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Back to school

Back to school
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First Published: Thu, Feb 19 2009. 01 15 AM IST

Updated: Sun, Mar 15 2009. 09 34 PM IST
Affiliation to one’s alma mater can be a particularly lasting emotion. Job titles are fickle but being an alumnus is a lifelong status, visible in the well-attended class reunions that persist for decades after graduation.
It is this emotional attachment to an institution that provides the perfect ground for learning, according to MindTree Consulting, a Rs752-crore (unaudited revenue for first three quarters) IT company. Knowledge assimilation is a key organizational goal and forms the basis of the design of its physical infrastructure.
Orchard
At the company’s Bangalore campus, the integrated learning centre called the Orchard, designed by Chandavarkar and Thacker (CnT), is the latest embodiment of MindTree’s philosophy. This is where the company trains its quarterly batches of 250-400 college graduates (referred to as “campus minds”) in a three-month induction programme.
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The facility occupies an entire floor and is modelled on the principle of high school-style houses, with a dedicated “parent” and informal lounge spaces (see house plan, right). “It is designed to provide a soft landing for our campus hires—a space where new college graduates can learn without inhibition,” says Parthasarathy N.S., MindTree’s chief operating officer.
Discovery Trail
A central corridor (photograph 1), branded the Discovery Trail, links the three houses of the Orchard with common areas: project rooms, a quiet workroom and a space for learning soft skills. A mural of a growing sapling informs passers-by of the company’s evolving business practices, and is strategically placed to attract the attention of young graduates not enthused by conventional Powerpoint-based lectures. Across from the mural is the Knowledge Centre (photograph 5): a vibrant, glass-enclosed room serving as a library for individual and group work, which is managed by the “campus minds” themselves.
House Tree
Each house of the Orchard is named after one of MindTree’s three tenets: imagination, action and joy. A house consists of a living room, a classroom and a computer lab, and is the community space where the trainees gather before and after class.
At the centre of each living room is a stylized metal “House Tree” (photograph 2), which serves as a platform for each house’s “PAL” (parent, anchor, leader) to address its members. PAL is a vital figure at Orchard. “Young children get their emotional security from non-judgemental parents, but the role of the parent does not exist in companies,” says Parthasarathy. A senior MindTree manager is thus assigned as a full-time mentor to enable trainees in each house to make the transition from college life to the corporate world.
Classrooms
Classes take place in the 50-seater house classroom (photograph 3) or in larger training facilities outside the Orchard. Slow learners can also avail of additional home tuition in the classroom. The third part of each house is the computer lab, available for emailing and project work.
Living Room
The amphitheatre arrangement of the living room (photograph 4) is designed to promote interaction in a college-like environment, with personalized lockers and a free-for-all graffiti wall. A healthy competitive spirit is deliberately encouraged between houses: Research showed house games were highly popular and motivating.
Report card
Although Parthasarathy claims that “we spend disproportionate time thinking about our facilities, not (dis)proportionate cost on building them”, the Orchard has certainly been allocated valuable real estate and company resources. It is just over a year old, however, and he feels it is too early to measure the impact of this bold experiment on employee performance or company affinity. Prem Chandavarkar of CnT sums up the long-term goal: “If future MindTree minds can remember their graduation house and their mentor with a sense of pride, then we will have been successful.” Time will tell.
SEE
No, this is not a photograph of a temple bull from south India. It is from the carnival preparations in Brazil. Here, a member of Vila Isabel samba school puts the final touches to a mask at Samba City, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Twelve samba schools are building their floats and making their fancy dresses in the Samba City complex to perform in the Rio Sambadrome at the carnival parade being held on 22-23 February.
AP
DISCUSS
Maybe it was abstract Impressionism. Passengers in Stockholm were terrified last year when a masked man spray-painted graffiti inside a train, smashed a window and threw himself on to the platform. Officials were shocked to learn the rampage was part of an art thesis. The transit authority finally filed a complaint against the student on 16 February, demanding $12,000 (around Rs6 lakh) in damages. The student had included a video of the vandalism in his thesis at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design. The school said it doesn’t allow students to break the law, but wasn’t clear whether the student participated in the vandalism or merely recorded it.
AP
WATCH
Body-painted performers stood in formation to depict the face of US President Barack Obama during a performance of ‘The Fall of Athens’ by Swiss artist Dave at Filopappou Hill in Athens on 16 February. It was part of a 42-year ‘Art Marathon’, which will travel around the globe until December 2050.
Reuters
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First Published: Thu, Feb 19 2009. 01 15 AM IST
More Topics: Alma mater | School | MindTree | Emotion | Job |