Veni Vidi Vici: Animesh Pradhan
Years of one’s life spent in college fosters one’s overall personality. Endeavors towards excellence aside, the real freedom of an individual is measured by the responsibilities that he undertakes.
Appending to the array of inspiring ‘Final Year Interviews’, we present before you the journey of Animesh Pradhan, a final year student of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, a brilliant scholar who believes in the theory of ‘overestimating the work and underestimating your capabilities’. Animesh served as the Chief Coordinator of Monday Morning, the student media body of NIT Rourkela in the session 2019-2020, interned at Microsoft, and has been placed at Veritas Technologies. While he has donned the mantle of a Placement Coordinator for the current season, he has been a prominent debater at Clarion (the literary & debating club of NIT Rourkela) and a brilliant academician of his batch.
Team MM caught up with him along with the current and ex-Chief Coordinators, and ex-Technical Coordinator. Join us through the article and witness his astounding journey throughout college life.
Growing up as a captain: Life before NIT Rourkela
Animesh Pradhan, a dweller of a coal mine belt area Talcher, Odisha, exhibits an exemplary academically sound background since childhood. Staying in the MCL quarters since childhood rendered him the feeling of a close-net family which helped him to understand the culture and belongingness. Besides proceeding with his schooling from DAV Public School, MCL Kalinga Area, he was active in extra-curricular activities of all sorts; starting from debates, quizzes, extempore, drama, elocution, poster making, to dancing as well. As a child he recalls-
My sister was an academic scholar and my parents were teaching professionals. That formed the root for my inclination towards being academically inclined. I aspired to become a lot of things, initially I thought of becoming a Marine Engineer but later on I realized that it just sounds cool, and I don’t exactly have any interest pursuing it. Next, I thought about doing something in humanities after 10th, but that wasn’t a very serious decision. And being someone academically sound as the common stereotype says that bright students join science stream, the same thing happened with me, because of peer/society pressure and I ultimately joined science!
Animesh’s love and attachment with his alma mater were revealed when he didn’t join DAV, Chandrasekharpur, one of the sought after schools in the state capital Bhubaneswar, rather continued in the same school for his intermediate just to stay for 2 more years! Although many educational institutions were primarily focused on competitive exams, he found his school to be cut off from this trend. Rather than preparing for IIT-JEE or NEET, the non-competitive environment encouraged him to be board-centric. Along with the support of teachers, the spirit of dedication and perseverance helped him to secure 98.8% in XIIth Board CBSE. Even today, he credits his personal and professional development to the teachers. Since he had an equal inclination towards biology and mathematics, he was flexible for both IIT-JEE and NEET. But unfortunately, when he realized the unavailability of a good government medical college with his NEET score, he shifted his focus towards Engineering after considering various factors.
He was invited for the Republic Day parade, 2016 by the Ministry of Education (erstwhile Ministry of Human Resource Development) to witness the Republic Day celebration from the Prime Minister Box and get awarded for being the state topper then. Speaking about that experience, he notes:
I was not mentally prepared to visit as it was the first time my father would have accompanied me outside Odisha but I lost him back in December 2015. It was a proud moment for me but for the tragedy that struck me. So, initially, I thought of not going there but my best friend’s father accompanied me to Delhi. Seeing the republic day parade from the first row was a huge achievement and this is one of the memories I would cherish forever.
Recollecting remainders from the admission process he mentioned that, his first preference was Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at NIT Rourkela but he received recommendations to join Mining Engineering, as he belongs to a coal mine belt area. After researching the prospects of Computer Science and Engineering in terms of placement and higher studies, and talking to a few seniors, he chose Computer Science over the other two.
Initial Struggle, Big Explosion: Days At NIT Rourkela
Animesh's keen interest in various activities can be observed when he researched about the institution through Quora, the NIT Rourkela website, and the Monday Morning website even before joining the institute. Following the passion of debating, he had gone through the Facebook page of Clarion and had made up the mind to join that beforehand. While snorkeling through various websites, his eyes caught up with Monday Morning!
He was fascinated after scrolling through several interviews, articles, and digital versions of the print issue. His zeal for interacting with people, professors, authorities and penning down his viewpoint attracted him to join Monday Morning as well. Sharing those reminiscences, he narrates:
I remember the first day I came across a senior who was a member of both Clarion and Monday Morning, Rishabh Bajaj. I showed my concern to join Monday Morning and Clarion and enquired about the joining procedure. So, he explained to me how it is not possible to join Monday Morning right as a fresher and I have to wait for a year for the induction to happen. And I think it was very natural to wait for the induction from the very first day of NITR.
