CEG, one of the premiere educational institutions of the country, has always boasted of a rich legacy of civil service aspirants coming out with flying colours. Sibi Adhithya Senthil Kumar, an alumnus of the Electrical and Electronics Engineering department at CEG (2014 passout), has aced the Union Public Service Commission’s demanding examination, with a national rank of 72, finishing third in the state, all in his very first attempt. In this candid interview, he details the journey thus far, his plans for the future and what it takes to clear one of the hardest tests in the country.
Guindy Times: Congratulations are first in order - your first reactions on achieving a feat of this magnitude?
Sibi Adhithya: I was not expecting any particular rank once I had completed the exam mainly because it is difficult to predict our performance. When I saw the results, I was obviously happy that the efforts that I put in had paid off. Also, I was a tad relieved that I did not have to undergo the arduous process again.
GT: What made you inclined towards civil services firstly?
Sibi: The civil service is one of the most coveted professions in the entire nation. The dynamic nature of the job and the fact that the decisions you take have a great impact on diverse sections of the society make it attractive. These were a few reasons why I took a liking towards civil services. A more particular reason would be to bridge the gap between government and citizens and strive to bring forward citizen-friendly administration.
GT: When a person decides to take up the civil services examination, rigorous preparation for it is on top of the pile. So what sort of preparation did you resort to? Did you face any hurdles along the way?
Sibi: As you have rightly mentioned, the preparation process is arduous in nature with the entire exam process going on for about a year. I started preparing for the exams right after I had graduated from college and went about it in an organised and methodical manner. The key is to maintain the tempo throughout the entire duration. I had the advantage of a conducive environment for preparation which helped me a lot in minimizing the hurdles. However, there were times where my performance in tests were below par. I re-evaluated my performance to see where I was going wrong and rectified those mistakes. It is important that you are not rigid in your plans and have a degree of flexibility. You also have to realise that there will be peaks and troughs in the process and that we peak at the right time.
GT: There are so many fairytale transformations that we keep hearing about, so is this one. Your views on your transformation from an engineer at CEG to a UPSC topper?
Sibi: I am proud to be both an engineer from CEG as well as a UPSC topper. Though I have transformed from an engineer to a civil servant, there will be a part of me that will always be an engineer. Also, each engineer has a social responsibility that they must carry out. So, the roles of an engineer and civil servant are not mutually exclusive in nature.
GT: How crucial were the roles of the people around you - parents, family and friends – towards this achievement?
Sibi: It is virtually impossible for a person to clear the civil services on his own. My parents, family and friends played an invaluable role in my preparation. There are no words to describe support provided by my parents in all aspects possible. They inspired and motivated me right from the beginning. All my close relatives believed in me and my abilities that I could make the cut. My friends - Akshy, Saravana, Sibi Senthur and Ashok Surya - all from our college, helped me a lot.
GT: Fear is one aspect that grips every aspirant during preparations and examination. What were your preparations to overcome the nerves?
Sibi: Fear is inevitable, especially in a competitive exam where the stakes are very high. The idea is to manage and overcome the fear that we face. I followed the simple method of putting in my 100% effort and pushing myself to the best of my abilities. Once I had done that, I would stop worrying about the results because I knew I had given my best. This helped me to overcome my fear.
GT: Talking about the tougher interview stage, how did you shape your mind to tackle that?
Sibi: The interview is a very tricky stage in the exam process because a good score can boost your rank greatly while a poor score can do the opposite. Also, the range and extent of questions that can be asked is very wide. It is not easy to answer all the questions that are asked accurately but what is needed is that we maintain our composure and have a balanced train of thought during the interview and those were the areas that I prepared.
GT: Every CEGian holds his alma mater in a very special place in their hearts; what makes CEG so special? Can you shed light on some of your memorable moments at CEG?
Sibi: CEG has a rich and glorious heritage that every student should be proud of. It has moulded many achievers over the years. The fact that our college enables each student to realise his true potential and achieve success in various fields makes it truly special. I have many memories during my time at college that I still recall with fondness. The most memorable moment would be authoring the book CEG: A Journey Through Time during my last year in the college. The book, documenting 220 years of the glorious history of our college, was a small way of giving something back to the institution that has given me so much. Also, I cherished the time working as vice president for the Guindy Times.
GT: CEG makes each and every student of the campus better everyday. After four years at CEG, how much has the campus helped you in becoming a better person?
Sibi: Each and every student who has passed out of CEG will find himself a better person than he was before and the same is the case with me. I interacted with people from diverse sections of the society in college and it helped me to look at issues with various perspectives. On a lighter note, since I used to prepare for semesters at the last moment, I learnt how to handle pressure.
GT: Talking more about the man himself, what does Sibi Adhithya like to do the most? Where do his interests lie?
Sibi: I am an ardent follower of cricket, right from my childhood. I used to watch matches, be it early in the morning or late into the night. My friends and I always have lively discussions after each and every game. Even during my preparation, I managed to follow most of the games. I also love to read books, especially fiction. Jeffrey Archer, Sidney Sheldon and RK Narayan are my favourite authors. Once I start reading these books, I generally will not put them down until I have finished them. Also, I have missed out on a few TV series while I was preparing for the exams. I will be catching up on Game of Thrones soon.
GT: Talking about the way forward for you, which civil service is the most favoured by you? Also, please do share your thoughts on how excited you are to be working for the Indian government.
Sibi: All the services in the UPSC examinations have their own merits but my most preferred service is the Indian Administrative Service for the sheer diversity and dynamic nature of the job. I am honoured and excited to be a part of this hallowed administrative machinery that has been the backbone of our nation. I hope to do justice to the responsibility that comes with the job.
GT: From your perspective, how much has the civil services been affected due to lack of interest shown by the youth of the current times? Has privatisation played a major role in that?
Sibi: Every year, more than 500,000 people appear for the Civil Services examination which shows that the allure for the coveted post still remains strong. With the advent of the LPG era, the job market has diversified with the entry of the private sector and people have various employment opportunities. However, even today, for the youth of the nation, the Civil Services remains a dream and an aspiration that millions hope to achieve.
GT: As a person who is now all set to be a civil servant, what are your suggestions to the people who'll be taking up their Civil Services examinations in the forthcoming years?
Sibi: I came across a quote that helped me in how I went about my preparation. "Under pressure, you don't rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. That's why we train so hard". It made me realise that persistent hard work during preparation was mandatory and that's what will help in facing the examination. To all future aspirants, as long as you believe in yourself and put in the maximum effort possible, success will not elude you.
The Guindy Times thanks Sibi Adhithya for his time, and wishes him luck for his career as a civil servant, expressing the hope that his commitment and integrity will see him play a pivotal role in shaping the future of our country’s administration.