged a dream job in TATA Digital. Read on about what propelled him to such a feat.
MM: Tell us about your placement experience. What was that feeling after you got to know that you have been placed at TATA Digital?
DPB- As per the campus guidelines, we were not allowed to sit for campus placements. Later we were allowed to sit for the placements, and if we managed to bag the PPO, we would have to leave the job bagged via the on-campus method. Owing to this, I didn't apply to many companies. But from sources, I got to know that I had some uncertainty in bagging the PPO at AMEX so I decided to apply in TATA Digital and luckily got selected.
Talking of the preparation strategy, it was not that difficult as basic questions of JAVA and other topics which I had been working on earlier. This didn't need any special extracurricular skillset or anything out of the box. The interview was similar to that I had faced in AMEX, where I discussed the projects that I had undertaken during my internship period at AMEX and ISI Kolkata.
I had not applied for various companies back then and getting a job there indeed was a dream come true for me. Other than the tag TATA, the factor that motivated me to apply for TATA digital was the exposure I was going to get in the company. Before the results were officially out, a friend of mine from the Placement Committee personally called me up and congratulated me for the result. But at the same time, I got to know from a friend of mine of the Placement Committee that there is a cloud of uncertainty revolving around my PPO at AMEX. And getting this piece of the good news of getting placed in TATA digital despite missing out of a PPO at AMEX at the same time thrilled me. It was indeed a great feeling that knew no bounds.
DECIPHERING THE LESSER KNOWN SIDE OF DEBAPRASAD
Anyone who knows Debaprasad Badajena closely would definitely refer Debaprasad as a huge fan of Mumbai Indians and a great poet. Some say he had plans of having his own Youtube channel for his quotes. In order to know more about this enigmatic personality, we asked Debaprasad Badajena regarding his bonds, interests, memories and many other more.
MM: Share some of your fondest memories and any regrets in your journey at NIT Rourkela.
DPB: There have been plenty of regrets during my journey at NITR mostly revolving around Innovision-18 and Innovision-19. There were various phases of life which have caused me to refer to a psychiatrist owing to various problems in my life. At the same time, there have been various fond memories associated with my stay at NIT Rourkela. Waking up late in the morning, going out for long road trips on bikes on weekends, night outs, late-night talks and hangouts have etched a memory in my heart.
Taking part in various competitions too has been a great experience at NIT Rourkela. I have a friend of mine of the batch of 2016, ie. Nalin Modi with whom I have taken part in various competitions, including GES at IIT KGP. Friendship is the best thing that one can find in NITR, and the memories attached with it creates great nostalgia and remains forever with us. It isn't easy to categorise any specific fond memories associated in this journey at NITR.
One specific incident that I would narrate is of Innovision itself. Ayaz has seen me through various phases in my life. The journey was memorable, and you see people around you and know what is associated with them and who they are. And after the event, you don't have the post or the crowd around you that you used to see once so that the belief you need to have the friends that were there when no one was there to continue everywhere irrespective of the situation. This event taught me the lesson that power lies in the post, not in the person. I am fortunate enough to find people and peer groups in my life who have been through my ups and downs.
MM: How do you think the four years at NITR shaped you, academically, personally and also in regards to your professional career which you would be commencing soon?
DPB: When I was about to join NIT Rourkela in 2016, I was in confusion regarding my future career option, i.e. to pursue CSE at VSSUT Burla or Food Process Engineering at NIT Rourkela but at the end, I chose NIT Rourkela on the advice on my brother. As said by my brother, NIT is a new world in itself, and the kind of exposure that we get at NIT Rourkela is unparalleled with any other institution, and I am happy that NIT Rourkela has stood up to what I had expected and I would never regret my decision of joining NIT Rourkela.
The friendship, exposure to various things that NIT has given to me is unmatched. The academic constraints that we had during our days in 11th and 12th were gone during life in NIT Rourkela, and we have the freedom to explore and learn various things that interest you. NITR also has shaped me in various ways. When I came into NITR as a freshman, I thought you only need to study during Engineering, but now as a final year student, I think you can study during Engineering. So this is the transition from day one to my current situation at NIT Rourkela.
NIT Rourkela will give you a glimpse of your post-college life. It has its fair share of happy and sad memories. It will give you a lot of problems and its solutions as well. NIT Rourkela is a whole coming life in a short span of time.
MM: A large part of NITR junta does not know that you write great quotes, and many of your quotes have been published under the platform "YourQuote". How did you build up your interest in this field? Please shed some light on that.
DPB: Heartbreaks (Chuckles). Heartbreaks motivate you to write such stuff when you cannot share your feelings with anyone else. Books and writings are the preferred media to vent out such feelings without being judged by anyone. I usually write philosophical quotes because I have read various books in the domain by Paulo Coelho and various biographies and autobiographies. This motivates me to visualise the same thing in various aspects. I write because it doesn't make me sad any more and helps me let go of various negative aspects of life without hurting anyone's feelings.
MM: You also have a knack of playing Futsal, football and also you are an ardent fan of cricket. Enlighten us something about this interest of yours.
DPB: I had gained a lot of weight in my pre-final year. Football was a game that needed a lot of effort, which wasn't possible on my part. But Futsal was a game in which you don't have to do much, i.e. stand and don't have much to do, and that probably drew me to this game. I preferred the role of goalkeeper over other roles.
Talking about Cricket, Yes(laughs). Cricket was a game that holds a special memory in our heart, and I have taken part in various Interhall competitions. During my days in class 9th,10th and some early phases of 11th, I spent a lot of time playing cricket and dream of being the next Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid every cricket fan like me has an aspiration. So cricket has always been close to my heart.
MM: The campus sees you as a 'Leader'. What does Debaprasad Badajena think of himself in that respect?
DPB: If people see me as it is then I do respect it (laughs). It's okay to be different and have fewer friends, but it's not okay to not pursue your interest. I have pursued things that interested me like elections and various other fields that have helped me grow. When I contested elections, I didn't know many people, but after the conduction of Awaaz-e-SAC, many people got to know me and a buzz was created that helped me clinch the election. There are a lot of things still left that I regret not doing at NITR. Talking about the tag "Leader" there is nothing to showcase in that. Every college student who bags a placement or internship or gets into some decent clubs or wins elections is referred to. This is just a mindset and nothing extraordinary in that.
MM: What is your future plan of action?
DPB: I would like to pursue my career in the corporate sector for the next 2-3 years. Life in the social service domain would follow it and a career in politics too in the late 50s is also on the cards. But I would be taking it one at a time and looking at a good corporate life for the next few years ahead.
MM: How has COVID affected you in various aspects?
DPB: COVID has affected the placements and internships primarily. By this time half or more than half of the college would have been placed, but it is all a part of life. Having said that it would be boring if you had been placed earlier and had nothing to do at home in your final year. Various events have a hashtag like #OneLastTime like the final dance, final Innovision, and various other events in this never-ending list couldn't be conducted. Keeping aside these things, I hope that we can still meet each other for the last few weeks of our college life before we venture into our respective corporate lives.
MM: What would be your message to our readers out there?
Considering the current scenario, I have seen many friends of mine losing hope due to the internship and placement scenarios or due to the life they have currently. But we need to see various aspects of life. Five, six years later, you will have many friends of your professional life, but you will remember only a handful of college-life friends. So it's better not to impress too many people in life and pursue what you like to do. It's your life, and you need to have a long term plan in life. You might not have a life currently that you had expected some years down the lane, but it's best not to lose hope and have patience.
Team MM congratulates Debaprasad Badajena for his successful ventures and wishes him all the best for his future endeavours.