Since my preparation was entirely based on Boards, I felt immensely terrified at the vast terminologies and concepts in various subjects. The terror of C Programming lab persisted throughout. But I am genuinely thankful to Tarun Verma, one of my closest friends to have had taught me every single day during my freshmen year. Although my first year ended with a good CGPA, those days were full of struggles.
Venturing Into The Club Commotion
Accompanying academic virtues, Animesh was also oriented towards contributing to the club culture of NIT Rourkela. As a freshman, the first club he joined was ‘Clarion’. Initially, the feeling of an outsider in the club disturbed him as it was not that welcoming. Later on, he realized the false-negative connotation attached to Clarion. He expressed his view of debating 7 mins in Clarion to be the best stressbuster. He participated in his first debating tournament at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata, where he lost, unfortunately. Interacting with several debaters all around the globe overwhelmed him.
As a sophomore, he participated in the British Parliamentary Debate tournament of National Law University, Odisha where he won in the novice category with Chodaganga Pradhan (click here for more details). Victory again favoured him the next year as a semi-finalist in Chanakya National Law University (CNLU), Patna Asian Parliamentary Debate during his pre-final year while teaming up with Chodaganga Pradhan and Roshan Kumar Shaw (click here for more details).
Participating in NLU, Cuttack as British parliamentary debate proved as a memorable experience for him. He shared his journey with Chodaganga Pradhan as a compatible teammate even till date. Although both of them lacked in major spheres of debating while practising, they bagged the champion title in the novice category. Animesh believes that luck has a dominant role in debating tournaments and being around talented debaters like Swayampurna Mishra, Nishan Sah, and Chodaganga Pradhan kept his enthusiasm high.
Ultimate Destiny: Life as an MM reporter
While undergoing exhaustive research beforehand, Animesh’s mind was all set to contribute to the institution by joining Monday Morning. After the summer task, when he ventured into real reporting, his interest gained specifically for interviews and articles primarily demanding groundwork. As a journalist, he succeeded in breaking the social bubble after interacting with various people, professors, administration, and other people of NIT Rourkela. He got to know about the ‘know-how’ of the institute every week but in a different way, with a different issue, and in a different article. Aloof other articles, 3 articles remain close to his heart namely, the SCP review article (now called ICS) (link here), the mess review article (link here), and the SAC review article ( link here). From the Monday Morning days as a reporter, he notes:
During the induction process, I was interviewing Aratrika Ghose as a part of my task, she was the Ex-CC of Monday Morning and a part of Clarion too. So, a lot of characteristics of her in terms of extra-curricular activities aligned to mine so I connected to her. And I saw how she has moulded her NITR journey and I felt that somehow, I would also like to achieve the same.
Animesh mentioned Afif Janjirkar and Sonali Priyadarshini as his go-to people during his reporter days. He stretched his concern about the freedom conferred to a reporter. He says:
As a reporter, we have a lot of freedom on how and what to write. We were always shielded by the Chief Coordinators to protect us from criticism. I understood this when I became a CC myself.
SAC review was a major article that gained the limelight of the institution composed by Animesh Pradhan and N Manyata. Both of them did a lot of research to put forth the problems of SAC and people who were accountable for them. Initially, Animesh had no idea about SAC but later on, he tried his best to present viewpoints from SAC representatives, the students’ community, the SAC president, and the procedures involved in SAC. His article gathered the notice of the entire campus when he exquisitely depicted the lacunas, regulations, and recommendations that the SAC can take up. He states:
Now the SAC has improved a lot under the guidance of current president Prof. Seemita Mohanty. SAC has become more transparent and active. People are now aware of SAC rules and activities. The connotation of SAC has changed. SAC is doing well these days.
He put tireless efforts during his reporting days, so much so that the then Chief Coordinators (CCs) were obliged to give him a week off! (Even that didn't get materialized). In a bid to promote good culture, the week off was meant to reward the lad for his hard work and to rejuvenate. But, even if MM took a lot of his time, it was never a burden as he enjoyed it. To walk down every day after class and converse with administration and students alike was what pleased him the most.
