Casually Talking: The Technical Convenor

It’s easy to forget we’re in an engineering college. BITS encourages entrepreneurship,  stresses on all round development, and gives you amazing flexibility with career choices and life decisions. We have various cultural clubs on campus, most of which are a dozen times more popular than the technical ones.
Yet, the winds of change are blowing.
It began with the inauguration of ATMOS, and now, we can see, beginnings of a coding culture, a huge interest in robotics, and renewed interest in your field. We are, as Tony Stark might say, tinkerers at heart. Standing at the centre of it all, one of the prime players heralding this technical wave, is our Technical Convenor, Mudit Jain.
Below is the complete transcript of an interview with the man of the hour.

…this is a bit of a cliché but how does it feel to be the Technical Convenor of ATMOS? Talk about the why you picked the post – was it out of the goodness of your heart, for the resume, bit of both?

First reaction was ecstatic. Then, it was unreal. It took me some time before I understood what it really meant to actually handle the entirety of the fest, because this was the real deal: this was not making assumptions or having ideas, this was putting them together and actually executing them. It was different.

Why’d I become a TC? <thinks about it, laughs> Actually, when I first came to campus I had this notion, that since we were the first five batches on campus – we set the technical culture – or the culture of the campus in general.

I didn’t have any notion of becoming the technical convenor until (end of) second year… but this idea of changing the campus culture and making the campus culture was there since the first semester itself. Mostly because of that… (and) the credentials were also there, so I thought, let’s give it a try. That’s what it’s about.

Alright, now, tell me about a day in the life of a TC: how you’re juggling other aspects of your life, or perhaps the sacrifices you’re making, if you are?

It’s not really sacrifice. See, the basic point of the TC is to get ATMOS going… It is to gain a momentum for ATMOS among other people as well: among the departments, among the associations and all. So first we had a few meetings with all the departments. Since it was a lot of meetings, the first few days…had me going to people and talking and it was at 12:00 – I had to come to my room just to sleep and stuff. But now it has eased down a bit.

The work has been reduced, it will start afresh once the actual preparation of ATMOS begins, that will be probably be the first week of September, after the president is elected. Until the president is elected what we thought was, we’ll have the site ready, events finalised, workshop options in place and have all the other things in place that we can have an option on so that whenever the President is elected, everything can be signed, all the MOUs can be signed, everything needed to be put out will be put out as soon as possible… So that was the plan – to gain momentum in everything, and when I say momentum it means have the work started, the work going, in different departments. That’s it.

Also, every department has 2-3 events that have been conducted over the last two years during ATMOS. So we were thinking on different lines: what other events can an assoc hold, or what other aspects it can improvise on, considering previous events. So all those opinions had to be taken from different people, from seniors, from people in our batch who are technically motivated, from the assoc heads, the departments – and we actually had to browse through the entire thing, that is,  what all can happen in a technical fest. Since this is the 3rd year of ATMOS and it is a budding, new fest, we actually had to have more options to ourselves, that we can choose, to have better selections, and better events.

Since you’ve talked about bringing in new ideas, your work deals with balancing two aspects  – diversifying and bring in new events and ideas, as well as strengthening pre-existing popular events, such as the RoboWars. What would you give a higher priority to?

It’s not about the priority but the time taken for them – it’s a scheduling part. First we’ll concentrate on the previous events, we’ll wrap that up, …have all the rules and regulations and have the entire event finalised, and then we’ll move to the new events.

Some people have the notion that we have to have the entire new events but…people have to have a base before we start working on a new event, and there is no certainty that we will be having an event – it will be let’s venture into that field, let’s see what the event is about, let’s structure it up.

First we’ll have our events, what we usually have, we’ll cut down on unnecessary events or the events that are not properly structured up and we’ll replace them with new events. So the basic events will be there but there’ll be new events.

How would you describe the position of a TC? To me it seems personal time with friends, your academic life, and the remaining gets sucked into work. Do you really manage to find time for everything else, or does it take a huge chunk of your cycle?

Some amount actually goes, some days are like, you get to ask stuff after I finish TC work and it gets postponed and it gets postponed, and by the time I actually start doing my work it’s like 12:00. …(but) I won’t call it stressful, it is more of a discussion sort, you just have a discussion with people, finalise upon the events – because see, events will be finalised by the assocs themselves. I can just suggest to them what all events they can have but the final decision should be theirs because they have to have the actual core element of the event.

