Interview: Abhinav Ramachandran(Chem-2016)

Please state your current profile and explain your profile. If applicable, help us understand any previous profiles you have worked for.
Currently, I’m working in a shipping company in a quality management role. This has been my first and only job and I have been working here for 18 months as of now. This profile of mine is closest to industrial engineering protocol, requiring a lot of data handling. The other part of it involves conducting audits within the organization.

What skills should one develop to follow the career path you’ve chosen? Do include courses, software, coding, internships etc.
Firstly, you need to have really good communication skills because you need to speak to the senior management authorities.
Secondly, data handling is another very important skill required for the kind of job that I’m doing. Having a basic understanding of Microsoft Excel and knowing a few coding languages like R and SAS will be very useful. Also, it’s beneficial to have a basic knowledge of VBA and SQL. I, personally, didn’t happen to know a lot of these. I learnt most of these in the training period of my job, i.e., the first six months of it.
So it’s not necessary for you to know all these but in interviews, you will have to show the recruiters that you are willing to learn these. You should have some sort of interest in these. Try to have already done some work on something similar to Heron language etc.

What are the soft skills to be acquired in the work culture?
Most importantly, one needs to be a very good communicator. One needs to understand what should be spoken to whom and that should be done in a very clear and effective manner.
Email writing etiquette is another important thing which includes various things like whom to include in cc, to whom to write it to etc. You will have to write a lot of emails, so English grammar skills are very important. One should brush up their grammar skills as you can’t afford to make a grammatical error in an email. It is highly disrespected in a corporate setup.
Also, be frank, don’t beat around the bush. Even if you have made a mistake, just accept it. Go ahead and inform your boss that you are doing something to fix it.

When deciding to make a switch to Management, how do we prepare ourselves for it?
One important thing is to keep trying out different options at hand.
I did a lot of internships to gauge my interest. In my 2nd year, I made sure not to waste any of my holidays. In the winter vacations that followed 3rd semester, I did an in-plant training at a cement plant. That is when I tried to understand the role of a chemical engineer in the whole setup. Also, I wanted to try out research as well. So at the end of 4th semester, I did a research internship at IITM, primarily working in a polymer engineering lab over there. Through this internship, I understood that research requires you to devote yourself completely towards the field without knowing whether you will get tangible results within a reasonable time frame. At this point of time, I was clear that research is not something I would like to commit myself to.
Further, in the holidays following 5th semester, I learnt R language through a course on Coursera. The course was a set of 9 courses from John Hopkins University. This helped me develop a basic grounding of statistical concepts and instantly sparked an interest within me for the subject.
So basically, to make the decision you need to keep trying. Don’t sit at home; rather do as many internships or MOOCs as you can. This will help you figure out in which field you fit the best.
Moreover, I also did a chemical engineering internship for over a period of three months at Reliance in my 6th semester holidays. At the end of it, I had been offered a PPO as well as the job I’m currently in. Knowing well that I wanted to pursue MBA and want to get into management field, I made the decision. I had applied to Indian School of Business in my final year, which offers deferred admission through its YLP program. Though I didn’t clear their interview, I got a clear understanding that I wanted to get into management field. I wanted a job which can bridge the gap between engineering and management and my current job seemed to be ideal in that situation. So it sort of got fixed in the end. You don’t know where you’ll end up but have to devise a method to reach there.

What is the extent to which one should go to find a balance between work satisfaction and monetary satisfaction?
In my opinion, it depends on where you are currently and where you want to be later.
In the early phase of your career, don’t bother much about work-life balance; instead, aim at getting as ahead as possible in your career. Getting ahead need not necessarily translate into money, but precisely, it means learning the right things and being into a field which has got a good scope in the future.
You might have to restart at times. You might have had made a mistake in choosing your first job by not getting into the right industry, but somehow you should try to make a switch and get a second job into an industry which has got a lot of scope.
So in your early career get good learning and get into an industry of your choice. Later on, maybe, you can think about whether you are getting paid enough, about work-life balance etc.