Perfect Fit: Becoming a Chief Coordinator
As the far-sighted person that he is, it might not be wrong to say that becoming a CC didn't come as a surprise for many as he did have a vision about it since the first day of joining Monday Morning. He even had elaborate plans with Afif Janjirkar (co-Chief Coordinator later on) about the work they would do as a CC.
As the spring semester unfolded, the quality of the articles became very high, which he cites as the major inspiration to further strengthen his interest and passion to become a CC.
During the selections, I was very scared. I felt that my chances of becoming a CC were pretty narrow as there were a lot of interested contenders who I felt my executive body would feel worthy enough. The affirmation that I might become a CC dropped down gradually. My interview also was not up to my expectations. But fortunately, I was selected as a CC, and I thank them for this opportunity.
The reason I wanted to become a CC was to continue being a part of MM, and second, it came in as an opportunity to - A) Serve the institution, B) Do the same things because of which I joined MM. So if you can get that opportunity with enhanced power and authority then why not?
Abel Mathew (MM Technical Coordinator 2018-19) recalls,
Usually, when the convocation comences in person, the MM alumni interact with us annually. One of the things that they usually ask the then reporter batch is - "How many of you plan to become a coordinator?". Animesh was the one I particularly remember who said that he wanted to become a coordinator. Not a lot of people would say that because they do not have plans or they do not want to disclose as well. Animesh was the one who was pretty clear about his plan and his vision of how he wanted to move ahead with MM.
His tenure as a CC was full of mixed feelings. Firstly, because a lot of things that he had thought of executing as a CC didn't get materialized, which he attributes to the administration becoming a lot active and sceptical about the working of MM. There were a lot of changes in the portfolio that happened which somehow changed the viewpoint of MM and the challenges that the coordinators usually face. So getting accustomed to those changed portfolios was one of the major tasks for him.
One of the accomplishments during his tenure as a CC was to initiate SoapBox (link here). With the idea of a revamped soapbox for the SAC elections, accompanied by Abel Mathew and Sainandan Mohanty he went to the then Dean Student Welfare, Prof S. K. Patel, and put forward the proposal.
There was hardly a week left for its entire preparation and we had no idea about how to get the budget, how to go to the vendors and approach them, how logistics work, how to mobilise the students and how to do that process in its entirety. Within a span of a few days, we did a SoapBox which we called Awaaz-e-SAC. I do not think that that event changed the public opinion about any candidate but it was a step in the right direction in providing accountability to the SAC representatives. I feel that students should be aware of whom they are electing, else the entire process becomes futile. Those people were now accountable and they put forward their ideas. There was a communication dialogue established. Unlike our speculation that it won't gather a lot of attention, BBA was overwhelmed with attendance and we had enormous support from SAC president Seemita Mohanty, the election officer Prof. S. N. Alam, Dean SW, S. K. Patel, as well as cooperation from the students.
As a reporter or CC, there were times when he felt disappointed about a particular article not changing the viewpoint or not inviting actions from the administration, even after giving recommendations or putting forward the problems that the students faced.
Changes do not happen through a single article or in a single week, which I learned in a very hard way. There is too much inertia in changing things because it is not just one person who has to change but the entire system. Sometimes the changes that we feel necessary might not be the same for another stakeholder.
MM was credited with some substantial changes under his leadership, like the proposal to keep Lecture Annexure open till 8 PM and keeping LAN available in the day time as well. Even if they missed out on having a print-issue, one of the flagship projects of MM, they tried to replace it with other crisper or innovative projects. It was the time when MM's social media handles went up. The idea of media and news coverage changed. Although, people were not interested in reading long articles they wanted to know. This curiosity could be fed to them not only through articles but other mediums like through designs, infographics, and short articles. MM improvised on that front by studying the changing nature of media consumers.
On being asked about his best phase of association with MM, Animesh seemed to have a reply without any second thoughts,
Undoubtedly the best phase of my association with MM is as a journalist. When we talk about criticism it's not just about criticism in social media or people hating us but I lost a lot of friends. At a point, my social life was screwed up because of being a CC of MM. People who once were my close friends did not like the articles that I provided. A lot of professors and authorities would call us to their cabins and we were told to write clarifications, proper letters, etc. These were very emotionally challenging as well. These aspects were absent when I was a journalist and there was much freedom as my CCs shielded us. Nobody would like that phase where you are necessarily or otherwise being targeted upon or being told to provide clarifications again and again even when your intentions are very pure.
