Palash Waghmare is an alumnus from the 2016 batch of IIT Bombay. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from the Department of Aerospace Engineering and is currently working as a Product Developer at Boeing.
In this article he talks about his passion towards aircraft, which led him to change his job from Associate Consultant at EY to Product Developer at Boeing.
1.What were the various options available to you while choosing a career path? (Eg: Higher studies, Start up, MBA, etc.)
Well, this goes back to IIT and the innumerable influences we have there. Being the music secretary in my third-year and doing mediocre at academics, I never saw myself doing core. So much so that I had almost converted to a dual degree and dropped my decision at the eleventh hour after deciding all the courses and projects. I had pre-determined, somewhat uninformed, that I’ll always be in a non-core job and sat for placements. I got hired by EY as an Associate Consultant and was pushed into the over-hyped consulting wagon. After working for a few months, I got to know about different career tracks available. I could work at EY and shift to more prestigious consulting firms like the MBBs. I could go for an MBA and explore my options into different aspects of non-core jobs. I could continue at EY and climb the corporate ladder there. But in less than six months, I was too drained with the bull-work and long hours on petty tasks with little to no real-world impact and tangible skill development. I accepted that a career in consulting wouldn’t satisfy my hunger for gaining hard skills and achieving expertise. All this while the love for aircraft was dawning back upon me as well. I got in touch with professors and decided that I was too naïve to leave my passion and get influenced by the college’s extra-curricular factors. I was determined to go back to my core, however tough the path seemed and excelled in it.
2. What made you choose the profile of the Product Developer under Boeing? What aspects of the company/ career path should one consider while making this decision?
Frankly, I was too stoked to get any opportunity to join the aerospace sector, and even more so when it was from Boeing, the best aircraft manufacturer in the world, so I didn’t have the privilege of being picky. Having said that, I was excited about working on applications under the flight sciences portfolio, which majorly deal with aerodynamic and structural simulations, and optimization. I got to know that I will be learning the latest technologies and applying them to solve practical engineering problems. I couldn’t ask for anything better as a fresher since it would give me an opportunity to gain hardcore technical skills along with core concepts and real-world applications, all at the same time. As a fresher, one should consider maximizing the learnings that the company and the job give. Boeing invests heavily on employee career development and allows mobility into a variety of verticals which make up for a lucrative career path. Work-life balance is another aspect that one needs to be aware of. I used to spend all night making color charts in excel as a consultant at EY, but at Boeing, I get to work on building planes and follow my music and photography simultaneously with easy working hours and balanced work culture. The stability allows one to be more creative and productive in personal and professional life.
3. Given that the profile of a “Product Developer” has a very broad and ambiguous job description, what exactly constitutes the job of a Product Developer at your company? Also, what hard/soft skills are needed to be good at it?
My work at Boeing is majorly application development and automation of niche aerodynamic
processes. I serve as a link between gathering business requirements from subject matters experts of Boeing Research and Technology and proposing technical solutions under an enterprise-wide architecture. It demands good software development skills, architecture formulation, a decent grasp on aerodynamics, precise communication and a lot of teamwork. A decent amount of innovation and brainstorming are practiced on a daily basis too. It gives me a great platform to utilize my diverse skills and develop more on the way. The ownership is great too.
4. How did you start gauging your interest in a profile/career path?
I have had an interest in planes and spacey stuff since childhood. Joining IIT Bombay was overwhelming because of the million activities available to us. Trying to grasp them all at once was daunting, and my passion for aerospace got clouded for a brief time. But after getting some industry exposure, things started falling into place. I would suggest every student take their chances at the start of their career and take some risks. The worst scenario would be still having a job and earning your bread anyhow. Try to figure out what your appetite is and don’t be afraid to take that leap after some trial and error. You won’t get this opportunity again in life.
5. Were there any turning points where you identified your interest in a particular area or was there a shift in interest?
I guess previous answers cover this well.
6. How did you build up your skillset for the same through any internships or courses inside and/or outside the institute?
I just revised my core concepts through some academic books. For learning programming, I used HackerRank, W3Schools and some other free online resources. One of my projects at EY included SQL and python programming as well, which helped me pick some basic coding concepts. Most of the soft skills were inculcated through various PORs in the institute and managing time and resources between so many things. Boeing also had a mandatory three months training for freshers, where I learnt advanced programming and product development skills.
7. How good are the growth opportunities available in your company? Are there any personal gratifications obtained from the job?
The growth opportunities are amazing. Our former CEO joined as an intern and worked in more than seven functions in his career so I’ll let that speak for the flexibility that Boeing provides. It gives immense importance to employee career goals, which could be very well disjointed to current work. Job satisfaction is on the positive side too. At the end of the day, it all goes into making something actually fly, which for me is the biggest gratification.
8. How do you think the current scenario (COVID-19) is going to impact this sector?
The aerospace sector has had the worst hit for obvious reasons. Airplane orders have been canceled, flights aren’t taking off, employees are being laid off, companies are out of cash, and passenger confidence is at an all-time low. In general, the turnaround time in the aviation sector is pretty long than other traditional sectors so it’ll take a while to recover. But the future looks bright for sure. With so much innovation in line, the vast interdisciplinary nature, private space firms cropping up, and emphasis on sustainable aviation, the aerospace sector is in for some huge changes and opportunities. The skill demand is huge too making it a challenging and exciting sector to pursue.
9. Closing note: A word of advice to the people sitting for placements this year?
I’ll just say don’t follow the herd. Don’t settle for that bank job just because you got it through placements (not demeaning any other jobs here). Try and understand what you really want to do and take chances. Introspect as much as possible and the most important, don’t hesitate to ask for help from the fabulous people around you. You can connect with me personally for further guidance. All the best!