Do you have a ‘Plan Z’?

This post was authored by Manuj Goyal, on Co-op in India. notes-514998_1920Evolution is a fundamental aspect of life on Earth and I believe a key principle in the road to success. Having the ability to adapt, to think on one’s feet, and to find opportunities when all plans you have fall apart is even more essential in the country of India where chaos seems to be the driving factor of all life. In a place with such a long history, a place where so much innovation and discovery has and does occur, a place where so many people coexist harmoniously, it is sometimes difficult to fathom how things happen smoothly considering the seemingly haphazard and chaotic progression of events in any situation.

Earlier in my coop journey in India, I traveled the state of Rajasthan in collaboration with the Department of Information Technology and Communication as well as the Department of Planning. Learning about and analyzing rural conditions, farming techniques, and common mindsets, I gained clarity on the direction my product development and my overall project. I began to narrow down and define the exact area of the agricultural and farming process which I wanted to make more efficient and easier and began creating a plan with goals to develop this product.

Before diving deep into product development though, I decided to head to a small farm where volunteers from all around the world came to learn about permaculture, and agricultural technique based on the mindful usage of resources and careful integration of the environment with agricultural processes. Permaculture has been used throughout the world and due to its foundation in basic principles of agriculture rather than specific techniques, it is effective in a variety of environments. This institute and center of innovation and learning was an ideal place for me to refine my design parameters and gauge the possibilities of success of a technical product in a rural agricultural setting. The farm also offered a unique setting with limited access and resources as it is three kilometers, about 2 miles, up a mountain from the nearest town, a town with only tea shops and limited supplies. The closest major town is more than thirty minutes by a local bus and so the environment and setting was ideal for planning and analyzing the development of a product.

Things sound too good to be true, don’t they? A few days before I was meant to head to the farm from Rajasthan, riots and civil unrest broke out near New Delhi, the city I had to connect through in order to get to the farm. The government shut down all road and railway travel entering Delhi from the Rajasthan direction and cornered me into staying put where I was. So my options became to either change my plans or take a 400 dollar flight to a city approximately nine hours by bus from the farm or take an 800 dollar, 24 hour travel time flight to a city approximately two hours from the farm. I decided that it might be best to postpone my trip to the farm but with no way of knowing when the unrest would end or if it would spread to other parts of the country, my project teetered on a precarious edge of collapsing completely.

But using the resources I had available to me, I reconnected with my collaborators, advisors, and mentors and quickly came up with a Plan Z since Plan A and Plan B and pretty much every other plan had fallen apart. Instead of forcing my way to the farm and potentially endangering my project further, I spent some time in Rajasthan looking further into the infrastructure and agricultural difficulties within the state. After this it was time to head to Delhi in March where 3.5 million people were meeting up to celebrate all cultures, diversity, and spiritual living at the Art of Living’s World Culture Festival. Together we meditated and celebrated for three days while discussing leadership and innovation at the Global Youth Leadership Forum. After a silent retreat in Bangalore with thousands of leaders from around the world and a week-long service project in a village in Orissa, I finally got the ability to travel to the farm.

I write this blog post from a small farm on the side of a mountain, three kilometers from the nearest town. The food is prepared on a fire stove, the water comes from a river a kilometer away, clothes are washed by hand, running water works because of gravity, electricity comes from the sun. Rural life can seem fantastical, picturesque, otherworldly, and simple. The fact of the matter is that getting into the rural mindset, living the rural life, farming at a rural scale on the side of a mountain is not easy. In the west and in urban areas throughout the world, electricity, food, water, clean housing, and many other faculties are often taken for granted. I work here in India to bring these same faculties to the people who support the rest of the world by feeding us and taking care of the natural world that allows us to be alive and enjoy life on Earth. My hope is that through the technical skills I have and through the lessons I’ve learned in India, I can inspire others to also give back and find ways to celebrate the simple things in life. I hope that my posts inspire you to join this celebration, to speak up for nature, to give back in whatever way you can.

Getting Lost and Finding Your Own Way

This post was authored by Mika White

My friend Brin and I were so excited to be in Ethiopia – we heard it was a beautiful place with wonderful food and rich culture. We had planned this five-day trip as a visa-renewal trip, and after exploring the capital Addis Ababa for two days, chose something around #21 of things to do in Ethiopia on TripAdvisor: Wenchi Crater Lake. It sounded simple. To get there, we would take a bus from Addis Ababa to the small town of Waliso where we would take another local bus that would take us out to the crater lake and natural hot springs. We first made the mistake of thinking that it would be an accessible, commonly traveled-to place.

