“Hello Abhishek, I hope I didn’t disturb you.”
The half-slept, half-awaken me took some time to recognize that voice on the call, as it broke my sweet sleep, with my bed being the back seat of my Uber. A sudden speed-breaker helped me to get back to my senses, and I looked at my phones haze screen – my manager was experiencing my awkward silence for quite some time now.
“Hi..hi…. No, you didn’t disturb me at all. Tell me, can I do something for you?”
I had woken up that day at 5 am, as I had to catch an Ola from my home in Alibag to Mumbai at 6, so that I can catch a flight to Bangalore at around 11. I have been working on a project deliverable till 1am the previous night – which was an improvement to my almost all-nighters I’ve had for a few days in row now. I had worked all the time in the Ola and the flight as well and was finally catching up on my sleep as my Uber took me to my alma matter, IIM Bangalore, which is almost a 2-hour drive from the Kempegowda international airport.
But of course, you don’t say all this to your manager. You always say – tell me my lord, how can thou slave be of some use – just in a little polite manner, for sure.
“Nothing much actually. First, thanks for getting some time out for this placement talk in IIM B. The way we plan to do is – I’ll make a presentation for about 15-odd minutes, then you can speak something for 10-15 minutes. We’ll take questions, if anyone would have some, and then we’ll close it. I hope you’ve prepared something to speak.”
Ohh oh – I wasn’t aware that I am supposed to speak as well. All I had thought that I’ll go to IIMB, my manager will give a quick pre-placement presentation, I’ll say him goodbye and then then just hang around with my juniors.
But clearly, my manager had higher expectations from me.
And I wasn’t sure, if I was ready to say anything at the venue
“You look awkwardly tense to me.”
The voice didn’t quite reach my ears a little late, as I my eyes were locked into the depths of a now-cold tea in my cup. It was a turbulent time – my MBA-stint at IIMB was nearing its end, the placement season was ripe, and I still didn’t have any shortlists from the much-worshipped strategy consulting firms. I’d doing case-prep for consulting firms all the season, and as the chances of shortlists looked bleak, I’d to make some tough calls – what companies to prepare for. Thoughts were running wild; the chaos was rising like a storm. There isn’t a chance that I’d hear that voice – my mind was too fogged to receive it.
My receptive powers returned, as a hand grabbed my shoulder and shook me gently. I looked up, towards the source of that voice, only to find a familiar face smiling at me.
“Hey, Hi Ajinkya. What a surprise! I didn’t expect you to be here right now.”
Ajinkya is my senior. He had already left this campus a around a year back, so it was indeed a surprise to see him back in the campus again. Also, it was 4.35am in the morning. The night canteen had closed a long back – so I didn’t expect anyone to be there.
To find a senior at this place at such a time – well, that was the miracle I needed for sure.
“Nothing much. I had come to the campus for the pre-placement talk, and then decided to stay the night. I was just about to leave and was walking towards the gate, but then I just saw someone seating here at this hour, and see my luck – haven’t I stumbled across the misguided ghost itself?” He liked making fun of my penname. He always did.
But I wasn’t in any mood for fun.
“Just shut up, Ajinkya. I am really shattered here. I don’t have any consult shortlists. I don’t have much time in my hands. And I have too many questions to answer. I don’t know which company to apply to. I don’t know if I should prepare for marketing or consulting. I don’t know even know if I know the right criteria to judge a company – I am truly clueless here.” I burst out. It was in my head for a quite some time, and the outbreak was a long due.
“Oh, it’s quite simple. Apply PWC. That’s all you need. See you” He waved at me and started walking towards the gate.
“Wait, what? PWC? Just a single company?” I ran behind him. To keep all my eggs in a single basket, that too at his point in time – this was not the VC-interned, cracked-all-the-companies-he-applied-to, and walked-away-with-three-offers-in-placements Ajinkya I knew. He definitely had something up his sleeve.
“Oh, my dear friend. PWC is not a company. It’s a framework.” He was calmly walking towards the gate.
“Framework? Wait what?” I finally caught up with him, but spilled half of my even-colder chai.
“Yes. A very practical and useful framework. Whenever you have to decide if you should apply to a company or not, prepare for a field or not, take the job or not – all you need to do, is apply this framework – and all your problems will be solved.”
“Okay. But what does it stand for? Tell me already na.” Well, he had built quite the curiosity in a very short time, and I was in the need of that magic pill.
“Listen carefully, Abhishek” He had added some gravitas in his voice now. He used to be in the dramatics club – he knew how to pull all these tricks. “PWC stands for – Paisa, Work and Chai. You should only see these three things in a company – in the increasing order of importance.”
