Monday, December 13, 2010

A day at my alma mater, Vellore Institute of Technology (by Palani)

It’s been long time that I have got up from bed before the sunrise. But today, my day started at 5:00 AM as I preparing myself to head to my alma mater, Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), but not as her student or ex-student but as one of the interview panelist from Cognizant. I was all excited and I don’t think there is any excuse why I should not be. 6 years back, I was recruited from the same campus by the same Cognizant. When the day started, I had all the old memories of me attending campus interview, my professors like Narayanan sir, Gokul sir etc advising us and mentoring us on how we should carry ourselves. Thank God, I was able to meet up to their expectations.

Today I’m fortunate to represent my Cognizant for my alma mater. With all that excitement I walked down to the road where Toyota Innova was waiting for me along with two of my other colleagues. The vehicle rushed through the National Highways road Chennai - Bangalore and with just one coffee break in between, we reached VIT by 8:30 AM. We got down at the campus Guest house and had an excellent breakfast, no wonder Quality has always been way of life at VIT be in food or infrastructure or any service. The same kind of attention which they gave when I saw my college as a student, not a nano point level has been decreased from what I received today as a corporate person. After the breakfast, I had a chance to meet my professors Narayanan and Gokul, the same professors who advised me for my interview. Being a product from VIT myself, can you expect my quality to go down as well? With the same humbleness which I greeted them years back for 4 continuous years, the same humbleness I carried when I saw them today and it made me feel good.

We had to wait for some time in the lobby of the guest house after breakfast. Within few minutes, after getting information on the venue of the interview room, we had to take the cab and again go through the college to the Hostel H block, 4 storey magnificent building where the interview was planned to be conducted. I could see 100s of students waiting outside the H block hostel with the same expression in the face as any college kids attending interview first time in the life would have. I could see their earnest preparation in the way they looked at us walking down to the hostel from the car. This time, as a panelist I also took effort from my side to prepare myself for interview. Unlike the students, I personally believe even the panelist need to prepare before they conduct interviews. During my morning journey from Chennai to Vellore, I mentally prepared myself to be warm and kind to the candidates than being intelligent, to be accommodative and listening than demanding, to be nice and polite but not compromising on the values and objective of the interview. I repeated this often in my mind as a self assertion and I think I did some good job. The previous day one of my good friend also advised me to be nice to the kids and give them enough consideration. She said they are just kids and treat them the way I was treated while attending interview. I reminded myself about it.

Already we had 15 panelists interviewing the candidates. Our HR Chandana greeted us upon our arrival and thanked us in advance for having come down on a Sunday. We were then taken to one of the hostel rooms in H block and were given a quick debrief about the interview. Soon we were all set to join other panelists for interview. Each of them was given a room to interview the candidates. Relaxing on the seat, I took the first resume and gave a quick glance and immediately started with my job. By noon I could complete close to 10 students without any break and I wanted to finish off soon for myself and for the students. I just asked questions from the basic subjects but my focus was on how they communicate, their passion for articulating their answers, the way the approach the questions instead of beating with too many technical questions. Every time when I had to decide on selection, the only question that I asked my self was “Can I take him or her as part of my team?” because I always wanted my team to be “A” team and nothing less or nothing more.

As time went on, I could sense I was losing my self assertion was got a sense that I was making it tough for them. One of the gal got really tensed and was about to break, that I realized that as a speed breaker for me and took a break for 10 minutes going down and taking a walk around the hostel campus where once I lived and breathed for all 4 years. When I came back, the memories brought me enough strength.

Afternoon we went to down for an exotic buffet lunch. I had a quick chat with other colleagues and expressed on our views of the students. Though the students were asked to break for lunch, I could see many not wanting to go for lunch until they complete their interview. Soon we all went back to continue our days duty. We had close to 400+ students and by lunch we had already complete 75%, so the afternoon session was little relaxed.

The form provided by Cognizant for the candidates to fill their interview notes was something interesting that I would love to highlight. I know when we would all would have been at that age, even we would have expressed our thoughts in the same manner. Some of them looked sweet and cute that I couldn’t help but not stop smiling. Few of them:

One of the candidates had this Long term plan- “To become CEO of the Cognizant in 3 years.” (Frank! Beware you have a competition now.)

One other candidate wrote about what is the expectation from Cognizant? To have more office across India

And even there were touching moments – one of the candidate I guess who has been working hard for his family and also studying wrote that his plan for joining Cognizant was to build a home for his mom in next 3 years. I sincerely wish he builds one!

Fact which I was surprised was, when I asked this question to many of them just to know what made them look forward to Cognizant and impressed them a lot, 95% of the candidates said it was the emotional touch Cognizant gave with respect to service to society for orphanages and village schools and social service, through Cognizant Outreach program. The video showed in debrief for the students had a clipping of Cognizant Outreach team helping the society for better. I’m so proud that brought a huge impact to these students other than Cognizant being in top 5 global IT service providers.

By the time we completed it was almost 3:30 PM and we came out tired and satisfied having completed days work with complete dedication. Me and my colleagues, we did a quick chat having coffee and soon got into the cab thanking the HR and complimenting each other. It was a good day and within few minutes I dozed off in the Toyota like sleeping in my bed. We reached Chennai by 6:30 and after I came back home, I had a hot shower and did a prayer thanking for the opportunity to be at my alma mater! Life is Beautiful!


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