We would like to express our sincere gratitude to everyone whose invaluable inputs helped us in this article. You can view our previous career piece, on consulting, here. Watch this space for a comprehensive study of other job sectors for fresh graduates.

You can find our first two pieces in our extensive series on sectors that come recruiting to IIT Bombay here (consulting) and here (finance).

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“Nothing is core, nothing is non-core. Everything is maths,” says Vibhu Gupta, 2015 when asked about his preferences for various profiles during placements.

Despite the surge that non-engineering jobs have seen in placements in the past 10-15 years, the core engineering sector continues to absorb a significant number of the employable population of IITB. The numbers are steadily on the rise too, accompanied by recent efforts by the placement cell to prioritise the core sector during placements.

What’s the distinguishing feature of the core sector that still keeps attracting so many graduates from IITB to it amid the proliferation of non-engineering jobs? Why don’t we see core engineering firms flooding the much vied-for Day 1 and Day 2 slots during placements? And finally, what are the future career options like for students taking up an engineering job after placements? These are a few of the questions we try to answer.

Why Core?

For most people, working in the core sector means staying connected to their engineering backgrounds. More significantly, it is a passion to work in fields that interest them that seems to drive those joining these sorts of jobs.

[pullquote]”I loved the core sector because of the impact we create on daily lives. So, my decision was driven because of my passion as well as personal benefits I reaped.”
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“For me it came out really naturally. I never joined IIT with the dream of becoming a banker or a consultant; it was only about engineering. I loved the core sector because of the impact we create on daily lives. So, my decision was driven because of my passion as well as personal benefits I reaped,” says Vibhore Jain (Chemical Engineering ‘14) who joined Royal Dutch Shell through placements. He goes on to add, “I liked what I studied and definitely wanted to pursue that. But for me, [the] core sector helps me contribute to the society. For example, FMCGs are one of the most influential companies in our daily lives. Doing something like that makes me happy. I don’t see any added value to myself or anyone else had I been working in a trading company or an investment bank. They are necessary but they impact us in a less tangible way, which doesn’t sound exciting to me.”

There’s a similar sentiment surrounding the decision to stay rooted in engineering after graduation among many others who took up jobs in “core” fields. A sense of being able to impact the society in some way is the principal driver of some others, much like Vibhore. Jobs in this sector also involve a sense of excitement for many, making them largely averse to careers in finance and consultancy firms that might offer better monetary compensation.

A Mechanical Engineering post-graduate, when asked about the rationale behind joining Eaton, said, “I guess it was the same reason that I chose to pursue a Master’s degree. After my Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering, I had the option to work at an IT firm doing non-core, purely coding-centered jobs, which was not even remotely linked to my four years of study. The same conviction led me to go for a core job, although I did apply to non-core finance jobs as a backup, mainly due to the attractive pay packages.”

Electronics: Entry as an Engineer. There is a very high propensity of retention in the field. The sector is blooming worldwide, with lucrative opportunities in countries like US, Japan, Singapore and even in Europe. Most companies require a Master’s degree to work in the field. To switch from an engineering profile to R&D, a PhD is a must. A very large proportion (about half) of graduates working in the field opt for MS and PhD to progress in the field.

FMCG: The roles are techno-managerial, related to planning. Growth is performance-dependent and opportunities for leadership are immense. An MBA in operations is not required for a role in supply chain; while an MBA in marketing/finance/HR helps. Some people do opt for an MBA. Factory/engineering roles offer technical exposure, but are generally not research-centric. An MS is not required, unless one wants to switch sectors. A few people do deflect out of the field for entrepreneurial ventures. Graduates opting for this sector seem to have a fulfilling career, almost all stick with the field.

Oil and Gas: Variety of roles offered in engineering. The sector has a good retention rate with many of the people staying, or switching roles within the sector. The sector also offers international opportunities, with the projects taking you to Malaysia, Gulf, Europe and parts of Africa. While an MS is certainly considered to give you an advantage in getting in, the field also hires graduates.

