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From a College Dropout to a University Speaker!

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I kept a little secret for many years, something I was too ashamed to mention in conversations in my twenties and had perfectly camouflaged in my confidence. For years I dodged LinkedIn asking me about my education to complete my profile, and bank forms for customer information. So I never finished my degree, dropped out of college in the second year and technically still have only a high school credential. It was the dotcom boom of 2001, an exciting time to be experiencing internet for the first time and riding a revolution around the world.

 

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I had been building websites since I was 16, and was hopelessly optimistic about the future and studying something which for years I had only hacked my way into. A square peg trying to fit into the traditional round hole. At college, the exams were about cramming up borrowed notes, classes were about theory and computer labs had an AC. The dream died a slow death, when after two years, I just stopped going to college. I had read somewhere that just like a blind man has super sharp hearing, you got to make the weakness irrelevant by building on other strengths. 

 

The Moment I’ll Never Forget

 

I remember the exact moment when those feelings of ‘not-good-enough’ were smashed forever. I was at a traffic light, frantically waiting for it to turn green, I had to run home to check the numbers. Numbers of a video which became the biggest success I had ever tasted. I fired up my iPhone browser, keeping an eye on the traffic lights and there it was.. my first Million views!

 

That day, when the counter hit the six zeroes – I had my degree.

 

That one video went on to become Asia’s most shared branded Facebook post and won awards. This had come after a long wait, decade of working in the darkness, starting and closing businesses, attending film school, working in sales to managing social media for brands. My career had taken a new direction, and this was the first day of the rest of my life. I had come out of the ‘drop-out’ closet with a very public success. Working at ixigo was a strong reason as well, with a full license to experiment. Little did I know that in a year, I would win Content Marketer of the Year too 🙂

 

Oh The Taboo!

 

Back in the day, it was not easy living in India being a drop-out. A taboo, it was like a blot on your resume and your life. When friends were discussing about doing MBAs and applying for masters, I was tinkering with websites, lapping up skills and knowledge from the Internet. One thing being a drop-out taught me was to find your own path, chart your own course. I remember once I sold a web app idea to a client in Canada without knowing a thing about that technology. After a few days in the library and hours playing with the code, that project was delivered and at fraction of what competition was quoting. That’s when I started maintaining my success journal, a book with a list of my littlest of achievements, my version of ‘degree on the wall’.

 

Speaking At a University, Hell Yeah!

 

Few weeks back, got an invitation to speak at a well respected University. The email was about doing a talk on ‘Viral Videos’. The little degree-less boy who lived with-in me, shouted ‘Hell Yeah’ with joy, it had come full circle. The talk was attended by their Grad students and the sought after ‘Young India Fellowship’ students. I learnt from the admissions office that their entire admissions process was based on meticulous interviews and a curriculum rooted in liberal arts. Ashoka University, with their world class campus is a vision of India’s top entrepreneurs.

 

So there 🙂

 

 

 

Ps: I have an ASK AASHISH Page on trh. So go ahead and ask me stuff on content, video & viral marketing!

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. wow. what a brave post aashish. i don’t think anyone would’ve ever guessed that you were a college dropout!! you are a total ROCKSTAR and i have believed so right from the first webinar announced on digital vidya! i remember asking jasleen to introduce me to you coz i loved your profile write up and i knew this is one guy i’d love connecting with!

    it’s unfortunate how each time we’ve organised an event in delhi/gurgaon you have been travelling otherwise you would’ve been one of our speakers long long back! but there’s always a next time 🙂

    so so proud of you aashish. we may have not met but just being connected to you is an honour! 

    this is just the beginning – you are already the most sought after digital marketeer in india (aloke will now need to guard you like his most precious gem!!!) many congrats on the award and here’s to many many more!!

  2. Loved your comment, thank you 🙂

  3. The photograph just did the magic for me. STANDING OVATION

    I share a kinda similar story with a pic at my presentations. This pic describes my transition from making SOCKS to getting into digital 

  4. Wow! That’s incredible 🙂 Thanks for sharing

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