The counselling session for IIT and NIT aspirants organised by The Hindu Education Plus in association with IIT Madras Alumni Association (Hyderabad chapter) advises students to acquire additional skills and tools that would add to their employability.

The message from those who have gone through the grind at Indian Institute of Technologies (IITs) was loud and clear. In this competitive world, apart from the regular course work, students have to strive to achieve additional skills and tools that will add to their employability skills.

Industry leaders, who took part in the counselling session for IIT and NIT aspirants, organised by “The Hindu Education Plus” in association with IIT Madras Alumni Association (Hyderabad chapter) maintained that students “should not follow money but they should follow excellence”. The IIT alumni also felt that selecting a course in any IIT is increasingly becoming an individual's choice rather than the family affair, which was the case till a few years back.

The evergreen engineering courses like mechanical, civil and chemical will continue to provide newer and better opportunities to students in the job market. “Whatever course the students take up, it all boils down to hard work and effort the student puts in to achieve excellence,” they said. The programme was inaugurated by the Hyderabad District Collector, Gulzar Natarajan.

Gulzar Natarajan:

The whole process of selecting a course in IIT is undergoing a transition from collective decision of the family of the aspirant to the individual because of the plethora of choices available in IIT. “Students should take utmost care before selecting the course of their choice,” he suggested. An alumnus of IIT Madras, he maintained that apart from course work, engineering students should look to acquire something more in terms of communication skills, inter-personal skills.

Students once they get into IIT, tend to relax a bit. “A small portion of students at the top actually meet the standards of employability while the rest tend to slow down after getting admitted to IIT. There is a need for them to look beyond the classroom which will have a positive impact on their employability,” Mr. Gulzar said.

K . Ramchandra Reddy CEO and Chairman of / Co-Founder of MosChip Semiconductor Technology

The scientist who was in the designing team that built the World's first DSP (Digital Signal Processing) chip says that to be a good electronics engineer or an ideal engineer from other streams, students should be willing to go beyond the course work in Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).

Mr. Reddy laid out the prerequisites needed to become a good engineer and more so, those joining IITs. He said they should have computer literacy, strong numerical skills, mathematical analysis, writing equations, solving and thinking logically.

“Electronics is nothing but logic and logical thinking by using flow charts etc. You should have organisational skills because an electronic engineer has to work in a group and has to collaborate with other engineers from other streams. So, you need to be team player,” he said. “Millions of transistors are used in a small cell phone. This is nothing but Very Large Sale Integration (VLSI), which you will learn in your engineering course. VLSI, which started in 1970, provides a lot of job opportunities,” he said.

Mr. Reddy informed that engineers who specialise in ‘mixed signal design' are the ones who can make a lot of money. “Mixed signal design involves handling analog and digital signals and students should have firm grip of both. They can make a lot of money in this field because there are very few who understand analog signals,” he said.

He said electronic engineers usually start as design engineers and move up to design managers, general managers and even presidents and CEOs of organisations. “One can also become entrepreneur and start companies after gaining experience.”

For electrical engineering graduates, there are a host of subjects to choose for specialisation. Specialisation subjects for electrical engineers include control systems, power, instrumentation, electronics, computers, DSP and telecommunications, which is the real big area which is growing today in India. The key area for electronic engineers include consumer goods like cell phones, hand held devices, i-pods etc. Automobile electronics is also important. Electronics are a part of car's dashboard, anti-brake system, speed control and anti-skid system in cars. Then there are set top boxes, medical electronics and smart cards like the User ID project being started in India, he said.

Nagesh S. Walimbe of Zen Consultants (chemical) IIT Mumbai

A good chemical engineer should have the necessary skills to work in multi-disciplinary teams. Mr. Walimbe, who has 32 years of experience in the industry, felt that ideal chemical engineers should be passionate about chemistry, mechanical and bio-chemistry. “Clear concepts in chemistry, physics and maths are mandatory. Being an industry that has elements of chemistry, mechanical and biochemistry, you need to like these subjects to excel,” he said.

Chemical engineers will have to work closely with research and development teams, operation staff, people involved in the maintenance of chemical plants. Chemical engineers need to interact a lot with civil engineers while building chemical plants. According to Mr. Walimbe, students who want to become successful chemical engineers need to have the ability to conduct experiments, collect empirical data and interpret the results efficiently.