I belong to an electronics field, I may suggest to Phoenix what all events we can have, but when it comes to Mechanical or Civil, I can just browse and get information collected from various sources and actually suggest to them ’cause the core ingredient job will be theirs to do. And the feasibility will be decided by them.

So it is more of a discussion, like you get the work going, get people involved, you start the assocs to function and you have the site up, you get pro shows ready, you have talks with the director, regarding the speakers that we can have you actually – there is a linkage gap between all of these departments, you just fill in this, that’s it.

As a TC, and as the student, Mudit Jain, how closely would you associate yourself with the brand of ATMOS? The success is not entirely dependent on you, it’s a college effort. Would you be satisfied if you did your part of the job well, or do you need ATMOS to be successful, to be known… how much do you want it?

The basic funda of standing for TC was to change the campus culture. To actually have new things going on campus. So obviously it will matter a lot that ATMOS is successful… We have a number of colleges in Hyderabad which we can target. We have IIIT Hyd, we have IIT, we have NIT Warangal. All these people can actually turn up. The only point is publicity, and informing them well in advance. Events like RoboWars and Mini GP. These are events in which people spend heavily: 30k bots, 40k bots, and people will come from any part of south India… we just need to inform them well in advance.

See, ATMOS should become big, it is a progressive process it is nothing that can be stopped. So it is a new thing I know, but having all the, um, events and workshops and exhibitions that we have planned, if everything comes through it will become big. There’s no doubt.

What are the perks – what are the advantages that a TC has. Do people treat you differently? How much? A certain level of respect that comes with the position.

Definitely respect and actually the name is changed from Mudit to TC so it might be a fad, but it is changed for a few people, and the perks you get are: the Director, you get to go in his room, you get to understand the working of the entire technical college not your department specific, all the departments combined. Then you can introduce yourself as TC, that is one perk, it makes you connected with the college.

Every student might be having this feeling… somehow they are not connected, they are not a part of the college… (but) even 10 years down the line, it makes you –

…3rd TC to ever exist.

Exactly.

Right, so those are the perks, but of course there’s some stuff on the bad side, it comes with the job. Innocently, I’m asking, were there any people who were disappointed that didn’t get the job, or someone who thinks you’re not good enough to be the TC?

There was. People – um – there were six people in the competition – uh, I won’t say competition but, uh, the selection process. For TC. Should I mention the names?

It’s up to you, but it’d be good if you do.

Suyash, Pratul, Arote, Vineeth, me and Jayant.

See, you don’t qualify (as) a TC just on the technical requirements – I presume my technical CV might be less than others on the panel or the selection… But it is more about how much work can you get done during a point of time. There were disappointments because people were actually in favour of a few candidates. Not people, selective…

Yeah it’s ok, don’t mention names if you don’t want to.

…it will be there. Politics, even if you don’t want it to get in between people, it does. So you can’t do anything about it, but yeah, there was distrust I’ll say, in the start. But later, a point of time… I would like to believe that they themselves understood, that once you’re selected, it is better to get the job done. Because that weight of the job comes in.

See starting, we are immature when we stand for TC, when we stand for President, when we stand for any post, in general. Once the job gets in, once that pressure comes to you, you actually calm down, you don’t care about people are trusting you, people are believing in you, you just want to get the job done. In the last it only matters if ATMOS is good or bad, that’s it.

So obviously the TC has his team: who would you are essential to you, who do you require, apart from assoc heads of course. A few people whose contributions were way outside what was expected who went way out of their way to help you and the college, and ATMOS.

There are few people. See, every department  has few enthusiastic people who are very into the technical side of the batch. I didn’t expect, I thought Civil people would have to work a lot because they had to structure it up.

Oh come on, take names!

There’s this guy Sanket, he actually came up to me with the entire list of events that we can organise, the companies that we can approach for workshops I was actually surprised because that was a lot of work to do and without anyone actually telling him he actually did that work.

