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Meet The Family - Stan The Coconut Man

· BrainGain family,career,India

This week we have decided to start a segment that helps our prospective candidates get a glimpse into what it might be like to take the BrainGain Global Professional plunge. Each week we will profile a different member of the BrainGain Family, who will tell you a little about their experience so far here in India. Some have completed their internships and are now onto new things, some have been here for a few months with more to go, and others may have just started their journey. We hope that this will help you put yourself in their shoes to better understand what life is like living and working abroad. We hope you enjoy :)

Without further adieu we present to you the story of Stan The Coconut Man…

So you like stories? Here is mine.

This is a story about my 4 month internship in Bangalore, India. Shout-out to Troy Erstling and the BrainGain team; if I had never contacted him, India would be just a place on the map to me. Now I think of it as of a place where my soul has bloomed.
…Chill, I am not crazy nor overly spiritual. I just had amazing time and found my ultimate joy there.

I’ve written this messy post of mine so that some of you who consider working/having an internship in India will avoid getting scared or discouraged by misguiding negative and paranoid stories of people with bad attitudes and closed minds. It would be a shameful thing if some of you would miss such great eye opening and priceless experience as I had. Hopefully this little story will encourage some of you to travel and thus bloom (I like this word) professionally and personally.

A bit about me and how I got to go to India

My name is Stan (actually Stanislaw) and I am a Polish/Russian hybrid. Yes, I have a better alcohol tolerance than you do, and no – I don’t drink vodka for breakfast every day. That happens only on weekends when I turn into an Eastern European barbaric demon shaming Lucifer. You can trust me.

You see, I have always thought that going abroad is the way for me to go. Not because I felt bad where I was before, but because I wanted to have a wider perspective and thus a better future. At least that was what I hoped for and that was a reason strong enough for me to decide on having my entire university education in another country (Denmark) at an international programme.

I can’t describe how beneficial living in other country is and what it teaches you. A place where language, culture and mentality differ from what you are used to. Now, when I write “living”, I actually mean going somewhere for an extended period of time and embracing the local ways of doing things. Stuff like “Daddy took me to Greece for a week”, “I had a cappuccino in the airport in Rome” or “Konichiwa, I ate sushi during one week Tokyo trip, thus I am Japanese” DO NOT qualify as embracing local ways of doing things.

There is this thing called being open-minded and culturally sensitive. It seems obvious to me today, however I realize it is not the same for everyone. Living abroad, especially in an international environment, gives you a great skill of flexibility. You might not realize, but it makes decisions like “Should I go to India for 4 months?!”, as stressful and hard as preparing a cup of tea (which is not, unless you have a lethal case of hangover and your hands are shaking mad). That’s why I encourage you to go out of your safety bubble and travel. A sprinkle of chaos in your lives is gold. How else are you going to learn and be ready for anything?

Back to to the point:

So after almost 7 years of living in Denmark I contacted BrainGain since I needed to have an internship before starting writing my master’s thesis. Not before long I got the message: “Stan, I’ve found a robotics company for you. They want to have an interview with you asap”. BANG! – My instant smile was so big it almost ripped half of my face off. Especially that after 3 months of intense, yet fruitless search on my own for ANY kind of internship relevant to my studies, I got this message telling me that there is a place for me. Triple wow.

It was not some place where I could do something just to put a cross on a check list saying: “Internship – DONE”. It was a placement in a company doing exactly what I wished to learn.

I had a joy level like characters in Disney’s tales. Do you remember Timon and Pumba from Lion King eating maggots, singing Hakuna Matata and being ridiculously happy? That’s the feeling I am talking about.

Anyway, around month after getting the message I arrived to Bangalore. I remember this feeling of excitement and uncertainty. I was excited because I was about to live in the most exotic place I could think of for something other than leisure. And the feeling of uncertainty? Me being 26 and still not knowing what exactly I want do in my life? I actually hated this feeling. I would be happy to believe I am not the only one. Three years before this I was seriously considering becoming a pro MMA fighter and I ended up arriving to India for an internship in business development and robotics. Bizarre bizarre bizarre.