Defining chemical engineering, Mr. Walimbe said that the basic aim is to convert raw materials into variety of goods and there is a need for people who can design the plants and operate them. “Chemistry is a subject that gives knowledge on chemicals but it does not tell students on how to make chemicals in a larger scale and that is where chemical engineering is required.”

The modern day chemical engineer has lots of options to take up for specialisation. Wide range of areas like bio-chemical, bio-medical, environment, food and sugar technology, petro-chemical engineering, polymers, electro-chemical engineering are available for specialisation, he said.

R. V. Chakrapani. MD of Aarvee Associates (civil engineering)

In the next five years Rs. 17 lakh crore worth of infrastructure projects are scheduled to be taken up in India. Despite this, country is reeling under severe shortage of good civil engineers. Worldwide, there are about 70 consulting companies which are going to take up these projects in India. Apart from that, there are 30 to 40 contracting companies from United States and Europe who are setting up their operations in India. “There are excellent job opportunities with good salaries. However, students need to put in a lot of hard work to realise their dreams,” said Mr. Chakrapani.

Qualities like integrity, firm grip on basics, logical and analytical skills, visualisation, ability to work in a team, common sense and social awareness are required to become a good civil engineer. Civil engineers have a lot of scope to take up specialisation. Construction management, infrastructure planning, environment engineering, geo-informatics and transportation are the fields of specialisation for civil engineers. Civil engineers should be able to give very simple and cost effective solutions to complex problems, he said.

There are several challenges ahead for civil engineers in future when natural resources will be dwindling. “Next generation civil engineers have to give importance to conservation of natural resources, environment protection, irrigation of upland areas, infrastructure upgrading and water utilisation.

Broadly put, the subjects in civil engineering include building sciences, geo-technical engineering, structural engineering, water resources engineering, environment, surveying and transportation engineering, Mr. Chakrapani informed.

Civil engineering graduates start their career as planners and designer. “If you are really good, within three to five years you can design and handle projects,” he said.

P. Venugopalan, Director, Defence Research and Development Laboratory DRDL

“A mechanical engineer is the one who can design and build a tiny watch to a giant plane,” this line printed in a college brochure inspired Director of DRDL, P. Venugopalan, to pursue mechanical engineering at IIT Madras. He said that mechanical engineering continues to remain the broadest of all the engineering disciplines with wide choice and has a high employability potential.

“I personally believe that there is something in you that will guide you to correct path of success. You can get suggestions from friends, teachers and parents but at the end of the day, it is you who has to take the decision to choose the branch. And whichever path you chose, if you excel then there will not be any problem,” he advised.

The DRDL Director pointed out that mechanical engineers can fit into any industry. “There are lot of opportunities in every branch of engineering for mechanical engineers. Chemical, aeronautical, medical instruments, design and development and maintenance industries need mechanical engineers,” he said.

The defence scientist also highlighted the skills which are required to excel as a mechanical engineer. “Visualisation and conceptualisation, analytical skills, ability to solve complex problems, ability to translate ideas into reality, ability to work in a team, communication skills, good modelling and simulating skills, interpersonal skills are important,” he said.

The IIT Madras alumni advised students to concentrate more on the concepts. “Please be strong in physics, maths and sciences because they form the basics.

Understand your limitations and try to get over them by working hard,” he advised.

Talking about the job opportunities available for mechanical engineering students, Mr. Venugopalan informed that there is severe shortage of engineers at ISRO, DRDO, DAE and DRDL. There are wide range of job opportunities in public and private sector, aeronautics, engineering management, software engineering and software development too.

Santanu Paul,CEO of TalentSprint

In the next four to five years there will be a 48 per cent increase in jobs related to computers and rough estimates by various agencies suggest that there is a need of 5.6 million computer jobs but the number of qualified computer graduates will only be around 3.6 million.

“Computers have become part of every aspect of our lives and it will continue to generate huge amount of employment in the coming years,” said Santanu Paul.

He had a one line mantra for all those young students aiming to make it big in computer science engineering. “Please don't follow money. You follow excellence and the rest of it will take care of itself,” he said.

Highlighting the skill sets which are needed in a computer science engineer, Mr. Santanu said that students should have “build and create” instinct, ability to synthesise the findings properly and above all tenacity to keep fighting on despite failures. “Computer science is a failure prone field because most of the times the new software fails and developers need to have loads of patience. Passion to solve problems, communication and inter-personal skills are must,” he said.

Mr. Santanu also pointed out that specialisation subjects in computers like artificial intelligence, computer architecture, computer graphics and robotics are in huge demand.