What has been your best career decision(s)?

“Sir. I’m not cut out for this. Thank you”
I stood up and walked out of the interview hall and never looked back.

“Sir. I’m not cut out for this. Thank you”
I stood up and walked out of the interview hall and never looked back.

“Dad I don’t want to work a job right now. I just realized that once I start working, I’ll be doing this for the next 30+ years of my life and never get the opportunity to take a break like this. I’d like to take a year off and camp and travel and bird my way across India. Once I leave for my MS, we both know I’m never coming back. This is my last chance to do this.”

Dad looked at me for a whole minute before saying “Go for it. I’ve got your back”.

Convincing mom was a whole other ball game but she eventually came around. I spent the next year of my life in National parks and sanctuaries; sometimes alone, other times with friends but most of the times leading groups of students as an instructor. After 15 years of hard slogging as a student, I finally had a break.

Taking a year off after undergrad gave me the opportunity to recuperate. It kept me away from a job which a lot of my friends described as a horrendous experience and helped me turbo-charge for what was ahead. It gave me a chance to spend time with the people I loved. It was not an easy decision. A lot of people doubted me. Most people called me crazy and arrogant. A non-trivial number of people assumed that I was lying and I had basically failed my BE and didn’t get a job. After all, which sane person passes on a job to watch birds? My dad, being the devilish prankster that he is, fueled these rumors even more to mom’s annoyance. He would go around telling people “What can I say. Nobody wants to hire him. If you have a job in your company can I send him to you?” This was the quickest way to get rid of all the concerned “well wishers”.

By the end of the year, I was mentally recharged and ready to take on whatever life had to throw at me. When I got to grad school, I was willing to push myself harder than I ever thought possible. When I started at Amazon a week after I graduated, I was completely pumped and ready to go rock this whole “job” thing because I had never actually had one before so I had a clean slate to start with.

Taking a year off gave me a chance to put things into perspective. It gave me a chance to believe in myself more than the established system. It re-affirmed my belief that you can walk the path less trodden and still make it to the other end. It will always be the best decision I will ever have made; because without it I would not have a career, merely a job.

Sometimes, the most important roads in life, are the ones you don’t take.

A few adventures during the year off:

Studied the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher in the depths of the Western Ghats
A bird that science knows very little about

First photographic record of a Leopard in Pune
A handsome male

A beautiful Bronzeback giving me company in the forest
They always make me smile

Exploring the depths of Arunachal Pradesh
A dream come true

In case we haven’t met before, I’m Rohan Kamath.
Thank you for reading. I hope I could help you smile today. :)

Irfan Yaqoob

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