Written by Swasti Acharya
By the time Delhi imposed its second major Covid-19-induced lockdown in May 2021, students like Harsh Gujral* had become used to online learning. That was also Harsh’s last year attending the J.C. Bose University of Science and Technology (Faridabad) as a BTech student in Electrical Engineering.
Low JEE rank? Don’t fret, online-learning platforms will save the day
Like many students with access to steady internet and the means to pay for online certification courses, Harsh, too, decided to enroll in an online learning platform while pursuing his undergraduate studies. Due to his low rank in the JEE Mains, he was unable to secure admission to his first choice of degree programme in college – Computer Science. Dissatisfied with the placement opportunities for Electrical Engineering students, Harsh took it upon himself to learn how to code and prepare himself for placements that would otherwise not be open to him.
The waxing and waning ed-tech industry
In March 2021, his last year of engineering, Harsh signed up for a Software Development course at Coding Ninjas. With over 50,000 students turned professional coders, Coding Ninjas has become one of India’s leading e-learning platforms for aspiring techies in just 6 years since its inception. Soon after raising $5.2 M from InfoEdge in its Series A stage, the platform recorded almost double the number of enrollments in March 2020. This is similar to other Indian companies like Byju’s and Vedantu that managed to make big gains during the pandemic. Although the post-pandemic struggle for these ed-tech platforms is real, students like Harsh managed to ride the wave when the tide was high and made it out just fine.
So fine that they managed to land jobs that were previously not an option. One of the key factors that led Harsh to opt for Software Development was the promising growth of tech. He says, “As you might have seen, startups are growing. Mostly tech startups, FinTech startups, a lot of them have been coming in. And the government has also been very keen in introducing programs who favour people who lack financial assistance, they provide them with all the technical infrastructure and financial support.”
A new way of learning, a new way of comfort
When asked whether he prefers online or offline learning, he finds that there are more pros than cons for the former. For someone who values their time as much as he does, it’s great for those who want to maximise the most of their time spent learning. For students like Harsh, the easy-to-use interface that edtech platforms are constantly working to improve is also an added benefit that adds to the freedom of learning.
“We are given a recorded set of lectures, and those recorded sets of lectures are very user friendly, and they are very easy to understand. If you compare them with professionals, who are teaching you competitive programming of this level, they are using very big, difficult terms. Also, the pace of teaching is very, very fast. Coding Ninja covers very minute topics in an easy sense. The platform is nice. The video quality is great. Overall, whenever I come across some doubt, I can ask it freely. I would not have this feeling that the other person who is solving my doubt would get offended or fire back at me. So I don’t feel like I am being judged on the basis of what I do and what I don't know. That's the kind of freedom I have,” praises Harsh.
Flat hierarchy in start-ups offers room for all-round growth
Surely, the e-learning and upskilling experience has paid off. A year after enrolling at Coding Ninjas, Harsh gleams with his first job as a Software Engineer at a Singapore-based start-up. He finds similar freedom working at a start-up and perhaps that is one of the reasons many professionals are leaving established firms to work at emerging tech companies.
But for a young fresher who hasn’t seen the other side, what draws him to pick a start-up over an older company? Apart from the salary package, Harsh “preferred learning over getting into MNCs and sitting like a boss. So that's what MNCs in Software Development do. They hire, you know, potential candidates. And after a month or two, they sit like bosses. Here, in a startup, it's a flat hierarchy. You call people who are 30-40 years above your age by their names, you get to learn a lot of things about their lives. You also get a lot of other perks and benefits.”
What can be a challenge is that most start-ups have a limited workforce. This often means that employees wear multiple hats and acquire new skills on the go. So even though Harsh was initially hired for Quality Assurance, he’s had the opportunity to contribute to the firm’s Frontend Website Development. This for him is a big reward: “They provide all the resources to us. And with a small group of people, they expect that you can take as much money as you want, but in return, you have to give it your all.”
For students completing their Bachelor’s degree, the decision between continuing higher education or gaining work-experience is not an easy one. It becomes all the more difficult when one’s performance in competitive exams seems to define the future. This is where online-learning platforms can step in to add a valuable workaround like Coding Ninjas did for Harsh.
*Name changed to maintain privacy.