How I got my dream job: Journey of a fresh CS graduate

Published: June 12, 2022 at 6:00 am

Last Updated on October 1, 2023 at 11:12 pm

In this edition of the reader story, we have a father and son combination sharing the journey of how the son followed his passion and bagged his dream job. They both prefer anonymity.

About this series: We all appreciate the importance of a higher income but increasing our income is not easy. It requires time, effort, sacrifice, dedication and opportunities. In these articles, we showcase inspirational stories about people who have chased their passion, increased their income, and their station in life via self-improvement, upskilling or side-hustles. You can start your own journey here: How to build a second income source that will last a lifetime.

This idea started when I asked members of the Facebook group, Asan Ideas for Wealth (AIFW), to share real-life stories of how they or someone they knew increased their income by upskilling, and self-growth (personal development), or side-hustles.

Many of the accounts were quite extraordinary. These are the stories published earlier:

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Share your journey with our community It will inspire and motivate many. Contact us at freefincal {AT} Gmail {DOT} com with a short outline to take it forward. It can be published anonymously if you prefer.

Part-1: Narrated by the parent


The best investment for young people is investing in their education and skills and later, in their profession. When the income is high from day one, a high savings rate can really speed up the growth in the networth and lead to early financial freedom. The person can also enjoy a high living standard along with high savings rates.

The goal could be, one of: 

  • FIRE and do nothing, (difficult for high achievers) or more typically, 
  • Continue to work in a corporate, if the job satisfaction is high
  • Follow one’s passion in the field of choice to establish a startup or a business or even a charity if wealth allows it.
  • Explore ideas such as buying a piece of land and building an eco-resort or an organic farm. (which many people seem to be doing)

We often come across news about high starting salaries for IIT grads, IIM/MBAs, pilots and many other professions. Several such news items were shared and discussed recently on AIFW too.

Oh, and children of company founders start off with a director’s salary of a few crores per annum. Obviously! This is not for us – middle class and salaried folks. 

The starting salary for fresh grads in IT with the local companies (behemoths TCS, HCL, Infy, Wipro, etc and most smaller companies too) is still in the Rs 3-5 lakh per annum. This is 2022! Some companies have started offering salaries in the Rs 6-10L range too. 

Until recently, the best way to get an above-average paying job would be to go to top tier IITs and do well in studies. Till the pre-pandemic days, top jobs were paid then-high Rs 18L-36L CTC (approximate numbers from memory) but something has shifted post-2020 COVID pandemic, and we see the eye-watering packages going up to crore-plus, very often.

So the question is, Hae the salary brackets moved up for everyone? or Is the pay for new-age tech such as cloud, security, fin/tech/crypto/startup etc substantially higher? or Is this all just a passing fad and will crash soon? With the fintech/startup and crypto market meltdown already in progress, will these sky-high salaries return to the ever-depressing low salaries once again?

So the next question is, how can a student win an extremely well paying job? Is it necessary to have a top-tier IIT/IIM education or can students from Tier-2, 3 towns and colleges even aspire? What are the actions that a student can take to land such a job? Will it be a high-stress journey?

Please note that 1Cr+ CTC is usually offered with relocation to USA or Ireland or other destinations and that salary won’t look as large as it does in India due to the expensive living costs abroad. Most of the “dream salaries” we have observed in India are in the 30-60L range. And that is a pretty good package!

These high salaries are usually offered by big US companies such as Google, Facebook, JPMorgan, Adobe, and Microsoft or by tech/fintech startups.

In this article, we will discuss only IT/tech jobs because that’s what we have experience with and not the other fields. Note that there are various assumptions and biases in this article – I have an IT background.  Our child’s upbringing has been in a tech-infused home (home computer and internet from 1996, exposure to various digital gadgets, gaming, online transactions and accounts etc)

Let us define a high CTC/dream job first:

  • A job that offers CTC in the 40lakhs-1Crore+
  • A significant portion of that CTC will actually be received every year. This means CTC is not stuffed with stock options that are worth nothing, as in the case of startups.
  • The day to day work is interesting and the workplace environment is pleasant and conducive to continuing work for 5-7 years at least.

Note on Engineering Curriculum:

Not just in state-level colleges, but to a large extent, even IIT, and NITs curricula need a serious revamp and upgrade. Especially for CS.

Please consider what is the value addition of Physics, Chemistry, Foreign Language, Kannada, Constitution of India, Civil and Mechanical subjects for a CS grad? Some of these have already been taught in high school or pre-university (+2) level and are just a repetition eg: Physics and Chemistry.

Even the CS subjects taught are merely introductory or repetition and rote learning, not allowing much scope for exploration and experimenting with the latest software trends and industry needs. 

Personal finance, funding for startups, entrepreneurship, and a basic understanding of legal matters are completely absent from the syllabi.