We boarded a bus that took us 9km out to the tiny town of Chittu and realized that we were still very far from the crater. The transportation system was completely incomprehensible – nothing was written down, there was no proper bus schedule, and we had no idea where we were actually going. The driver stopped and everyone unboarded the bus, so we had reached the end of the line, with no crater in sight. I felt like the idiot from An Idiot Abroad, trying to navigate in a country where I could communicate with virtually no one, with no cell phone service or proper instructions on how to get anywhere.

So here we were, two young white girls in this little town where no one could speak English, looking for a lake that turned out to be about 30km (about 18.5 miles) away. We weren’t aware of this minor detail, so after disembarking the bus at the end of the line, we just started walking down a never-ending road that seemed to be in the direction of the mountain. After walking for about an hour, we concluded that we weren’t going to make it in time. We ended up hitching a ride back to town to confirm with locals that there was no way we would make it to the mountain by nighttime.

That evening, after we took the same bus back to Waliso, we approached a large number of people at our restaurant to ask if they knew of any drivers in the area who could take us. We happened to meet the nicest people from Save the Children who offered to take us, since their office was apparently not far away. The next day, we headed out, passed the small village from the previous day, and made it to the crater. They joined us in our hike and made it the most spontaneous, memorable trip I’ve had. The crater and springs were as beautiful as we had hoped, but the journey made it even more special and worthwhile.

Crater Lake

A lot of things generally deemed unacceptable and careless are actually okay. It’s okay to be lost sometimes. It’s okay to wander and see what happens. It’s okay to rely on others. If you haven’t seen the parallels already, these hold true for the career path as well. Luckily, we have a lot of people who can help you figure out what you want to do when you are feeling lost. You can always call or schedule an appointment with a Career Advisor in the Stearns Center. Who am I to be speaking, as an undergrad who is just embarking on my own journey? I can speak from hearing the experiences of others, and from knowing that opportunities will arise, as long as I am attentive and working hard towards something.

Preparing for an Interview

In my internship search, I have been on around 10 interviews so far in Boston. My first couple of interviews were pretty clumsy. Now, I am seeing offers from more of the interviews that I managed to get from companies than when I began. Getting an interview invitation is not easy but once you have got invited, it’s your chance to prove yourself to the employer. In this post, I want to share some tips that I learned in the past year about interviews according to my experiences.keyboard-417090_1920

Search About The Company, Industry, and Interviewer

One of the most important things before going to an interview is to get familiarized with the company and industry. By mentioning some information you learned during the interview, you can show your interest in the job to the interviewer. Moreover, it is critical to check the Linkedin accounts of interviewers. I learned this the hard way. In my first interview, the interviewer kept asking me about my finance experience even though it was a marketing position, and I said that I didn’t like my experience in finance field. Later, I figured out that the person who interviewed me had a finance background, and they wanted me to do the marketing for finance companies. I didn’t get the job but it was a great lesson for me to search about the interviewers before going to an interview.

Prepare a Short Pitch and Get Ready to Answer Questions

Confidence is the key in the interviews and to be confident, you must practice what you are going to speak a couple of times. Before going to an interview, it is important being able to talk about experiences and relevant skills. In addition, it’s useful to practice some answers to questions might be asked to you. There are some standard questions that I heard nearly all of my interviews. What makes you a good candidate for this position? Why you want to work here? What is your plan for the future? What can you bring to the company that others can’t? A company I went recently also asked me about what I am not good at doing so, this way I learned that I should also have an answer to negative questions. Check out a list of some common questions here.

Determine Some Questions

Almost all of the interviews end up with the question “Do you have any questions?”  In my first job interview, I was not prepared and ended up saying “No thank you, you already answered all of my questions.” But it was a short talk and I knew that not all of my questions got answered. So, I left the interview within 30 minutes dissatisfied.  Again it was a lesson for me that I have to prepare some questions before going to an interview. Now, I go into interviews with at least 3 questions. One about the company culture, one about the position and one related to experiences of the interviewer. This way even interviewer answered some of my questions I haven at least one question to ask to them.