I had decided on my outfit days in advance for my first day at college. I was finally going to live the “college life” and make memories I wouldn’t forget for years. My heart was filled with excitement for the beginning of a new chapter in life as well as fear and anxiety because this was a solo expedition. Luckily I had an older cousin, Avinash, in the same college and when he met me, he gave me some advice:
Explore as much as you can in your First Year
Throughout the first day, as professors walked in and out and the lectures changed, there were a lot of seniors coming to make announcements “ABC Club has organized a Club orientation and Inductions at XYZ location on campus .” Robotics, Satellite, E-Cell, Cultural, Coding, Baja, Social Services, and Debate, every Club wanted us to come! I didn’t know our value was so much even on the first day of college. The announcements and posters confused me a lot. I ended up going for a logo quiz because that seemed like the only interesting one.
The quiz led to an orientation and interview round for the college’s Entrepreneurship Cell (E-Cell). I was always intrigued by this term and found their event fun so I applied to be a part of the club.
The interview setup was nothing less than a sophisticated recruitment procedure for a company. We were told there would be 3 rounds of interviews conducted by different people to understand our inclination towards Entrepreneurship and developing Business skills.
While I waited for my turn I had so many thoughts running in my head: What if I had not prepared enough? What am I even going to say? What if I cannot answer some questions they ask? So many What if’s!
Two years later, I could see the same anxiety on the faces of 200 first-year and second-year students as they waited for their turn to interview to be a part of COEP’s E-Cell. The difference was that this time, I was the one taking these interviews along with my team. I do not know if I did well or just average that evening during my first interview, but I knew I had done something good somewhere in the past 2 years that I became the Secretary of the E-Cell, leading a team of 16 members, and together we ran the institute’s Entrepreneurship Cell organizing events throughout the year.
In my first and second year of college, I explored as much as I could. I went for multiple club interviews and auditions, I danced, I acted, I wrote, I made sales pitches and even participated in a few social causes. While doing all this, I followed a mantra, Avinash gave me,
whatever you do, wherever you go, make sure whenever you leave, you leave an impact with your work.
Of course, this was easier said than done. I tried my best to stick to it as much as possible and luckily, I ended up learning so much. To be honest, I learned ten times as much during my tenure as the Secretary of E-Cell and (by default) a member of the Student Gymkhana of the college. In that year I realized a representative position comes with twice as many responsibilities.
The entire year was like an indoor roller coaster ride where you can’t see what is coming up, you just have to experience it and deal with it when it comes up. It was a beautiful journey with emotional patches, sacrifices, rewards, improvisation, knowledge, exposure, skill development, and learning more about myself.
I was extremely comfortable working in my niche around communication but, as the Secretary, I had to be on top of the game in everyone’s niche! Things like issuing tenders, alumni relations, accounting, bargaining with vendors, and even micro event planning were very new to me. It was very exciting to learn these and literally all at the same time.
In the rocky parts, I started focusing on the bigger picture instead of focusing my energy on only the problem. The journey also made me make some sacrifices like missing family time, working through festivals, reducing my social life but I knew I had to focus on the bigger picture. I knew my every step was being watched by so many juniors and I did not want to set a bad example for anyone while setting the right precedent in front of my team.
There were so many things I tried working on over the past few years and was unsuccessful, but being in a leadership role, I had no choice but to implement them from Day One.
I love talking, sharing my experiences, voicing my opinion, and putting forth my ideas. My main responsibility for the entire year was to listen to my entire team and then give my opinion, in the end, after having heard what everyone had to say.
I used to believe, if there is a task to be done, and if I know how to do it, I do it myself. I loved getting my hands dirty and just doing. With so many responsibilities, it was almost impossible to do anything but coordinate with faculty and manage things around. This meant I had to delegate. Over that one year, I experienced the importance of delegation. It meant more than the fact that I do not know how to do it or I do not want to do it. It was about trusting the right person to do something.
The most important skill I learned was to have an eye for detailing. As the Secretary, my primary responsibility was to maintain a communication channel between my team and the faculties. There was a lot of documentation and permissions which required me to work very closely with most of the higher authorities of the institute as well as some faculties. Even the smallest of mistakes would not go unnoticed by them. I guessed it was developed over years of correcting answer sheets or just pure experience of the world.
I started my year with almost non-existent listening skills, zero delegation mindset, and a very poor eye for detail. One year as the Secretary, I did develop these skills in me and made a little progress. I know this because I have noticed myself using these skills here and there even after my tenure was over although I am certain I still have a long way to go.
I am cent percent sure, whenever I look at the helicopter view of my life, this one year in college would be glowing. In so many ways, it has shaped me, taught me, and shown me a reflection of who I am and what I am capable of! Leadership roles in college not only give a break from academics but also are an extraordinary opportunity to help in the overall development of a person.
[as appeared first at Unbox College on 27th December, 2020]