Interview: Srinivasan Balsundaram (Mech -2017)

Employed in same field as majored via campus placements.

Please state your current profile and explain how your profile. If possible help us understand any previous profiles you’ve worked for.

I am working for HPCL now. The profile was called ‘Management Trainee’. What kind of job you do ultimately depended on the job location. I am working in a refinery, so my job is more core related (Mechanical background). If I had been sent to the Retail division, my work would have been more of marketing.
Coming to my profile, I work in the Maintenance department and we take care of all the mechanical equipment present in the refinery. So it’s pretty much a proper core engineering job. It’s not R&D. More like an on field team that ensures the smooth functioning of the refinery as a whole. This is my first job.

What do you go for after you obtain your first job? Should you learn the basics of it and continue to grow in it? Or shift to your original “dream job.

I don’t think there’s one right answer for this question. In my opinion, the first 2-3 years after college are the most crucial. Whether you want to stay in your job, shift to a new job or go for highers, the decision has to be made within that period. It’s not like you cannot do it after that, but the earlier it’s planned, the better. You’ll be around 25 which is a young age and learning and adapting to new conditions is always better when you’re younger.

How to make (if you need) the very important shift from first job to next?

I’ve been working for just 6 months now. I’m not really sure that my answer would be helpful.

What skills should one develop to follow the career path you’ve chosen? Do include courses, software, coding, internships etc.

This is a very important thing and one that is ignored by many during college because of the lack of emphasis that was placed on it. If you are placed in a R&D sector, knowing the basics of design softwares like AutoCaD, Ancys, Solid works will help a lot. MatLab is one software that is being used a lot these days and the college should actually be looking to teach the s/w to all students. If you’re placed in the management and analytics field, you should definitely know some coding. People who don’t know the basics of coding but get a job in this field should definitely use the time before joining work to learn about the basics of the different languages used at least. I’ve heard that Python, C/C++, SQL, Java are commonly used.

With regards courses, it is definitely helpful when it comes to learning the subject. I’m not sure about how much importance companies give to it, although it becomes more important when you want to work in a profile that is different from your specialisation. A friend of mine from Chemical did a course on coding in his vacation and got a certificate which was helpful in getting a great job in the same profile.

Internships are probably the most important step before getting a job because it gives you a little dose of the work culture and also increases your chances of landing a job in the future. For students going for placement, it’s important to have at least one internship in the industrial area. Academic projects in colleges are fine, but like I had mentioned earlier, you having a little knowledge on how a company works will help you a lot. If you’re sure about the profile you want to get into, then aim for good internships in that profile. If you’re not sure, then I’d suggest that you intern in all your interested profiles. You can keep your winter for a management intern and the summer for a core intern or vice versa.

What are the soft skills to be acquired in work culture?

Punctuality. You’re gonna be given deadlines and you should be able to deliver within that period. Unlike college, you cannot bank on winging it in the last minute.
Communication. It’s not just about the language, but more about the clarity. If you’re able to deliver your message across efficiently, it makes work that much easier for you.
A more professional attitude.
The ability to listen and do as per the instructions of the higher management and also the ability to get work done from your subordinates. These are a few important soft skills.

How useful is your technical knowledge in your current career?

Very important. My field has a mix of Design, Fluid Mechanics, Turbomachines, strength of materials among others. Some of these courses from college helped me to learn much faster at work. It need not be the case for everyone because of varied profiles.
One thing I’ve noticed in a few interviews is that they expect you to be good in your technical knowledge even if is not the same as the job description. I’ve been questioned about fluid mechanics in a sales profile interview and I’ve heard that this happened to a few others. The reason for this is that they expect you to be decently competent in your own area after 4 years of formal education. Even if you do wish to switch profiles, it’s important to know the basics of your courses at the minimum. You’ll never know when you might require it.

Why do people get bored (occasionally, even if not always) with the jobs they wanted in the first place?

It does happen and it’s not always about the job exactly. It’s more about the work environment. In college, no matter how much work you had, you would always find time to have fun as well. Work can get montonous and that’s something that can’t really be helped. It’s important to give time for your hobbies and interests as well. As long as you maintain a good work-life balance, the chances of this happening are low.

What are some things about your career path you wish you knew in college, in retrospect?

I wish I had planned my career path well in advance. For me, placements was more like something I had to do because I wasn’t sure of the other options so I didn’t put much thought into anything else. It’s very important to have an idea about what options are available even after work so that you’ll be confident and ready to face the challenges when they do come.

What to do after getting placed, i.e how to not waste time in final year?

If your new job requires you to know some coding language or a design software, it would be better to learn those when you have time and build your confidence. If you plan on doing your higher studies in the future, it’s better to get done with the tests which are required(GRE, GMAT etc) in college itself since most of these exam scores are valid for a few years. Learning is less of a headache when you’re in college. A few years later, you might lose the focus and interest in learning, making it much harder for yourself.

How do campus placements fare with respect to off campus ones? What route to take for placements out of campus?

Not entirely sure, but competing against many students from various colleges is always going to be harder than campus placements. There are many online portals where you get notifications of any job openings in your profile. You can follow the company website for any news and keep yourself updated as well.

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?

It’s not permanent, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t recommend continuously changing and experimenting either. After a year or two into the first job, I think it’s important for each person to think about what they’ve done over that period, whether they will be happy continuing in the same job and if not, what they intend to do after and plan for it. By the late 20s to the early 30s, they should be in a position to start growing in the field of their choice, having done all the required switching and experimenting. Having said that, it’s a personal opinion and this may vary from person to person.

How can one be sure that a certain career path is right for them? What is a good way to make that decision?

A simple way would be see if you keep waiting for work to get over every day and want to leave. Even if you’re working in your desired field, your job will not be fulfilling if you feel this way. You might want to consider switching jobs or the field as a whole.

Work vs monetary satisfaction is an important aspect of any job. In the early stages of the career, it’s important to establish work satisfaction. You can switch jobs or go for higher studies and switch your field completely. It’s important to do this early because once you find the job you like doing, because once you’re set with this, you can plan on how to grow in that field to get more monetary satisfaction. Starting off with a low salary is completely fine as long as you like the work you’re doing and you have a plan to make it big there. Each person will have their own ideas about how they want to be in the future. If you compare yourself with others all the time, you’ll find it hard to achieve stability in your career. Focus on your strengths and play to your advantages. It’s perfectly alright to start with a low package. What you go on to do after it is the most important thing.


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