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A UPSC Topper’s Inspirational Roadmap from Citibank to Civil Services

Pratibha quits lucrative job to pursue passion – a much coveted Civil Services job Balanced approach, family support was key to Pratibha's UPSC success at AIR 356 She chose maths optional, defying gender stereotypes in her UPSC journey
Indian Masterminds Stories

Every year, the announcement of the UPSC Civil Services Examination results sends ripples of excitement through the nation’s top coaching institutes. Among them is Jamia Millia Islamia’s Residential Coaching Academy (RCA), which has carved a niche for itself with an impressive success rate. This year, the academy proudly boasts of 31 candidates securing coveted ranks in the final merit list, out of the 60 who made it to the personality test round.

At the heart of this achievement lies the inspiring story of Pratibha Saharan, who secured an impressive All India Rank of 356. Her journey to civil services is a demonstration of the power of perseverance, strategic preparation, and the nurturing environment provided by Jamia’s RCA.

Watch the full interview here:

Hailing from Gurugram, Haryana, Pratibha’s academic prowess was evident from an early age. After completing her schooling, she pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Delhi University’s Daulat Ram College, followed by a Master’s from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay. Her mathematical aptitude led her to a lucrative job as an analyst with Citibank.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a turning point in Pratibha’s life. Working from home, she found herself drawn to the sense of purpose exhibited by her family members in government services. “I wanted to be in a place where what I was doing would impact other people more than it would impact my life,” she recalls.

Driven by a desire to contribute to society and share the benefits of education she had received, Pratibha took the bold step of resigning from her corporate job to pursue her dream of becoming a civil servant.

Choosing the notoriously complex Mathematics as her optional subject, Pratibha embarked on her UPSC preparation journey. She cleared the Preliminary stage in her first try but fell short of qualifying for the personality test. But, she did get selected in her second attempt with an AIR 356.

Reflecting on her study routine, Pratibha acknowledges the demanding nature of the preparation while emphasizing the importance of balance. “I wouldn’t call it harsh,” she says, describing her schedule of dedicating mornings to Mathematics and afternoons to General Studies. Crucially, she made it a point to take breaks every weekend and occasionally indulge in hobbies like walking and exploring new eateries.

Pratibha’s association with RCA played a pivotal role in her success. “The library had a profound impact on my preparation, especially in maintaining consistency,” she explains. The academy’s conducive environment and the camaraderie shared with fellow aspirants provided solace during setbacks and inspiration during triumphs.

Addressing the lingering stereotype of mathematics being a male-dominated field, Pratibha firmly believes that gender has no bearing on one’s aptitude for a subject. “I think that girls cannot do mathematics is just a stereotype,” she asserts, crediting her teachers at every academic stage for nurturing her love for the subject.

While brimming with joy at her current achievement, Pratibha remains driven to improve her rank, fuelled by the unwavering support of her family. “Had it not been for my parents, I wouldn’t have left my job so confidently,” she acknowledges, highlighting the pivotal role of financial and emotional stability in embarking on the UPSC journey.

Pratibha’s story emerged as a beacon of inspiration for aspirants, underscoring the importance of perseverance, strategic preparation, and a nurturing ecosystem in conquering one of India’s toughest competitive examinations.


Indian Masterminds Stories

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