“Beta, engineer ban jao, bohut scope hai” (“Son, become an engineer, it has a broad employability scope”), is a common saying around me.
I belong to a country where 80% of the population is interested in becoming an engineer (as made public by the first ever global report commissioned by the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering). India is a country that produces more B.E/B.tech graduates than the entire population of Switzerland, a country where the average salary of a mechanical engineer is Rs-3,60,000 and an Ola/Uber cab driver earns Rs-4,80,000.Looking at these statistics, one is forced to ask “Aakhir scope hai kitna?”(“How much scope do we actually have?”)
In India being an engineer, by definition, means being a software engineer. All other branches of engineering are considered significant only if you can change a bulb at home or are able to repair some appliances. Moreover, God forbid, if you opt for something like aeronautical engineering, your branch will not be even recognized. I happen to be one of those crazy guys who took engineering due to the sheer passion for the subject, and this is my story of how tough it is.
It all started one fine day when I broke my first toy car. Intrigued by its working mechanism, I removed all its components and then tried putting it back together (failed miserably, needless to say). Fast-forward a few years, and I am in grade 11. After scoring a perfect 10.0 CGPA in my high school exams, I chose to study science and, well, entered the rat race to make the IIT entrance exam. This is like the mecca of engineering, though I still do not understand what the fuss is all about.
It was a smooth sail at first, until a few months into it. The coaching institutes were done luring students into their trap, and all their focus had now shifted from logic and understanding to solving mere bookish questions.
I had never been to a coaching class before. After a few months, I realized I did not fit in. I told my parents about this, and against the advice of all my neighbors and relatives, my father just said, “Your life, your call; I am always there for you.” The very next day I stopped those coaching classes and started preparing on my own.
Fast-forward again and we reach May 2014 (one of the most stressful months of my life). All the results were out, and I did not make it to the IITs. My dad was disheartened but he never expressed it, and I ultimately chose to pursue a stream of my choice from a private engineering institute.
Little did I know then that three years into my undergraduate degree program, I would be writing an article called “Just how tough is engineering?”
I had imagined it to be a cake walk with good grades, an excellent resume, lots of co-curricular activities, and ultimately getting accepted by a top university abroad for higher studies. Boy, was I wrong?
Comes the 1st year and it is one of those periods when you feel like the king of the world: making new friends, enjoying your new-found freedom, and well, basically feeling like a CEO in the making already. Good times, I tell you, but only till your mid-sem/sessional exams hit you and the once mighty Khal crumbles like dried bread crumbs.
You get a glimpse into the future. It is like being struck by a train while you were taking a dump, and all you wish for is to go back home. But how could I? Had I not wanted this ever since I was a child? Was I not brave enough to get past this small hurdle? What will I tell my dad? These were the thoughts that kept me going.
Unfortunately not all my friends had the same chain of thoughts. Some dropped out of college halfway through, while some turned to alcohol and drugs for an answer. Young fellows, only 19 or 20 years of age, were puffing away all their worries in clouds of smoke and drinking like there was no tomorrow. This is such a typical scene that people just assume it to be the norm, not trying to understand or analyze what exactly went wrong. But then, who cares! We have a grand population of 1.2 billion people; so what if a few million go down the drains?
With all your heart and might you clear your 1st-year exams, hoping that it would all get better when you finally get into your stream and study what you like. But then – BAM! – The 2nd year begins.
Now you try and get into as many teams and clubs as possible so that you can get the maximum practical experience, but while you are at it, you realize that your grades are going to the dogs. So you saddle up and put in all that you had got into your studies. But trust me, it is not enough. It never is.
It is in this instance that lightning strikes and you realize that this is no dream or a way out. You just got transferred from one rat race to another. While most somehow try and cope with it, a few are not so strong. For some reason, they feel that there is no way out and end up doing the unthinkable. I speak from personal experience. The college moans for the tragic loss, all the students and faculties pretend being hurt and attend a condolence meet. A few days down the line everyone forgets about it, not even bothering to understand what lead a chap 20 or so to end his life. That my dear friends is engineering, “Jisme beta bhout scope hai” ( A field with a lot of scopes”).
It is mostly in the second year that the ambitious lot starts working on and building their CVs and create profiles on websites like ‘LinkedIn,’ hoping that an HR person/recruiter in shining armor would rescue you. By the end of the 4th year and take you to your 4×4 office cubicle (the one that you dreamed of as being a corner cabin).
You get your NOCs signed and your applications ready and set out to find internships relevant to your stream. Soon enough, you find out that references are a must, and nobody really cares about you till you have a suitable “source.” If by the grace of God, you do find a company that does not require either a reference or a source, then they demand experience (LOL).
Meanwhile, your friends in the computer science department secure internships at reputed companies, and you are forced to ask yourself, “What exactly is wrong with me? Is it me or is it my stream?” These are the questions that kill you from within, but you are helpless. It is already too late to change streams, and to start all over again would cost you two years.
Amidst of all this chaos and confusion you ask yourself stuff like, “Is it not what you wanted all along? Scared all ready?” These are the questions that help you gather enough courage to manage to pass the 2nd year exams.
Now I have reached my 3rd year, and that feeling of being a CEO in the making has now been replaced by the fear of ending up jobless. The confidence of getting admission in a top university abroad has been taken over by absolute uncertainty and confusion.
By this time you just secretly pray that you can hold it together and make it to the end. The desperation to secure an internship gets real. You spend more time on Linkedin than on any other social networking site. You start spamming the HR personnel of all the companies that you can find. Your outbox, which barely had any sent emails, is now filled with emails sent to company representatives and professors. Your inbox, which previously had emails from Nigerian princes offering you their property, is now filled with rejection emails from these enterprises.
It is here that you realize just how tough engineering is and how tough your life ahead is going to be. It is then that you take a moment out of your schedule to imagine and appreciate the sacrifices that your parents had made for you all along, and the reason behind those family trips that got canceled or the movie that you never watched.It is only then, looking at all those hundreds of rejections, that you start appreciating the smaller things in life. It is only then that you truly understand how hard it is to make a living.
Looking at those letters of rejection, do you not feel that engineering is not just about making it work, but also about finding a thousand ways it won’t? That my friends is just how tough engineering has been for me.