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Gunjan Gupta is an alumnus from IITB, from the 2017 batch of Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science. She describes her experience of working in the core sector at Tohoku Murata Manufacturing.

What made you choose the core sector amid many rising non-engineering fields?

Ans: Interest is the reason because of which I chose the core sector. We do get some exposure to research-like things in college, but I wanted to explore the industrial aspect. At the same time, I was open to trying non-core too during placements.

Were there any instances where you had second thoughts regarding considering non-core sectors too? If yes, please mention it in short.

Ans: Well, I did have some doubts right after placements because of the way non-core jobs are glamorized in insti. I was wondering if not joining non-core sector right now will a lost opportunity and if I could return back to non-core. As of now, what I can say is all this is over thinking. If one really wants to enter some job, they can figure out a way.

Could you mention in a good detail, about the kind of work you do?

Ans: First, I would like to give a backdrop of my role and company. Tohoku Murata Manufacturing (earlier Sony Energy Devices) is primarily a lithium-ion battery business for various industries. But MuRata is, in general, a B2B company manufacturing many electronic components. I am working as a Battery Design Engineer. Designing lithium-ion batteries is a complex task because many factors like material, dimension and usage conditions govern the performance of the product. In our company, batteries are developed right from scratch. My job involves delivering the final product according to the customers’ specifications using the materials developed by our backend team.

I am yet to learn a lot about my job, but I think the following skills are essential for my work and maybe the core sector in general:

Team work – I have to coordinate with the material/process development team, equipment engineering team, business team as well as the client to build the final product

Ability to learn and patience – Typically in a core field there will be lot of things new to you, and you would need time to understand and learn them. Taking an example of my field, as I explained, I need to understand the material, process or equipment to know how these would affect the final product and design accordingly. This means I have to keep learning about the upcoming technology in these sectors to use them to build the product.

Some knowledge of electrochemistry, mechanics of material and material characterization can be helpful though it is not a prerequisite in my job

Applied statistics, Data analysis – I think every engineer should be equipped with these 2 skills (at least the basics) as they are fundamental in any kind of technical job

In Japan usually, the 8 hours/day is mandatory. Flexible timings can be applied within a range, for eg. I can come anytime before 9:30 am and leave any time after 3pm. The core and flexible work hours can vary as per the company, but 8 hours/ day is a fairly common practice. Depending on the workload, one can do overtime for which they are paid separately.

The days are pretty hectic. You need to cook and manage all your chores by yourself. Between work and chores, I don’t get much time on weekdays, but weekends are mostly free. I like to travel on weekends and Japan has much to explore and is pretty safe

Adapting to Japanese work culture is a challenge – strict work rules, timings etc. can be daunting at times. However, they do realize that we are from a different background and so give us time to adjust. There are many Indian employees working here already who guided and supported me. But in a way, I am still adapting. In most sections in Murata, people are pretty helpful and considerate of the fact that we are foreigners and have difficulty in adjusting to differences in language and culture. The best thing I found here is the absence of any kind of unhealthy competition and a strong sense of team spirit, to achieve collective goals.

Can you list down a few good and bad experiences while working in a core company like Murata?

Ans: I am listing a few ones (work related) experiences here off the top of my head
1. Good

  • Exposure to manufacturing industry (rarely found in India)
  • Experience of product design, what goes into taking an idea from RnD to commercialization
  • No pressure for performance. The work environment is encouraging, and the people promote learning
  • There is a culture of making reports in Japan. Usually, we make weekly reports, or during business trips or of some other research or analysis. This is a good practice that helps to keep your colleagues updated, and serves as a bank of ideas for others solving their own task issues

2. Not so good

  • Nothing can be as bad as struggling with Japanese while you want to understand what everyone is discussing in a meeting
  • It’s difficult to use the machines, company server, company database etc.
  • Many Japanese people don’t speak very frankly or clearly if they have some issues while at work. I feel this creates an uneasy atmosphere sometimes.
  • Too few holidays, no exceptions are made for foreigners even if we need more holidays to go home.
  • Too much strictness regarding time, like coming/leaving/break time.

How close does your profile (1 / 2 years ago) match with the work you are doing right now?

Ans: As per experience, this was a completely new one. Product design does involve skills that I hadn’t developed from previous work experiences. So that means I have a lot to learn lately.

What are some exit options? How does having core industrial experience help with each of these exit options? What comes after availing of these options?

Ans: Few people have left to do MS/PhD in US/Canada/Europe. One person, in a previous batch (around 5 years back) has joined Panasonic India. I think MS is always an option, but what I am not sure about the kind of core jobs that are available for lateral job shift.

Core Industry gives you practical industrial knowledge, something that a PhD or an MS cannot give. Mass production of materials has many considerations and concerns that are different from research.

However, I think it’s too early for me in my job to be able to answer this question in depth.

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