The NID v/s Microsoft dilemma

and whatever went in making that decision

One year ago, on a lazy afternoon of June 2021, I thought of checking the result of NID (National Institute of Design) prelims. The exam happened 6months back and between that time I left my job in a startup and started working in Microsoft as a contract designer. The result wasn’t expected that day but it doesn’t hurt to check.

While I was expecting to find the same message saying result will be announced soon which I had been seeing for a week, it redirected me to another page. The result was out. I saw the word “congratulations” along with my name and knew this is good. It could mean that I passed the exam. But what’s the rank? Is it towards the end of cutoff list where my chance of actually getting admission is next to impossible?

I read ‘Strategic Design Management’ and 1 written along with it. I skipped past it assuming it is a serial number.

It took me a minute to grasp that it was the rank. I aced the exam! I wanted to scream but couldn’t. I scrolled down to see the rank of other subject and it was 5. Basically, at that moment, I could imagine myself walking in NID campus. Not realizing I was pacing down in our living room, annoying my mom.

I told my mom about the result while she was on a call. She held the phone, said, “okay, good” and resumed her call. I wanted a better reaction so I dialed up my dad. For a minute he thought I was joking and assured me that someday it could be a reality. It took him some time to realize that someday was today. I cannot describe how proud I felt.

But…

While it was great news, there was a catch. I joined Microsoft as a contract designer just 3 weeks before the result announcement. I started receiving congratulatory messages and somehow everyone would ask me the same thing — “What’s next? NID or Microsoft?” and I didn’t have an answer to that question.

I needed to pick one, soon.

The dilemma 😕

Had this result come out a month sooner, it would’ve been a clear choice for me to go to NID. But now that I was at a crossroad, things weren’t that simple — It was my career at stake.

On one hand, I had a contract role which had a predefined tenure and end-date and on the other, there was a 2.5 years course with no guarantee of a better opportunity than what I had. I could very well be unemployed by the time I graduate. Also, if I let it go, I would be jobless after my contract ends and would lose out on NID tag as well. Suddenly I wasn’t choosing from 2 great options, I was just trying to secure my career. I had just been through the phase of job hunting and didn’t want to enter that again.

In the next couple of weeks, I reached out to my mentors, colleagues and friends for their guidance. While everyone was trying to help, clearly there wasn’t an obvious choice — both had pros and cons. At that point, I did what I knew best as a designer — map the pros and cons.

I made this chart in FigJam where I listed down every pro and con, I could think of from logistic to monetary to emotional point of view. For NID, I covered course duration, fees, campus architecture (I wanted to have a good campus life) to course content and placement ratio. To give an example, this is one of the things I wrote in that blue sticky note (NID cons) —

“I’ve reached whatever I had till date from will, efforts and luck. Now all of that would be attributed to NID.”

With that, even though I didn’t have absolute clarity, I was starting to see my own preferences. In the meantime, I gave my NID Mains interviews and while I cleared for both subjects, I got ‘Interaction design’ which was my first preference. I had to make a decision, real soon.

One of the questions people ask me is if and when I told my manager at Microsoft about this development. I did — at the very beginning and it was the best decision ever. While I was expecting a slight change in behavior (in a negative sense) which is understandable, he was very supportive and guided me throughout the process. Infact, he took a mock NID interview and helped me prepare for mains! In that FigJam chart, one of the pros at Microsoft was a great manager and I gave due weight to that.

Finally, one fine day, Microsoft extended an offer to convert me into an FTE (Full-time employee) from my contract role. Then the entire dilemma changed into a single question — “Do I really want to spend 2.5 years and tons of money to get to where I want to be if I can be there tomorrow?” Answer was clear as a day.

I chose Microsoft ❤

Had Microsoft not extended that offer, would I still choose it over NID?

This is a question I dread answering, till date. While my inclination was more towards staying at Microsoft and my pro and con chart supported that, it isn’t an easy decision. I am someone who prefers professional experience over academic qualification and I have my reasons for that but NID is no joke. Admission to NID (for me) is a once in lifetime kind of opportunity (I don’t want to write that exam again).

Maybe in that case, I would’ve tossed a coin and prayed for the best.

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Vaibhav Gupta

Designer & storyteller. I write whatever I’ve learnt so far about design, development and other things I care about. https://linkedin.com/in/vaigu