Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Speech to the incoming MBA class

My speech to the incoming students of Symbiosis School of Media and Communications, Bengaluru on 8th June, 2015.

First of all I am thankful to the Director and the faculty of Symbiosis School
of Media & Communication for inviting me to address the incoming students of
the MBA class. Congratulations to the students and wishing you all success
in the upcoming academic program.

I know many of you may have apprehensions about the academic program
 and what you may be doing after words. All I can say is that an academic program is
pretty useful to become a more rational thinker. It provides you a conceptual
framework to understand the complex realities of the world. It is very rare
that you would encounter a real world challenge that would match what you
 have already learnt earlier.  That is why academics usually chop off unnecessary
details from real world examples and try to identify ideas that work through a
number of examples.  From my own experience in PhD, I can tell you that
identifying principles and ideas that have wide applicability is never that
easy. So it is good that you get them in a boilerplate and you can learn as
much as possible from other people experience. It will enable you to make the
right decisions and stop you from making the  same mistakes that others did.

Many of you would have thought of a  path after graduating from the college. A
rough plan of the kind of work you will take up while going forward and
how you will shape your future. While such a plan is often desirable than no plan at
all, I would like to caution you that you need to keep an open mind on it. Your
perception of issues may change, the opportunities that are available to you
may change. It may also happen that the kind of work that you thought would be
exciting actually turned out to be dull. Sometime your priorities may even
change. Your family, your need of money and sometimes your location
may become an issue of utmost importance.

The vagaries of real life and personal interest may take over the broad
plan that you had. And that is perfectly normal. It is perfectly normal
to change your interests, to change your priorities and even re-assess the
quality of work you do. That is because you never had all the knowledge earlier
 to decide on these issues.

What is more essential is that you vet everything with an open mind and judge
with your own intelligence. Be a boat in the open ocean and catch the winds
that you like. It does not matter which island or port you dock in. What is
important is that you enjoy the sailing and you feel satisfied with the route
you took. Also be cautious of the fact that the sailing may be through
turbulent water and may not be exactly as you thought it would be. But there is
no point in feeling sorry about it. You tried your best and you change the
course if you find it too difficult.

I started my PhD without any idea on what I will be doing. We worked on a
number of ideas related to Internet Security and wrote  papers related to our
findings. But then I built a legal search engine with neither expertise in the
legal domain nor any expertise in the field of information retrieval. What
changed the direction was the fact that it caught up pretty well with the
people and they started using it. That signal was too strong to be ignored.

Another advice I would have far you is to talk about the difficult issues that
you face with as many people you trust as possible. I particularly have
benefitted a lot with these discussions on what are the way forward.  So best
of luck in your endeavor.

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