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‘Extracurricular activities help you get hired and excel in your career’, says this 22-year-old techie

Abhinandan Singla, an alumnus of Apeejay Kharghar and Software Engineer at Couchbase, says co-curricular activities help you develop a variety of soft skills which are more crucial to your overall career than you may think.

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Abhinandan completed his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering from PES University, Bengaluru. He enjoys coding and problem solving, and is always up for a challenge. Abhinandan is also passionate about Theatre and Public Speaking, and has won several laurels at school and college for the same. In an informal chat, Abhinandan explains how extra-curricular activities help you excel in your career, how co-curricular activities in school help hone the talents of young minds, future of IT sector in India, and much more. Edited excerpts:

What are the key takeaways from your school life?

I joined Apeejay Kharghar in class 1 and stayed in the school till class 12. The school has played a massive role in shaping my overall personality. When I joined Apeejay I was shy and reserved. In fact, getting enrolled in the school was a challenge in itself. My name came out in the third list and by then the classes had already started. From finding it difficult to get into the school to becoming the Head Boy and one of the school toppers, my journey couldn’t have been more rewarding and thrilling. This transformation didn’t happen overnight. For some time, I was low on confidence. I remember during a poetry competition in class 6 I froze before an audience. I couldn’t utter a word after 2 lines. However, by the time I reached class 9-10, I was participating in every debate and public speaking competition, and winning most of them. I became one of the best orators of the school. My personality had undergone a 180-degree change.

Do extra-curricular activities help you at the workplace?

Of course! Extra-curricular activities help you get hired and excel in your career. Such activities help students develop soft skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, leadership, decisiveness, professional attitude, work ethic, interpersonal skills, etc, which are highly valued by employers. In the corporate world you have to deal with unforeseen roadblocks – clients-related issues, supply chain issues, operational or technical challenges. You would require more than hard skills (technical skills) to effectively counter them. For instance, employees with profound knowledge of their market and product will find it difficult to bag business deals if they lack interpersonal or communication skills. There is also a consensus among employers that there is a massive shortage of soft skills in the current workforce. Such soft skills also help you shine at campus placements. I bagged two job offers in my campus placement.

What activities or sports did you participate in during your graduation?

After school, I continue to hone my soft skills. During my graduation, I worked with a few theatre production houses in Bengaluru and had the privilege to perform at a number of renowned theatre platforms. I have also been a part of several teams for organising and managing events, workshops and competitions. These experiences have helped me push my creative boundaries, and have moulded me into the person I am today. I am also a core team member of India’s largest youth-led movement to conserve water, ‘WhyWaste?’, and this is my way of contributing and caring for the environment. This is again something I’ve learnt from my school and teachers. Including such feats on your CV gives you more character than listing out your work experience and shows employers that you have the calibre to seek new challenges and learn new things.

You are early in your career. Tell us how to successfully navigate the probation period?

I have been working with Couchbase for around 14 months now. I worked for 6 months as an intern and for the last 8 months I have been working as a full-time employee.  Joining a new company can be intimidating as most freshers and recruits have to serve a mandatory probation period. The ‘Probation Period’ is a good way of judging the potential of a candidate and whether he/she will be a good fit for a company. The important thing is to make learning a part of everyday work.  You can learn skills on the job by practicing a task or shadowing others. Secondly, ask for help if you get stuck. This is particularly challenging nowadays as most of us are working online, but still there’s no stopping you from getting in touch with your seniors to get your doubts cleared.  Thirdly, be enthusiastic, take initiatives and stay professional. Lastly, be open to feedback and criticism.

According to you, what does the future of IT in India look like?

It has a bright future. IT-based services such as network security, data storage and management, cloud services, IT consulting, troubleshooting and technical support, etc are indispensable for any organisation to increase its productivity and stay competitive. According to a recent report by The National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM ), India’s technology services industry can achieve $300-350 billion in annual revenue by 2025. The IT industry is the backbone of our economy and is expected to generate millions of jobs.  

Dheeraj Sharma is Asst. Editor (Newsroom). He covers events, webinars, conducts interviews and brings you exciting news snippets. He has over 10 years' of experience in prominent media organizations. He takes pleasure in the small things in life and believes a healthy work-life balance is key to happiness. You can reach him at [email protected]

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