Introduction Her ability to stay calm under pressure, her vision in leading her team with ideas for new programs and innovative ways to reach new members and hold the existing active members intact make Vandana a dynamic personality.
In the article Speaking from the heart – An interview with Vandana, she shared her childhood experiences and we could understand how she reached the height with confidence and hard work. In the second part of the interview, various aspects of India Study Channel were discussed in detail and her cool responses to some tricky questions are quite appreciable.
Vandana and ISCVandana is an all rounder in ISC with her steady performance in various sections, apart from being Managing Editor of the website. This part of interview focused on her role and responsibilities. Here is the full text of the interview and hope that the author has made a sincere effort in getting answers from her by putting her questions without any bias.
1. You joined ISC in 2008 and became the Managing Editor in 2011. How is ISC now and then? What is your assessment of the progress that IndiaStudyChannel.com has made?
When I joined ISC and now - the magic is still there! Of course, today we have many more learning and earning avenues. When I registered as a member in 2008, there were only the sections of Universities, Colleges, Schools, Exam Papers, Practice Tests, Communities, Business Directory and a few others. The number of efficient editors on board are also much more today. As for the progress, in one word - phenomenal. The way Tony Sir has developed this site from its rudimentary foundation set up by Timmy Sir is really something he deserves full credit for, with Jose Sir too pitching in right from its initial years. Naturally, full credit to every member for this progress!
2. How do you manage your time for contributions and monitoring edits in ISC?
It is simply a matter of dealing with one task at a time. Start one task, give full focus to it alone, complete it and move on to the next task. Thus my first priority is to check my emails. Next, I will quickly skim through forum threads & the responses therein to see if anything requires my attention and then move on to edits. Submitting articles will also get priority if I have a finished article ready to be published. At all times, I have tabs open for: Social Hub, New Posts, Forum. Sometimes the schedule does go haywire. For example, when reading the newspaper in the morning I may come across something that is ideal to submit as an article or there will be a job recruitment. Then I right away get this urge to work on that. So that would be the end of my grand organized schedule!
3. What is the criterion you follow for selecting winners for various awards and badges in ISC?
For any award and badge, quality of the contribution is of prime importance. From one section to another, naturally the parameters for nominating and finalizing a winner would wary. For example, in the articles we will look for in-depth information whether the article is long or short. Good inter-linking to other ISC pages is a plus point. In the photos section, we would expect clarity of the image.
4. Some senior members feel that ISC should celebrate important days like ISC's foundation day, Independence Day and Republic Day by felicitating members with awards or badges. What do you say?
Well, I don't see the necessity to select any particular day for awards and rewards. Any day is a good day for it isn't it?!
5. Can you recall any special moments ever since you took up the role of Managing Editor?
Hands down the most special moment would have been that surprise announcement of the award for leadership - ISC Birthday month celebrations - A surprise award for the real star Generally I am the one throwing a surprise (I so love announcing awards), so that was like a really superb surprise!
6. Have you been a given free hand by the Webmasters to take decisions of your own and implement them on the same lines you wished to do?
"Free hand" is a misnomer. It is true that I have been given a free rein to manage the editorial work and assign responsibilities to the individual team members. I also appreciate the trust placed in me which allows me to make announcements of guidelines too of my own initiative. However, note that I do confirm beforehand with him (and the team when required) if any guidelines are amiss or require more clarity. So it is not as though I am running around without a controlling hand. Let me assure everyone that the admin is fully in the loop of my decisions.
7. There are comments from one corner that some of the Editors try to dominate you where you were present in the forum threads. Is it so?
See, I would hardly call it dominating. It is not written in black and white that just because I am the ME, other editors should not respond in a forum thread where I have already posted my response. In fact, I am happy that editors have their own individual stance too. As long as there are no contradictory guidelines and we are on the same wavelength, I think it is fine for them to come up with their opinions of it. If at all something is contradictory, we do confer with the Webmasters to resolve what is right - not who is right.
