Student Leader Interview - Prakhar Rathi from Shiv Nadar University

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1. Tell us more about your role and responsibilities at your college. 

As the president of the debating society, I have multiple responsibilities. I have to act as the representative of the debating society both inside and outside of my university. This involves making sure that the society remains active on campus as well as outside and that can happen only if we constantly participate in tournaments and continue to improve ourselves as debaters and adjudicators. This is done by staying in touch with other debating society presidents and keeping up to date with the debating circuit events. 

As one of the primary literary societies on campus, it is our responsibility to hold engaging discussions and debates on current affairs and important topics ranging from politics to art to tech. Irrespective of how difficult the conversation on a particular subject is, we make sure that we discuss it. That is what one of our internal events 'Change My Mind' is about. In the debating circuit, we follow a parliamentary form of debate which is not very easy to pick up and as the seniors of the club, it is also our responsibility to organize mock debates two to three times a week so that we can train our juniors in this form of debating. 

2. How can we encourage more young students such as yourself to take up a leadership role? 

I think one of the reasons why young students are apprehensive towards taking up a leadership role is because it seems daunting. On top of being responsible for oneself, they also have to be responsible for a group of people and not everyone may feel ready for that. I understand that because I have been there and honestly, I find myself feeling that way at times even after a year of holding this position. However, let me begin by telling you that being a position holder has one of the best experiences of my life so far.

It has been a huge learning experience for me and I have come out more confident than ever. None of us are born to be leaders and it's only after we take small steps towards responsibility that we learn how to be a leader. I started off by taking the responsibility of contacting other colleges and becoming the PR representative of the society and it was my job to make sure that we were invited to events of other colleges. I am sure that it is going to be tough being a leader but my advice is that always rely on your team members because that is the essence of being a part of a society. I was blessed to have two other core members who always supported me and it is because of them that I had a successful tenure. 

3. What have been your biggest challenges and learning from what you do?  

Ours is a very new debsoc. I am the third president this club has ever seen. Building something from scratch is not easy and that was one of the challenges we faced. We didn't have very experienced seniors so we had to participate in debates to understand where we were going wrong, come back and teach that to other club members and then repeat the process. 

It was after the third tournament that we qualified to the semi-finals, or "broke" as we like to call it in debating lingo. We also did not have qualified adjudicators so we had to request people from other colleges to represent us before two of our team members became A level adjudicators. Due to the remote location of our university, travelling is one such issue for us. However, despite all of this, we were able to make a name for ourselves over the last year and we continue to learn and improve. 

4. What are your career goals and how is what you are doing is going to help you with that? 

Well, I am a computer science engineer who is specialising in data science. I have often been posed this question - "Why are you debating when you should be writing code?" and my response is always the same - "Every CS engineer I know can code, how many of them can think and express?". As engineers, we often tend to focus on the STEM subjects without realising that, in reality, it is our soft skills which really set us apart from others. As a debater, one of the things that I have learnt is how to think and effectively communicate. 

These are skills that immediately set me apart as a programmer. When debating, we have 15 minutes to think about the topic, form logical arguments and come up with effective rebuttals, and then we have to deliver those in a cohesive manner in the next 7.5 minutes. It's not easy but what it does teach you is to think on your feet and from multiple perspectives. As an engineer, I have to often think about a problem from multiple angles and then explain my solution in a clear manner to people who don't understand code. Honestly, I don't see how it's any different from debating. 

5. What's your message to encourage students to do internships and attend conferences?

Internships, In my opinion, are the best ways to learn and grow in any field. Personally, internships have taught me the real issues that companies face and how we can solve those and add value to the company. It has taught me collaboration and given me the relevant skills to become better at what I do. Conferences, on the other hand, provide you with an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and network with people in the same industry. 

It is also an opportunity to interact with leaders in the industry and learn from their experiences. I hope this helps. Not sure how the last question is related to the society but I have tried to answer it to the best of my ability. I have also attached a picture from one of the tournaments. Let me know if this works. 

- Prakhar Rathi

Interviewed by - Gurleen Kaur

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