Civil Engineering: Majorly three kinds of roles on offer for fresh graduates:

  1. Structural Design: Very technical. DDs are preferred for the profile. Firms generally look out for people with reasonably good academics.
  2. Construction Management : Involves more of project management in construction and planning. Firms look for good management skills.
  3. Water Resource Engineering/Fluid Mechanics : Requires significant knowledge of core civil engineering. Again, preference for DDs and students with higher CPIs.

Construction Management : Involves more of project management in construction and planning, Firms look for good management skills
Water Resource Engineering/Fluid Mechanics : Requires significant knowledge of core civil engineering. Again, preference for DDs and students with higher CPIs.

Automobile/Aviation : The work at the entry level in most firms is basic, may not be as exciting, and requires some patience. It is only after 2-3 years that you get a real feel of the work. The profiles usually involve simulation modelling and testing for design. The growth is quick, with one of the steepest learning curves in the industry. An MS is very helpful if you want to stay on. Specialization in design also helps a lot. Aviation sector is particularly selective towards Dual Degree and MTech students. Roles involve simulation, modelling and system design.

Work Profile

Given that the “core” field encompasses such a broad spectrum of subsectors, the work profiles in each are very distinct. For example, in FMCGs, most of the work is “techno-managerial” with a lot of aspects requiring knowledge of both engineering and process management. Ratan Guha (Mechanical Engineering ’14), an Assistant Technical Manager at ITC, says, “[There is] a six-month long intense induction period [that] involves a lot of mechanical, chemical and electrical engineering training – from V-belt drives to understanding how sensors work. Post training, inductees are posted in profiles such as Quality In-Charge, Six-Sigma Technology Development, Maintenance Engineer, Projects Engineer, etc., which obviously involve a lot of technical knowledge. But, as a manager, you are supposed to suggest solutions and make people under you implement them. This involves a lot of managerial skills on your part – effectively delegating responsibility, making sure that the job is done, and making very detailed plans.”

image02
[Vibhu Gupta Mechanical Engineering ‘15]

Vibhu Gupta (Mechanical Engineering ‘15) who got placed at HUL, concurs, saying, “It is an 18-month long training program focussing on the entire supply chain, from procurement and manufacturing to distribution. This also involves a stint at Unilever engineering services, in addition to a rural and an international stint”.

[pullquote]Even as more and more profiles are opening for BTech students, Dual Degree students do have an undeniable advantage when it comes to these profiles.
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Other major firms in the FMCG sector include P&G, Mondelez and Reckitt Benckisser. Some profiles offered at the entry level are backend roles, involving optimization of production and support services. There is always the option of migrating to a different profile after getting some work experience.

Atishay Sharma of TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) says, “TSMC is the world’s largest dedicated independent semiconductor foundry. At an entry level, you start with the position of an “Engineer”. My work is related to Wafer Bumping Services in the advanced silicon and packaging integrations subsection. Here you actually work with the R&D team, fabrication team, and help them collaborate to deliver customer requirements with available resources.”

A large number of core firms coming to the institute for placements, especially in electronics, offer profiles that require one to have completed an MTech or a Dual Degree program. Even as more and more profiles are opening for BTech students, Dual Degree students do have an undeniable advantage when it comes to these profiles. Research projects pursued in relevant fields can also go a long way in increasing one’s chances of bagging a job in an engineering firm.

[pullquote]For most of these jobs, the work hours range within a comfortable 40-50 hours a week, with a good amount of flexibility.
[/pullquote]

As was seen in a majority of the cases that we looked at, most such firms employ students from IITB for research and development roles, offering a great deal of specialization. For example, Nimish Kothari, who worked at Eaton after completing his degree in Mechanical Engineering, had been assigned the role of a Simulations Engineer in the Hydraulics Plant modelling team. “The job mainly involved mathematical modelling of hydraulic components and systems in Matlab, Simulink and Easy5. However, the profiles are specific to the person and vary a lot,” he says.

