The Problem with dreams is that most people leave them to be just that – dreams. It is another irony of sorts that many people drift along the tides of life – only to declare their first found profession as their childhood passion.
I can vividly recall the day I decided that I would become a pilot. I was standing in the Mumbai Airport aisle, marveling at the difference in size between a cutout of a Boeing 747 and the one in the flesh (metal rather ?). Then came along Jackie Shroff (and not Tom Cruise in Top Gun), with his precise strafing, albeit for the camera’s. That was it, I wanted into the Air Force! I was all of 10 when I knew what I wanted from my life!!
Fast forward eight to eight years later, I ambled into the Indian Naval Academy, much against my wishes, having been denied by the powers at home to join the Air Force Wing at the NDA in July 2009. Naive and a few enthusiastic missteps during my tenure in the Navy meant that i’d never get the chance to make good my fighter flying dreams – but this opened the door to me for something far greater. Something I would realise as I was busy introspecting along the breezy environs of Marine Drive with a cutting chai and a sutta in hand to boot!
First the Bad…
Having been inordinately lucky (or unlucky?) to always have known what I have wanted in my life, it slowly dawned on me that I would need to resign from the Cinderella service and continue chasing dreams (what they are, soon find out you shall). I swiftly put in my resignation papers and thus begun my tango with the loftily perched Admirals ensconced in the stately offices of New Delhi.
After much political powerplay and chik-chik I was finally allowed to walk the door. I was surprised to find that although 99% of the senior officers, and peers (only the one’s who didn’t know me well enough) officers enlightened me as to how an military officer is cast in stone as a HR guy/girl by the corporations and as to how I would never get a job or would be busy scrapping the barrel, there were the 1% of officers who were genuinely happy sans any jealous intent. I walked the talk, and finally retired in November 2017.
Study, Work, Eat, Study, Sleep!
After a few moths of diving and rediscovering my mojo, I decided that I would try to attend Business School. My rationale was that, while I will be ever grateful to the Navy for teaching me a lot of skills, it never really taught me how to Think Business. I always knew how to operate my ship but never knew the supply-chain or the logistics involved. I never thought as to how the Defense Ministry is funneling funds. As to how the DSOP deposits made by me, were more of a blessing in disguise to the government (by increasing liquidity of equity) than to me. Simply put, I realized that there was a lot to learn and what better place to start than Business School !?
Thence began my preparations for the much feared GMAT. Soon after, advise swiftly followed that no Business School worth their salt would consider me for admission if I wasn’t working. My dumbfounded face as to how is one supposed to study for a competitive exam whilst working was answered by a meek This is how the world works look! Although initially difficult, after a bit of enterprise I bagged myself a job in my industry of preference and commenced my studies simultaneously.
For close to eight months my daily schedule looked something like this:-
1) Study at 0600h. Finish breakfast and catch my train to Juhu at 0900h.
2) Work until 1800/1900hrs as per the situation. Reach home by 2000h.
3) Bath, newspaper reading, and back to the books by 2130h until well past midnight.
4) Weekends exclusively for studies and mock self exams
It was tiring and excruciating, especially because i couldn’t slack off view the competitive nature of the GMAT. Perhaps the fact that others were probably putting in a bigger shift than me and travelling longer distances motivated me to do well in the exam. Well enough to be considered by the Stanfords of the World!! I eventually got my admit to my desired college by December 2018. I had 8 months to go, filled with nothingness and beer!
Myths of yore – debunked
Working in the civilian environment has made me appreciate my shortcoming earlier than I perhaps would have. It was also very humbling – to go from having 120 men under my command as the de facto Gunnery Officer of a Missile Boat, to being told by the peon to shove off so that he could do his work! The old adage that respect has to be earned and not demanded rings even more truer in the civilian world, because there is no hierarchy neither are there any ranks. While difficult to adjust initially, I think I have slowly molded myself as per the required situation! However, more than anything, the last few months have been nothing short of eye-opening, horizon widening, humbling, enriching, and fulfilling.
The first myth to be busted was that military people make for only good HR specialists. I realized that all corporations love working with ex-military officers. The hearsay about HR touted about by many is false. It all depends on you. So the first good news is that even as a former military man/woman, you could shift into Sales/Marketing/Strategy/Consulting/Operations/HR or any other department. Of these, perhaps making the shift into the Finance sector would be slightly more difficult (especially PE and Investment Banking), but charters such as the CFA/CFP etc. can help to allay the shortage of real life experience.
The second myth to be debunked was that military officers don’t make for employees in the private sector. After the initial settling in of the first few months, they are as good or as bad as any other. In fact, a tad bit better! Much of the praise for this must go to the initial training establishments for instilling mental toughness into each and every person who has passed out through it’s portals. However, it is subsequently up to each individual to retain those very same qualities. It is surprising to learn that many people crumble when faced with challenges in new environs.
Interesting Days and Great Times
Personally, the thought of even running something as small as a departmental chain, or a small boutique store interests me immensely. Diving into the nitty-gritties of running a business, such as the accounts, marketing, sales, and other fields are something I would love to explore. Professionally though, I am focused towards the finance sector. Simply put, every business is based on finance and accounts. Finance would also allow me to explore a variety of sectors which I have interests in!
I would personally love to get into PE or Investment Banking. The plethora of opportunities it opens for making an impact in diverse fields is a huge draw for me. Picking up and learning a new language has also been immensely fun, challenging, and rewarding. I can forsee another year or two of hardwork (read – washing dishes/working part time jobs etc.) so as to make ends meet during my MBA, but honestly put – this experience has been more enriching and fulfilling than all I could’ve ever asked for.
The Calm Before the Storm
Quietly sailing into the pre-MBA twilight and winding down my work commitments has opened other avenues for me. A new found interest in the medical industry as well as the transportation sector will keep me busy for the next two months. I’m planning to get in a lot of reading as well as get in some tropical diving too. Because when August hits, all hell shall break lose! As for the dream, it’s still alive and kicking and it just could be much better than I thought it would ever be!!