Interview: Nithish Sekhar (Chem-2015)

Please state your current profile and explain your profile. If applicable, help us understand any previous profiles you’ve worked for.
My profile is that of a Data Engineer in a Big Data Analytics firm. I collect and process unstructured/semi-structured data into structured datasets which can be further analyzed upon (Made in reports, or make models on top of the data etc). I have also worked as a Business Analyst, crunching numbers, and deriving insights.

What skills should one develop to follow the career path you’ve chosen? Do include courses, software, coding, internships etc.
Tech knowledge especially in a language like Python/Java/Scala to start with. Additionally, Big Data frameworks like Spark or Hadoop and knowledge of relational databases (SQL).
For modeling, a statistical language like R/SAS. One must also be good at the quant skills – logical reasoning, critical thinking, problem-solving etc. Seek help from your CS friends.

What are the soft skills to be acquired in work culture?
All generic soft skills – Communication both oral and written, managing time, teamwork, ability to solve problems creatively etc

When deciding to make a switch to Management, how do we prepare ourselves for it?
There’s no hard and fast rule to prepare yourself. But if you are looking to go into it long term, be prepared to crunch a lot of numbers/data in very less amount of time with minimal errors. You must be able to analyze data across various dimensions. You must be able to transform meaningless data into meaningful metrics. You must convince your boss and clients with your work. You must put your head down and be prepared to do this for 12+ hours every day. This is a hard life, you can’t slack off as you do in college.

What is the extent one should go to find a balance between work satisfaction and monetary satisfaction?
Obviously, a healthy balance is necessary. However, for freshers, this is typically not in your control. Management Companies usually hire a lot of people every year with a high rate of attrition. They will pay you less and the work will be hard, at least for a couple of years. Beyond that, people either get used to it or move onto different companies, using this experience as a leverage. This is a question that one doesn’t have the luxury to think before starting your first job.

Why do people get bored (occasionally, even if not always) with the jobs they wanted in the first place?
Most jobs in the world are not interesting in the long term. They get monotonous over time. The learning curve may stop after a while. The career growth options may slow down or get limited. People, especially college students often see things with rose-tinted glasses when looking at a company or the kind of work they do. I made similar mistakes too, so did many of my peers. Research the company and the roles well. Use LinkedIn or GlassDoor. Ask your seniors who have worked at these companies. Despite all this, you will be bored after a while.

What are some things about your career path you wish you knew in college, in retrospect?
I wish that I hadn’t slacked off as much as I had. I wish that I had used my time to research different career options properly rather than going with the flow.

What to do after getting placed/ getting admitted into college, i.e how to not waste time in the final year?
This is a bit hypocritical coming from me, someone who slacked off for pretty much the entire year and did not do any of these things – use your free time to learn new skills (preferably not related to the company/industry you are placed into). Get certifications/ nano degrees. You’ll have alternatives/exit options in case your job doesn’t work out. If you are planning to pursue higher studies in the future, use this time to research what your target universities expect of you. Prepare for that. Volunteer and help out others if possible.

Is minor in management useful from a recruiters’ perspective? Would minors in economics be useful in any way if one is planning to switch to management?
Management companies typically test your analytical and problem-solving skills. Indian management companies typically hire only engineers/MBA grads for these kinds of roles. But trends are changing – some companies don’t necessarily fixate on your degrees.
Note: If the question is “Is it essential to have a minor in management, post engineering, to go into management roles?”, then the answer is no. I would frankly discourage it unless one is interested in say, becoming a full-time economist.

How do campus placements fare with respect to off-campus ones? What route to take for placements out of campus?
I had both. :P. I quit the job I got through campus placement after 2.5 months and found a job off-campus. Off-campus placements are ridiculously tough. Be prepared for a lot of rejections. The best route for off-campus placements – referrals, either though seniors or friends or relatives.

Is one-year ample time for experience, after which a major can be pursued?
For MS/M Tech, it is immaterial. For Indian MBAs, at least 2 years is necessary. For foreign MBAs, 4+ in my opinion.

How permanent is any choice of career? Do you think one should stick to a particular field or keep changing and experimenting as they grow in the industry?
Nothing is permanent. Your field may stagnate or become redundant in a short time. Always have handy and viable exit options.

How can one be sure that a certain career path is right for them? What is a good way to make that decision?
No hard rule or no right answer here. For starters, you need to like what you are doing. If you foresee growth professionally and you are okay with that, for the most part, it should be fine. Bide your time. Keep learning something every day. Research your options every now and then.

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