Sunday, November 09, 2008

Playing To Your Strengths Pays Off

It’s good to make plans, but sticking to them no matter what, is not. As Winston Churchill said, “There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.” And that was how I faced the most pressing hurdle that I ever faced in my life - Unemployment.

It was the year following my graduation. I had a bachelor degree in Civil Engineering. Though I was a good student and had scored well, there was a major problem. It was a time when the construction business was pretty down in my country and job opportunities for fresh graduates in Civil Engineering were almost zero.

I kept looking at the “Wanted” columns in news papers. I sat for various competitive examinations. I even walked-in to interviews that had specifically asked for people with experience, assuming I could win them over with my academic qualification. None of my efforts bore fruit.

Finally I was offered a contract job with a polytechnic college that offered diplomas for various branches of Engineering. As I loved teaching, I gladly accepted the job, though the pay was low. It was fun and I loved the work. But again, my troubles were not over.

The contract staff had to keep a log of the hours worked, get it authorized by the head of their department, and then claim the amount from the office. This process usually took about a weeks’ time. However, several months went without payment. We were told that funds were insufficient and aid from the government was expected. Also, we were assured every penny of our claim, even though delayed.

It was frustrating to work for months together without getting a penny. Also, I was commuting a long distance on bus and it was tiring; I quit the job. Most of my friends were employed by then. It was painful to listen to them talk about their funny bosses, friendly colleagues, and altogether what a jolly or hectic time they had at work. None of them meant to hurt me, but they did, all the same.

It was then that I had started browsing the Internet, and there was this Internet Cafe that I frequented. The guy who owned the place was my friend and he always had an ear for my cribbing about how difficult it was to get a job for my qualification.

One day we were talking about the boom of Information Technology and the spurt of IT companies in our country. That’s when he suddenly said, “Deepa, I have no doubt that you’ll be a very successful woman in the future. But it looks like you have taken the wrong road.”

It took only a minute for me to ponder. The words from a friend, who had confidence in you, were absolutely rejuvenating. I thanked him and headed straight for the nearest computer training centre. I enrolled myself for courses in various computer languages hoping to become a computer programmer or software engineer.

I soon found out that programming was not my cup of tea. I also saw that it was not the only profession in the IT field. There was a special niche for something I loved and was good at.
People with a fair amount of computer knowledge plus good writing skills were sought after for Technical Writing. This profession also required that one has to grasp things quickly and have the ability to elucidate the most complex topics in an easily understandable manner. The job was not as well-paid as programming, but it got me hooked.

I knew instinctively that this was what I was looking after. If at all there was a job in which I could play to my strengths, it was this. I loved teaching, and the job is all about putting things simple for people who want to learn. I then had the necessary computer knowledge – thanks to the courses I had taken. I loved writing and the job required extensive writing.

So, to make a long story short, I became a technical writer and have successfully completed seven years in the profession.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.”
- Robert Frost


Ramki said...


Then, it was a road less traveled. Now, it is an autobahn frequented by intrepid travellers.

Deepa J said...

:-) very true

Teshu said...

How about now? Do you feel you should give it a shot in the construction sector and get back into what your education taught you? Or you feel 'road less traveled' is better?

Deepa J said...

That's a good question, Teshu.
I definitely do not regret that I changed lines, because I love what I am doing now and am happy with it. And I certainly did not have anybody in the construction field who could guide me at that point of time.

But I sure feel embarrassed and when people recognize me as a "Civil Engineer" and talk things about it. So what I feel is maybe I must have studied something else, journalism or literature, which would have been more to my taste and interest.

And now? Oh, I can't go back. I would require at least a year or two of revising all the subjects!!! Who wants it?!

Maheswari said...

Hai Deepa,
Did u do u'r civil in GCT,CBE from 1995-2000.

Maheswari said...

Hello Deepa,

I had asked a q in the before comment...pls is a request


Vijay Ganesh said...

Few people (may be 10%) end up doing what they studied ! Rest are all otherwise., so dont worry be happy !

Ramanan said...

Wow!! - is all I can say! It seems I am not alone into this "Road less travelled" category :)

I am a Mechanical engineer by qualification and more of a Quality Management Professional by profession :-)

But you seem to enjoy your job. That matters most.

Deepa J said...


Thanks for your visit and comments.

What you have said is true. But i feel a little guilty about wasting a professional qualification which could have been constructive to nation building (very much literally!)

Deepa J said...

HI Ramanan!

Thanks for your visit and comments.

I know, there are like so many of us engineering professionals being absorbed into the IT industry due to a variety of reasons. But I hope the trend would change after a few years.

Deepa J said...

Yes Maheswari. I wanted to see your profile before answering. But you have not enabled access to your blogger profile.

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