06 Jan Nikhil Chouguley ’98 – The Gift of Mentorship
Nikhil spent grades 5 to 10 at Woodstock, but did not graduate from the school. He moved to Woodstock because his father was Head of Finance at the school. From warm memories of hosting boarders at home on weekends, to running Sunday School with his mother for children in surrounding villages, Nikhil also remembers being a sprinter, representing Woodstock at the athletics events at Wynberg Allen and being on the cricket team. He went on to graduate from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, with a degree in Business and is now a Chartered Accountant.
Who did you most look up to during your time at Woodstock?
There isn’t one person. Woodstock is a framework of high achievers. When I first arrived in 5th grader from the indian system, Nathan Dick, a Canadian who I loved. He helped me absorb an international lifestyle and global citizen. The spirit of Woodstock is what I look up to the identity of global citizenship.
What do you miss the most?
The peace and simplicity. You grow up in sheltered environment. It doesn’t exist in other parts of the world. I have lived all over the world – and WS has an air of simplicity that nurtures you.
How did Woodstock shape who you are?
It did shape who I am today. It laid the foundation of my identity and frame of reference. Understanding multinationalism and cultural differences. WS symbolises and lives the concept of global citizenship. Everytime I am in a new country, language or people – it is the Woodstock way of thinking appreciating and understanding. I look back and think that in the years to come I would want my girls to go to WS. Identity and sense of belonging, strong and stable sense of foundation.
What are you involved in now that you’re passionate about?
I am passionate about mentoring young people and seeing them develop. I have been a mentor for Varun Khedia ’13, who I met at a Woodstock reunion. He wanted to get into finance, and asked for my advice,so we began talking and I have been serving as his mentor. I work as the Head of Product Governance at Deutsche Bank. I love finance, making things more efficient and helping customers. A few years ago I set up a private equity fund that invested in forests in Malaysia. In the past I worked at Ernst & Young in Delhi, then a UN affiliated organization in Paris and then moved to London.
Why do you think mentors are important?
As children our parents are most often our mentors, but as we grow up and begin our higher education and professional careers we need people who are ahead of us in the fields or areas we are considering to serve as our mentors. As a mentor I am neutral and a role model for people who want to come into my field. A hybrid between an older sibling, a parent and a psychologist – a professional, emotional and advisory authority over someone who wants to be mentored. A mentor may have experienced similar circumstances, or have had many of the same questions, a mentor understands the issues someone is facing. They have the framework needed to help, but because a mentor is not a parent, or employer, it feels like a safer environment
If Woodstock had had a professional networking platform when you were graduating – would you have used it ? If yes, why do you think it is important?
Woodstock allows young minds to grow in a protective environment where the body, soul and mind are nurtured. Whilst this builds a tenacious foundation that will sustain the individual in testing times, nothing prepares a fresh graduate for the realities of adult life that lie outside those school gates. Given the industrious and illustrious people that Woodstock has produced in the past, one can conclude that Woodstock’s 12 year process in building up the next generation of global citizens works rather well. However, a former Mussoorie resident let loose on the streets of London, New York, Melbourne or even in a Delhi college, will at some time feel lost. They have outgrown the ideas of their parents’ generation and their support network of close Woodstock friends is dispersed around the world; this is where the new Woodstock professional networking platform would be a game changer. Imagine a young professional on their journey of discovery, meeting their 10 years older self (without the need for time travel). On the flip-side this platform would enable an older Woodstocker at a stage in life where they have words of wisdom for their younger self, to now meet through a tech platform to share experiences, stories, food, social and professional networks. The process can be rather rewarding for the mentor and reassuring for the recent graduate being mentored. And as the relationship between the past and present of Woodstock grows over time through the medium of this networking platform, nobel prizes, oscar winning films, global business and lifelong friendships will be a natural by-product.
What is valuable about the WS experience and why we understand each other in a unique way?
From being a WS student, there is a shared trust and experience, no matter the years you attended or graduated. You get roughly the same experience, a common identity, trust and an instant liking of each other. An inherent desire to reach out and help each other. Time is a precious commodity in today’s world, but I will always have time for someone from WS. It comes from a shared identity and shared way of thinking. I see myself in my help for you. There is a space for collaboration –Woodstock Alumni Connect is a meeting ground, the WS version of Linkedin where people inspired by the same cause can help and support each other. 5,500 people at the top of their game who don’t compete with each other. There is a role of mentorship and brotherhood and sisterhood in being from Woodstock.