Written by Aryan Trivedi
A troubled childhood and financial difficulties dragged him to the brink of misfortune. Despite this, he fought against all odds with his sheer will power. Chandigarh Newsline traces the journey of Nitin Saluja, Policy Programs Manager for India, South & Central Asia, Facebook, from his days in a Punjabi-medium government school in Mohali and to his time at London School of Economics.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got here.
I am currently working at Facebook as a Policy Programs Manager for India, South & Central Asia. I, primarily drive government and politics outreach work with political parties and government officials. I have previously worked as an analyst at Ernst and Young, consultant at the World Bank and to Milind Deora, former minister of state for Department of Communications & Information Technology. In my last position, I worked as a consultant for social media & citizen engagement at national e-governance division at Ministry of Communication & IT, where I looked after the ‘Digital India’ campaign.
What challenges did you face in early years of your life?
I wasn’t an early bloomer. I was an average boy studying in an average Punjabi-medium school. Life surprised me when suddenly, my parents decided to send me to St George’s College in Mussoorie. There began my days of struggle. I was nearly stranded at a tender age of ten to figure out life on my own. Above all, language barrier simply added to my miseries as I could only communicate in Hindi and Punjabi, whereas, English was the sole medium of communication in my new private missionary school. All the lessons were imparted in this new language unknown to me, which started affecting not only my performance but also my personality. As a result, I repeated class 5 thrice.
However, I strove hard to overcome this language barrier and made optimal use of my potential. None of that would have been possible without the constant nurturing and undying support of my family and teachers at school.
Once the linguistic barriers were removed, I started to excel in many other things. My teachers noticed that I have a flair for Art and dramatics. Almost all of us present here, in some point in life, have been criticised and compared to others. Most often, most of us were pitted against our peers and siblings-‘Why can’t you score as good as your brother’ or ‘it is ok but not good enough’. I am fortunate to not have to deal with such harsh criticism or else my already broken-spirit would have been brutally severed and I would have never overcome my failures the way I have.
We all need acknowledgment and appreciation for the good work that we do. I slowly began to be noticed for my artworks and my theatre performances. This really boosted my morale and there was a remarkable improvement in my overall performance. I started taking initiative by participating in school competitions. As a result, I won many awards and prizes.
With an inner urge to succeed, I applied to London School of Economics and made it to the college to complete my Master’s degree. But financial troubles cropped up and I was forced to borrow money from relatives. I had to do part time jobs to manage my expenses. I did all sort of jobs, from washing dishes to being a waiter, selling paintings to working at the embassy while also pursuing my degree, all in the space of a year. It is very important for us to have determination. My family really supported me. They invested every penny they had on my future and I am forever indebted to them. All I can say is that it has been quite a ride. From a failure in 5th grade to a degree from LSE, it has been a journey that I can only be grateful for.
What/who has been your inspiration and support system?
I owe my success to my teachers who not only helped me redeem myself but also gave me the wings to fly. My parents and teachers left no stone unturned in giving me the necessary push at the right time. I consider myself as a living example of how a good foundation of quality education facilitates the growth that each individual deserves.
What is your life mantra?
Life is all about taking chances. If you win, you have a reason to boast and if you lose, you have a learning experience. No one loses as long as they keep trying and they don’t forget that the god is just testing them. It is only god who will also bless you with best of the things because we always get what we deserve and not what we like.
This question actually reminds me of what my wife always says- “Wherever life plants you, bloom with grace.”
What are your views on the work-life balance?
Work-life balance means different thing to different individuals. To me, it is meaningful daily achievement and enjoyment in each of my four life quadrants- work, family, friends and myself.
Any advice to the youth on using social media platforms?
Social media has become an integral part of our lives. It is really important for us to respect this platform and use it as a weapon to fight miseries instead of creating them. I also feel that the pressure of being constantly connected, which has become more of a challenge with the constant access to social media, can become stressful. In addition, being constantly connected or feeling the need to be connected can affect mental health. I would say ‘unplug’ yourself or do a ‘digital detox’. Take time away from social media.