Taking Vows: Shouldering Responsibility at T&P
Being occupied with something or the other during his first three years, the mere thought of having nothing on his plate in the fourth year and becoming a wasted person (which obviously wouldn't have happened) led Animesh to join the Placement Committee. His primary reason to become a Placement Coordinator (PC) was to organize his time productively, keeping aside the fact that he also wanted to do something good for the institute.
During that time, Animesh recalls having to jostle his internship with Microsoft and dispense his responsibilities as a CC. Animesh credits his then co- CCs, Raksha Karkera and Afif Janjirkar who took up most of the charges during the time of orientation and inductions that facilitated him to pay his attention for the PC intern process.
Remarking on his inclination to rather become a Placement Secretary, he mentioned,
I obviously wanted to become a Secretary, because we all know the hierarchy and that's how it has been, but I did not become one for a lot of reasons. Debi Prasad Mohapatra from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering was chosen as the Placement Secretary. Back then I thought they could have two secretaries from the same branch because I felt that I was capable enough in terms of my knowledge of statistics and the quality of tasks I presented during the PC Intern process. Later when I became a PC, I understood the reason for having secretaries from different arenas. I believe that the decision was fair and that the other three Secretaries were more deserving than me.
Becoming a PC at the time of the global pandemic, and in a situation where both of the coordinators of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering did not get a pre-placement offer (PPO), he had a herculean task. Initially, there was a fear of companies not turning up and the signs were also alarming as a lot of our early recruiters were denying. Reflecting on the scenario, Animesh narrated,
We did a lot of research work and contacted a lot of companies. Surprisingly those things did not persist for long. During the last week of August, the companies started coming. We had a lot of new qualitative recruiters which include established companies and startups, but we lost many regular ones. If you see the CS statistics, our average CTC has increased as compared to last year. I am proud of myself as a PC and the placement committee in general. I am very fortunate that I somehow had a small contribution to realising people's dreams. The best moment you can experience in your life is to see your batchmates getting placed. That feeling is very surreal.
Although the role of a Placement coordinator is of great importance, since it directly influences the future of the scholars of the institute, Animesh found the role as the CC of Monday Morning to be more tiresome. He says,
Being the Chief Coordinator of MM, it takes a lot of time and energy. I remember acting loose towards my social life. The real nightmare is moving forward while bearing a load of criticism and unfulfilled expectations. In my opinion, the work of a PC is well acknowledged in one way or the other. On the contrary, goals set by me as the Chief Coordinator of MM did not materialize quickly and hence remained unacknowledged inspite of the efforts put in.
Internships and Placement
Animesh, during his time at NIT Rourkela, worked as an intern in India Briefs in his second year (winter) and the giant- Microsoft (summer) in his third year. People usually strive to grab a technical internship at a firm, to get corporate experience. On the other hand, Animesh interned as a Curator and Content Writer in a start-up called India Briefs. Upon asking about the underlying reason and his overall experience, he stated,
After seeing many people going for Internships in their second year, I was curious to do one too. I applied for it, sent sample articles through my Monday Morning portfolio and was selected. However, working at India Briefs was no way cherishable for me. The topics of articles ranged from “Why one should visit Orissa,” to “Upcoming guests on Koffee With Karan”. I had no prior knowledge and interest in the content that was being written. It was a 4-month long internship, dissatisfied by the work, I left after two.
Replying to the question, whether or not he would recommend these kinds of internships to the forthcoming sophomores, he said,
If you are genuinely interested in writing and looking for a career in the field, these internships belong to you. However, only for the sake of becoming productive, do not join. Instead, do something that would help to ameliorate your prospects. One should differentiate a good internship with shady ones.
One of the elite companies visiting NIT Rourkela is Microsoft that usually advents in the early months of the Autumn Semester. Animesh was selected along with eleven others for the two-month-long internship. Bagging it, he believes was an exhilarating experience:
I was afraid of coding for a long time. It was not until summer vacation, that I tried my hands on competitive coding. I started with Interview Bit and started from the basics. I solved many questions but was not able to complete the syllabus. Fewer expectations, less anxiety and so I went for the online round. I was able to solve half of the three questions given in the first round. After being selected, I started looking for interview experience articles. I cleared the pen and paper round; following which technical round was passed too. Finally, cracking the HR round led me to the offer.
