Alumni Speak

‘Be prepared to slog it out in the field if you want to be a civil servant’

IAS Officer Sourabh Swami, an alumnus of Apeejay School, Charkhi Dadri, shares words of wisdom for UPSC aspirants and busts common myths regarding the profession

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Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examinations are considered one of the toughest to crack in the world. Every year, approximately 9-10 lakh students sit for these papers, dreaming to make it big for themselves and their country. While some drop several years of their lives to prepare for it, others crack it within a year! What’s the ideal mantra to do this and how to go about it? Sourabh Swami (31), a 2015 Batch IAS Officer from Charkhi Dadri, Haryana, currently serving as Director, Secondary Education in Rajasthan, throws some light on the subject. Read on:  

Please tell us about your journey.

I studied in Apeejay, Charkhi Dadri from classes 1 to 12. After school, I completed a B.Tech degree in Electronics and Communication from Bharati Vidyapeeth, New Delhi. Shortly after, I cleared the Bharat Electronics Limited examinations and joined as a Deputy Engineer in Bangalore. In 2014, I appeared for the UPSC exams, cracking the paper in my first attempt with an All-India-Rank (AIR) 149. I then commenced my training in 2015.

How did you prepare for the Civil Services exam?

I had a one-year plan for the examinations. While I was working as a Deputy Engineer, I prepared simultaneously. Unfortunately, I met with an accident and fractured my left hand during my tenure. Due to this, I was allowed a three-month leave from office which provided me more time to study for the Prelims. I engaged purely in self-study for it and once I cleared the first stage, for the Mains, I joined a few coaching centres to take crash courses for about 1-2 months to complete the syllabus. For the Interview round, I took a few mock-interviews to gear up and build confidence. However, as far as the interview round is concerned, it has more to do with a candidate’s overall personality.

Did you always dream of becoming an IAS officer?

In the early 2000s as I completed schooling in a small village, Charkhi Dadri, there weren’t enough career options to choose from. At that time, my goal was to become an engineer and so I did. It was my father’s ambition that I appear for the examinations and hence I wanted to fulfil his dream.  

Why do you think Civil Services is so sought after in India?

According to me, Civil Services is the only exam that allows the youth to come forward with new ideas to become a change-maker for the country. They are entrusted with great responsibility and power in the beginning of their careers and many aspire for that. But, it is important to realise that the responsibility is higher than the power they think they would enjoy. In my current posting, I am handling 4.5 lakh employees and it could be challenging at times.

What has been the greatest learning for you in your profession?

Wherever I have served, I have realised that India still needs honest and hardworking civil servants who want to make a difference. Each effort is capable of impacting a huge change in the lives of common man and a single intervention can affect a state, city or district. That is the power that comes with the profession and if one aspires to do common good, this is it.  

Could you help bust some popular myths about Civil Servants?

Myth 1: ‘A civil servant always has a comfortable life.’

Aspirants always tend to focus on the plusher aspects of becoming a civil servant. They think that an IAS officer enjoys a lot of privilege at all times, i.e. staying in nice bungalows, having good postings etc. but it doesn’t happen that way. An officer has to work in many different and challenging conditions. As soon as one begins to work for the public, all these comforts take a back seat. These privileges may be true for a certain individual, post or cadre but it cannot be generalised or internalised by the society.

Myth 2: ‘The service can be monotonous over the years.’

There exists a lot of diversity in the service, i.e. if I am currently posted in the Education Department then after several years, I should be having a rich set of experiences from at least 30-40 varied departments. The profession offers an individual a holistic opportunity to learn and grow throughout one’s life.   

Myth 3: ‘It is always an upward journey.’

There may be ups and downs in any profession and civil services is no exception. However, if a person wants to do the right thing and be ready to serve people with honesty, things do fall into place.

Myth 4: ‘The profession promises a good personal life.’

A civil servant has to be available for the public. It may always not be necessary to have a healthy balance of personal and professional life, especially in the formative years of one’s career. It gets more difficult if your partner is also in service because there may be frequent transfers. However, many officers do manage with it. 

Your final words of wisdom for those who want to be in your shoes.

Slog it out! The profession can be mentally challenging so be prepared. Due to social media, people have greater access to you, with which comes increased commitment towards them. One needs to move forward with empathy and compassion.  

Mrini Devnani is Senior Correspondent (Newsroom). She covers student achievements, interviews and contributions for the website. She was a former Correspondent covering Edutech for the India Today Group, and has a passion for Social Media and Digital Marketing. You can reach her at [email protected]

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