Love an engineer
On the threshold of a half-century of existence and 30 years after my father effectively killed any debate on possible career choices with, “Be an engineer or be a jholawalla!” this post is probably outdated even before I write.
Am I a good engineer? Was I ever? A long lost friend writes it best on his LinkedIn profile:
I am not a practicing engineer, but i strongly believe that engineering is the best educational stream that i could have opted for. I am not sure what i learnt from academically. But what i did learn was a way of thinking. Structured, process & time oriented working.
I think it is prudent to not link to his profile. But, my batch-mates would surely know who he is. He, as we used to dismissively say in college, has spent a lifetime “selling soap” and otherwise finding ways of cross-selling, up-selling, enticing customers to come to his stores as so many flies to the spider’s web. Bravo! 30 years on, my admiration is not even of the “sneaking” variety.
When we were in school, the society was clear about what vocations were acceptable/ respectable and which ones were not. All self-respecting nerds with a flair for maths wrote the JEE and those other nerds without the requisite flair for maths wrote the medical entrance tests. I was in between; I was never particularly good in maths – but, before you actually crack JEE and meet people who actually are good- you can be forgiven for thinking you were. But, I knew I did not want to be a doctor- I could not dissect a frog if my life depended on it. I did not much want to be an engineer either- but, my father intervened.
So, I somehow, to my own great surprise, cracked JEE and went to study in IT-BHU.
Long back, a T-shirt made its appearance on campus: it simply said, “Love me! Love an engineer”. In a batch with 300 boys and 3 girls, it was easy to see the comic potential of the message. It was more plaintive than bold in its appeal.
While it is possibly easier to find love on campus today and today’s higher education choices among the so called “good students” are no longer so “binary”, I still think there is market for the sentiment behind the “Love an engineer” T-shirt. If anything, the sentiment is now bolder and more solid.
My friends have gone on to head large operations, to hold important posts in academia, to careers in banking, retail, pharmaceuticals, constructions, automobiles and yes, in core engineering too! One has won the prestigious Magsaysay award, at least 2 have joined the civil services, one of them has been named a distinguished alumnus, one cycled around the globe on a bicycle, another runs a large MNC’s operations in Europe.
There are officers in Income Tax department and Indian Railways. There are consultants in six-sigma and Solar energy evangelists. There are entrepreneurs who have built multi-million dollar enterprises- in India, in clean water, moulded plastic and cement. And of course, there are software whiz-kids.
Who would have ever thought?
Am I a good engineer? Let me refer you to the quote from the batchmate above. Would I want to be an engineer, again, if we could roll back the years? Surely.
Engineers build bridges, roads, cars, “chips”, write software, produce cement and steel and even ceramic tiles and otherwise leave a mark on our lives to the extent few other professions can. That is just among those who chose to stay engineers long after they graduate. Many don’t; but, yet leave a mark.
Would I want my daughters to be engineers?
If they are good enough!