8. You are well known for conducting good creative contests in ISC and the latest was the Friendship day one. How do you rate a virtual friendship over real friendship?
Simply put, you cannot equate a virtual friendship with a real one. In the virtual world, one is much more cautious to whom one extends a hand of friendship. This I would say applies to both genders & not just to the ladies. Even men may not necessarily be eager to start such a friendship. The first thing that would pop in your mind - whether you are male or female - is to instinctively think of the motive. Why is this person seeking your friendship? After all, you cannot merely judge by the person's photo (if there is any) or by their keyboard-driven words. In the real world, you are at least meeting the person and somehow, very often you know right away, from the first approach, that this person is going to be your good friend merely because of feeling some good vibes. In the virtual world, how can you assess such a vibe is the crucial question.
That is not to say that virtual friendship should be written off as dangerous and never to be ventured into! My advice is to interact with the person who approaches you in a neutral, friendly way, without revealing info about your personal life. It boils down to checking out the basics of virtual etiquette, such as presence of courtesy and respect, honesty and frankness & absence of inappropriate language and non-intrusion of your privacy. If you are putting tick marks for these, I think you could get some assurance that Ok, this person is alright. Mind you, even then, just like in the real world, you should never feel forced to continue the friendship if at any time you are not comfortable with it. If you get some general bad feeling, no matter that all those boxes are ticked, step away if necessary. Do value that sixth sense of yours!
9. You have completed 5 years as ME of ISC. How do you deal with certain members having a different attitude and reluctant to mend their ways?
I'd like to convey a message here. As individuals, we all have our own specific attitudes and behavioral traits. We cannot expect everyone to toe our line. What we do expect is basic good manners. Just because we are in a free virtual platform it does not mean that we should be rude, mean, uncouth and over aggressive, knowing that we'll never meet the other person. So this is where the importance of imposing a suspension comes into play. The admin. must be firm.
As for dealing with members, more than sending advice & requests, I feel one must lead by example and, by the way, I have seen members making the effort to change. Of course, I am not perfect myself & I have erred a couple of times in being a bit rude and made a couple of unkind remarks which I regretted later. However, with all due humility, I would like to share something here. I have received personal thanks from a few ISCians who said they changed themselves for the better even in their real life interactions due to what they learned through my attitude & approach of patience, staying cool under pressure, being understanding, not holding grudges & my general caring outlook in my interactions with members. I was quite flabbergasted to know this!
10. Though you are friendly with everyone, sometimes you seem to be landing in controversies and very often being blamed to be biased. What could be the reason?
Ah….(I smiled wryly here).....the million dollar question! What I noticed over the years was that when I was first appointed as a forum editor, everything was fine. So also when the promotion came as a Lead Editor. There was no blame game, no accusations of bias. It was only when I got promoted to the post of Managing Editor that there was a major sea-change - I should say of gigantic tidal-wave proportion - and all the fun started. From everyone's friend I became so-and-so member's friend, being accused of catering to sycophants, from everyone's friend I became target #1 for all the dislike. There were literally hot waves coming my way. What I think is that once somebody is in authority, it becomes natural for everyone to assume that this person should be the one responsible for anything & everything, that it is par for the course to get barbs and accusations. There is no real logic to it - just emotions getting in the way of sensible thoughts! Expressing appreciation to members is seen as favouritism, but what is not seen are the reprimands & stern warnings that I also send to those same members via messages or emails for not adhering to site rules or etiquette.
Also, I freely admit, sometimes after taking some action, such as putting negative marking, I've had second thoughts about whether what I did was right. As an editor yourself, Jagdish, you are aware that very often I've admitted my mistake, had internal discussions with editors & Webmasters and taken remedial measures to right the wrong. If the joint decision was that it was Ok, then the action I took stands as it is. Not being privy to the emails I send to erring members & to internal discussions, members naturally take pot shots at me. I just have to take it quietly because obviously I cannot reveal what goes on backstage. It has affected me of course - I would be lying if I said it did not and I am aware I'm a little over sensitive. See, it is not as though I consider any member as having a bad image or am deliberately taking a step because I dislike somebody. When I know nobody personally, how can I have such a view? I wish members were more understanding. It is easy too for others to say not to take things personally, but, really, they are not the ones in my shoes! Anyway, one has to move on & somehow I've got over those trying times due to sheer resilience, not to mention having quite a few supporting shoulders to lean on.
