From very modest beginnings to dizzy heights at a multinational company, thirty-one-year-old Parthiban Paramasivam’s journey is a tale of grit, determination and hard work.
Bypassing college education and then having become a product manager, Parthiban now heads a team of around 120 people, including engineers, and is also a Member Leadership Staff at ManageEngine, the enterprise IT management division of Zoho Corporation.
More than 15 years ago, the starry-eyed boy from Velachery dreamt of becoming an architect but he had to quash the dream as he knew his family would have no means to fund his education.
“My mother is a homemaker and my father was earning ₹3000 a month, which was not enough to run our family of four,” says Parthiban. He and his elder brother were pulled out from a matriculation institution during their middle school years to continue their education in a government school. “My father was also diabetic, so we knew we had to take up some part-time work to supplement our father’s income,” he says.
During those days, larger corporates used to visit Corporation schools to offer scholarships and handhold students for higher education.
Parthiban’s brother, Saran Babu, made it to the Zoho Schools that had opened a centre in Velachery. It was the first batch of the School and two years down the line Parthiban followed him.
“Going for higher studies was a distant dream and our parents also wanted us to work, so I too joined after clearing the entrance test as this programme promised a stipend after six months,” says Parthiban, who is from the class of 2007.
Until then Parthiban had not handled a computer.
His first exposure to a technology company was during his Class VIII days. He had cleared a scholarship test conducted by Polaris and for a few months remembers visiting the company at Anna Salai as an intern. “Every weekend, some of us from the school would travel to the office and were exposed to playing games and other technical stuff that left me hungry for more knowledge,” he says.
The first six months at the School was not easy as the timid Parthiban had to overcome a lot of inhibitions to be comfortable in the class of 60 students.
““What I best liked about the classes was everything was explained with a practical approach, right from how to approach and learn a language ,” he says HTML was the first computer language they taught. A typical day comprised classes in English, programming, maths and seminar.
To hone spoken English skills, every Friday a movie was screened and the dialogues were explained. After an interview that happened six months after, Parthiban was inducted into ManageEngine, the enterprise IT management division of the company. “Based on our skills like customer handling, design and development we are sent to different departments,” he says his first project was to design a tool for digital marketing.
The project was no cakewalk. He had to do it alone with some help from his mentor. “The tool had to be done on Java and I struggled getting a hang of it. I Googled to study and learnt to code this way. I would even stay back in office till the wee hours of the morning to complete my work,” he says.
How did he improve his spoken and written English skills? “In the initial years, I used to compose my mail and get it reviewed by seniors for the language before sending it to the client,” says Parthiban, adding that he maintained a template of good words.
Parthiban thinks the culture of the organisation has groomed him in many ways. “Right from my initial years, we are told not to address colleagues as ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ that sent out the message that all must be treated as equals,” he says. “Each student is nudged to follow a different logic to solving a problem, making us think out-of-the-box,” says Parthiban, a resident of Guduvancherry.
He says the company’s culture that places greater importance on skillsets and capabilities than just education degrees, has helped him succeed.
His advice for students who wish to find a meaningful alternative to conventional education is “be a practical child and think in a practical way.”
For those keen on cracking the entrance test, he says the questions are simple and come from English and Maths portions covered during high and higher secondary classes.