Tejas Pol currently works at a leading global consultancy firm that was also the company he started his career with upon graduating from IIT Madras in 2007. In between, for 3 years (2009-2012), he worked with an NGO in Pune in development policy advocacy. In this article, Tejas shares his story of what nudged him to break away from a plush corporate career to work at ground level and how that experience helped him to be at more peace with himself once he joined the Corporate world again in 2012.
0900 hrs, on May 10, 2009 I questioned going to office as a Development Consultant. Till then, I was doing what others (mostly my extremely loving parents and then teachers) asked of me: study well for 4th standard, try and crack entrance exam to a good school, the scholarship exam, the National Talent Search Examination, the IIT entrance, and a reasonably well-paying campus placement after IIT. While it all turned out to be extremely fun (I really enjoyed studying the various subjects, reading, going to the coaching classes, making friends there, having fun with them), I had questions on why I was doing what I was, whether my work was unique in any way, and whether at all I was changing the world in a positive way.
I wanted to explore my passion to connect with people, my sensitivity and compassion for the environment, my interests in talking, reading, and writing (in my mother tongue Marathi as well as Hindi and English), and somehow relate all of that to my work.
What is the motive of my work? Where/ how is it making a difference? How would my interests and core construct as a person add value to what I am doing? How can I make a larger positive impact to the society? How could I spend more time with my parents and my sister, who I had been away from for 7 years?
These questions made me look out, and find an NGO in Pune that worked in development policy advocacy. I started literally on day 1 with copy-editing their publications. Went on to assist in designing the publications, write those in Marathi and in English, present our analyses at a state-wide forum of NGOs, and ultimately assist in a serendipitous-for-me Planning Commission assignment on writing a Model Bill for a Water Regulatory Law.
During the 3-odd-year work of mine there, I met literally over 1700 people (my mobile’s phonebook doubles up as a counter) right from farmers in remote villages, to MLAs, MPs, ministers, IAS officers, regulatory officials, of course like-minded and caring, sensitive professionals from other organisations, and over 500 students from schools in Arunachal/ Assam, and colleges related to my subject (such as the Tata Institute of Social Sciences).
Fortunately this worked out too (despite it not coming as an outside advice). I wasn’t being paid as much as before, but I seemed to have perfectly aligned my interests, capabilities, and the work I was doing. I also learnt from a bit of reading and a lot of hearing from seniors the history and economic background of the development sector. That helped me put my previous, current, and future work in a perspective.
After three years at the NGO, I came back to my previous team at the Development Consultancy firm, and with the things seen at ground-level and some of the learning from there, was able to be at more peace within. So much so thanks to my parents who first imparted to me the and keenness, and unflinchingly supported my decision (when my peers were trotting the globe and printing money in various currencies), by hiding their acceptance behind the veil of an absolute bliss of having me with them.
That’s a bit of sharing I thought I would do, after hearing Dr Rahul Ram’s speech at Intern Saturday 2013 (I was with the camera, and had the bag of chocolates during the awe-inspiring Brand Quiz!).