11. Have you ever felt a gender bias in ISC? What measures you have taken for the security of the women members registered with ISC, I mean some members perhaps stepping over the line?
Generally we may see the usual stuff of male members speaking up in the forum against what they feel are over the top modern trends of females, whether in dress, language or general mannerisms. We've then had female members up in arms against such biased views of the female gender. We do encourage healthy discussions on such things, but draw the line on aspects like disrespect towards female members. We've taken due action against members who stepped over the line.
As for security measures, the Webmasters have thoughtfully stuck to the policy of keeping a member's personal address and contact details as private. Even I do not have access to such details. The Webmasters are also available for direct communication to register a complaint if any female member is stalked or harassed. This year a privacy setting was also introduced, which I should say does benefit female members who want to keep virtual stalkers at bay.
12. Can you name some good contributors who you feel are an asset for ISC?
In some way or the other, I feel all those who are contributing consistently are an asset. After all, without their effort, ISC would not be where it is is today, surviving in a cut-throat competitive world of thousands of portals jostling for eyeballs and revenue.
13. Vandana, the Managing Editor of ISC, a straight question to you. When you will reveal your photographic identity? What I mean to ask you is that when your profile would be updated with real photograph and reachable address?
(I laughed aloud here ......)
As I said in part I of the interview , I loved the fact that when I joined I did not have to expose my personal details to all and sundry. Only the Webmasters would know my address. No way am I ever going to give my address to members. As for my photo, I thought it best to continue to remain anonymous and mysterious. Let my contributions and work be my image. As I once said, some members will already have some mental picture of me in terms of looks - so why spoil that lovely picture with the harsh reality?!!
14. Any efforts from your side to arrange a friendly meet of all active ISCians at a designated spot? I know it's a matter of financial constraint but anything being worked out from your end?
No, not as yet. It is not only a matter of financial constraints - our ace Finance Manager Timmy Sir would surely take care of the expenses! I personally feel that somehow the charm of knowing an ISCian virtually will diminish once we do meet in real life. See, based solely on how the member writes & interacts in the forum, we get this mental picture of his/her personality. Maybe the real person is somebody different from it? Who can say?
15. You are heading a very big Editorial team with Editors from different age groups and different parts of the country. Are you comfortable in managing the team and do you find any signs of ego problems among the team and how you are dealing with that?
I have never at any time felt any discomfort as you call it. The matter of age or which part of the country the editor is does not arise at all. I am comfortable dealing equally well with both who are younger than me and those who are older than me. As for ego problems, it is merely a matter of dealing with one editor in a particular way that would be different from dealing with another editor. After all, they are different individuals. Some may need to be handled with kid gloves while others may not mind at all if I am blunt. That said, I consider all editors as my equal & communicate with them in the same manner. There is a well-known quote: "Ultimately, few things inspire loyalty and hard work more than trust". Trust your team totally, give them a little freedom to take the initiative in handling certain issues & they'll give 100% to their work. Inspire, trust, encourage and appreciate are the keywords to team building skills. I have, though, been told I am a little strict and I freely admit I tend to be bossy once in awhile!
16. Have you ever felt that you were missing personal life because of ISC? How, according to you, one should differentiate between personal life and virtual life?
It is tough, I must say, to get oneself weaned away from the PC when one is doing a work at home job. As such, I find ISC so exciting, that, say, if I miss out on watching something on TV I don't really mind. For me even Sunday is a working day! That said, it can affect personal life in the sense that sometimes I do feel I am overly committed to my work at ISC and do not have time to do something like working at my blogs or reading a book or adding to my stamps collection. Since the last 4-5 months, though, I have made a conscious effort to shut myself out from ISC. Earlier, I used to check it out even during my evening job or when I came home after work. No more of that now. If at all I come online in the evening, it will be for general browsing or checking my mails. I even suddenly take time off from editing on no specific day. Also, I do enjoy outings with my family from time to time.
