This is the story of when and why it all began for CSG before we opened the group for members beyond campus of IISc……
January, 2016: It is great to write about the PhD Career Support group which was born out of a necessity to help large numbers PhDs who were coming out from the Indian Institute of Science to develop their career in a foreign land. Embarking on a journey in a foreign land brings with itself, different problems which either we are unaware of or don’t have the skills or knowledge to work our way through. Ever since its inception on July 22nd (2015), this group has grown in its membership from 40 to 1500 and continues to grow.
Why did we have a forum like this to begin with? Some of us realized that the best thing, which happened in those 400 acres of lush green campus, was the bright and brilliant group of friends we had. In Bangalore if we ever had a problem and at whatever time of day it was, we could use our vast network of friends and solve almost all the problems. One of the things, which we missed dearly, in fact very dearly, was this “access” to our group of friends. I mean they were there, but as one graduated from the Institute, they not only got scattered, but the bonding that happened because of the campus wall was no longer there. What remained was the nostalgia which Gulzar penned quite brilliantly in Urdu “Chod aayein hum woh Galiya” (Those streets got left behind)
The other thing that we realized was how ill equipped PhDs from IISc were if they had to think about a career outside science. Although most IISc PhDs would love to spend their entire life in Science, the present funding scenario with too many graduates in Biotechnology or other natural sciences have created a very unstable future for the PhDs. We saw top US universities like Yale, Cornell, NYU, Columbia have a very aggressive career counseling offices working day and night for PhDs to help them from getting disillusioned with failure to secure tenure-track positions. Unfortunately, IISc is still way behind these programs resulting in hundreds of PhDs with no apparent direction to take if their academic career didn’t take off. So one objective of the forum was to crowd source ideas and knowledge about how the real world works and what needs to be changed if one has to seek a job outside academia.
We also realized that the alumni network is not well connected. There is for sure gap between senior well-established IIScians with the current students or fresh PhDs and postdocs. The alumni network is no match with IITs or even some top undergraduate colleges of India, for example, St. Stephens Delhi or St. Xavier’s Bombay. For an IIScian to compete with US PhDs, one needs to have an excellent network within the organization in which they are applying. From our experience and from others we heard that it was a pain to network resume in the company. However, if you search LinkedIn for IIScians, you would invariably see IIScians in those companies. The question was WHY THEN THE CONCEPT OF ALUMNI NETWORK not working? HOW TO REACH OUT TO SENIOR IIScians and establish a credibility of the candidacy?
The answer was to bring in the alumni in an interactive forum where they could see and talk to each other in spite of the fact that they had never been on the same time frame in IISc. The idea was to bring the alumni and the current students into constructive discussions and to share and support career opportunities. So creating an interactive forum was like staying in the same hostel complex that allows you to knock the door of your friends at your leisure when you are in trouble.
The last six months have been a tremendous success. We launched several initiatives and just like scientific research; some got started some failed. However, the passion to be in touch with IIScians remains unchallenged. Recently we have started a Blog called Club SciWri (www.sciwri.club) which will be the window to the world for the Career Support Group. We will not only post scientific achievements of IIScians/ other Indian Scientists but will also post discussions in the forum by IIScians and other PhDs outside IISc. Never before we had thought that we will live in a virtual world of IISc after we had left Bangalore and Career Support Group just gave us back that feeling in this foreign land. We now interact with at least 1500 IIScians almost on a daily basis. Isn’t it amazing? Also, the forum immediately removed the age barrier.
With this introduction, we end here.
Ananda Ghosh & Abhinav Dey
Ananda Ghosh and Abhinav Dey are the co-founders of PhD Career Support Group.
This story was previously published in the IISc AANA Newsletter.
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