In 2012, Vandana Rao had just graduated with an engineering degree. She then received a job offer from a top MNC. Three years later, she found herself ranked fourth in the UPSC Civil Services Examination, 2014. For the 24-year-old, who hails from Kangan Heri village in Najafgarh area of southwest Delhi, this is quiet a big leap.
Vandana said this was her second “serious” attempt at the exam. While she was confident of being selected, she was shocked to find herself among the top 10 rankers. “When I heard that the result was announced, I went online to look for the toppers. I was shocked to see my face against rank 4.
I thought somebody had hacked the UPSC website and was playing a prank,” she said.
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Vandana hails from a lower middle-class family. The daughter of an assistant sub-inspector who works in the Delhi Police Headquarters, Vandana had set an agenda for herself — to work for the poor from within the system. She says that her father, who joined police as a constable, was her constant source of inspiration to get into the administrative services.
Her father, Hari Ram Yadav (52), said, “We come from a farming background. Vandana has achieved something which none in my village could ever achieve.”
Yadav was selected as a constable after completing Class XII. He said he couldn’t study further and that his own struggle motivated him to provide for his children’s education. “I saw the difference between an IPS officer and a constable and the situation constantly pushed me to facilitate my children for studies,” Yadav said.
Apart from hard work, he also attributes his daughter’s success to his senior, Harinder Kumar Singh — a deputy commissioner at the PHQ — who mentored her several times.
Vandana said the journey wasn’t easy. “I thought that engineering was my choice of career and I dreamed of working for the top MNCs,” she said.
In 2008, she got admission into an engineering college in Kurukshetra. However, the economic recession prevailing at the time forced her to rethink her career choice. “I developed an interest in the civil services in my third year and appeared in the examination in the fourth year. Surprisingly, I cleared it,” Vandana said.
It was then that she was gave the exam serious thought. She left her job offer at Infosys and started preparing for the examination once again. After two attempts, she said, her hard work paid off.
On being asked about her daily preparation routine, Vandana said she read various newspapers and their opinion pages, and did not join any coaching centre.
Her advice to all aspirants is to not waste energy in joining coaching institutes. She said the internet was her savior. “Only one English daily comes to my village. I used internet to empower myself,” she said.