Ashish Raj, hailing from Munger, Bihar has managed to get past the life of a driver where he used to pick and drop people from the airport and is currently working as a software engineer at WebEngage. How? Upskilling. A 30-week course on coding landed him a software developer job.
The son of a farmer, Ashish’s family is not financially well-off. After finishing school, he moved to Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, for further education. His father spent his life savings for Ashish’s first year fee in college. Ashish took up a diploma in electrical engineering upon advice from friends and family, hoping that he would land a job in the government sector. But he was struggling to make his ends meet while in Bhopal.
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“I don’t really come from a very financially strong background, which meant limited opportunities for me growing up. Growing up in Bihar, there is only one goal for the youth there. Get a government job. When in school, the mindset is to become an electrical or a civil engineer because that is the shortest way to get a good govt job," explains Ashish.
“The financial situation was very bad for a big family like ours, and I saw in the first year only that most of my seniors who were passing out were not getting jobs at all. I could not take a loan, I did not really have anything to take a loan against, and that is when money problems became really bad for us. I needed money for my family and myself, being away from home," he told News18.com.
To make ends meet, he took his cousin’s help to learn to drive a car and obtained a driver’s license for the same. He started working as a driver in Bhopal with the cab aggregator Uber.
“My entire family was disappointed because they had spent everything to get me to study. Indian families value education more than anything. It is the hardest time I have ever faced", said Ashish. He was caught in a catch 22 situation. He could not stop driving because he needed money and driving left him with no time or resources to not study. He did not have enough money to buy additional supplies including books, hostel fees etc needed if he curtailed his work hours.
I could not stop driving because we needed money and I could not study either because we did not have enough money for that, said Ashish.
He had an interest in computers. It made him remind of his childhood days when he used to spend a large part of his childhood in his uncle’s cyber cafe.
He says he took a chance with the coding course, as he didn’t have to pay anything for it. “If it doesn’t work out, I won’t pay them any money and if I get a job, anything will be better than driving a cab," says he.
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On completion of the 30-weeks course, he now believes, “There are people who do four-year of CS who know less than me at this point, and I am working right now in the field that they can’t get into because they have no software development skills," he adds.
For Ashish, it took him about three weeks to get the job after the completion of his course. He did not land the first job he applied for as he lacked in interview skills but he took each interview as a learning step. “I had 6-7 interviews. I was preparing for interviews by taking feedback from past interviews, and trying to improve," explains Ashish.
For his job at WebEngage, he had to go through a coding test first, followed by a technical interview. After which, interview rounds with the manager and HR. After which he finally landed the job.
Although he did not disclose his salary, he says it’s more than what he was earning, plus “doing better work". “The course taught me everything about coding there is to know".
The quest for better does not end here for Ashish, “For the future, I want to grow more, get a better salary package. First I just wanted to do good in life, now I want to grow as a software developer and make more money and help my family. I want to just continue doing this and growing and earning more by doing something that as a child I loved doing."
When asked about how important knowing English is when it comes to tech jobs, he says communication and understanding are important factors. Hence, knowing English really helps. “My writing skills are still getting better, but coding is a language of its own. Once you understand what needs to be done, you can get it done. I think English is a very important, basic skill. The more fluent you get the better but knowing English is important in tech," says he.
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