The prime time news are back, focusing on the rising cases of Corona in the country, though some of the over sensational news panelists are still stuck in investigating the unfortunate death of a movie star. Our GDP has plummeted like never before and yet in these peculiar times; cooking, Netflix and video calls with friends and family is keeping us sane. So it all started when I spoke to a friend who is going to touch 30 soon and cannot find herself the right matrimonial match. We chat once in a month and her concern ever since her birthday is, I only get engineers matching with my profile. What surprised me was, that she herself is a software engineer currently working as a team lead in a top MNC. When I questioned her disliking for the same, her response was, “Engineers are dorks!”
I have done my Bachelors and Masters in Engineering and do I consider myself a silly, out of touch or socially unfit individual? Not anymore. However I have been around batch mates who were geeks and back in those days me and my friends also tagged them uncool.
This takes me to one of the days back in college where we had a pre-placement talk scheduled by Accenture. The speaker sensed the nervousness of the hall which was packed with almost 300 engineering students. He casually mentioned, “I am a Bong and I hope you guys serve roshugullas in your college canteen”. The hall remained still except for few murmurs. He instantly asked the coordinating students standing next to him, “Do you not give them newspapers? I don’t think they know who Bongs are?” I still cringe thinking what impression of engineers he took back.
To understand the boring perception, allow me to give you a bird’s eye view of the engineering curriculum. B.Tech is an extensively laid out 4 year course divided into 8 semesters. The distribution of the coursework follows as, three core subjects relating to one’s specialization, two management subjects and two labs for practicing data structuring. To ease the understanding, most universities prescribe tutorial classes for two of the core subjects. A compulsory addition to these are the grooming classes assigned in the first half of Saturday. When I sat down to discuss these figures with an engineer friend from JNU, we realized it all comes down to a weekly distribution of 4 hrs for each subject + 2 hrs for lab sessions + 2 misc. I will leave the Maths for you to calculate the yearly efforts a student is bound to put in. Not to forget the pressure to complete assignments and Lab tutorials by the professors. Phew!!
The horrid tales of trailing backlogs from seniors in core subjects like Data Structures, Automata and Networking added to mental agony. Thus leaving limited time for budding engineers to explore anything beyond those thick books and reels of xeroxed notes.
Some of my batch mates were brilliant in the execution of codes and maneuvered into high paying Govt. jobs. My sister who worked in NTPC, which is seen as a highly revered and most desired company for an engineer, she had an awkward encounter with a fellow engineer. She mentioned to me, how engineer guys felt uncomfortable conversing with the female colleagues. The laid out curriculum of the B.Tech produces some exceptional technocrats who display their fair share of technical expertise but it also leaves a void in their personality which becomes obvious when they come across situations that they have not been prepared for. The engineering education set-up year after year doles out socially awkward technocrats.
Probably I should create a separate blog detailing this awkwardness. Maybe the next one where I can share some real stories with you.
The past two decades had seen an overwhelming response for the B.tech courses. Students from variety of regional and educational background jumped onto the wagon. However, lack of proper infrastructure and the inability to give promising job opportunities resulted in slowing this mad race of producing human resources who had half-baked skills and were termed as technical clerks.
Most colleges pay undivided attention to hiring well experienced lecturers to give their students sound technical knowledge. Many of them like the college I graduated from, conducted weekly PDP (Personality Development) classes for the needed grooming and training. The students did not appreciate these classes and they were mostly bunked for an easy 9-12 movie in the nearby talkies. There is a dire need to innovate these methods. I suggested conducting mock interview classes for the students at my workplace and the attendance of the students was higher in comparison to the previous grooming classes. More such steps need to be taken for better student engagement.
When I was working in TCS, I could not stop myself from being influenced by the charm of MBA. However, my doubt was mostly based on the prior investment made by paying the whooping fees of already owned professional degree, B. Tech. Yet, here I was with colleagues dying to get into those B-schools, ready to be a part of the same vicious cycle of working to pay the loan all over again. Why?!
Google answered my inquisitiveness. It said a managerial degree adds to professional growth. It enhances the skills of an engineer from being a mere technical expert to someone with better communication skills. An MBA degree changes the outlook of an engineer graduate by bestowing a renewed survival skill set. I was a bit disappointed on realizing that B.Tech had such limited professional scope.
I did not give up so easily, I made a list of some of the most successful CEOs across the world who were from an engineering background. Sundar Picha, CEO of Google is an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur, Satya Nadela, the CEO of Microsoft is also B.tech from Hyderabad and many more. It is amusing to see that even then the curriculum of engineering is so rigid on imparting only technical knowledge. I feel there is a strong need to build engineers who are also good at inter-personal skills. Who, do not cringe at the idea of casually conversing about non-technical issues. Who, are diverse in their idea of approaching nuanced aspects of their field.
The degree of an engineering graduate should speak not just for his/her technical prowess but also for his ability to comfortably take on any new possibility. The 4 year course should alter the personality of a student for his/her benefit. It should atleast give them enough exposure to know how to fit in the corporate world.
I hope my engineering students break this stereotype and walk about being more socially acceptable.