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While Searching For Deeper Meaning in Life, She Stumbled Across UPSC, and Became an IAS Officer

IAS officer Mittali Sethi, who was a doctor by profession, cleared UPSC CSE 2017 with AIR 56 in her third attempt While exploring career opportunities, she also dabbled with journalism for a while, but eventually ended up choosing civil services She has completed 5 years in the Indian Administrative Service and says that she is grateful things panned out that way
Indian Masterminds Stories

There was a time when Mittali Sethi, a doctor turned civil servant, didn’t even know the meaning of the word ‘IAS’ and didn’t have the habit of reading newspapers at all. Yet, over a period of time, destiny took many turns and she ended up cracking the 2017 UPSC CSE with AIR 56 and joining the IAS. She is currently posted as CEO, Zila Parishad, Chandrapur, Maharashtra. 

Speaking with Indian Masterminds, IAS officer Mittali Sethi shared how she became a civil servant and how grateful she is that it happened that way.

IAS WASN’T A DREAM

IAS officer Mittali Sethi was in Pondicherry working as a professor when she and her husband both started feeling that they wanted to do something more in life. So, they both started exploring. Her husband, who is a radiologist by profession, is very fond of singing and is a musician, too. So, he went to Chennai for classes.

And, as for Ms. Sethi, she went to Gadchiroli in Maharashtra for a youth camp. “It was difficult for me to come to a different place as I didn’t know the Marathi language. I wanted to explore the social side of me and what is it that I wanted to do in my life, if not sitting in a closed room and living in a city,” she explained. 

At that time, she was just exploring and clearing UPSC was not in her mind at all. “I didn’t even know what Indian Administrative Service was. So, it wasn’t my dream at all. I just went there to explore and, as chance would have it, came upon many professionals working for development,” she said.

After meeting these people who had made different choices in their lives, Ms. Sethi realized that she didn’t have to be at a certain place if it didn’t feel okay. “I never wanted to do a job just to earn money. The whole portfolio opened up when I started exploring.”

FAILED TWICE

While exploring, she also started doing journalism. However, this wasn’t the end to her search. One day, when she was on her job, she found her friend preparing for some competitive exam. Out of curiosity, she asked what he was studying and he replied that he was preparing for IAS.

“I wasn’t aware about that word, but he explained to me what it was and how one becomes an IAS officer, what is the process, and what things these officers can do for society. That was the time when I decided that I also wanted to do this,” Ms. Sethi said.

Soon she randomly started preparing for the exam as she wasn’t a person who read newspapers with the mindset of clearing a government examination at all. While preparing, she continued with her job as she wanted to keep earning. 

She gave the exam twice and failed, but by then, she had come to understand what the exam involved and started to actually enjoy the process and gained confidence in herself. Finally, she cleared the UPSC CSE in 2017 with the good rank of AIR 56 and joined IAS.

ONLINE PREPARATION

Ms. Sethi further told Indian Masterminds that she could not take coaching because she was residing in Pondicherry at that time, and didn’t know any UPSC aspirants, nor any coaching was available there.

However, there was a lot of things available online, from where she prepared for the prestigious examination. “For prelims, I did take some online series and solved online tests. For mains, I took online series but never gave the written test, and for interview, I took some coaching in Chennai where I attended many mock interviews,” she said.

COMPLETED 5 YEARS IN SERVICE

Ms. Sethi has completed five years in service. Looking back, she says that, “I feel that as an IAS officer you are an apex of change. At least, a huge part of change that can be affected on the field. I am quite grateful that all these things actually happened and that I chose to clear UPSC. I only have gratitude after 5 years because I have been able to live experiences and talk and meet some amazing people residing all over the world.”

The officer has also penned a long note on her five years in the service.

MESSAGE TO ASPIRANTS

In a message to all UPSC aspirants, she said that there is no objective reality to what is good and what is bad. If one can understand a way of centering happiness through people, it sometimes comes back and meets you. This is what people need to understand, that there are small things that they can do in their lives that can create so much changes around them. That’s what we need to focus on rather than just an exam.

She ended with this parting note: “The whole spirit of the exam needs to be understood rather than just the formality. I wish all the aspirants all the best.”


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