Part-2 Narrated by Student

1. Identify the passions and capabilities early on: I sat with my parents while studying in class 9 (and again in class 10), with a list of passions/careers from Astronomy to Chef to Kite flying to Zoology. About 40-odd choices. 

My parents were open to me choosing any field, the only condition being “Do the best you can, in whatever you choose

After the exercise, I realized it would be Maths and Computers.  Law, Medicine, Arts, Commerce etc were not even in the race. So the list shrank to just one: Programming and Software.

The fact that my father would discuss work projects, take me to some of his client sites, and let me play with computers and gadgets from early childhood definitely helped develop my interest in software.

2. Selecting the right degree college: Choices before me were: (descending order of preference)

  • Undergrad in the USA or Australia (dropped, since I was not interested)
  • Top tier IITs (IIT B, M, K, KGP etc)  – only CS/IS
  • 2nd Tier IITs/ Top NITs/ Top tier state-level Engg college  – only CS/IS
  • Other NITs/IIT / 2nd Tier state-level Engg college – the least preferred choice

We made a list of preferred colleges based on NIRF rankings and reviews on youtube and reading the CS/IS curriculum downloaded from the institute websites.

I did attempt IIT JEE. But messed it up after a 2 year-long preparation. Not having eligibility for CS in Top IITs, but not willing to take the available college-course combination just for “name-dropping IIT”, I decided to stick to my core interest subject preference (CS/IS) rather than studying a subject in an IIT that does not interest me.

I understood that the selected course will be my career for the next 20+ years and difficult to change later. So the priority was on getting into Computer Science and I was not worried about a specific college.

I decided to go for the state level top-5 college list. Karnataka requires a Common Entrance Test and I scored a very good rank, opening admission to any of the Top-5 colleges in the state. 

3. Preparation: I would have preferred a rigorous Maths and CS curriculum from the first to the eighth semester with enough exposure to industry-standard tools and practices such as Git, Cloud/AWS, security, AI/ML, software engineering, databases and hands-on projects for each semester. By the end of the 4-year under-grad course, a regular student should be able to beat any US or Israeli student hands down. That would be nice. Sadly, it ain’t so.

So, to offset what isn’t taught, I decided to learn on my own. 

  • I joined the college CS clubs and started learning useful software (Linux, Git, Python, etc). 
  • Several courses on Coursera on Data Science, Data Structures & Algorithms, etc
  • Watching YouTube videos (Harvard’s CS50, and so much more. YouTube is a treasure trove for learning!)
  • Data science courses from IIT-M via NPTEL

While I was in the 2nd year, the COVID Virus hit the world – All classes shifted online, with no face to face meeting between faculty and students possible. Even exams were conducted online.

It was during this period, I started getting interested in coding contests such as:

  • -Google Kickstart, Codejam & Hashcode
  • Leetcode Weekly & Biweekly contests
  • Facebook Hackercup

These coding contests require problems to be analysed and then solved efficiently within the allocated time to rank high on the leaderboards. Naturally, I was attracted to learning skills that would help me up my game and perform better in these contests. 

First, mastery of any one programming language. We cannot afford the time to be thinking of the programming language syntax during a contest. (and interviews)

Next, a solid foundation of Data Structures & Algorithms is essential to solve the problems presented in the contests efficiently. (And later, interviews too)

The following resources were extremely useful for enhancing my coding skills:

And something more challenging:

During the sixth semester, we were required to complete an internship. The selection process was similar to the selection process for a job, we had to first go through a written test followed by several rounds of interviews. 

I had the wonderful opportunity to intern for US financial giant Fidelity Investments and work on a Machine Learning project. Later, Fidelity offered me an ML software engineer position.

Internships are perfect, both for the company and the student. It gives the company a real assessment of the competence of the student, while it provides students exposure to the real world, which is very different from the college curriculum. 

Meanwhile, during the seventh semester, the college arranged an on-campus recruitment drive. Several well-known names conducted tests and interviews. 

Indian companies – Infosys, TCS, HCL, Wipro, Mindtree, L&T etc

Foreign companies – JPMorgan, Cisco, Visa, Qualcomm, Adobe, HP, Bosch, TI, Intel, Samsung, Merc etc

But being a non-top tier college, we were not visited by the creme-de-la-creme of Silicon Valley companies, the coveted FANMAG! (Apple, Google, Microsoft etc)

Not wanting to miss out on these opportunities, I was on a constant lookout, applying for tens of openings on the employers’ Careers pages.

I created a LinkedIn profile and kept it up-to-date. I contacted the recruiters of a few US companies through LinkedIn and to my surprise, Google contacted me regarding a job opportunity, role – software developer. Several tests and interviews were scheduled. I cleared all the tests and interviews and did well. I was told to wait for the final hiring decision.