“Sorry, what?” I moved close to him and sniffed. I suspected that he was drunk – but he wasn’t.
“See, Paisa stands for all the payment and perks that the company offers – monetary and non-monetary. I agree that money is not everything in life and all – but to be honest, it does solve some problems. I won’t say look for a company that pays the highest CTC – coz CTC is not the right means to judge this paisa component. Fixed components of the salary are more important, then the performance bonus and that’s it – all other components are usually a faff. Joining bonus is a one-time thing, and company performance bonus (the one you get when company performs well) is not in your control.”
“And what do you mean by non-monetary components?”
“Perks – like are you getting a free apartment to stay, or maybe if you’re getting a phone instead – saves a lot of your costs. Something that I love more is – do you get to travel often and more? Nothing can beat the perk of seeing the world without spending much of your own pennies.”
“Wow. That sounds logical.”
“Good. The second component of the PWC framework, is Work – basically, what will you be doing in your day-to-day life and what opportunities or responsibilities you get. You may make millions, but if you have to do meaningless work for that, then probably you won’t be able to survive for a long period of time.”
“Wait a minute. How do I decide if my work is meaningful or not?” I must have sounded like a child, asking questions to his 3rd grade class-teacher, indeed.
“Ask yourself a simple question – is your work going to fill coffers of rich people, or is it going to make changes in the lives of the masses or not? It can do both, by the way. You can help a client carve-out a tower company, which will improve the telecom network in a country and help lots of people. Or you can help a fitness startup raise money and help people like yourself to lose those fab.”
The last jab was uncalled for, but I decided to ignore it.
“Work also involves the opportunities and responsibilities – see, it is okay to be a small cog in the big wheel – but you can’t be a cog all your life. You should get opportunities to present your work to your clients or investors, set up operations of a city from the scratch or design the logo for that new brand by yourself. If they don’t give you responsibilities to take up something big, make mistakes and learn, then you won’t ever grow in your life. And being a child in a man’s world, is no fun at all.”
“The first two points do make sense. But this Chai thing, this sounds a little awkward for sure.”
“Haha. That is the most important part actually. Chai stands for the Culture of the company – can you sit with your coworkers, and your managers, and your CEO too – over a Chai/beer, and have sensible conversations? Do they care for you, or do they just see you as a resource? Do they really help you out, both in personal and professional life, when you really need their help? Do you like to see them even outside your work hours? And first, can you survive the work hours in that office? If the answers of most of the questions are a ‘no’, then it is not the company you’d like to work for – even if they pay well and work is good. People matter more than anything else.”
“Wow. This is so cool.”
“I know, right? A senior had told me this, and I hope you share it with your juniors as well.”
“Yes, I’ll. But how will I get all this information about a company?”
“Well, quite simple – talk to the people who are already working there – your seniors, friends, or even any random people. Organizations give PPTs, but people tell stories – and all the stories have something about ‘PWC’ hidden in them. Also, spend more time on a company that you think can fit the PWC framework, rather than trying to juggle for 100 that might not, but will be easier to crack.”
We had reached the gate. It was hardly a 10-minute walk, but he had given me a new perspective to look towards the coming opportunities.
We walked him out of the gate, shook his hand and said him goodbye. He walked a few steps ahead, turned back, put a serious face on and called me back. “
“Abhishek, there is another component to the PWC framework – another, hidden ‘P’. And it is the filtering criteria – you can’t even apply this framework, if you can’t even apply the framework” – oh man, he is so good with his theatrics.
“And that hidden ‘P’ is, Passion! If you don’t feel about your job, if you don’t like what you’ll be doing, if you aren’t passionate about that work or industry – then hell with the PWC framework – a great consulting company can fit PWC framework, but then, you might not be born to do consulting at all. Always listen to your heart first, and then apply the mind!”
He put up a content smile on his face, looked at me, and walked away calmly.
I turned away from the gate as well, trying to remember all he had taught me in that 10-minute walk. The smile has returned on my face, after such a long time. I happily sipped the Chai in my hand – which was as cold as the storm in my mind now!
“And that’s it with my presentation. Now I’ll give the floor to Abhishek, as he’ll share his thoughts about the company and campus placements in general.”
My manager had wrapped up the presentation in 20 minutes, as he had said he would. I smiled at him, went near the podium in the classroom and looked up. I could see 30 odd faces, some filled with tension and uneasiness, looking at me with sleepy eyes and a straight face. My manager was puzzled by my silence, as I could read his glance asking, “Do you have any idea about what you are going to speak now?”
I took a deep breath, turned my face serious and said in a deep voice, “It’s quite simple. All you guys need to do is apply PWC!”