The profiles offered to different candidates varied with their suitability and interest in the field of work. Such specificity of the job profile is something characteristic to “core” profiles, making them a popular choice for people who want to specialize soon after graduation.

image03
[Ratan Guha, Mechanical Engineering ‘15]

[pullquote]After about 10 years into your career, you would be earning enough for yourself anyway
[/pullquote]
For most of these jobs, the work hours range within a comfortable 40-50 hours a week, with a good amount of flexibility. Since this leaves out quite a bit of time to invest elsewhere, the work-life balance is generally well above satisfactory for most people. In terms of the work that you get to do, you can be connected to engineering, and work on projects that are generally intellectually stimulating, offering a good amount of creativity and problem-solving on the job. As Nirav Pathak, ‘08 says, “After about 10 years into your career, you would be earning enough for yourself anyway. Then things such as job satisfaction, work-life balance, a sense of purpose in life and all kinds of different philosophies start popping up. It’s best to go where your interests lie.”

Core sector and placements

Despite the large number of firms in the sector, and hence the large potential to absorb the pool of talent at IITB, there is an inherent disparity in the way core companies approach placements as compared to non-engineering firms. “Core companies aren’t nearly as aggressive when it comes to hiring. Non-core firms (like consults and banks) are extremely particular about it, which can be attributed to the fact that these rely heavily on their human resources. The people they hire is the factor that fetches them contracts and gets them reputation in the marketplace. Their capital isn’t factories, but their people,” says Prof. Avijit Chatterjee, former Placement In-Charge, IITB.

Barring a few popular names like ITC, Sony, Samsung, etc., most core companies typically come in the post-Day 3 slots. The reason cited is their laid-back hiring methods. Prof. Chatterjee adds, “Non-core companies vie for the Day 1 and Day 2 slots. We try to hold them off as much as we can, and definitely give the engineering jobs higher priority, but the latter are usually satisfied with just about any slot.”

[pullquote]”Core companies aren’t nearly as aggressive when it comes to hiring. Non-core firms (like consults and banks) are extremely particular about it”.[/pullquote]

“They are more interested in people who are likely to stay with them. They don’t necessarily need IITians for the jobs,” he says. The relatively modest salary compensations that the core jobs have also detracted interest in the sector for some. “A sense of entitlement that students get after coming to IITs makes them desire high packages in the 10 lpa+ range. Very few core profiles offer this kind of money. For example, a 6.5 lpa package is great to start at, according to me, in a core profile. But anything less than 7 lpa is unacceptable for many students.”

image01
[Saubhagya Singh Rathore, Civil Engineering ‘14]

The kind of lifestyle that the work allows for, with a good work-life balance, is the reason for many to opt for engineering jobs. “The pay and benefits on a ‘per work-hour’ basis in case of core jobs may be very similar to those of non-core jobs, so that really shouldn’t be a concern when you’re choosing, ideally,” he concludes.

But Saubhagya Singh Rathore, Civil Engineering ‘14 believes that the way companies are slotted during placements needs a revamp. “Many students who want to go in a core field end up in non-core, because they get subdued by pressure of getting an offer as early as possible. This problem is more severe in IITB compared to many other IITs,” he says.

He adds, ”I personally believe there is nothing wrong in students going to non-core and performing well if that is their area of interest. The problem is when a student is interested in a career in “core”, but has to face this awkward situation in which he finds himself on day 5 or 6 [without a job], he ends up taking anything that is available at that time”

Growth

The core sector distinguishes itself in the kind of performance-driven growth that is rarely seen elsewhere. The level of responsibility and the work is highly contingent upon your skillset. For most core companies, barring a few CS profiles, there is very little a fresh graduate can contribute to the company. This is partly why the entry-level salaries are usually low. The firms invest hugely in training the new inductees. In technical profiles, after spending time in the industry though, the growth spurt is quite large.

