Note: This post was originally written on Jan 26, 2022 but I never posted it. Posting it now keeping the original authoring date, but with commit date of Aug 05, 2022.
Sometimes, life presents you with some choices that it becomes tricky to choose any one of them. Last year, my turn came when I was selected for a prestigious job at Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). I was chosen for the post of Scientist in the organization. The pay was top notch with the pay grade equivalent to that of new bureaucrats. The pride that comes with the service to the nation was also associated with the job. I could have enjoyed my life without any worry about layoffs, pay cuts, workload, always having to learn new things, etc. But I decided to leave the offer and continue with what I was doing.
Why did I do that? Was I mad? It has been almost one year since my final interview and nearly 3 months since I declined the offer. In this post, I intend to publicize my reasons for not joining ISRO. You may or may not agree with a lot of these reasons (even I doubt some of my decisions), but don’t hesitate to voice your opinion. Perhaps, it will give me another perspective to think about similar situations in the future.
The job profile and assigned ISRO center #
I studied Computer Science during my undergraduate and have been working in the software industry since then. I know I can learn any new field (aerospace engineering, in this case) if I want to. Still, it was not a financially lucrative choice, and also it was not in alignment with my interests.
I was assigned to NRSC, Hyderabad, which would be my base for the rest of my career. NRSC stands for National Remote Sensing Center. As I understand it, the NRSC primarily works on analyzing the images and media received from various ISRO satellites. I have never been an enthusiast of the field of computer vision and image processing (perhaps because of the maths associated with it). So I wasn’t very keen on doing something which does not align with my current interests. Although, one can say that you start loving anything if given enough time. But I wasn’t very sure about taking chances.
Of course, I queried about the possibilities of transfer to some other center. I was told that the chances of a transfer are slim unless there are exceptional circumstances or a mutual transfer.
The location #
As I mentioned earlier, if I had accepted the offer, I would have been bound to Hyderabad for the rest of my career. This was totally unacceptable to me. Many things have changed globally since the pandemic started, and the work location flexibility is one of the positive changes. Earlier, it was challenging to work from home, but now, it is/will be accepted as an industry norm. ISRO, being a government organization and from a national security perspective, will not allow its employees to work from home, rightly so. At present, I would perhaps be okay with the idea of exploring the world and staying away from the family. Still, I would like to settle down at some familiar place in the longer run. Joining ISRO would have stolen that possibility from me ultimately, if not immediately.
I have been staying at my home for the last 2 years due to COVID lockdowns. This has affected my psyche at a deep level. I no longer wish to stay away from my parents. The detachment caused by my 7 year-long explorations ended with COVID lockdown. It will be tough for me to stay away from them for any long duration now. Air travel has reduced the distances drastically, but the possibility of a WFH-friendly future has spoiled me. ISRO is unlikely to provide this kind of option in the foreseeable future.
Money always plays a part in every decision a working adult takes. While the starting salary given by ISRO is comparable to private sector companies, the yearly increments are peanuts. One gets 18% conditional increment + possible promotions every four years, which looks terrible compared to MNCs. Although joining ISRO comes with certain other perks which will definitely match or even outshine the overall CTC offered by MNCs in some cases.
Suppose I had decided to join ISRO in an alternate universe. In that case, I could have given you a lot of reasons why money should not be a factor in deciding whether to take the job or not. So, I will stop discussing the importance of money in a job offer here.
Not my kind of government job #
Government jobs are lucrative in India. They pay decent, have excellent perks, give life-long job security, and calm and peaceful life on most days. However, you can divide the government jobs into three categories -
- Those with power, status, money, meaningful work, and hectic life
- Those with meaningful work, money, and peaceful life but no power and status
- Those with peaceful life (?), nothing else
In my opinion, ISRO’s job falls into category 2, where you have good work, money, and life but no power or status. I have good work and money in the private sector (life is a hit or miss). So, I couldn’t find any reason good enough to join ISRO. If I had the option to choose a job from category 1 (for example, all India services), I wouldn’t have given a second thought to the idea. My current thinking is that if I have to live someplace other than my hometown, I would like to have either big money or power and social status.
It wasn’t my original target #
I attempted the ISRO exam to get some additional practice for the GATE exam. I had plans to get into some good colleges (IISc!) for further studies. ISRO’s exam format coincides very much with the GATE’s. So I thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to get some much-needed real exam experience. There was no other aspect to this fact. If I had taken the exam intending to join ISRO on selection, it would have been effortless to convince myself. But, in my scenario, I could not convince myself about the opportunity. Some may say that not everybody gets this opportunity, and I should have accepted it happily. I am sorry, but I don’t subscribe to this viewpoint. I understand that the gods were kind enough to provide me with this opportunity. But I firmly believe that the same gods would also appreciate my reasoning about the decision to decline the offer.
For some people, these reasons may seem non-important. My personal circumstances and professional ambitions, and my self-confidence (perhaps over-confidence) contributed to my final decision to decline the ISRO offer. It is very much possible that I may regret this decision in the future when my life takes a downturn. I hope that this post will remind me of my present situation and bring me out of my grief. The decision taken is what matters now. I should focus on the next minute, hour, day, month, and years to come.
Wish me luck 🍀