As the plane landed thoughts flooded my head; “Will I find my path here? What if I won’t be good enough in the very beginning and the company is going to be pissed? Will ideas come to my head as I hoped for? Damn, what is it going to be like?” – probably this kind of stuff makes me sound like a bit of an emo. I am not – it is not that trendy anymore anyway and my smile is way too big.

I think it is a good idea to share this. Sometimes you hear about people who decide to do things that you don’t ever think you could do yourself. No, I am not talking about me going to India, but in general. It could be climbing Mount Everest, running a successful business or freediving to depth of 214 metres (702 feet, dear imperial system users). Everyone has doubts, so no reason to limit yourself. All this “you can do it” talk. I assume you got the point…

Probably the coolest thing about these worries I had is that all of them have evaporated over the course of my internship in Bangalore

The very first impressions

The moment I stepped out of the airport I couldn’t get to stop my joker smile growing on my face again. I had a very warm welcome (Thanks Troy!) and the very first positive emotions were so strong, they squished all the negative thoughts, like I did squish a big cockroach in my soon-to-be room.

If (or rather WHEN) you will decide to come abroad with BrainGain I can promise that you will be taken care of. The introduction to India I had was wonderful. I was taken to a cosy and nice hostel, where I slept like a baby. The hostel part lasted just for a few days, since my actual room for next 4 months was not ready at the time yet.

The very next morning I had my first delicious Indian breakfast and then the driving around with rickshaws and taxis began. So many things had to be arranged; checking out the new apartment, getting an Indian number, visiting the company and meeting new boss and co-workers, and eventually getting familiar with surroundings and landmarks. It might not seem as much to do, yet I promise to you – if you were all alone with all this, it would take you at least two weeks (and another two) to take care of.

Especially landmarks – “Landmark?” is probably one of the most common question taxi drivers ask when you tell them the destination. Learning several of them around the city will spare you a couple of rupees and some newbie stress. On the other hand getting lost is quite an adventure and your stress tolerance goes up. One of many priceless lessons I had while being there.

The BrainGain family definitely knows how to take care of its babies. Despite the fact it could be a bit overwhelming to get used to the crowds, traffic and life tempo in India I felt safe, I felt happy. I am a jolly fellow anyway.

By the time my internship started I was already exploring and learning how things works in this crazy place. I was actually getting lost on purpose (which definitely sped up the process of tuning myself to Indian vibes) And let me tell you – I had a blast doing it too.

Food

Indian food. Oh my god. One of the things I loved the most. Especially the fact you can get as full as an anaconda after eating a baby hippo and so happy you are on the border of crying from joy.

So the stories some people told me about getting food poisoning after every second meal were absolutely not true. Common sense is sufficient to avoid stories like that. So eat your probiotic and clean your hands frequently. Unless you don’t even do that after using the bathroom, because you are tough. In such case I am afraid I might be lacking persuasion skills to make you do otherwise.

Oh and please do use your right hand while eating. I am a lefty and I still learnt how to do it. Almost poked my eye out the first time I tried, but it was worth it. Nobody was looking at me weird anymore. If you wonder why – there is no toilet paper, so there goes your left hand instead together with the “spray” tool. I will leave your imagination to it

Well, perhaps I can persuade you to clean your hands frequently after all.

…One last thing – coconuts. The most wonderful thing in the universe. I had so many per day everyone started calling me Stan the coconut man. Perhaps one day I will have my own coconut empire.

Work

I have already expressed my uncertainty/confidence issue in the very beginning. I talked about it with the big daddy of BrainGain – Troy, who as usual didn’t let me down and tossed me some advice.

This was when I decided to follow a “1-word-rule”– Believe. (Yea I get it – it might sound a bit cliché to some. Also R. Kelly turned out to be an evil man despite his angel voice singing “I believe I can fly”.)