There are people like these who actually are enthusiastic about new events happening. Even if I mention Arkadip’s name, he had the site up, well in advance. Not the entire site because we’ll have to negotiate the companies, we have to negotiate with our own assoc heads for the finalisation of the events. But a basic site that people can actually contact.

People have actually come to me saying that these events can be conducted in our college, uh, this company can be called for this specific event. For some workshops are such that they will be conducted, a zonal round will be conducted, a final round will be conducted in IIT Bombay or IIT Madras. So they were like, can you conduct these. They were very enthusiastic, that trend has to start in college.

I’ll be very frank, people have that notion that yeah, ATMOS is happening we’ll participate in one event and that’s it, but there should be this attachment to ATMOS… ATMOS is a BPHC event. It is something that we need to be part of. That thing should start among everyone. That thing will only start when we have respect for it. When we see things happening.

I know that ATMOS is not done yet, but what would you call a few defining moments or will be defining moments? What are you looking forward to?

The auditorium for inauguration. You have 2500 people sitting in front of you.  The entire hall is filled, you have a long stage. You walk up in front of the Chief Guest, the Director, all your batchmates and you have finalised everything, you have worked – quite a lot I would say – on something, and when you work quite a lot the feeling at the last will be very good. You walk up on to the stage and you address the entire 2500 people  they listen to you in silence, and at last you declare ATMOS open, that will be the defining moment, I think.

After ATMOS, what would life be like?

It definitely would tone down a bit and I would start focussing  on my studies a bit and after ATMOS, as far as my seniors have told me… TC, he is nothing, he just – I wouldn’t say supervise, I would say have new things on campus going, the things that campus requires. It requires a coding culture: let’s talk with the seniors of the CRUx department in how we can improve the coding culture. It is – someone has to take up the initiative. It is not about the authority, it’s as simple as someone has to take up the initiative. Talk to these people, talk to the faculty, talk to the Director. And get things done, get things on campus, again the culture of the campus is set.

Winding up, do you have anything you’d like to say? Anything left to comment on, or perhaps what you’d like to say to the next technical convenor.

I would like to tell the entire students, of junior batches. I basically assume, I basically want to believe that technical fests is the showcasing of the technical culture on the campus itself. Somewhere down the line in engineering, we lose the interest , we lose the fascination of engineering that we once had. This revives it. Technical fest is not to tell the entire world that we can conduct a technical fest we can have these many people, we have so many contacts, or something like that. It is when these kind of workshops are conducted that you actually regain the fascination about engineering. First somewhere in 10/11/12 you might have seen an iron man movie, you might have presumed “Oh, that’s cool”. That won’t happen, but something on those lines, something in that context, fascination for engineering, that time if I had asked you will you become an engineer you would have said yes. That would be cool. But somewhere down the complexities of the subject, somewhere down the complexities of reading through four years, you actually lose that interest. So this solves a social purpose I would like to think of it as a manifest function of ATMOS or any technical fest in general. It brings back interesting views so you can keep going ahead with your studies.

A workshop for two days, practically speaking, you can’t learn the real deal out of it. You’ll make a bot, you’ll learn something about app development., but then you’ll just develop it on yourself. It will just expose you to things. …you actually feel more involved with your department.  It is for that, that kind of involvement with your course, that kind of fascination hat you have for engineering, to revive that. That is I think the main function, I think.

We’re releasing the timetable soon in advance of what events are to be organised. So what I suggest is… have a timetable figured out, uh, then attend those events on those specific dates. Attend a workshop for sure, because for six departments, this time we’ll be having six different workshops in different fields so you can attend the workshop from your department if you like the subject that they’re having a workshop on. … Attend all the pre-ATMOS workshops if you’re attending the event during ATMOS. We have a lot of pre ATMOS workshops going on as well, from CRUx, ARC, SMP… and the regular assocs.

And one more thing I would like to point out, when we call in huge names, as speakers, like they are respected all around the world. And they come down to our campus and we have empty classes, that is actually a blot, on the name of BITS. It is far away, I understand but you’ll have to have a timetable figure out… these people fly down from quite different parts of India or world… these are people who have been renowned in their field, these are people who have been working for 15 years straight, and we have half of our F101 filled, on an average basis. So we should have the entire thing. Whenever you find them you should actually attend these lectures. That’s all.


Interview by Kartik Reddy

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