17. A very important question that always haunts those who get a celebrity status and I think Vandana is not an exception for this as she is also an online celebrity today. Vandana, what is her direction? When she would call it a day as ME in ISC?
Beg your pardon, but are you crazy?!! With all due humility, it is not right to call me a celebrity, online or otherwise. Outside of ISC, who knows me online? Nobody! I am just a person. You did give me pause to think though, about my direction. Till now, I have frankly never once thought of a life beyond ISC. That is, if I left ISC, what I would do. Me, not a crystal ball-gazing expert!
And hey...look's like you want me to retire as ME!!
18. No, no….Not like that. You were Tony's choice when got elevated to the post of ME. Now you are the members' choice to continue. So just want to know if any general future plans. Also, having gained vast experience in content development and in managing the editorial board of a famous website, do you have any plan to launch a website of your own?
Perhaps in the next couple of years or so I may step away from the ME role, maybe later even be done with all editorial responsibilities, focus solely on my blogs….plans, plans, plans….I'll leave it to the One above and Lady Destiny's GPS to show me the way….
As for a website, I already have one, having converted one of my blogs to a .com website. Keeping to the rules, though, not going to give the website name here - I will get penalized for spamming!
19. Recently, you have crossed a unique milestone of publishing 1000 articles in ISC. According to you, what are the essential ingredients for a good article?
Stick to the point of the article topic is the first main essential ingredient. Don't meander into endless jabbering! Avoid too many heavy words as most of your readers are likely to know simple English and will get thrown off with flowery vocabulary. Nobody really sits with a dictionary, real or virtual, to constantly check up on the meanings of words. When starting the article, put something which instantly grabs attention, but is short and concise. Avoid too long an introductory paragraph and get quickly to the essence of the article. Always take care of the little things, namely punctuation and grammar. See some tips here: Good Article Writing Tips. It is also good to respond to queries and comments left at your article by readers. By responding to them, it shows that you are acknowledging them & are willing to help out if required.
20. What are the deficiencies in some areas of ISC that need to be addressed and what can be done for this?
It is only recently that the admin has started imposing suspensions (as against merely removing posting permission) on members who are not adhering to basic etiquette. I think we should have had this imposed long ago! A suspension does come across as a strong message that the admin will not tolerate disrespect and bad behaviour and it is hoped this is continued to be enforced strictly.
One of the major deficiencies, or rather a problem I should say, is to retain members. We do have a number of awards and reward programs, which is what I feel is what draws people to register as members in the first place. Despite this, I think there are likely only about forty or fifty maybe who are consistently contributing for the long term.
21. How would you differentiate the ISC from other educational websites?
ISC is not per se a formal educational website in the sense that it does not merely have reams of information stacked up in various sections. I find it different due to the information being dispensed in a an informal manner. You will come across articles and answers in the Ask Expert section which, while dispensing knowledge, are casual & chatty in nature. Then there is the vibrant forum, undoubtedly the very heart of the site, throbbing with the zest and enthusiasm of members exchanging views on just about any topic under the sun!
22. A question from a layman's viewpoint. Is it right to say that the 'Earn and Learn' concept of ISC has made it more popular or something else?
Without doubt, when new members drop in and discover ISC's earning potential, it excites them. There is no dearth of avenues to earn, including great awards. What though I feel has given ISC its popularity is what one can learn here - and I don't mean merely in terms of knowledge but invaluable skills too. You can develop, for example, your English and writing skills, build up your vocabulary, learn the art of using keywords, learn to use HTML tags, etc. Beyond even all these, the popularity is due to what ISC gives you internally - the surge of immense confidence you get in yourself. Every new member who has contributed for a while will know what I am talking about. Before joining, you are likely a nobody in the real world, feeling lost in the company of peers who you feel are smarter than you. After you join ISC, you become a somebody, to be your own self, liked just as you are. Nobody even makes fun of your poor writing or English skills. You are given opportunities galore to showcase your creativity. You are allowed to spread your wings & really grow - that, my friend, is what ISC is all about: an opportunity to soar to reach heights you never knew yourself capable of reaching.
