It has been almost 20 years, when I was in the second year of my engineering college. We were a class of around 60 students, I was standing in front of my class trying to explain my project. I do not remember the subject, but I do remember it was related to electronics. It was a time when we did not have computers in a classroom, we had overhead projectors. To present something, we either wrote or printed the content on a transparency film.
Speaking in front of a group of people was one of the most challenging things for me at that time. Speaking comes naturally for some people, but for me it was not easy at all. I was trembling, not looking at the crowd, using long fillers at the end of each statement. Above all I was just reading what was written on the transparency film, I was not explaining anything. One of my friends in college was a singer and even performed in stage plays. He was one of the best speakers I had seen, and I had seen him sing on college annual day functions with absolute ease. I used to ask him “How do you do it? How can you stand on stage and speak so easily?”. He used to simply mention “Don’t think about it”.
At the end of engineering I joined the corporate world as a Software Trainee. When you join any organization, you have no option but to speak 😊. But I feared speaking in front of a crowd, I felt nervous and very anxious and I wanted to find a way to overcome this. After engineering 90% of the students from my college (Thadomal Shahani) pursue a master’s from USA. In my mind, I always wanted to pursue an MBA but along with my Job. After having completed 3 years in the corporate world I decided to give the MBA entrance, and got into Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS). We had 49 subjects over the span of three years (Part-Time Evening classes 2006 to 2009), and each subject had multiple presentations. I saw this as an opportunity for me to improve my communication skills. At the end of three years I was slightly confident of speaking but what should I do now? In a college setting other than your teacher, ideally nobody will ask you any questions because everyone has their own project to bother about 😊. Above all, other than the first group who without any fault of theirs get asked the most questions and after that there is not much time remaining for the other groups 😊.
What should I do now? This is when I decided I should teach, for one I had approximately 7-8 years of industry experience and I was willing to share my knowledge. After I completed my MBA in 2009, I started exploring opportunities where I could teach/guide/mentor. I did not know where to start but I did create separate resume for that matter. From June 2009, I have been practicing Yoga regularly and one of my Yoga Teacher’s was a mentor at an esteemed Management institute (we will call it Institute A). I decided to ask him for some guidance. He was and still is very approachable, always ready to help. He asked me some basic questions in terms of my education, job profile and what area would I like to teach. Since I was from IT, that could be a one area, but I was from Healthcare IT and that, could be another area. He introduced me to Head of the IT department at the institute. I decided to meet him to ask for a Guest Lecture (good to start small). But as luck would have it the guest session did not happen.
The year is 2010, every March/April there is a competition which I judge at an Engineering college. I am very lucky that one of my mentor’s calls me every year to judge this competition. This college is a conglomerate (Let us call it Institute B) of various institutes from Engineering, Pharmacy to Management. At the end of the competition, I told my mentor, will the management institute give me an opportunity to give a guest session/teach. He said, let us go and ask, no harm in asking. I remember a beautiful quote which my Manager always had in front of him “If you never ask the answer will always be no.”
The institute said they will definitely call me for a guest session, and that I should meet the HOD of the IT/Operations department. Things were looking positive, I would get a chance to speak, which is what I wanted. But the challenging part was, I did not have any way to contact the HOD 😊, nor did I take any email id nor any contact number. So, I had to go back to college, but I also had to reach office on time, which was a catch twenty-two situation. Unfortunately, because of the fact I had to reach office by around 10 AM or so, the only person I was able to meet was security guards 😊. I had to find another way; my cousin sister completed her MBA in marketing from the Institute B. So, I asked her “Do you know the HOD of IT” and “Do you have any way by which I could contact him?”. She used her investigative skills and was able to get some information for me viz. and email id. Ultimately, I was able to get in touch with the HOD of Institute B in May-June of 2010.
My first ever guest session was scheduled on 12th Aug 2010. Again, I was nervous, anxious but calm to some extent. Like in sports people say, play to your strengths and my strength was Healthcare, so I gave a session around Health Information Technology. I tried to make the session interactive, but it became more of a one-sided discussion. After giving my first guest session, I decided to try at Institute A again. Nothing materialized and the only thing I realized was that there are others more senior/experienced professionals who are on the list for guest sessions. I did not give up hope, I decided to try at NMIMS (the college where I did my MBA from). Unfortunately noting materialized there as well. I kept trying from time to time in different institutes/departments.
June 2012, it has been approximately three years since I have been trying to find another opportunity to speak as a guest. Around this timeframe, my Yoga teacher told me Institute A is starting a new Healthcare Management course and he has recommended my name. Wow!!, I finally have a real opportunity. After a few days, I got a call from the HOD of the Healthcare Management course, and Ma’am called me for a discussion. I went to meet her, we had a discussion for thirty to forty minutes where I was asked quite a few questions around Healthcare IT. Ultimately, I got the opportunity to teach a complete subject which was approximately 36 hours.
By the way, this is not the end of my story, it is just the beginning. Watch out for the next part of my story 😊 and hopefully I will be able to explain the meaning of “If you want to Master something, teach it – By Richard Feynman”.
You can check the other parts of this series at the below links.