Very few people find it within themselves to quit a stready, well-paying job and create a new path for themselves and contribute to the society.
Chetna Vasishth; An MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and with over 10 years of experience in multinational banks, our today’s legend joined the education sector with a training firm. She was so inspired and motivated that she set up Chet Chat two years ago as a pro bono initiative with the objective of helping youth in taking informed career choices. She believed that the youth across the country and in several other countries does not have accurate information to base their decisions on while parents also have limited knowledge and counselors are either very expensive or misinformed.
Her main focus is higher education and she has covered colleges, universities, and careers through over 160 video interviews with experts, CEOs, founders, students, celebrities and many other interesting people. Her videos have over 2.4 million views. Now, its time to chit chat with the queen of Chet Chat, Ms. CHETNA VASISHTH and get insights on her journey so far:
You set up Chet Chat two years ago. Was it a sudden thought, a person or some incident that inspired you to found and start the biggest online forum for students?
Chetna: The idea crystallized in my mind over one car ride in Mumbai (which can be fairly long given the traffic) where the RJ on an FM channel was interviewing a YouTuber called Scherezade Shroff. She was talking about her work and how she does her shoots and it all just sounded super exciting to me. The basic premise of doing something for students was brewing in my mind for quite some time, but I was toying between a portal or a chat room till this one drive just sealed it in my mind. It seemed like the most fun way to do this work.
It is not uncommon to face obstacles when you shift from a normal course to something unexpected. What kind of challenges and teething issues did you face when you started Chet Chat?
Chetna: Oh yeah! There were challenges galore. I had no idea how YouTube worked, never shot a single video, neither edited any. We neither had lights nor mics when we started off, so shooting in natural light was the only option, but we hadn’t bargained for the crow sounds and traffic noises that came with it. It was a horror trying to remove them from the waveforms during the sound edit.
In the early days, something would always go wrong on every shoot, either the sound was not syncing with the video, or the exposure levels were wrong, bad lighting or just too much ambient noise. There was this standing joke about ‘what is it going to be this time?”. We have come a long way since then. We invested in equipment, attended workshops and learned on the job. I edited the first 100 videos on my own, to ensure I knew my craft well. We started with Windows movie maker and people laughed at us. Now when people tell us that our videos look professional, it is very satisfying.
Everything new seems difficult at the start, then you reach a stage where it seems impossible. But if you tide over that it all seems easy.
To inspire and guide others in an important field like career, one must be updated about the latest courses, career choices, and opportunities. How do you keep yourself focused and tracked?
Chetna: I meet a lot of people, luckily my interviewees teach me a lot as well. I visit colleges, talk to experts, browse the internet and basically, this is a full-time occupation
What contrast do you find in today’s career opportunities as against the past?
Chetna: There have been three major changes, in my opinion –
Earlier, India was a manufacturing economy so the traditional jobs of engineering, accounting and of course medicine and teaching were a staple. Manufacturing virtually vanished from India, and we became an outsourcing hub. So people skilled up on tech skills and programs. Now we are soon moving towards being a services economy, more globally linked.
Worldwide, we are currently in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where disruptive changes to business models are having a profound impact on the employment landscape and will continue to do so over the coming years. This means, some occupations have disappeared like the movie rental shop, or the photo studio and completely new ones have come to replace them.
Thirdly, disposable incomes have gone up. So larger numbers of kids can now go abroad and study in a liberal arts environment where they can specialise in creative and new majors. Also, this allows them to follow their passions. I recently met a girl who was an engineer and an MBA from a top-ranked B School. Worked for 7 years at the best FMCG companies and dropped all of that to become a scuba diving instructor and her parents supported her decision.
Liberal arts education is beginning to get understood in India. But we have a long way to go as we are a still predominantly STEM-focused nation when it comes to careers. Every parent seems only concerned about the Math scores on their child’s report card even now. Hopefully, this too will change in some years.
One needs a peaceful and positive mind to stay focused. What is special about your routine that keeps you motivated and inspired?
Chetna: I agree, it can get quite chaotic and stressful sometimes. Reading those dozens of messages everyday from my viewers, asking us to cover one topic or the other, seeking guidance about their careers, appreciating our work; is all very motivating. Interacting with students across Instagram, twitter, facebook and youtube take up a few hours each day, but that is what I work for. These messages are a barometer of the impact of our work and also a constant reminder of how much more remains to be done.
You must have started with a vision and dream. How far do you think you have achieved what you dreamt of? And how did the attitude of people change with your success?
Chetna: Many miles to go before I sleep. We are now the largest online talk show in the career space. My goal is to make ChetChat the No.1 talk show in India and impact the lives of millions of young people in a positive way. Eventually, we will take ChetChat beyond careers.
Most people are unable to appreciate your dream when you first start out. I, however, have been lucky to have got a lot of support from friends and family right from the start.
Lastly, what would you advise our youngsters and students to keep in mind in order to choose their careers wisely so that they do not repent later?
Chetna: I recently delivered a TED talk at the TEDx AFMC where my topic was ‘How to Future-Proof your career’. During the talk I spoke of my belief that going forward we would need to have two areas of specialisation ideally, instead of the conventional single domain. The key will be flexibility, watching out for new opportunities, re-inventing ourselves every few years by learning new skills and constantly challenging yourself. Most students entering primary school today will end up in jobs that do not yet exist.