23. Before we wrap up, what are you going to say to your vast family of ISC?
People who never give less than their best,
Touch so many lives with their spirit and zest.
This is a quote on a card that I had once bought to give somebody, but kept the card for myself because I liked it so much for the beautiful message it conveys. Thus I would similarly say to my virtual family: Touch somebody's life, not only with your spirit and zest, but with a kind word and a thoughtful deed. See how you may possibly change somebody's life merely by that magic touch.
A final word from me: Jagdish, I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to reveal what's in my heart and on my mind so that ISCians get to know me better as a person (Part-1) & have a keener understanding of my role & responsibilities (Part-2). I hope I will be continuing my endearing relationship in the coming years with this wonderful virtual family. Thank you one & all for your respect, love & affection.
Wrap Up Hopefully all the points that arise generally in the mind of a member are covered in this interview and thanks to Vandana for sparing her valuable time to respond to the questions very patiently posed by the author. On behalf of every member of ISC, the author takes the pride to wish her all the best in her future assignments and her plans.
Jagdish Patro is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to ISC and other websites. Fond of reading books, novels and spends his leisure time by listening to music. He did his B.Sc in Applied Chemistry and his M.Sc in Resource Development Technology. He edited and published an in-house monthly journal by name ‘Srujana’ during 2009-2011 which was totally a private circulation.
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The article is very vast and good.I feel the introductory part "Her ability to stay calm under pressure, her vision in leading her team with ideas for new programs and innovative ways to reach new members and hold the existing active members intact make Ma'am Vandana a dynamic personality." is really true. I have read one expert answer by her in "My 10 years daughter is telling lie" and felt the awesome personality in her. I have read the responses in a thread recently and the reaction was put in a patient way. I really appreciate her.
I would say the caption given for the interview ‘Reading her mind’ is very apt. The author of the interview article has not only read her mind perfectly but also passed on the insightful qualities of the Managing Editor through this article to the readers.
Celebrations, awards, goodhearted people with leadership qualities will come once in a life time in everyone’s life, it is up to us to cherish with positive notes or perish with negative thoughts.
My honest opinion is that, comparatively, the latter part seems to be more professional than the earlier one.
Lastly I thank the author of this article for taking time and strain to compile a beautiful interview article, worth for everyone to read this at least once.
This is the second part of the interview. The interview has been structured in a brilliant way. However, I feel that some questions (as for example, Question Nos. 12, 13,14) are not really necessary. Of course, this is my personal opinion.
Furthermore, I was inquisitive to know about the future direction of ISC, In this regard, the interview has not fully satisfied my curiosity.
Personally I would also like to know about the initial days of ISC and the Members who contributed a lot for creating such tremendous goodwill for the Website. But here again, my curiosity has not been fully satisfied.
So far as Ms. Vandana's contribution to ISC, it is simply stupendous and beyond my description. I simply can't imagine how this great lady manages constantly fretting and fuming Members like Partha Kansabanik, and still finds time to write more than 1000 articles besides giving constant guidance to Editors and Members.
Concluding my response, I would like to thank Mr. Jagdish Patro for this article/interview (in two parts). This is one of the rarest articles which creates more curiosity in the minds of the readers.
It was interesting to continue to read the second article of interview with ME/Vandana, in the name of "Reading her mind". The mixed up question and answer is what everyone is used to listen and know and this interview questions and answers all of them.
I know few thing about Vandana, one of them is, she took overburden in ISC in many occasion where most of them requested her not to do so, take care her health first and then continue to contribute with ISC. But, she managed it simply!
Her work speaks more than her image- she is in fact most suitable for this role in this site.