It’s the time of the year again when club recruitments are ready to begin. This is usually a great time of stress and anxiety among second year students as it is their first experience with tests and interviews in general. It thus made sense to contact two extremely renowned alumni of the 2019 batch to hear their views to get a balanced and fair overview for you to base your judgement on.

First we have Samarth Bonthala. Samarth is an individual spoken about highly even today for his various contributions to the college and his club. It’s not unusual to hear his name quite often with various adjectives glorifying him. He currently works at Qualcomm after completing his undergrad in the ECE branch. He was the Chairperson of IEEE NITK for the year 2018-2019. 

Second, we have Philip Matthew. Philip is yet another extremely popular and famous person in college even today. He is an inspiration like none other out there. A proficient debater, tech enthusiast and environmentalist, he created E-Hub, a place to purchase electronics in NITK online, founded Fai Tau an environmental NGO and was the Head of the Debate Society, in my first year. He is currently pursuing his masters at TU Delft in Netherlands. Philip never joined an exclusive club yet did a wide array of projects with professors at NITK and IIT Delhi. Needless to say, it was this profile which got him selected at TU Delft.

We asked both these wonderful and dynamic alumni to provide their views on exclusive clubs. Samarth will cover the various merits of being a part of an exclusive club while illustrating what were some of his key takeaways for the same. Philip on the other hand will offer his insights into why one must join an exclusive club after giving a lot of thought into the same and lists the various things to keep in mind while also illustrating some of the possible issues with regard to such clubs.  Hope this article provides insights to all those of you who are confused or stressed out right now with the upcoming club recruitments.

Perks of joining a club 

Samarth Bonthala, Batch of 2019, ECE, Currently working at Qualcomm; Chair of IEEE NITK for the year 2018-2019

“In my opinion there are many key benefits of joining an exclusive club. Irrespective of which one you join, it can greatly enrich your experience and skills both in college and even after that.

First off you get to interact with seniors who have a diverse set of expertise and learning from their experience. They also help in semester wise academic tasks as well as guidance and mentorship when applying for internships, jobs or higher studies(Alumni network of clubs)

Secondly, personal skill development happens by working on technical projects. The opportunity to explore interdisciplinary domains and funding is readily available through college and your club. Only the interest to pursue a project,task or goal is needed from your end, everything else is in place.

Thirdly, you get to learn as well as share knowledge. You learn in terms of various projects and activities. Seniors and juniors work together on projects spread across multiple domains and difficulty levels thus providing a steep and highly rewarding learning curve. Sharing knowledge through various KSS/KT sessions organised by clubs for its members either by seniors or reputed individuals, professors and industry experts.

It goes without saying that there is tremendous professional development entailed when you are a part of a club. Speaking, leadership and managerial skills can be developed which is highly essential for success in various professions and life in general. You also receive the opportunity to volunteer nationally and internationally for various events the broader club has to offer in various student technical and non technical contests or events that are organised. I cannot stress the importance and impact on this. There is holistic growth, great exposure and new contacts greatly improving yourself as an individual in all domains

Now with regard to the elephant in the room – the annual projects taken up by the club members. These projects add value to your resume (of course some sincere effort has to be put in) which helps a lot while applying for jobs during placements or higher studies. You also get to present your work at the Project expo, a great place to showcase your work. This also provides some exposure to self branding. Sometimes being a member of some of the reputed organisations, student chapters of which are NITK exclusive clubs, also adds value to your resume and professional reach.

Some global technical clubs have seminars and conferences organised for adding value to its members and open to students as well. Needless to say, they provide an amazing turnout of individuals from all domains letting you interact, learn and grow your connections. You also tend to develop event management skills and as actively involving oneself as part of club activities, something over and above academics, people become better at managing their time – one of the most useful qualities anyone can have.

Last but not the least, college life might become very boring if it’s just academics. Socializing and going on trips together, planning freshers and farewell makes college life enjoyable and memorable once you finish it and move on with your professional life.

I would also like to share some of my personal takeaways as the Chair at IEEE NITK for  2018-2019 academic year. These benefits apply to all core positions you may assume later on in any and every club.

As the Chair, I was able to develop great leadership skills and learnt the art of leading teams to success. In the whole process I developed self confidence, team spirit and the ability to make informed and smart choices quickly . As a team we organised a national level summit named WiTS, which won great accolades at Asia-Pacific regional level. I was able to take up and drive new initiatives, be it events or adding value to existing/future members. This results in better analytical thinking and problem solving which helps me out even now during my work.

My role at IEEE required me to interact with a lot of professionals from industry and academia who were volunteers and I was able to nurture my writing skills be it descriptive writing or even emails. I had the opportunity to give a few short seminars and being able to do this as a student was amazing. I was really happy to have been able to create an impact on a society however small it was.To this day I continue to volunteer at IEEE even after my graduation at the section level. I would like to conclude by saying all these benefits only stand if you really work towards achieving them. You need to be dedicated, focused and extremely oriented towards your final goals to reap the most out of the entire club experience. Clubs provide a stepping stone – it’s up to you to exploit it as much as possible.”

