Chirodeep Roy, Project Head (UP East) with Reliance JIO on learning from the ‘rebels’ at SRMSCET

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It is well accepted that a college is the place where children really find their feet. It is often here that teenagers leave behind their braces and freckles, and step assuredly into 20s. It should’ve been no different for Chirodeep Roy when he joined B.Tech way back in 1997. Except for the fact that his Engineering College too was finding its feet. SRMSCET had started with its 1st batch in late 1996, so Chirodeep’s class could look upto to just one set of seniors, who had begun classes barely 7 months back. Not just the students and the faculty, even the MD was new to an Engineering College.

“We had lectures in a classroom with a plastic sheet covering part of it,” recalls Chirodeep. “There was a time when our library had to be shifted to the auditorium to make space for the builders. There were many such instances that a student from an established college never experiences. It proved to be a great learning curve, as the college was finding its feet along with all of us. All we had was a conviction that this can be done and we can together do it. Somewhere, somehow we began feeling ourselves grow as the college grew around us. It gave us the strength of character and confidence that anything is possible if there is a will to succeed.

Startups often bring together people with very little experience, lots of ideas, and a strong drive… in short ‘rebels’. For Chirodeep, Ms. Kriti Saroha fitted just the description.

“She was with us for a short while, but she left a deep impression on me. A fresh graduate from Pune Engineering College she was passionate about her subject – microprocessors. Barely into our 1st week, we were given the opportunity to program the 8085 microprocessor – a rudimentary piece of computing hardware. Just making the 8085 microprocessor perform the simplest tasks exposed us to the infinite possibilities of a computer… all we needed was our imagination and some basic skills.”

Practically speaking, Ms. Saroha’s was delivering a pretty fundamental programming course. It had a limited role in the overall scheme of things, but, as Chirodeep recalls, her passion about the subject inculcated a deep understanding of the subject in most of the class of 97.

“It helped us immensely in our future courses.”

After completing his B.Tech in Computer Science – and while pursuing his M.Tech from National Institute of Information and Technology – Chirodeep was called back to SRMSCET to take B.Tech classes. He often sought inspiration from Prof. Saroha’s teaching methods.

“And then there was Mr. Manoj Pradhan, our Department Head,” says Chirodeep with a smile. “A complete misfit; a rebel to a fairly strict college environment. He dressed differently (sweatshirts & jeans), spoke differently (used colloquial phrases all the time), and behaved differently (treating everyone as friends rather than peers & students). He came to the institute when it was convenient to him, took marathon classes – sometimes 6 hours at a stretch! – when the mood came upon him; and didn’t show-up at all at other times. But he was a great teacher. He’d explain the nuances of computing in the simplest words making learning rather fun, instead of a task to be endured in order to appear in the exams. His obvious love for the intricate behavior of computers rubbed off on most of us.”

Chirodeep’s first job was at Nutek. But barely a year into the job, he found himself geographically displaced way beyond his imaginations.

“I was working for a BSNL project in Arunachal Project, as an outsourced engineer from Nutek. We had just about completed the upgrade of our OMCR to the latest SUN Microsystems server – the first such upgrade in Asia at that time. There was a similar upgrade requirement in MTEL Nigeria Project and my manager asked me if I could provide remote support for this, in addition to my responsibilities. The remote support didn’t work very well and the customer – MTEL Nigeria – insisted that I fly in as a consultant to support the upgrade. We successful completed the MTEL upgrade, and I was asked to stay on and do the same job for another project – CELTEL Nigeria. This too went off well. One thing then lead to another and by the end of it, I was promoted to DB Engineer and asked to stay put in Nigeria.”

What started out as a ‘couple-of-months African soujourn’, ended up a tenure of nearly a decade! In these 9 years, Chirodeep went on from being a Network Engineer at Motorola (Nigeria) to OMC-R Administrator there; then making the shift to Huawei (Nigeria) as a BSS Manager, and finally ending up as Project Manager (3G) at Huawei (Nigeria). In this time he collected a series of coveted awards in both Motorola and Huawei – from the ‘Most Promising New Employee’ in Huawei Nigeria, to the Motorola BRAVO award. He was a part of the Huawei MS team commended by Airtel Group CTO for reducing diesel consumption across Airtel Nigeria – pretty steep for a boy from Allahabad.

“To be honest, initially I was always scared that I would mess it up,” says Chirodeep with a grin. “I would be asked to return back to India in disgrace. With passage of time, I realised this may not happen, and my confidence level increased. I realized that as long as I am meticulous in my approach, – planning out everything in advance – and give it my best shot, things weren’t so difficult. Of course, except for the food part, the SRMSCET experience was pretty in every aspect of the job; after all, Gupta Ji – our canteen/mess contractor at SRMSCET – didn’t really provide us with a lot of options!”

On the personal front though, Chirodeep was facing a lot of flak. By 2014, he was 33 years, and still unmarried… a crime from the “Great Indian Family’s” perspective. As luck would have it, the Indian telecom market seemed to want him back as well – in the form of the ‘JIO’ play.

“I’ve always worked for Operations, and the job I was being offered needed Project management skills – it was a challenge and the timing was right.”

Chirodeep today is the Project Head at iRad CommServe, the company that’s setting up the Reliance Jio 4G infrastructure. He’s responsible for end-to-end delivery of complete TSP of 200+ greenfield sites, installation of over 120 DG’s on brownfield sites, delivery of Power System Enhancement on over 750 sites. He handles the entire project delivery including management of manpower, material, machines and logistics, timely delivery, invoicing, follow-up with JIO HQs in Mumbai, co-ordination with Circle Office for allocation of new work orders, and ofcourse representing iRad CommServe during weekly progress reporting meetings.

“JIO has been a different ballgame altogether… and that’s putting it mildly. The technology is different and hence the requirements from the infrastructure is nothing like anything before. For the first time in India, JIO has brought in the concept of GBMs (Ground Based Masts) where the entire telecom base station is contained within a 25 m x 1 m mast design encompassing the electronics, RF antennas, and the power supply units. It’s been a steep learning curve but JIO provided good training material with hands-on on-the-job training, that helped us transition from traditional infra to the current project requirements.”

Chirodeep feels strongly that SRMSCET has got it’s fundamentals rights, and it’s time the management spreads the word around.

“As a student and a faculty, I saw Mr. Dev Murti and Mr. Aditya Murti do an exceptional job. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Aditya Murti in 2012 in Lucknow when I went as a guardian of one my cousins for his admission to the SRMS management institute in Lucknow. They have the correct vision and are driven by it.”

SRMSCET is clearly a subject close to Chirodeep’s heart. He speaks at length of greater thrust on Research and Development, the need to encourage the faculty to think out of the box, break new grounds in technologies, and for greater involvement of the alumni – who span the corporate world across the globe in in organisation like Goldman Sachs, HP, IBM, Intel, Interglobe, Huawei, TCS – in taking SRMSCET to the world.

“Surely all of this is not an accident. SRMSCET is doing a lot of things that are systematically breeding good engineers/managers who are able to take on any challenges thrown to them and deliver results despite the challenges.”