May 28, 2014

Success Story – Sooraj Ramachandran (Communication Design, IIT Kanpur)

I’m Sooraj and I’m essentially a Mechanical Engineering graduate from Kerala, who worked in Software for a year, had enough and pursued design. My story here will probably be a little different because more than anything it’s just one of determination and endurance.

I wrote CEED three times - Failed to qualify in the first, Got AIR 101 in the 2nd and AIR 58 in the 3rd. I went for the IDC interviews on my second and third attempt and got shot down both times (more on that in a bit). Finally with all my cards on the table I got selected at IIT Kanpur. 

I always drew, be it doodles, wall scribbles or professional portraits. I love football so I started out drawing football comics in my second year of college. At about 11pm one night last year in my stuffy Software Company, I decided to quit and devote myself completely to design as that’s what I wanted to do. To fund myself I opened up a caricature page on Facebook, did some freelance cartooning and graphic design. I moved on to newer stuff like using a graphic tablet & graphic design like infographics, posters, logos (attached below) but still loved drawing. All this was extremely handy in the end for visualizing and speed of thought for the CEED exam and help expand my portfolio. 

The CEED Exam:
In my opinion, the CEED exam isn’t something to pull your hair out. All you need are:
·         Basic sketching ability (With a little experience with shading – probably for one question only)
·         Visualization ability: Cannot emphasize this enough. Comics and graphic novels will help you in a long way here just to understand how to put out a scene on paper.
·         Basic general knowledge – Just got through all the links here on TeaCupBlog and you’re covered. Prasanna sir has brilliantly collated everything you need.

·         Speed of thought: This is the main constraint. If you are reading this, you probably can draw. But getting it down on paper is the hurdle. Just use your pencil - no rulers, protractors, compasses and what not. Your drawings don’t have to be flawless, just get the idea across.
On my second attempt, I made a big mistake of not getting to work on my portfolio after the exam. You’ll get a little more than a month after the declaration of the results till when you’ll be sitting in front of the interview panel. Get cracking at it immediately. 

IDC – IIT Bombay
It was my 2nd time at IDC when I appeared this year and the interviewers did remember me. Over here I leant the most basic lesson during these interviews. This is not a crappy software engineering interview where you can be pretentious. You’ve got to be truthful and honest (it’s harder than it sounds) otherwise they’ll call your bluff. In the end the interview was a #fail and I went out pretty dejected for the Second year running
This was possibly the lowest I sunk in my life. I’d given it a lot and probably blew it right at the end. With some effort I pushed through all the criticism and applied for IIT Kanpur. I tweaked my portfolio a little to showcase more creative content and remove redundancy. I shortened it from 42 pages to 27. 

IIT Kanpur
There wasn’t any sort of a test, rather only interviews. When I was called in for my interview they immediately looked through my application form and questioned my “slightly” wayward history (B. Tech in Mechanical to Working in Software to drawing cartoons). There are so many answers you can say (like you learned something from each experience). I got past all my natural pretentiousness and just told them that I realized it isn’t the best history and I’ve made wrong decisions but this is something I’ve given almost three years of my life for and never did I feel it was a mistake and I’d keep going until I get there. 

They then moved onto my portfolio which had my caricatures and asked me to sketch one of the members of the panel in one minute (he had significant features so it was easy). They also asked me about what is the main attraction of the place I stay in Kerala. I said the Fishing nets of Kochi. They replied that I being a Mechanical Engineer should be able to provide a solution to ease their workload. I answered that it isn’t difficult to put in a motor and automate the thing but it’s a part of our culture and is important that it stays like that.

They also asked me to plot the graph of y = |x|+5. It came out of the blue but I managed to answer. Other simple graphs were also asked for some other students.
That was it! It wasn’t the most satisfying interview but I didn’t stumble like in IDC. They were friendly and chilled out. 

Final Words:
A little moment to thank Prasanna sir again and Trivakram Annamalai sir for their amazing work and Ashish Verma for telling me to be honest during interviews.  Also I just want to insert a word for my brother, sister-in-law and parents who kept supporting and believing in me even when I didn’t.
Getting through to an M.Des program requires a bit of skill and a LOT of perseverance and more than anything - a passion for it. It’s a cliché to say that if you keep trying you’ll get there but that was my case. Just be yourself, ride the storm and sunny days will come. 

You can get to me here and check out the rest of my work here

All the best you guys!


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