Clubs are not the end ! Here is another route

Phillip Matthew, Batch of 2019, EEE, Currently pursuing his Masters at TU Delft, Netherlands

“All that glitters certainly isn’t gold.”

“It’s understandable to see students, who are entering a new phase of their lives, be excited about joining an exclusive club and feeling like they’ve been accepted into a cool community of inclusive individuals. But apart from the fancy Freshers and Red Rock rambles, I have observed far too many students who simply stagnate after a while. Although this isn’t a bad thing, it’s always something to consider when making such decisions.

The reason why I didn’t sit for club recruitments was because I felt that people were jumping on the bandwagon way too quickly without adequate analysis of the value it would bring to their lives.

Here’s a brief insight into the most important aspects I considered when deciding not to join a club –

  1. From a technical stand-point,

I believed that the clubs tended to glorify seniors and make them seem much more than freshers. Although this is obviously true, people tend to underplay the fact that in a college like NITK where the crowd itself is of high intellect, the learning curve is very steep. Realising this, I took to talking to my professors to understand what kind of research questions they were working on. In time, I was already doing more projects in my department than those being conducted in technical clubs. This is not to say that one way is better than the other, but rather to say that both ways are equally possible. Keep in mind, however, that there is always a difference between club projects and academic projects. While it is possible that the former provides a platform to explore new topics, the application of your knowledge in a formal environment can only be provided by the latter.

  1. From a social stand-point,

I wanted to connect without constraints and not feel like I’m spending too much time with a certain set of people. Of course, being a club member would never restrict who you talk to. But we humans always prioritize convenience over contact, and I didn’t want to find myself a year later only interacting with people. That being said, I have observed that some of the best relationships are the ones you make with the people you work with. And as long as you make sure to work on things that incite discussion and debate, be they in a club or not, you can assure yourself of some good memories.

In my opinion there are some key advantages and disadvantages of joining an exclusive club. I have listed both below and although there are good points on either side, as you will read on, I believe the disadvantages must be considered instead of merely focusing on the merits.

Advantages of joining an exclusive club:

  1. Meeting like-minded individuals.

As a fresher, getting out of your comfort zone to make friends can seem daunting. Being a part of a community (and family) makes this process so much easier. In the process, you experience memories and moments (happy or otherwise) that will last you a lifetime.

  1. Addition to your profile.

It’s such a common sight to see “Executive Member (insert club name) on people’s LinkedIn’s. Incoming freshers don’t usually have a lot to put on their profile, and being part of a technical club easily gives you something to add to your resume.

  1. Climbing a ladder.

Apart from just being a member, clubs give you several chances to nurture and express certain skills such as leadership, creativity, and team-work. In later years, you can then apply for higher positions within the club such as Convenor, Treasurer, and so on. Anything with a progression of responsibility is a good way to gradually better yourself, and exclusive clubs are no exception.

  1. Technical Projects.

One of the biggest attractions of technical clubs (this point doesn’t apply to Roto), are the wide-range of project opportunities. You can explore a wide array of topics and work on them with your seniors, ultimately presenting them at the project expo

Disadvantages of joining an exclusive club:

  • Your circle can get limited.

More often than not, the people you end up interacting with the most are those in the same club as you. This isn’t a bad thing per se, but something to consider. Contrary to popular opinion, your crowd does define your daily routines to a large extent. For me, I never liked the idea of only being around a defined set of people. By not being part of a technical club, I always felt more free when it came to the people I interact with.

  • Profile value is what you make of it.

I’ve met countless people who say they’re part of a technical club, and that’s it. Technical clubs have a tendency to really exaggerate the importance of joining their folds, to the point that it gives a lot of people the illusion that they’ve already achieved a lot. I mean, all those rigorous recruitments obviously have to have been for something really great right? Personally, I don’t see the value addition. According to me, the only people that have utilized the opportunity of being in a club are the ones who took chances to climb the ladder and become a more significant member of the exclusive club.

  • You’ll be climbing just one ladder.

When I first joined college, I saw several of my seniors (but not all, mind you) who did nothing but work for a club. Many times, students who join exclusive clubs are too caught up with working for their club, that they forget that there are other aspects of their lives which they must explore and build themselves in.

  • There are better projects.

What students don’t realise early on is that there are actually a ton of other ways to carry out projects, be they in your own department or others. And for a variety of reasons, projects with faculty are more valuable than the self-regulated ones in technical clubs. Firstly, a significant number of projects just continue endlessly and never complete. This is mainly because the people doing the project and supervising the project are (in most cases) just students. In such a system where there simply just isn’t enough pressure to meet your deadlines, projects don’t always necessarily produce results.