Meanwhile, a US startup in cloud software development was on campus. I researched about the company and its products/services and quite liked them. Again there were screening tests and 3 tough interviews – with a mix of technical, coding and behavioural questions. I did well and was immediately offered an internship, followed by the job. 

The word ‘startup’ led to plenty of discussions with my parents, evaluating the tradeoff between the risks/rewards associated with joining a startup versus a career at an established software company such as Google or Fidelity. 

Startups provide better exposure to all aspects of the business, and offer faster growth and opportunities compared to large companies. 

Finally, we made the decision to go for this dream opportunity at the startup knowing fully well the risks/rewards involved. This decision also (partially) satisfies my dream of launching my own startup, but with far lower risk. Probably, someday in the future, I will launch a tech startup and this work experience will come in handy.

And yes, the salary is in the “dream salary” range, the highest offer I received (but CTC alone was not the determining factor).

SUMMARY: (from a CS grad to a future CS/IS student)

  • Be passionate about CS and tech in general.
  • Focus most of your efforts on mastering the following:
    • DSA (Data Structures and Algorithms)
    • One specific upcoming field such as cloud, security, IoT or AI/ML
    • Starting from the first semester, focus on learning coding in any one language very well, be it C++, Java, Javascript or Python. Doesn’t matter which one.
  • Create and maintain a LinkedIn profile. Don’t boast. Stick to facts.
  • Have an updated 1-page resume always ready.
  • Watch recruitment videos on youtube to understand the process. Eg: Jeff Sipe’s videos for Google interview. Google itself guides students on their interview process and even provides resources so that you can prepare well and ace the interviews.
  • Participate regularly in the coding contests listed above and work hard to improve your ranking. High ranking attracts FAANGS
  • Final year:  Make a list of dream companies you wish to work for. Could be Apple, Google, Microsoft, FB, Adobe, Tesla, some startup etc.
  • Be on the lookout for career opportunities on the Career pages of your dream companies and do not hesitate to apply for such opportunities!
  • Companies such as Google have eliminated “intentionally tricky” interview questions. So Relax.
  • Practice interview-taking with your parents or an experienced person ( senior student, teacher) or even your friends. Fluency and the ability to quickly think of multiple broad solutions are important. Repeat the practice until you are satisfied.
  • Prepare for both Technical and Behavioural interviews. 
  • After you start applying on LinkedIn, Be prepared for an interview or test. (Clothes, answers to technical, and behavioural questions, watch your email for an invitation to join an interview)
  • Present yourself in a courteous and professional way. (manners, language, appearance such as clothing, haircut etc). Usual interview etiquettes apply.
  • Disagree politely but neither argue nor give in. Suggest multiple solutions with cost/benefit analysis. 
  • For online interviews, have a quiet room, a good, stable internet connection (fiber).
  • Stay positive. Losses will come your way and Offers will too. Don’t lose heart
  • It really takes 2-3 years of planning and preparation. 
  • Summary-of-summary? Plan, Prepare, Practice, Execute

Looking ahead: Currently, I am still interning (Namma Bengaluru!). I will soon start working full time. I am so excited. This is my dream job! Great work environment, wonderful people, and of course the dream salary! I enjoy working here and look forward to learning and contributing much more.

Financial Journey & Investing:

I have already started investing about 50% of my internship payments in the following funds (all Direct, Growth):

  • Motilal Oswal S&P 500 Index Fund  (presently suspended)
  • Motilal Oswal Nifty 50 Index Fund
  • Axis Midcap Fund

After I start my work, my income will roughly triple and I should be able to invest a lot more. Since I lead a simple, frugal lifestyle, it should be easy to save 75% of my income.

I have discussed with my parents to work out a financial and tax plan for myself. The immediate goal is to start investing in equities and build up an emergency fund of 6x monthly expenses.

Broadly, the long term goals are house, car, travel, marriage, funds for launching a startup and retirement.

Health and life insurance are taken care of by the company. No dependents. Hence, not buying term insurance right now. Maybe later.

I intend to read about investing and financial planning after I complete my 8th semester and settle in my job. Resources such as Freefincal, AIFW etc will be valuable for me to get up to speed and chart my future.

PS: I know Pattu uncle and Ashal uncle well because we discuss Pattu’s articles and Ashal’s wisdom often at home.

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Pattabiraman editor freefincalDr M. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He has over ten years of experience publishing news analysis, research and financial product development. Connect with him via Twitter(X), Linkedin, or YouTube. Pattabiraman has co-authored three print books: (1) You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) for DIY investors. (2) Gamechanger for young earners. (3) Chinchu Gets a Superpower! for kids. He has also written seven other free e-books on various money management topics. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India,” an organisation promoting unbiased, commission-free investment advice.
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