Friends, life is funny.
In some cases, it continuously changes the environment and expect you to be nimble and flexible. It expect you to look out for the changes in environment, keep yourself updated to the needs of the changing environment and then take quick and sometimes tough decisions...
Life expects you to take action if you want to succeed.
In the other case, life takes action, as it were.
The environment changes itself to accommodate your experience and expertise. You continue doing what you do best and environment will keep changing so that your knowledge and expertise will have new avenues to explore and succeed.
Take the case of one of my friends Saji.
Saji, a.k.a Saji Mathew was my colleague in Engineering College. He graduated in Production Engineering.
In college days one rarely heard anything special about Saji. Nothing special. Just some of the goofy stuff that he did sometimes.
Normal Goofy Stuff, without doing which they don't give you an engineering degree. Nothing exceptional.
After our graduation, we went out into the wide world looking for jobs. Graduating in those were not like what it is today, where, while you are in your final semester you have an Infy offer in your left hand and a TCS offer in your right hand, with an HCL offer on its way to you. Those days jobs were scarce, economy was growing at Hindu rate of growth, no IT, no Private sector employer, especially, for those engineers who come out of engineering colleges in Kerala.
Saji got a job as an engineer with Alind, a Electrical Tower EPC company in Kerala, at a paltry sum of Rs.1200.00 (Approximately USD 25) per month. This company was into the business of erecting and commissioning Transmission towers for State Electricity Boards. Those days, the only new towers that got erected were in the Jungles of Bihar, Jharkhand (of course it was part of Bihar then), Chattisgarh, Andhra, MP and North East.
Saji's first project was to erect a tower in a god forsaken village in the Jungles of Bihar. The nearest civilization was about 60 Kilometers away.
"It was tough", Saji told me over a beer, "We, a group of 4 engineers, stayed in the town and every morning we will take this morning train to the work site which was about 60 odd Kilometers away. There is a small tea stall in the railway station and we used to eat Puri and Rasagolla in the morning and used to pack it and eat the same thing for lunch. On our way back, we had our evening tea and snacks in the same railway station, and come home and prepare something and eat"
"It was tough", reiterated Saji thoughtfully.
"Didn't you have other opportunities?", after all some of our classmates had joined very reputed private sector companies by then. Didn't Saji try that?
That was a silly question. In those days of job scarcity, one tried everything. Only that one did not get everything.
Or anything for that matter.
"I had one or two offers for Marriage from Nurses in US and Gulf", Saji said
That is not exactly the kind of opportunities I was asking about, if you see what I mean. It was almost like I was asking him about 'Rain' and he was talking to me about 'Pain' ( Or Main. Or Gain. Or whatever. Not the point)
The point is this. If you are an engineer from Kerala, you will get many offers of marriage from the families of Girls who work as Nurses (that is one job that Kerala exports abundantly). They are looking for educated grooms from their own state. The offer is usually very attractive. You will get wife, and a Visa to go to the new country, which is usually US or Gulf. Once you are there, you can make it.
Wife and Visa. What more can you ask for?
This is an easy option for many boys and many take it.
Unless someone is bullheaded.
"Why you did not take up the offer?" I asked him. I already knew the answer. Because he was bullheaded.
"I was bullheaded" said Saji, as if on cue, "I had this romantic notion that if I go anywhere or do something, it will be on my own efforts and not by coat tailing on my wife. So I rejected the offers"
"And continued to struggle", I murmured inaudibly.
"And continued to struggle", continued Saji reading my mind, "Once I finished Bihar, I was assigned to Madhya Pradesh and then to AP. "
"I kept moving on from one Jungle to another, erecting and commissioning HT towers."
"I did this for nine years", said Saji thoughtfully
"Life of an engineer erecting a HT tower for a State Electricity Board is very tough. You have to travel in Sultry weather, in the hot sun, in rainy days, in the bus, in the rikshaws, in the sleeper class and general class in trains, get bitten by mosquitoes..."
"Life was tough" said Saji.
But he soldiered on.
"But I soldiered on for about 9 years like this."
"Then in 1996, I was offered a job with Motorola." informed Saji.
"How did you land a job with the hottest MNC around?, that too while working in the Jungles" I was curious
"Motorola was big way into its project called Irridium, where they had this idea of connecting the whole world with Satellite Phones. They had their own satellites in the GSO, and they erected these tall towers to transmit signals to the satellite and also to receive signals from Satellite. They had big plans in India and they wanted to erect many towers and they were looking for Tower professionals. Fortunately I saw the ad and applied for the job and got it."
See, I told you. The environment was slowly changing to accommodate Saji's expertise.
"I was posted in Kolkata and my brief was to erect towers in the east and the northeast", reminisced Saji
"Life in Motorola was the exact opposite of what I had experienced in Alind. I had high expense budgets. I used to fly to various states, stay in five star accommodation, take taxis for local travel, had good bata (Daily allowance). While in Motorola, I spent some years in Kolkata and some years in Bangalore."
"Didn't the Irridium project of Motorola fail?" I asked, showing off my General Awareness.
"Yes, it did", replied Saji, "but by that time, the telecom revolution in India had begun and MNC telecom companies started setting shop in India and they needed Telecom Towers. So there was a lot of demand for Engineers with expertise in erection of Telecom Towers. And I was one of the few with that expertise"
I told you. Environment is working overtime to accommodate Saji's expertise. First it was Motarola, now it was Telecom revolution. Everyone needed Towers to be erected and Saji was there erecting 'em.
It was not as if Saji was not taking tough calls. While in Bangalore, he got an offer from Ericcson for their offices in Chandigarh. Saji relocated to Chandigarh.
He spent about two years in Chandigarh. Then he again moved, this time to Mumbai as some top honcho with Tata Teleservices Limited, in their Tower division.
The rest is an ongoing story as I write. Saji is still with TTSL. He is still in Mumbai. He has purchased an awesome 19th floor apartment overlooking Vashi Creek. (I went there once. The view is amazing and the beauty is that in front of his house is a Mangrove forest [Protected] and beyond that is the water. Nothing is going to come between his house and the creek.) "Purchased at 95 Lakhs", Saji told me, "now it should be about 3.5 Crores".
He has grown through the ranks and is currently working as Vice President at TTSL.
All the while the environment is continuing to change. 2G is gone and now 3G is coming and then 4G. Big companies like Reliance are majorly entering into Telecom. So many things are happening in the Telecom Industry.
In tune with that, the Tower Industry is changing and consolidating. New players are entering the fray. They will continue to grow and will continue to demand top talent.
All this while, while the industry is changing, the environment is in chaos, Saji will continue to erect towers. And the environment will continue to adjust and accommodate to his expertise.
I anticipate that Saji will be the second CEO of our batch. I look forward to his speech at Kerala Engineers Association Meeting in Bangalore some time.