[pullquote]
For most core companies, barring a few CS profiles, there is very little a fresh graduate can contribute to the company. This is partly why the entry-level salaries are usually low.[/pullquote]

Atishay of TSMC notes, “We have a system where a person gets to experience different fields of research as well as project management, marketing, sales, etc. So, I would say there is an all-round growth.”

There are also a lot of other factors that might influence growth, such as the ability to integrate with the work culture and the general capability to work in a team. Usually it also becomes important to scale cultural divides to make progress. As Atishay goes on to add, “Growth is this field depends on how you adapt yourself to this work culture. In the case of TSMC, learning Chinese (Mandarin) is the most important issue. All important meetings/discussions are in Mandarin.”

In some other firms, having an MBA might make you eligible for a wider spectrum of profiles. This, for example, is the case with P&G where an MBA might do more good than an MS for roles higher up the hierarchy as the job would have increasingly significant managerial components to them.

[pullquote]”Growth is this field depends on how you adapt yourself to this work culture. In the case of TSMC, learning Chinese (Mandarin) is the most important issue. All important meetings/discussions are in Mandarin.”

[/pullquote]

Despite the variation across profiles, the growth remains highly skill-set driven.

We’ve outlined the growth options by industry in the sandbox.

image00
[Vibhore Jain, Chemical Engineering ‘14]

Exit options

MS applications: A core sector job serves as a major add-on to the application. A lot of people opt for work experience in the field before their Master’s since it gives a practical outlook and deepens one’s understanding of the sector before making a major life commitment, i.e. to the field. If you keep working on products/projects related your discipline then it gives you an extra edge for higher studies.

Start -ups: More and more graduates are acting on their entrepreneurial aspirations. Many form the basis of their enterprise in college. However, a major chunk of young entrepreneurs put their venture on standby, to gather a few years of work experience. Many professionals across all work spheres quit their jobs to pursue their dreams. Work experience in a field seems to lend an insight into the industry that can help a lot if you’re starting up. This is being seen increasingly as people prefer to get a few years of experience on the job before venturing into the market.

MBA/CFA: Finding a good grad school or a B-school isn’t usually a problem if one gets into a good company. The brand value matters a lot sometimes, and work experience, of any kind goes a long way. Most companies offer flexibility to their employees to fulfill their academic pursuits. Balancing work-life while preparing for a competitive examination is not difficult. If management is your thing, then from being an Engineer, you could grow to be a segment manager on local level , before moving on to national and zonal levels.

Migration to another specialization: There are numerous core companies of great repute, where you can shift if you get bored of one. A background in core helps in acquiring a position in similar field, or any tech related field. In some industries, like FMCGs, it is rather common for people to shift between roles, from operations, to HR, to management. One can also migrate to similar roles in different firms with relative ease.

Future Prospects

Despite the increasing availability of core jobs to graduates during recruitment, having a Master’s or a specialization definitely improves your chances of landing a job in a profile of your choice. With India emerging as a manufacturing superpower, even more so with the grand Make in India scheme, there is set to be a surge in opportunities in India itself. Among major international manufacturers, Foxconn plans to set up manufacturing units in India soon and also plans to begin hiring for the same.

Political factors also have a significant role to play. As Saubhagya says, “ Now, the problem with Civil Engineering is, for fields like Transportation Engineering, there are hardly any jobs in the private sector since almost the entire transportation system is owned and operated by the government. The student has the option of going to PSUs through IES. But now, even PSUs can’t hire directly from IITs due to the Madras High Court ruling opposing it.”

All in all, the sector seems swell with opportunities, both in India and overseas. These are set to grow as the demand for engineers increases. As Ramaswamy Iyer, Mechanical Engineering ‘90 believes, “The lure of quick gratification (in placements) may be there. [But,] there will always be a demand for IITians as engineers.”