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Corporate Escape: How Love for Nature Led Sowmya R A to the Indian Forest Service

Sowmya R A's Journey from Engineering and Corporate Life to Pursuing a Dream Intertwined with Nature. Read the article...
Indian Masterminds Stories

Sowmya R A’s path to the Indian Forest Service (IFS) wasn’t a straight line. It meandered through engineering, corporate life, and a persistent, yet unfocused, dream of a career intertwined with nature. Born and raised in the verdant city of Mysore, Karnataka, Sowmya was surrounded by greenery from a young age. This instilled a passion for the environment that blossomed over the years.

CALL OF THE NATURE 

Despite graduating from the prestigious National Institute of Engineering in Mysore and landing a coveted job at Philips Electronics, a corporate career couldn’t quench Sowmya’s yearning for the outdoors. The call of the wild, nurtured by the scenic beauty of Mysore, often referred to as the “Temple of Sandalwood,” was too strong to ignore.

Fueled by childhood dreams and a burning desire to serve nature, Sowmya decided to pursue a career in forestry. However, the path to the prestigious Indian Forest Service was not without its challenges. 

IFS JOURNEY 

The initial roadblock came in the form of the UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE). For three attempts, Sowmya diligently prepared for the coveted bureaucracy, only to be met with disappointment during the prelims stage. Discouraged but not defeated, she shifted her focus to the IFS, a service with a higher prelims cut-off. This decision, many would argue, seemed counterintuitive. Yet, for Sowmya, it felt strangely liberating.

“I always thought getting into the forest service would be difficult,” she admits. “But when I cleared the IFS cutoff in 2022, It felt like it’s doable,” she shared with Indian Masterminds

A turning point came in 2022. Clearing the IFS prelims cutoff alongside an interview call for the state Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) exam served as a crucial wake-up call. It shattered the myth of the IFS being an impossible dream. The experience with the ACF exam not only familiarized her with forestry-related subjects but also instilled a newfound confidence in her abilities.

“God has shown me the purpose,” Sowmya reflects, “I felt that I had found my calling.” This newfound clarity propelled her towards cracking the IFS exam in her second attempt, securing an impressive All India Rank (AIR) 33.

PREPARATION STRATEGY 

But the road to success wasn’t paved with shortcuts. Sowmya acknowledges the pitfall of relying on a multitude of resources during her initial CSE attempts. “There were too many materials, coaching institutes, diverse things,” she admits. “I was not able to hit the core of the prelims exam.”

So, what did she do differently in her winning attempt? The answer lies in a laser-focused approach. Sowmya meticulously analyzed previous years’ question papers (PYQs), establishing connections between topics and familiarizing herself with the prelims format. This deep-dive analysis proved instrumental in her success, helping her cross the prelims hurdle in 2021.

The key to excelling in the IFS mains exam, according to Sowmya, lies in a strong foundation. She emphasizes the importance of NCERT books for grasping the core concepts of General Studies (GS) and General Ecology (GE) papers. For her optional subjects, she opted for Botany and Agriculture, utilizing her existing knowledge of Botany while acing the challenging subject with dedication.

BIRDWATCHING 

Beyond academics, Sowmya actively pursued hobbies that enriched her personality and honed essential skills. Birdwatching, a passion nurtured since childhood, became a central focus. “I actively participated in birdwatching groups, took courses, and honed my observational skills.” These interactions not only deepened her connection with nature but also significantly boosted her articulation skills. Group discussions and exchanging ideas with fellow aspirants emerged as vital tools for interview preparation.

POSITIVITY 

Sowmya’s journey underscores the importance of a strong support system. She acknowledges the invaluable role of friends in her success. “You should have friends with whom you can share your vulnerabilities,” she emphasizes. “We have to be positive. Whenever we face any self-doubt, we should think of our past successes.”

Sowmya’s story is an inspiration for aspiring IFS officers. It advocates for self-belief, strategic preparation, and a genuine love for the environment. It highlights the importance of focusing on core concepts, utilizing past exam papers effectively, and building a strong support system. As Sowmya embarks on her new role as a guardian of India’s forests, she carries with her the lessons learned, the unwavering support of her loved ones, and a deep-rooted passion for the natural world she now has the privilege to protect.


Indian Masterminds Stories

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