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Monday, 5 September 2011

They quit plush jobs for activism

BANGALORE: Quitting routine job and setting up own firm to devote time to social activism of the Anna Hazare kind? That's precisely what two techies who have quit jobs from two cutting-edge companies are doing __ turning entrepreneurs to also be social activists, a new dimension that is emerging among some employees in the tech world who have social concerns.

Yogesh Devaraj has quit his job at Cisco while Nitin Jagtap has quit from IBM. Both are now full-time volunteers of India Against Corruption (IAC) and have been actively involved in the Hazare campaign. Their stories are interesting and inspiring __ of quitting plush jobs to set up their own firms so as to be part of social activism while being able to work on their own terms.

Yogesh was a programme manager at Cisco and has worked for the company for 20 years, 12 of that in the US. Why did he quit a well-paying job? "I quit my job about nine months ago and I have been working with IAC for the last five months. I wanted a break from work having worked almost 20 years at a stretch. I felt I needed to do something on my own and work at my own pace. I also felt I needed to give back something to society. A few months after I quit, the Hazare campaign started and I felt I had a role there given its objectives," says Yogesh.

"I've taken a break for a year after which I plan to have my own set-up. So this year I will be fully into activism and the Anna Hazare campaign fits into my view of life. Once I have my set-up, I will divide my time between work and activism. This would be possible because the workplace would be my own,'' says Yogesh whose wife and kids are fully in support of his idea.

He says the savings he managed to put together during his 12-13 year US stint is seeing him through during the break. "You can't take a permanent break from work unless you have vast amount of wealth. That's why I plan to get back to work next year __ but in my own set-up. That way I can manage day-to-day expenses and also be able to devote time to the campaign."

Nitin Jagtap who was at IBM for 13 years also quit his job around eight to nine months back. "I wanted a break and I wanted to be on my own. Working for 12 to 14 hours daily at a stretch for 12 to 14 years stresses you out. You've left with little time to do anything else other than work. You spend less time with family, relatives and friends. Work-life balance changes and you need to restore that,'' says Jagtap.

Jagtap says as work took most of his time, he couldn't do social work. "There are so many things happening around you. You see it and yet you can't do anything about it. A few months after I quit, the Anna Hazare campaign started. My inclination to do social work and activism and the rise of the campaign coincided. I decided to jump into it as I believed the campaign addressed an issue affecting each and every section of society. I decide I would be full time into this atleast for a year."

But Jagtap too, like Yogesh, will get back to work on his own terms. "I want to set up a firm in the area of financial services. I've begun some initial work. I plan to devote 40% to 60% of my time to activism and having your own firm is the best way to do it as you are your own boss. The firm will also give me earnings to sustain myself and I will have the flexibility to do what I want."


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