Rebooting the world of engineering

Dr. Ali Khwaja busts the myths of engineering and charts out simple things you can do to better your chances of getting your dream job

Rebooting the world of engineering

Rajat and Rohit became classmates two years ago, but that wasn’t always so.

Rajat gained an engineering seat through the management quota three years before Rohit, kept losing years and then reached final year with three subjects still pending.

Rohit obtained a merit seat, kept reasonably high grades, and was with Rajat in the final year when they both received their degrees together.

In the final year, Rohit was offered a job through campus recruitment by a reputed IT company, and he took it up with great enthusiasm.
Rajat wasn’t even called for any interview. Two years have gone by.

Anyone would think that Rohit would be much better off now than Rajat. But that is not the case.

The big company that recruited Rohit kept putting off his joining date.
Finally, he got fed up and joined a start-up where he lasted two months, left without being paid, and then joined another MNC.

He is doing routine and repetitive work, and is very frustrated, even though the salary is decent.

Rajat, on the other hand, joined hands with a friend who shared his love for gaming and after spending a few months trying out all possible apps and games, the duo developed one of their own, suitable for even the most low-end mobile phones.

It was selected by a Singapore-based company who trained them, and have assigned them as freelancers. Rajat and his partner are earning a few lakhs every month and enjoying their work.

This is not an isolated incident. The future that awaits engineering graduates is becoming more uncertain as the day goes by.

While the craze for getting into engineering is as pervasive as before, the proliferation of hundreds of colleges in various states have created a situation where many seats are going vacant.

More importantly, students can no longer expect to get a campus job as easily as earlier.

Hence, it is important to introspect what students should take into account before taking up engineering. Here is a checklist:

Students should take up engineering only if they have an aptitude for it, and are fairly clear about their choice of the branch of engineering.

Students who score high in math and science can opt for engineering, because a four-year BE/B.Tech sharpens analytical skills better than many of the three-year degree courses.

Such students should take up basic branches such as mechanical, electronics, computer science etc., but only in reputed colleges.

While there is a mad rush to get into IITs and only one or two percent of the aspirants actually get in, many students and parents do not carefully evaluate other options.

While some are ignorant, others get lured in by discounts offered by mediocre colleges.

On the other hand, some colleges have certain departments that have excelled with good faculty. Hence sometimes, even at the cost of not getting a branch of your choice, it may be better to get into a college that has a competent and senior faculty, state-of-the-art IT support, good campus, and academic-oriented students.

After joining engineering, if a student fails in many subjects in the first year, he or she should give a second thought to continuing the course, since repeated failures would mean many years of struggle ending with a degree with little market value.

Moreover, students lose the confidence of handling a technical job after such failures.

Whether it is due to academic difficulties or lack of interest, failing in a number of subjects in the first year should be a warning signal.

Testing aptitude, checking out other options, even at the cost of losing a year, should be considered. 

Alternately, if a student is scraping through with difficulty, he may still consider completing the course, as an engineering degree opens many alternate career options for him in the future.
He can also move into non-technical fields such as communication, marketing, administration, big data management, content writing and so on.

Those who have a penchant for practical aspects of technology, such as automobiles or computers, and have good hands-on skills, but are very poor in academics, can consider the option of taking up a three-year polytechnic diploma, even though they would have to forgo the two years of PUC they have studied. 

Though studying engineering is exhausting, after completing the first year, a student can take up part-time courses that not only give him added qualifications, but also an idea of what specialisation he can move into after passing out.
Similarly, much thought should be given to the companies where internship is provided during holidays. Being in a small organisation or start-up usually gives a better chance to learn a wide variety of work. 
It is better if you start preparing for your future by the time you have completed 5th or 6th semester. Don’t get carried away by the campus recruitments. Join a company based on the type of work being offered to you, and not by their size or global status. Often freshers who join big MNCs find themselves restricted to repetitive and monotonous work.

Sometimes, graduates from other branches are recruited by reputed IT companies, given appointment letters, but finally not taken up when they pass out, causing more confusion and distress.
Have faith in your abilities to find a job suitable to your talent and inclination.

Alternatively, prepare for entrance exams such as CAT, GATE, GRE, GMAT or NET.

Even the Indian Army has a university recruitment scheme (www.joinindianarmy.nic.in), and many government institutions offer scholarships if you are considering higher studies.

Attempting a variety of entrance exams sharpens your skills to get into the right institution, and also widens your choices.

Many strongly feel that management education (either MBA or PGDM) should be taken up only after work experience. as many B-schools give preference to candidates with credible work experience.

Hence, if you are inclined towards management, focus on working for an organisation that gives you wide hands-on experience in different corporate areas.
Keep in mind that engineers do very well as military or civil service officers, professors, researchers, communication professionals and bankers.

Ensure that you are aiming at something for which you have aptitude, skills and interest. If unsure, get yourself assessed by experts.

In the worst case, if you do not get a job as soon as you complete engineering (as is likely to happen in the coming years), do not panic or let your confidence down.

Use the free time to acquire further skills, particularly in personality development, communication etc., pick up IT related certification, and join a small company that gives a decent salary but good exposure.  

Keep in mind that your working life is likely to be more than 50 years, since retirement age is steadily increasing.

New avenues and better opportunities will come your way in the future. Focus on building your skills and widen your horizons, and the sky will not be the limit.

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