What made you decide to try for Indian Engineering Services (IES)?
Indian Engineering Services, is one of the prestigious Group-A services of India and is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). It offers diverse job profiles for engineers, where your actions and decisions directly impact the perception of the government in the eyes of the people. Through this exam, one can contribute a lot to the nation as one is positioned at the top of the government machinery, in sectors varying from the Indian Railways, Ministry of Roads, Central Water Commission, Defence, Central Public Works Department, Military Engineering Services etc. For me, my fascination with the railways since my childhood had been the driving force to make my career with the railways, and take up Engineering Services.
What is your current profile? What does a typical day at work entail?
My current profile is of an Assistant Divisional Engineer (ADEN). This is the first posting for any Group-A officer in Indian Railways. I am in an open line organization of Indian Railways, which translates to maintaining all civil engineering assets of Indian Railways. I have been allotted a subdivision of 215 track kilometers and a strong force of 550 men to assist me in day to day operations. For us, the safety of the passengers is paramount. Hence, our top priority is to keep our track assets in impeccable condition throughout the year.
Apart from track maintenance, the maintenance of staff quarters, station buildings, railway bridges, water supply system, preventing encroachments in railway land are also a part of the job. Apart from being a civil engineer, the ADEN is also an establishment head for all the staff working under him. Right from managing their leave and salary, to ensuring retirement benefits, pension benefits, and redressal of their grievances regarding any allowance – all of this is part of my job. As far as the construction of new assets such as bridges, buildings, level crossings are concerned, these are done contractually, and thus an ADEN has to be a good project manager to simultaneously manage the speed and quality of projects. This is a broad idea of my job profile.
You were selected to work with the PSU Power Grid through campus placements. What was your learning experience from this? How should one prepare for jobs at PSUs?
Yes, I was placed in PGCIL through campus recruitment in 2013. Working in a PSU is very different from working in a central government Group-A post. My job profile was that of a Design Engineer. I was mainly involved in designing of transmission line towers and tower foundations, using design software. As an extension to the PSU experience, I worked in the field to witness the construction sector. Having an idea of both job profiles of a PSU and a Group-A government job, I’d say that IES gives you more decision making power and an opportunity to make a change in the already prevalent setup. The entry-level position of a PSU is purely technical and doesn’t give you much administrative power, unlike the IES, where you are the top decision-making body, and can actually implement your idea into the system.
Preparation for a PSU job, one has to have their basic technical concepts clear, which will help in cracking the interview and entrance exam. They either conduct their own entrance exam or make the selections through GATE.
What made you interested in the Railways? What was it like, to be one of the very few selected to go to Japan, as part of the Indian railways contingent to study the Japanese system?
This question takes me back to my childhood memories of the railways. I’m a rail fan at heart. The pure fascination that filled me every time I would listen to the trains chugging is what brought me closer to pursue this career.
Japanese railway systems boast of punctuality and high speed. When I got the opportunity to learn about their system and working, I was overjoyed. We can implement their technology in our railway system, and further, refine and improve their ongoing research and develop a whole new standard for train operations, which would enable high speed and efficient train working, having the highest safety and quality standards.
What should one do in college to help them out in this career path?
The goal has to be set in earlier stages itself, and once you are certain about your career choice, start working for it relentlessly.
I remember taking my time out during weekends and going to our central library. There are a lot of good books to clear your basic concepts. Having Juicy (the juice center) nearby surely helps you refresh in between your studies. One should also pick up a sport in college to keep your body and mind active. Be an early riser, and meditate for a few minutes. It helps you to focus and clear your thoughts. Eat good healthy food. Use the library and the internet to learn about a topic which often gets confined within the boundaries of the classroom.
When should one start preparing for the IES?
There is no timeline to it. The preparation starts on its own, as you take down lecture notes and learn new basic technical concepts. In general, from the third year of college, one can start solving previous year question papers and take test series for the exam.
How useful is the technical knowledge you gained at college in your IES preparations and training?
The technical knowledge I gained in college is the major reason I got selected in IES. I would always make it a point to sit in the first rows of my class during lectures. It helps you to focus only on the professor and saves you from a lot of distractions. I was good in academics, which helped me score an above 9 GPA in all my semesters. I usually stayed back after class to clear my doubts and would ask the professors for good books on that topic, so I could read them over the weekend in the library. A major portion of my preparation and success can be traced back to the learned professors of NIT Trichy.
Is it advisable or possible to work for a year or so, and then pursue IES?
I don’t feel so, personally. You can be as good or bad an officer as you want to be. It doesn’t have anything related to the past work experience, because every organization is different in working and principles from the other. Besides, 1.5 years of probationary training makes you more than ready to pursue a job so diverse in skill and responsibility as IES.
What can students do if they are unable to clear IES? What are other opportunities in the public sector?
Other options are GATE (for PSUs), and departmental exams, state government engineering exams, State Public Service commissions etc.
What do you think can students take away from college genuinely on a qualitative basis? Is there any advice you’d give to engineering students?
College life is one that is cherished for the whole life.
In my opinion, one has to take away the whole college experience and excel in every field possible, be it technical, administrative or managerial. This will help in students imbibing leadership qualities, which are the most sought-after attribute in today’s world in every sector. They are the ones who deliver and make things work, by taking initiatives, which is the first step in building something or improving the existing. These qualities can’t be taught by a job, and can only be learned through the experiences our college gives us. Take part in extracurriculars, be an event manager in one of the college fests. They give you a first-hand experience of what life after college has in store for you. Be inquisitive, be relentless.
Is there something about your career that you wish you had known in college, in retrospect?
The only thing that I wish I knew is that preparation for GATE and preparation for IES are very different from each other, in pattern and diversity of the questions.
This had cost me one year to get into railways, in my second attempt at IES.