He recalls how Afif helped him curing his phobia of coding while also suggesting to him about the “Interview Bit” platform. As a piece of advice for future appliers, he believes that a good amount of hard work is needed for companies like Microsoft. Not everyone might have his lucky day at the time. He shares that while recruitment, we were told, “We will not judge you based on what you do not know rather we will judge you on what you know.”
Talking about his internship experience, he recalled, that he was the only intern in the team (Unified Deployment), among experienced software engineers. He learned to work using Visual studios, debugging, and the use of Git effectively. The work was about data analysis of the product (Integrated Apps), a part of the MS 365 package. He used to analyze consumer data, improve features, and bring new customers.
Animesh, despite being a workaholic, failed to bag a Pre Placement Offer (PPO) from the company, which he believes was a result of his concerned interview that did not go well. He recalls,
I got a bit unlucky in my interview for the PPO. I was expecting a normal technical round but the questions asked to me were mainly from System Design. Although I was able to explain the program and the design, the interviewer was expecting a somewhat more technical answer. I remember my fellow interns who were just interviewed upon Algorithms, DBMS and Operating Systems and got selected. It could have been a fairy tale, but it did not. It was a horrible feeling filled with self-doubt and low self esteem.
It is worth mentioning that few in a hundred are those who do not get a PPO from elite companies after a successful internship. Overcoming this tragic situation quickly, he continued his work as a Placement Coordinator enthusiastically, forgetting the regrets and sorrows from the experience.
He advises the upcoming interns to utilize their weekends during internships, judiciously and brush up their coding skills now and stay in touch with the basics.
Moving forward to his fourth year, he had to discharge his duties as a PC while preparing for his own placement interviews as well. Animesh utilized his position and noted thoroughly, the chances of good companies to arrive and hence prepared accordingly. Veritas Technologies LLC, which is an American international data management company was among the earlier ones showing up for placements. He tells,
Veritas was one of the very first companies that visited the institute. It proved to be a good choice in all the aspects and so I prepared for it. While reading about the interview experiences, I found out that Veritas focuses a lot on fundamentals. I prepared with various previous year questions and read every possible article about C++, DBMS, Computer Networking and Operating System. The first round was an online test containing MCQs and two coding questions. After clearing the following two technical rounds, I sat for the HR Interview.I feel obliged to the recruiters at Veritas for acknowledging my potential and making me a part of the company. It was the light at the end of the tunnel, and I sensed a feeling of relief within me.
He also recollects that being an MS intern and not bagging the PPO was a tough grind for him. In the HR round, he had to justify the underlying reason for the same. However, Animesh being a dedicated individual was able to handle those situations and came out on top with the offer letter from Veritas.
It is never easy to be solid at academics while discharging important duties such as those of Placement and Coordinator and Chief Coordinator of MM. His time at the institute has been one of hard graft. Upon being asked about his inspiration for undertaking so many responsibilities and managing them seamlessly, he told
I get bored fast and hence search for work to do. Regret prevails inside me if my days go unproductive. My mother did a lot of sacrifices while raising me and she is my biggest motivation. I faced challenges but they were diminutive than the ones faced by my mother. Also people whom I met in my college years had positive things within them and kept me inspired all the way.
Animesh celebrates a strong bond with his friends at NIT Rourkela. Tarun Verma, Ashutosh Sahoo, Abhigyan Mazumdar, Shardool Venu, and Mohammed Shakir Khan were the part of his friend circle, together which they call a ‘Hexagon’. He remembers,
The friend circle was formed in initial days of 1st year in the corridors of MV Hall which remained intact till now. I feel I have always fallen upon these bunch of friends in times of glory and grief. Every one of them comes from a different state and different background with varied opinions. I shall owe a major part of my NITR Life to them.
As a final message for all the readers, he adds
Always underestimate your capabilities than the task in hand. It is worth noting that, this saying boosts your sporty behaviour and should not be taken as an indicator of low self-confidence. Do not try to be over smart, pay respect to others’ opinions. Always hold on to your family.
The college life of Animesh Pradhan has been one involving tireless work, trustworthy friends, and sacrifices for others. Team Monday Morning congratulates Animesh Pradhan for his worthy accomplishments and wishes luck for his future endeavours.