But following a smart man’s (Napoleon Hill) advice, you have to believe you are going to be successful at whatever you decided to do. You just need to set your goal for yourself and see it clearly. It is not that easy in the very beginning. For me my goal was to learn as much as I could.

At work I started believing I will catch up with all the knowledge I didn’t have at the time. I had no former technical education, and I am sure some people in the company didn’t expect that. But what happened was that I stopped worrying so much and just focused on what I have to do.

After the first week I was told I am progressing twice as fast as most people usually do when they come for initial training. That was very rewarding and provided a huge ego boost, and my ego is not disgustingly big…you know these gym dudes falling in love with themselves in a gym in front of the mirror while flexing? Not the case. I mean the most positive boost that gives you even more drive and will to keep going forward.

Months kept passing and I kept learning more and more. Hell, I loved this constant progression. This gave me a sufficient technical literacy to go to conferences and give talks about robotics…

Probably the most valuable experience for me was the one when I had to talk while giving a brief demo of robots we constructed in the company. At that point I already knew significantly more than I did upon my arrival to Bangalore. However I did not know I was going to talk to 1000 people in junior college from a stage. Try to imagine me standing there saying: “….uuuuh…hello” to those 1000 teenage devils. I was barely holding the microphone, because my hands were shaking so bad. The biggest audience I had before was 25 people, which was definitely quite a change, huh?

I won’t lie that I was displeased with myself, as I wanted everything to turn out awesome. That was another time I had Troy help me chill out. After all I always welcome advice from people who have experience and can give me some valuable input. You can only learn from a seemingly bad experience like that.

Also funny thing is how people tend to beat themselves up for stuff that is not worth it. After that stressful demo of mine, the college booked a workshop on building a gesture controlled robot from scratch. I was the one who had to teach a group of 24 people how to do it. Long story short the workshop had great reviews and me and my assistants had amazing feedback. It is hard to describe this feeling when you successfully get to teach people something you have very recently learnt yourself. All the robots were working well and it was my first teaching experience!


I think this is a solid proof of commitment and persistence winning.

People

I have met amazing people in India, both locals and expats. Indian people are great. The diversity of people is so vast you won’t be able to understand it unless you see it. But what they have in common is that the majority of them are helpful. They are just really happy to help you out even when some of them don’t speak English. This is how you get to practice your body language skills. Just make sure to be careful with rickshaw guys as they are likely to scam you if you have no clue where you are going. A solution? Google maps for life!

Also imagine a situation, when you sit in a bar with an Indian friend and he meets a friend of his. Few hours (and even more beers) later you end up in that guy’s house on a big party. The house is awesome, but the guy seems like a nice average fellow. Later it turns out that he is responsible for a whole south pacific market of a giant international corporation. This is when I got to appreciate how humble people in India are. I consider this a very rare quality nowadays.

Oh and when it comes to expats I have befriended in Bangalore, I think it is amazing how emotionally attached I got to some of them. It feels like in spite of coming from different spots on the planet, people who decided to go to that place have similar mentality, good vibes and thus get along well. Obviously it doesn’t work for 100% of people, but the day I was leaving India I felt sad, because I left many precious and beautiful people behind me.

No worries – I am coming back

Conclusion

Coming to India and becoming a member of BrainGain family was one of the most amazing experiences I had in my life. I am completely serious.

The things I’ve learnt, the people I’ve met, the things I’ve experienced and the good vibes that made me feel happy, were all so wonderful and I recommend you to try it for yourself. After all everyone does differ and there are as many opinions as there are people, and for that reason you should go, form your own opinion and let me know.

I have even persuaded my little sister to join the BrainGain and she recently went to Bangalore for a1 year contract. So far she likes it there big time.

I think that my pursuit of happiness and a bright future is finally on the right path. Why? Well I am coming back to Bangalore soon to work on my master’s thesis. Really, the place is that amazing.

I can only hope that sharing my experiences will make people be more confident and just go and reach for such experiences.

Go for it!

Stan

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