It was the early morning of the scheduled quiz. I had woken up around 6am to do some last minute preparation for the subject in an attempt to look knowing on an exam that I knew would anyways be a disaster. As I groggily wandered to the washroom to splash some water on my sleep ridden face, I saw the lights in the room beside mine on. I knocked on the door, thankful that I had a companion in this condescending journey of quiz preparation. The door opened, and one sleep deprived face met another. “Woke up early for this pest of a quiz, eh?”, I asked. “Nah man. Didn’t go to sleep at all. Had been sorting through these placement forms to send to the company. Some students had forgotten to submit theirs on time. Had to work on that”, said the placecomer. And that is how the day of a placement committee representative starts – from the night before.
The PGP Placement Committee is a team of 23 student members at IIM Bangalore who overlook every detail related to the drudging job of getting more than 800 students in the institute placed (the batches preceding and succeeding them only to avoid conflict of interest), right from resume refining to post placement succession planning. With such big responsibilities, come big troubles as well. Managing students in such large numbers, not to say those who are the best picks from the country, is a true challenge which needs discipline and dedication. And the Placecomers are as apprehended as they are appreciated for it.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I got allotted a room right next to one of them and I was able to observe these rare species over the period of time. One of the ways to differentiate them is through their attire. If you see a student who is constantly running around, sporting blazers under the sun, rain and all, you can be sure it’s a placecomer. Another sign is that poker face which they would carry around. Considering that they have to be cautious of being blamed for partiality even if they are just trying to be friendly, these species have mastered the art of how not to smile. But beware, in their own safe space of the committee, I have heard their true party animal side comes out. That’s another thing about the placecom species. With the image they have built up through the years, if they are seen casually wandering around – something that everyone at IIMB does at some point everyday – they are called out for it. So, if someone is being questioned “Hey dude! How come you are having fun? I thought placecom wasn’t supposed to have fun!”, you can be sure that you have met one of the placecom species. Imagine always being careful of how much free time you get. It is like being on crucifix for chilling out!
But probably they don’t have time to complain anyways. With classes starting from 10 am, going on till a minimum of 1:30pm and then dealing with tough HRs who come to the campus all on the same day, want to organize numerous activities, and then conducting PPTs, to their late night brainstorming sessions to ensure nothing goes wrong on the D-day – it is like having a full time job while studying in a management school which in itself is a 24×7 job. And to that add the constant spate of agitation towards the committee, the anonymous threads of spite and full blown confrontations to the admin – it is a proper pressure cooker of a situation that I wouldn’t want to be a part of. And frankly, no one does. We are easy with looking from the other side of the glass and pointing to everything that is going wrong than to go over to the other side and help pick up the pieces. But to be fair, placecom doesn’t make it easy for you as well. In a world of gray that we live in, they are pure black and white. The rules are followed to the dot and they are as rigid as a rock. That can get annoying! They are strongly defensive about what they do and have no time for humor. No amount of peer pressure can lead them to bend the rules and probably for this reason they come off as an elitist group, out to get everyone because for some it may look like they don’t live and let live!
But there is a method to their madness. A casual outlook leads to far more rippling consequences that we, with our short sightedness, do not have the ability to see and hence they have to be the stoic people that they are. Because one slip, one miss, and one student’s career is on the line and those are pretty high stakes. High enough to lose sleep over, high enough to make the students lose their sleep over. But then the question arises, is it all worth it? Do we really need the socialist system where they end up shouting on us for toeing the line all in order to ensure nobody goes back empty handed? Well I questioned the same to them and while they agree that it can sometimes get out of hand, but at the end of the day, they have to do it. “But why? Why do you have to do it? Why do you need to do it”, I puzzlingly asked. “Because no matter how difficult it gets, no matter how much backlash you face from the students or companies or even your own team, at the end of the day the joy of telling a person that they have got a job is worth it. And there is a certain purpose in doing that, putting someone else as a priority above your own, putting more than 800 priorities above your own. Not everyone may be able to do it, but we do it because we have that strength and honor.”
It is true that they give in their days for our present and their nights for our future. It is also true that they will never see eye to eye on the various issues that they have with students. Probably it is right, probably it is wrong. But we don’t have to love them, we don’t have to like them, we don’t even have to idolize them. We just need to understand where do we place the placement committee – as friends or foes or species with due courtesy that work away in the nights so that we can peacefully go to sleep with a job in our hand and relief in our hearts.