Why do people get bored with the jobs they wanted in the first place?
This is mainly because people choose the idea of the job and not what the job actually is.
Different firms have different cultures. Some are very informal and encourage creativity while others are very stringent with their policies and procedures. Besides this, our ‘perception’ which we develop through movies or on the basis of what we read about a certain kind of job might be a reason why we don’t end up selecting the right job the first time. So these are some factors which might be responsible for the boredom in the jobs that people wanted in the first place.
To avoid this, we should speak to somebody in a similar job and ask which things turned to be up to their expectations and which caught them by surprise.

What are some things about your career path you wish you knew in college, in retrospect?
I wish somebody could have been there to validate my choices and guided me. It is very important that we sit down with seniors who have already been in that kind of job which we are looking for to get an insight of the work, or if your parents themselves are involved in that job then nothing can be better than that. Come up with your own plans but do get them validated.

Is there something the T and P cell can do which does not even come under its umbrella currently, but is important?
Firstly, the T and P cell should make the data less secretive. It should make the statistics related to the companies coming for recruitment, the roles being offered by them etc., available to the students. These hard numbers will actually help the students make realistic decisions.
Secondly, T and P cell should make efforts in association with RECAL to recognize the alumni better and keep in touch with them. It should track what the alumni are doing after say 3 or 5 years after being graduated.

What to do after getting placed/ getting admitted into college, i.e., how to not waste time in the final year?
It actually depends on how much time you have. I will be sharing my opinion for someone who has been placed at a company. So once placed, you can start looking for what sort of PG program you would like to do later on. You won’t be having time for this while working.
If you find that you need to take a few tests, attempt those before getting graduated because you will be in touch with academics then and hence the results will be best as compared to some other time when you are not in touch with academics. Most of these don’t have any work-eligibility barrier.
Else it is going to be extremely difficult to get back to academics again while you are working. Let’s say you want to get into finance. Then start preparing for CFA levels when you are in college itself. Similarly, if you want to do an MBA in abroad, write your GMAT then itself in the final year.

Is minor in management useful from a recruiter’s perspective? Would minors in economics be useful in any way if one is planning to switch to management?
I’m not very sure on this since we didn’t have minors in our curriculum then. But, otherwise, it completely depends on what your major is. If at all you are taking a minor in management then make sure you know everything about it. If you want to make it a highlight of your interview then you need to be well-prepared to answer all the questions related to it.
There are few ways through which you will have to bridge the gap between engineering and management. Among the very few jobs which can be this bridge is an analytics job. Other than that the HR recruits for a technology person. They need your tech skills and not your soft skills. So if you want to use your job as a highlight in your B-school interview then you will have to see where you have shown management skills in that job. So picking a job like analytics will be beneficial. An analytics job requires the knowledge of economics. So in this case, a minor in economics will be useful.

How do campus placements fare with respect to off-campus ones? What route to take for placements out of campus?
According to me, sitting for campus placements is the most risk-free option for you. There are some roles which are offered only through on-campus placements.
Coming to off-campus placements, one can look on job-birds. One should maintain a well-updated professional LinkedIn profile highlighting every certification and internship that you have done so far. If you have a funny email id, make it look professional. However, these are rarely better than the ones you get on campus itself. Although, you can look for the off-campus jobs as ones to which you may be willing to switch to after say 2 or 3 years. Also, look for the skills those jobs demand and start acquiring those early from 3rd or 4th year itself.

Is one-year ample time for experience, after which a major can be pursued?
It should be enough. Actually, it totally depends on the job. It is comparatively easier to shift fields after a period of one year which becomes much difficult after two years.

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 industry?
Well, keep experimenting when you have nothing to lose in the 2nd year or maybe in the beginning of the 3rd year too. Understand and identify a few directions that you would want to go in, depending on your background and interest. But start doing this much earlier, i.e., from 2nd year onwards.

How can one be sure that a certain career path is right for them? What is a good way to make that decision?
If you are happy with your work and can keep doing it every day then perhaps it is the right career path. If you wake up and don’t dread going to the workplace then it probably is the right career path for you. But if you happen to find that something is going wrong, then you need to identify that and try to change that. Mostly, it is a feeling, can’t be measured.
Coming to the second part of the question, you should probably look at people in the same field as the one you want to go in, but are much more experienced. Understand how they have ended up being there, what their expectations are and how happy they are. Try to find out if you would like to see yourselves in their place in a few years from now.


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