Secondly, if you’re into small-scale DIY projects (which a lot of club projects actually are) you’re better off visiting YouTube or pulling something from GitHub. Learning from seniors who have one to two years more experience than you isn’t worthwhile. And if you’re worried about procuring parts, you can easily get components from Manohar Radio House or United 7 Technologies in Mangalore. For microprocessors, use

Thirdly, most project topics themselves are repeated every year. The only projects worth doing are the ones that really stand out from the others.

However, if you really want to make the most of these projects, here’s my advice,

  • Understand that your end-goal isn’t to have projects just from your club.
  • Choose your project topics wisely. Do some homework to see if the project is something you could do by yourself. If so, try doing it yourself and pick another club project that would require you to collaborate with people and possibly learn concepts from subjects apart from your major.
  • Try not to get carried away with being a club member, complete your projects quickly, and then move on to the next project, therefore building your knowledge base.
  • Once you complete a few club projects, you would have a decent idea of which topics you’d be interested in exploring further. Use this as a stepping stone to more difficult and rewarding projects with your faculty. Academic projects are an absolute must, and must always be prioritized over others in my opinion.
  • After this, you would definitely be able to take on higher-level projects with your club. Go back to step 2 and repeat.

To conclude, I wouldn’t deny that I did spend a few months regretting not having done something that practically everyone else in my batch did. But this is exactly when I realised the importance of hobby clubs and college teams. Although I never joined an exclusive club, I did join the Photography Club, the LSD, and the SwimTeam. The connections I made with the people I met were special because we connected on similar passions and interests. This isn’t always the case in an exclusive club, something I learnt through hearing experiences from my friends.

When it comes to technical projects, however, my opinion is that they are far better when conducted under the supervision of a Professor. The flow of knowledge is dependent on the knowledge gap between the student and supervisor, a gap which is far too less in technical clubs to yield any significant growth. Instead, a combination of carrying out DIY projects yourself while also taking up academic projects under a faculty, seems to be the most optimized learning path in my opinion. As always, what worked for me may not be the best for you. In any case, I hope you have been given a different perspective on the hype of exclusive clubs in NITK, and opinion which isn’t too common in our college! For those of you applying for these clubs, I wish you the best of luck! For those of you who aren’t, great job not succumbing to peer pressure! Hope you end up working on great projects in our campus! “

Both their views are greatly inspiring even for the third and final years. Hearing what Samarth has said, we all can personally now assess as to what exactly we must do to greatly enrich and improve my experience both personally and for the club we are a part of. Philip’s words however are a reminder for all years – not just second years, that one must not restrict themselves and most constantly explore and break new boundaries with respect to our area of interest. His words greatly stress on the importance to fight stagnation of any form and constantly improve ourselves in all the domains. Although the general argument and points covered by both speakers are rather different, we observe that they both agree on one simply inescapable fact – at the end of the day all that matters is your drive, passion, curiosity and dedication. Exclusive clubs may offer certain advantages but it is of little to no use if you don’t make the best out of it. Another crystal clear point which we come across is that these clubs, although provide a great experience, do not determine anything about your future and what is to be. You will be perfectly alright even if you aren’t selected into one. As long as you have the urge to improve yourself and grow there is no need to worry.

For those of you who are certain you want to sit and apply for these exclusive clubs, seniors would like to offer two cents with respect to the stress and tension you may face during this entire period. First off, the whole procedure seems way more daunting than it actually is. Truth be told it is a rather calm experience; after all the ones holding your interviews are the very same seniors who sat exactly where you are one or two years ago. Secondly, no one expects you to know everything – it’s completely fine to not know the answer to a particular question or interview. They vividly remember not knowing about 20-30% of the questions which were asked in an interview for one of the clubs. All that is expected off of you is confidence in exactly what you know, creativity, imagination and of course dedication. Hence they strongly urge all of you to relax and do your best with a cool and steady head. Do prepare from YouTube and the course material from your first year for the same. If you have done any projects or MOOCs brush through them. But more importantly than anything else, walk in with a smile, chest held high knowing that this interview regardless of the result is an exciting new and wonderful opportunity to learn and discover things you didn’t know before thus simulating growth.

For those of you who choose not to even apply for these clubs, we commend you for your inability to be convinced and influenced by peers. With the vast resources and provisions our college provides, your future is in more than safe hands. We would urge all of you to discover your areas of interests and approach professors as soon as possible and get started. Let the COVID19 pandemic not become a reason to slack off and not be productive.

We would like to end with a slightly modified quote by Albus Percival Dumbledore –

“Help will always be given at NITK to those who ask for it.”.

Irrespective of the club you join, no senior is going to say no if you ask for help. Besides you have professors as well to provide you with any and every level of help you desire. We wish all of you the best of luck for your future endeavours. Irrespective of the result of this entire process, let us all vow to come together and keep the flag of NITK flying high!