Caran Arora On How Squash Taught Him The Power Of Differences, Starting His Career at Bates, and His Transition to the Global Education Space
How did you get into playing squash, and how/when did you know you wanted to play it collegiately?
My father played the game growing up and eventually played at a competitive level. My sister and I would both accompany him to the local club and try our hand at the game but always struggled to get the right technique. Slowly, I began to enjoy the game more and more. I gradually became a better player before playing my first competitive tournament at the age of 6. Despite losing in the first round, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. I knew in that moment, I was hooked. As the years rolled by, I became more serious about the sport, started working closely with a coach and began playing tournaments more consistently. Fortunately for me, I was able to string together a few good results and began to enjoy some success at the national level. It was not until my first overseas squash trip that I realized how invested in the sport I truly was. After spending my sophomore year of high school away from the game, the impact that squash had on me and the discipline it had instilled over the years was telling. This was the moment I knew I wanted to play at a collegiate level. After seeing both my sister and former training partners represent their colleges, it became a dream to win one of those decisive matches for the college I went to.
What was your experience as a student-athlete at Bates like?
I have always said that the most rewarding and informative experience of my life so far has been the Bates Squash Program. Being a student athlete at Bates taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined. Balancing academics with squash was never an easy task but having the support of my coaches, teammates, and advisors made every challenge seem small. Good days in the classroom would translate into great days on the squash court and morale would be sky high. It was during the bad days where I truly understood the value of being a student athlete at Bates. The early morning runs, brutal sessions in the gym, and painfully long bus rides might have seemed tough in the moment but were among the most enjoyable experiences and things I miss the most.
What was the biggest lesson you learned and the most challenging thing about your time as a student-athlete?
The power of your differences enriches the process. What can sometimes seem frustrating and difficult is most often your biggest asset. Playing alongside teammates from different countries was not always the easiest task but realizing each one’s strengths and how they complemented my own made the team collectively stronger. This lesson directly translates to the workplace. Acknowledging different opinions and mindsets of colleagues and seeing that we are stronger together is something I am cognizant off. One of the main challenges I faced as a student athlete was compartmentalizing my squash. As a first-year, I would often let a bad day on the squash court translate into a poor attitude in the classroom and vice versa. Fortunately, with the help of my coaches and advisors, I was gradually able to get better at this and this challenge soon became one of my strengths.
Describe your transition. Did you know you wanted to work where you are currently?
While all my peers were sad to be leaving one another and moving away from Bates, I had accepted a job with the Bates Admissions Office and was only moving five minutes away from where I lived during my senior year. Being a staff member at a college I attended certainly came with its share of challenges, but I was lucky to have some fantastic supervisors and mentors who guided me through my transition. They outlined expectations and gave me a lot of responsibility and opportunity to grow and develop professionally. I had the added advantage of having a wonderful group of colleagues, many of whom were recent graduates and had similar professional goals.
How did your next job compare to starting your career at Bates?
While slightly similar, my current job at The Red Pen differs from college admissions in that I am now working with students and helping them prepare for the application process as compared to recruiting and selecting an incoming freshman class for college. I always knew I wanted to work in a field that helped young people realize and achieve their potential. I was fortunate to receive a world class education at Bates and helping find the new class of bobcats seemed ideal. When the opportunity presented itself, I knew I would be helping high school students identify aspects of Bates that appealed to them and saying yes was an easy decision.
What do you like most about The Red Pen?
Working in the education space is extremely rewarding. It is a space I see tremendous potential in as receiving a high quality education is a key component of success later in life. My current role at The Red Pen has been the perfect transition into the work force in India. My job has provided me the opportunity to travel extensively across Asia and Europe and interact with very established figures in the field of education. Working closely with students from different walks of life and helping them achieve their potential and find a college that fits their personality has been a life changing experience. Being a part of a company that was started and founded by two exceedingly talented women with a vision to change the landscape of global education opportunities has been another exciting part of my move back to India.
Were you prepared to no longer be an athlete?
Going into my final two weeks as a college athlete, I was quite ready to hang up my racquet on what had been a phenomenal four years wearing garnet and white. The feeling quickly changed when I started to think back on those four years. Every experience, whether shared or individual crossed through my mind during the final weekend at Nationals and I knew in that moment I was not ready to give it up. When the last ball dropped and I was no longer a student athlete at Bates, I felt mixed emotions. Sadness at the thought of never having the chance to share the court with my teammates again, and about saying goodbye to a sport that was instrumental in getting me to Bates. But happy that I was able to make the most of the experience.
What is it about sports that your feel helped prepare you to handle the transition or succeed at your job?
Captaining my squash team that consisted of players from different parts of the globe perfectly prepared me to lead an equally diverse group of people at my current job. Connecting with each of them individually and leveraging their unique set of strengths for the greater benefit of the company is something I learned from my time as a Bates student athlete. I was blessed to have teammates from several different countries because each of them taught me something new about myself. Dealing with situations where the outcome has been different from what I expected is another key learning I have taken from college squash. Being well prepared for a match, meeting, event, presentation is not enough. No matter how much one prepares, things can always turn out differently. The way I respond and react to those situations has been greatly influence by my time at Bates. I learned the importance of letting go and going back to the drawing board to work even harder in order to achieve a different result the next time.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice as a student-athlete, what would it be?
Don’t overthink every move. Be decisive and own your actions. If it works out, then great. If it doesn’t, use it as a learning experience and keep thinking ahead.