When I began applying for jobs at the beginning of my college senior year, my interests lay in business, but my experience was in journalism. I knew my writing abilities would serve as an advantage in the job hunt, but I was ready to move beyond the business of typing and editing words -- or editing videos, as was my role as founder of the school newspaper’s Multimedia Department -- and improve my deal making, analysis and eye for innovation. And if I had my druthers, I would do my business in an exciting locale. From this admittedly broad starting point, I focused my energies on applying for business analyst positions -- doing my best to ignore the abundant reports on dismal job prospects for soon-to-be college graduates. When I saw a listing for a position as an analyst at Tata Consultancy Services, the first thing that caught my eye was the brand -- “Tata,” specifically. I had written an article for the school paper my freshman year about Ratan Tata’s well-respected conglomerate and widely-reported philanthropy efforts; I was impressed that his company would be recruiting on campus. The second aspect that drew my attention was the fact that this was, indeed, a job opportunity to work in India.
As an economics major, I had frequently heard of the “BRIC” nations-- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- which exhibit the most exciting futures for economic development, as well as the most complicated growing pains. Like other college students, I was attracted to fast-paced geographies that encourage entrepreneurship and innovation -- places like New York City and Silicon Valley, where many of my friends flocked for job interviews. To me, India seemed like it could be a natural hub for dynamic, creative, smart young professionals. I figured I had nothing to lose by at least applying. I sent in my resume and cover letter, and hoped for the best.
The interview process lasted several months, and by the time I received an offer in April, I was beset with a doubts. First, I wasn’t sure if my role as a Business Analyst for the Life Sciences -- entailing pharmaceutical, medical diagnostic and biotechnology companies -- was a perfect fit. I was excited about life science companies’ fast growth, but dubious about whether I would be able to learn enough about the field to truly have an impact as a business analyst. Additionally, I was beginning to question the reasoning behind going to India for my first job. I wondered if it would perhaps be more pragmatic to gain experience in a traditional post-Cornell city -- NYC or Chicago, for instance -- before taking a leap across the pond to work and do business.
Thankfully, I had access to many valuable and diverse viewpoints to help guide me through this period of uncertainty. Shortly after receiving the offer, while on duty as a Marketing intern for the Johnson Graduate School of Management, I was assigned to report on a lecture by a visiting scholar who was an “expert” in emerging economies. Among other insights, this particular scholar explained that experience in emerging markets will be increasingly valuable moving forward, and encouraged audience members -- most of who were studying for their Masters of Business Administration -- to take advantage of opportunities to learn and work in these countries.
Another formative -- and much more intimate -- interaction this past spring was the chance to eat dinner with an alumnus who was recently named head of a major news network. When the alum asked about my plans following graduation, I explained that I had received an offer from Tata to work in India, but was still officially undecided. I could tell I had piqued his interest; he explained to me that the chance to work abroad -- particularly in a dynamic nation like India -- is potentially once-in-a-lifetime, and also that learning to do business in India could be a major asset for my career. This alum reminded me of one more thing: the experience of living, working, traveling and even making friends in India would be an unbelievably exciting way to spend my first year out of college, regardless of my exact job role.
The icing on the cake was talking to my supervisor in Mumbai. He assured me that I could quickly learn all I needed to succeed as a business analyst in the life sciences -- as well as reiterating thfield’s potential for growth and innovation. I thus accepted the offer as a combination of career planning -- the chance to grow my experience in emerging markets and learn a separate business culture -- and a yearning for a certain adventure that very few people get the chance to take. I flew to India a mere two weeks after graduating. On graduation day, there were of course emotional goodbyes with my best friends of the past four years, but all in all, it was very much a day of looking forward, not nostalgia.
As one friend said to me, grasping my shoulders heartily, “Dude, you’re going to come back a different man.” I’m not quite sure how different I will be after this year is over, but I do hope I can gain wisdom, maturity, and a full understanding of what an “emerging” market is all about. If I can keep up with the Indian economy, I like to think I will be able to keep up anywhere.
Exciting as Mumbai is, the city can certainly be intimidating, and I'm always looking for fellow expats and/or Project Firefly contributors to meet and learn from. If you're in the area, please don't hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.