(For all those ordinaries struggling to step out)
They say, nothing comes easy in life. Nothing ever came easy to me. My career journey of 40 years from a Trainee Engineer to CEO wasn’t a planned or predictable endeavour. There was no possibility of doing any career planning in my case. The only principle I followed was to keep the fire in my belly alive and updating myself every day as a product.
Its just a bad time not a bad life
After passing H.S. Exam I took admission to study BSc in a government-sponsored college. In sponsored colleges fees were low so was somehow affordable for me. That was the time when unemployment was a burning issue in west Bengal. Thousands of unemployed graduates were breaking their heads on the doors of the business houses to find a job but without much success. Industries in West Bengal were in the declined phase. Labour unrest, strikes and other kinds of tread union-related disturbances were rampant and was very fast eating up the confidence of the investors to continue their business.
One after another, business houses were shifting their setups from Bengal or declaring closure/lockdowns because of intense tread union movements. Thousands of families were struggling to get their daily share of mills due to loss of income.
Famous novelists were portraying that situation in their books to deliver a best seller (‘Jana Aryanya’ by Shankar, for example) and renowned filmmakers (like Satyajit Ray) were making a film on those novels to send it to an international film festival and get applauded. But the mass young generation of the state –who was from a lower middle class or from a poor family (like me) –were practically circling ‘compass-less’ to land on to a job of any kind.
What to do to make a difference
Two possibilities in front of me were, either I complete my college education, join the bandwagon and start applying for the jobs or drop the college and enter into a technical or vocational course so that immediately after passing out, can quickly try to enter into a small factory (at least) as a technician. One thing was very clear to me that my father won’t be able to pull on my education expenditure for long.
My mother wanted me to learn ‘shorthand & typewriting’ because she thought, that would be a respectable white-collar job & could be in demand in the job market. I think my father didn’t have any clue about my future direction and left it entirely on the wisdom of a 16 years old boy, me. When I was a kid, I wanted to become a doctor, because one of our close relatives was a doctor.
At the said stage, I realized that I can only go for a polytechnic education in engineering. I can complete it in next four years (it was a 4 years course at that time) and can also manage the fund required for it by giving private tuition to school students (though I never liked doing private tuitions). I also decided not to drop my college and finish my course in BSc as well.
First meet of alertness with opportunity, luck
Therefore, after appearing in the part -1 examination of my BSc, I appeared in the entrance examinations of a couple of polytechnics within my daily commuting range. In one blessed afternoon, when I was half-lying on my bed and staring out from the window to fetch a bright ray of hope from the universes, a postman knocked the door to deliver me an envelope. That was my selection letter from a polytechnic to study Licentiate in Engineering course. Ironically, it was the only selection, out of my try in a total of four institutions.
This phenomenon had repeated in my life throughout. I never got any opportunity more than one at a time, so never ever was in a position to choose the better one out of two.
Luckily the polytechnic was again within the walking distance from the local train terminal station and wouldn’t cost much extra money to commute, after buying a monthly pass under student concession scheme. They were offering me electronics but I preferred mechanical engineering as I thought mechanical stream can offer me more jobs in a dried-up industry situation. Next, the challenge was to attend two courses at different locations and at the same time in regular day sessions. I knew, my BSc college was also running a morning session and that solved my problem.
Time to act focused with perseverance
On those days my day would start at 5 AM. I would get up and get ready to catch 6 AM local train to attend my BSc college at 7 AM. At 10 AM sharp, I would leave the college and run towards the train station to catch 10:20 AM service to attend my polytechnic at 11 AM. On my way back home by 5:50 PM service, would reach home at 6:45 PM. Then again would go out to give private tuition to a school student and would come back at 9 PM. My study for the courses would typically start after 10 PM and usually would continue up to past midnight. On those days we had no electricity and a kerosine oil lighted table lamp was the only option. That glass lamp was beautiful looking and used to emit bright white light!
Now when I look back to those days, it appears to me like a piece of a fiction work and goes beyond my understanding that how could I managed to work from 5 AM to next calendar day’s 1 AM without any break, that too continuously for one year! The time was testing, I also took that as a challenge, to score good both in BSc in immediate next year and in LME after three years. I got ‘distinction’ in BSc final, which was a prestigious status awarded by ‘The University of Calcutta’ to the non-honours students on those days. In LME final, I scored GPA 4.1, highest in my polytechnic and probably the 2nd highest or maybe the 3rd. (can’t recall exactly) within ‘West Bengal Council of Technical Education’.
So, after a couple of years, in the summer of 1981, I acquired the necessary eligibility to get a trainee’s job in a private factory. Yes, in private factories only, because on those days there were application fees for government jobs and I wasn’t in a position to pay that money. I didn’t even have enough money to get my job applications typed all the time and therefore, the majority of my job applications were handwritten. I had posted hundreds of handwritten applications before I received the first call for an interview. Getting an interview call remained a rare event for me, throughout my life.
From top of the world to the deep gorge
The first job offer was through my polytechnic. You can call it a campus placement but without any interview, based on my academic result. It was in a famous American multinational company, with a handsome stipend and in the position of trainee engineer.
Naturally, I went to the top of the world! Reached to the factory on the scheduled date of reporting only to find that the company went into a ‘lockout’ just one day before, due to Labour unrest (and as I can recall, it never reopened again in full capacity). What a shock! I was disappointed for sure, but not broken down. Came back home and started visiting factories and offices submitting ‘force applications’ and attempting to meet recruiting officials where ever possible.
To get a second bite on the cherry
In that process of forcing job applications, one manufacturing company in our locality had shown some interest and the works manager allowed me to have a conversation. They were a ‘Link Chain’ manufacturing company and just started a new wing for manufacturing of ‘Special Purpose Steel Conditioning’ machines. After a preliminary talk that gentleman forwarded me to their head office to meet the partner cum head of that new business. The final decision would be made by him only. I went to meet him and came back with another date of the meeting.
Again, went on that date and came back empty-handed, as he was out of the station. Like that (I can clearly recall even now, after 40 years), I made total 32 visits to their head office and factory altogether, before I got my appointment letter as a ‘Trainee’ after about 5 months. Surprisingly, in those 5 months, I didn’t get any other interview call from any other company. No, not correct! I think I got one, but couldn’t clear the interview. So, joined as a trainee happily. At least for now, I am safe.
Ironically, I had to continue there for next ten long years, despite of all my madding effort to switch in the following years. There were one or two opportunities came in my way, but none of them were better. Luck? May be! It happened to me many times. Never got anything good until started bleeding from my nose.
When life offered tangy lemons, made lemonade
I spend 10 years in the machine-building division of that ‘Link Chain’ company. The positive side was, it gave me enormous opportunity to learn mechanical engineering subject in practical terms. Exposed me to modern subjects like Hydraulic & Pneumatics. Had given the opportunity to play in all areas of machine building, concept to commissioning.
I ripped the benefit of that situation to the fullest, did very well and got appreciated repeatedly with accelerated promotions. I had represented my company in Bangladesh, in relation to commissioning of a machine in Bangladesh Railway.
In 10 years, became an allrounder in this field. Designed couple of special purpose machines and their systems, managed to build them successfully overcoming all challenges, supplied to customers. The amount of knowledge I gained here had helped me to be resourceful and relevant throughout my career.
All was good except for money. Pay packet was meagre for a decent future. So, the try to get a better-change was undeterred and finally one day it happened, dropping thousands of job applications in drop boxes paid out a due return.No schema found.