Monday, July 4, 2011

The Trainee

I spoke with Sumira Roy today. She had hired me at JWT way back in 1998 when I was a gawky 23 year old with nothing but two years of ad film production experience.

For a small town person, the production experience had done little in terms of grooming or making me understand the business of Advertising. Apart from running like a headless chicken trying to follow orders or getting chairs for the Ad Agency people at shoots, my learning was quite modest.

At JWT, it was a different world. I was a part (albeit the junior most) of the glass and chrome world that I so admired from the outside. I was there without any professional degree. It was like rising from the ranks (in fauji terms).

Technically I was a ‘colleague’ to all the industry bigwigs. Letting it sink in was an experience in itself. To have an opinion and be heard was a luxury. I lapped it up. I must have swamped Sumira with silly questions and nervous antics which not just doubled her work at times but also made her answerable to her seniors for my mistakes.

I never came to know if anything like this ever happened because at that time I thought I was always right and could do no wrong. She never scolded me, just hinted. Gentle and firm.

I had a choice last week. To or not to take a trainee anchor for a film I was doing. The first thought that ran across my mind was – Why should I take someone who is so fresh. This is a tight budget and tightly scheduled film. I must not experiment. I haven’t opened a training school. I will get someone more experienced, it will save me time. Money was an issue too. It is a professional suicide to get someone new.

Then I remembered Sumira. What if she had also thought like that and never hired me?

What if all the bosses in the world thought like that and never wanted to hire anyone new?

It doesn’t work like that. There are jobs that only a trainee can do. Yes the bum jobs. Jobs that no seniors want to do. Jobs that everyone else is too big for. That is how trainees get a break. That is what gives them an opportunity to show what they are capable of. And they are the ones who will do it with utmost sincerity and passion.

However small, all jobs deserve passion.

That is how trainees come into the picture. They work on the smallest task with the dedication of an Olympian. They do not behave like pigs on high heels which is how a lot of veterans would act like, if they took it up. Rheumy eyed trainees will burn the midnight oil and put their heart and soul into something that the pros don't want to touch with a barge pole. That is how happy professional accidents happen. That is how talent is discovered and everyone goes, "This one has the potential to be a biggie". The strangest part is they don't even get paid for all this. Most of the trainees in most of the companies don't get paid at all.

Sometimes they are even made to feel like an outcast. Many years back, I was in the editing room in our office. It was quite late. Maybe 9:30pm. A trainee with a very reputed brand came into the room. She asked, "can I sit with you and see the editing?" I said fine. Few minutes in, she was crying. I didn't even have to ask and she said,"They all left without me. The whole team has gone out for dinner with the Client. They didn't take me. No one told me."

I understand it is not always possible to take everyone along, to meet the Client or to present an idea. But the least someone could have done was sat her down and explained the situation to her. Finding out on your own that the team doesn't think of you as a part of the team is one of the toughest challenges a trainee faces.

Yes, there is a bit of confusion. There is some angst arising out of the time crunch. Sometime you even waste a bit of money trying to accommodate the lack of experience. But nothing that a few advices or co-operation from colleagues can’t handle. Takes a couple of months and they are an asset. No one is as loyal to the Company as a Trainee is.

Few firm instructions from time to time and lot’s and lot’s of patience. That’s all you need to welcome the new kid on the block.

When I saw Simi (a trainee news anchor with a channel) for the first time last week, I remembered myself 14 years back. And I remembered my mentors. I remembered how kind they were to me. How patient.

There comes a time when you have to stop being a trainee yourself (even though you will feel like a newcomer all your life) and start taking others under your wing so that you can nurture them well enough for them to fly on their own. Yes you do feel a little older (you are not the bacchha anymore) but I guess that is called growing up.

It is time to pay it forward.

I called up Sumira today and told her how nice it felt to pass the baton on!

(Just finished the offline edit. Simi did a good job of holding the film together as a narrator. She still has a lot of learning ahead. After the shoot she said, "This is going to be my first paycheck ever. I will keep it with me and give it to my mother when I visit her next month." I sincerely pray that she keeps this innocence, even when she becomes a well known news reporter. She is at the Parliament today to cover something, on her own :)



  1. That is how when we grow we see the other side :-) Touching narration. And Best wishes to Simi!!

  2. Yes...same here....wishing all the very best!

    I just got off the conf. call with the Client...we agreed that it wasn't the best piece of anchoring they had seen but nothing that cannot be repaired with some clever editing....this is how everyone grows. Me as a director...she as a Client and Simi as an anchor.

  3. i want trainee in my office to read it!!
    ....but i was a bit agressive!!

  4. yes there are all kinds...aggressive...passive...scared...fearliess...but they all have one common thing....they are looking up to find a good role model.

  5. Really heart-warming narration. :)

    Please read-

    The Tablet Revolutionary

  6. and my thanks to my bosses also who are my teachers my world

  7. a nice boss or a bad one...they both are good teachers. to become or not like them is the teaching they give :)

  8. I am dying to hold my first paycheck. Want to know that feeling.

  9. Ohhh that beautiful feeling of holding ur first paycheck...lucky you...savour will want to run on the street holding it like a flag :)

  10. I read this post after a year...*tears in my eyes*
    Hope I would have the chance to call you, like you called Miss Sumira Roy...:)

  11. Of course you will Simi :) you will do well and help others do well too. You have the good wishes of ur friends, family and all those you meet at work and otherwise. Take care dear and flyyyyyyyyyyyy :)


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