I went for a walk today evening and met with a student from VESIT, Vivekanand Education Society’s Institute of Technology, where I taught between 1986 and 1992. That period in my career was an immensely rewarding period, may be not financially but definitely in terms of experiences and learning. In terms of communication skills I learnt and life time friendships I made with the colleagues and some of the students. In fact, the beginning of my long career in software development happened during (and because) my tenure here.
I was working in Mukand Limited, but was feeling restless there. The job was very routine and didn’t have a lot of intellectual challenge. Also, the entrepreneurial bug had bitten me and I wanted to do something on my own. I had not zeroed in on anything, but needed time to figure out what I wanted to do. At the same time, I had responsibilities. I was married and had just become a proud father, so I needed to work and earn money.
So I was looking for an engagement that would keep my body and soul together and at the same time would give me enough free time to look for business ideas. At that time, my childhood friend and brother in law, Prasanna, with whom I had done a cycle trip to Goa, was also working on his venture and was teaching at VESIT. He told me about a vacancy there for teaching Engineering Drawing.
I gave the interview and was selected. The irony was, as a student, I was never very good at engineering drawing. Though, I think I ended up being a good teacher in that subject. But the first lecture I took was not in that subject.
At that time, the third year engineering syllabus had a subject called “Economics and Principles of Management”, for which the college didn’t have a faculty member. I had just finished my Diploma in Business Management. So I was asked if I would teach that subject, and I accepted. So that was the first lecture I took.
I remember that lecture vividly. I had still not been relieved from Mukund Limited. My notice period was still in progress and I was in the night shift. The lecture was to be the first lecture in economics, a subject I had just learnt. In addition to that, I had never ever taught in my life till then. Needless to say, I was quite tense. I had thought a lot about what should I teach in the first lecture. As I always believe that knowing why we do something is the best way to start, I decided to take the lecture on Introduction to economics and Why should engineers learn it. I was preparing for that lecture for almost two days.
On the day of the lecture, I finished my night shift and went directly to VESIT. The lecture was at 8.30 AM. I remember I was reading my notes even in the rickshaw as I went to the college. I was just 26 years old at that time. The students in the class were about 20 years old and I did look almost one amongst them. I was very nervous. This was really going to be my first experience of the new career I was entering into.
The students looked like a rowdy lot, they were making a lot of noise. The college principal was present to introduce me to the class. His presence gave me a lot of courage. The introduction helped, since it made the students aware that I was a student of a prestigious institute like IIT. And then I started. My knees felt weak, my throat felt very dry. Before I could utter a word, one of the student’s raised his had and asked, “We are going to be engineers, why should we learn economics?” I couldn’t believe my ears. That’s exactly what I had prepared for.
I started answering his question. The answer looked very knowledgeable to the students. They also felt that I was giving it off the cuff and it further helped me make an impact.
As the lecture progressed and I saw that the students were getting engaged in what I was telling them, my confidence grew. I was now in my element. I always liked to tell stories and I was just telling a story to the class. I started involving students by asking questions to them, they started responding. Before I knew, the hour bell struck and the lecture was over!
I taught later for a period of 6 years there and took many a lectures on various subjects. However, I will never forget this first lecture. That first lecture really taught me the importance of being prepared.