A quick look-back
A deep insight into my past

This time I’m going to write a post which is not related to anything technical, but rather an insight into what all I have been through the years of my Engineering.

One thing that I have heard from my friends is that “Oh damn, I shouldn’t have taken engineering. It is pretty much messed up because of the backlogs.”. But those statements make me think why doesn’t such thoughts come into my mind (one could say that I might not have had any backlogs, true. But that isn’t the one what I’m trying to prove here). Was it because I enjoyed my four long years way too much? Was it because I gave no importance to my academics? Well, no. This post could be extended, boring but very well, this should be interesting to a certain extent :bowtie: or at least I’ll try to make it interesting.

Back from fourth grade, I was interested in playing basketball and had continued with my interest until my 12th grade. Till tenth, everything was mechanical, the work and I were told that 10th scores were critical, blah blah and that got over. Well, now I have got to choose something from three streams that were offered in my school and ultimately I had taken Computer science because of my interest in computers. Well, there weren’t much of computers during that time and was too much of “Science” in which I scored average scores. There was pressure from my entrance coaching class, oh wait, I did not mention about my dream. As all other engineering students, my aim was getting into an IIT and ultimately joined one institute wherein we were given a lot of assignments and all the pressure as I said dragged me down in academics, but basketball and all were going pretty well :relieved:.

Well, moving on to twelfth grade, I got more used to all the SQL stuffs which was because that was something different from the other coding things which were going on in the past that you encounter in your computer class, and that started fascinating me but basketball pulled me away from all those, and I literally did not care about anything else :grimacing:. Finally, the board exams came got a decent score, but my performance in all the entrances did not go as well as I expected. In one way, I disappointed all those who were thinking about me. As I said, I aimed to get into one of IIT’s (Indian Institute of Technology), if not BITS (Birla Institute of Technology and Science) and that is it and it was like I was pretty sure that I’ll get in this. Well, both went how I did not want to (not going to brag about what happened with those) and ultimately I joined Amrita University for Computer Science and Engineering, and the best part was that my parents were supportive in each and every decision that I took back then.

As you know, private colleges charge you more than the others and ultimately most of my friends and others were looking at me in another angle because I was spending my parent’s money for engineering that too who’s future is not secure because all think that only IIT’s and other reputed college earn you a colossal paycheque moreover, this kind of words were used in my coaching institute because of which I never turned back there to see the person who taught me. The very first day in college was more of like the alien world because a lot of things were introduced and a few I remember are Free and Open source club (an important one), ICPC, Movie Club, Music Club, etc.

Well, in the beginning, I never cared for any of those and spend my time in the hostel after college hours mostly sleeping. Then I got to know about the basketball team and went for that but didn’t work out well because we had to wake up early every morning for the practice refrained me from going for further training. Towards the end of my first semester, a few of my batch-mates joined FOSS club, and I too joined along with them because they are my friends :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:.

But soon, we all dropped out which was mainly because of me :stuck_out_tongue: and that was because I was not ready to sacrifice my time for this and brought all others as well along with me :wink: (I regret doing that though). Later when I moved into my second year, I heard about the opportunities that my seniors got and that was because they were in that particular club. I again joined the club, but this time I was pretty serious about the activities and was ready to sacrifice my time.

I used to stay back in the lab from 5 PM till 7:30 PM and at that time, most of my friends used to tease me because they were pretty sure that I would stop it eventually as they knew what I did before. But I think that made me more dedicated towards the club and also, to stay in the lab and that went on until I met Vipin Sir, my mentor, who told me about contributing to open source organizations and prepare for GSoC (Google Summer of Code). Later that same year, there was a conference going to happen, FUDCon by Fedora (Back then I did not know what Fedora was :P). That conference turned me around, and by then I was sure that I’ll continue with this. This went on, and with the help of my beautiful seniors then, I patched a few bugs which gave me motivation.

But then this did not give me any motivation after a certain amount of time mainly because I was getting bored with patching bugs. I told this to Vipin sir, and he asked me to try PicoCTF which is a school level Capture the Flag contest wherein you will be given some riddles, you solve them and submit the answer you get which is ultimately the flag. I was pretty much interested in this, and this made him introduce to team bi0s, CTF team from Amrita University (a tag of “hacker” comes along while joining this club: stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:). Oh wait, I did not tell who Vipin sir was. Well, he is the founder of all the three clubs - FOSS, bi0s and ICPC team. The things which I am going to tell now is because of him and what I’m not is because of bi0s (my seniors).

The very first international CTF that I had played was 32C3 CTF wherein I was not able to understand any question, and it went on for almost 5 months until I solved a challenge from Google CTF. That was an incredible feeling, and that made me understand there is a lot more than I need to know what I see in movies where hackers gain access to the system within seconds :anguished: . The year 2016 we played almost every CTF which was up with the team we had (10 of us), and we did reasonably well which made us first in India according to CTFtime. The overall ranking was decent but we wanted to improve our ranking, and from then there was no looking back.

But along with this, I seriously messed up my entire academics, and all the faculties were pretty upset with what I was doing. All of my teammates stayed back in the lab till 11 PM every day, worked together, helped each other and ultimately every weekend, we played CTF’s which usually lasts 48 hours. Since there is only limited time and the time is a significant matter in these competitions, we rarely slept during matches. We mostly end up staying in the lab, not going to class and because of this, our chancellor, Mata Amritanandamayi told our mentor, why not these people get attendance exemption and also grace marks for what they do?

Well, I can tell that mainly because of this, we had to maintain only 25% attendance in total and also, were awarded grace marks for which we performed for the CTF’s. Our chancellor was pretty much happy with what we were doing, we gave her constant updates about what all we were doing and one beautiful day, she came up with an idea of conducting a CTF for school students, InCTF Junior.

When I got into my final year, most of my friends and family members started asking me “where did you end up?”. Well, that is one single question which almost all final years will be facing. I always believed in myself, and I was quite sure that there would be something or the other that would turn up to me. And yes, now that something is there for me, a twelve-month long internship in Arizona State University because I feel that working on something innovative is far wiser and interesting rather than ending up for a job in some area that is in no way related to the course that we have studied.

All these were never an easy task. There were tough times where I was distraught with my academics because at a point I thought that CGPA was ultimately everything. CGPA is nothing but just criteria for the companies to eliminate the candidates appearing for the interview :hear_no_evil:. This is the same case with the tenth and twelfth exams as well :wink:. All that matters is how well you develop skills, over time, be it anywhere :eyes:.

And, at the end of my Bachelor’s course, I have a lot of memories to carry forward and also, regrets too which made me who I am now.

Cheers :smile:

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Written by Gokul Krishna on 12 February 2018