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Power job

Electrical engineering is the gateway to all manufacturing industries, as all plants are run on electricity. Vimal Chander Joshi reports on this ‘evergreen’ profession

education Updated: Dec 10, 2009 10:11 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

Working in a power plant or developing software to improve electrical equipment are the primary tasks of an electrical engineer.

One specialising in this field can also work in steel factories, the railways, at construction sites or handle automated systems in which electricity supply and distribution plays a crucial role.

“There are tremendous opportunities for electrical and mechanical engineers — theirs are evergreen professions,” says Prasen Jit Pal, deputy general manager, engineering division, a PSU.

“Given the huge gap between demand and supply of power in India, there’s a lot of scope for more growth in the sector,” adds Pal. “Currently, our company has 30,000 MW of installed capacity, which is expected to almost double in the next seven-eight years. This, in turn, would attract investments of Rs 80,000 crore or so.” Which means still more jobs for electrical engineers.

Those wanting to enter the power or civil sector should go for electrical (power) engineering. Bhola Prasad, project engineer with RITES, a government enterprise, has been involved with work to bring light to hundreds of villages in India. “Every day, I would go on field visits and ensure that the power lines were set in accordance with rules. The work can be quite demanding as it involves a number of checks and verifications while work is in progress,” says Prasad.

Things can get quite hectic, says Pal, when a new power project is being carried out. “During the installation of a power plant, every engineer works extra hard,” he says.

“One must meticulously monitor the installation and commissioning of each piece of equipment. Things cool down during the operation phase, barring annual maintenance time.”

The power generation or distribution sector is not where all electrical engineers go. Many join allied industries like automobile or instrumentation, where massive manufacturing plants are run on power.

“There are two huge plants in our factory that are run on power and electrical engineers are required to ensure continuous supply of electricity to the plant and to fix any faults,” says Varun Anand, electrical engineer with Hero Motors, Manesar.

With each industry now driven by computers, electrical engineers can go in for software development, too. To create and enhance software, one ought to have a sound theoretical knowledge of electricity. This job calls for analysing procedural functions of engineering to do the software encoding.

Rajiv Garg, an electrical engineer from IIT Delhi, works at Mentor Graphics, an electronic design automation company, on ‘enrichment of software’ used for making chips by semiconductor companies like Intel and Advanced Micro Devices. He says, “With technology advancing rapidly, the demand for electrical engineers has gone up steeply everywhere. A lot of work goes into the development and enrichment of equipment. It is first designed using software, then the design is optimised considering its utility, followed by its physical test.”

Another emerging area is green energy. “Whether it’s hydro power, solar power or wind energy, each sector will require electrical engineers. That’s why I joined the clean technology sector and will go back to it after doing my MBA,” says Shobhit Goel, an electrical (power) engineer from IIT Delhi and a student at ISB, Hyderabad.

What,s it about?
Electrical engineering deals with the study and application of electrical systems for use in different environments. A student has to learn about transmission and generation of electrical power, electrical circuit design, electronics, instrumentation, and control systems. In-depth knowledge of electronic devices and circuits for measurement, instrumentation, control and protection of electrical equipment and conversion systems is also required. One will also have to master the application of computer-based systems in design, analysis and efficient operation of power systems

Clock Work
9 am: Reach the plant. Reply to mail received from vendors
9.15 am: Take a round of the power plant
10 am: Check the power lines
11 am: Fix faults (if any)
1 pm: Lunch
2 pm: Routine visit to the site where some project is being carried out
3 pm: Supervise and monitor the state of the work
6 pm: File assessment report
7 pm: Leave for home

The Payoff
An entry-level engineer earns about Rs 20,000-30,000 per month. Salaries vary from industry to industry. At a middle-level technical position, e.g. a project head or team leader, one gets Rs 70,000-80,000 per month. At the managerial level, a senior manager earns Rs 1.5 lakh per month. Starting salaries are almost the same in the government and private sector, but vary vastly in top positions. Managers in the private sector can earn more than Rs 1 lakh a month, while those in government companies get Rs 70,000-75,000 a month

Skills
.
Strong logical and analytical skills along with the ability to absorb new knowledge
. Keen attention to detail, as machines need a lot of care
. Ability to adapt to the changing technological scenario of the current market, e.g. by
learning software development

How do i get there?
Do a BTech (electrical) or BTech (electrical-power), depending on your area of interest. You can also pursue an MTech if you want to go in for research. After engineering, you can hunt for a job in companies like Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, the National Thermal Power Corporation or Reliance Power. Reputable institutes like the IITs and the NITs have campus placements, but for other students, companies will usually organise a written test for annual intake. Check out newspaper advertisements for announcements of the test dates

Institutes & urls
.
Indian Institutes of Technology
(www.iitd.ac.in/ ,,www.jee.iitd.ac.in/ )
. Delhi Technological University
(www.dce.edu)
. National Institutes of Technology
(www.nitdgp.ac.in/ ,, www.aieee.nic.in)

Pros & Cons
.
Irrespective of market trends, electrical engineers will always be in demand
. Growth opportunities are aplenty as the demand-supply gap is huge in the Indian
power sector and it continues to draw major investment
. It’s a demanding job, especially when one is working on a project installation
. Because of the stiff competition, not everyone gets a good job in a public sector
company


Explosive growth through technology

Are electric engineers in demand at present?
Yes, they are. Electrical engineers are needed in almost all the industries. All kinds of equipment use electrical circuits and fittings. Both electrical and electronics engineering are fused to devise and improve the computer, instrumental and telecommunication technology.

How are things going to change for this branch of engineering in the long run?
I believe research will change the industry dynamics completely. We are working on providing broadband facility through power lines, which can open new vistas for electrical engineers. Even today, one can find work in power plants, steel factories, refineries and many other major machinery intensive automated projects. The scope is in fact tremendous.

In this competitive world, is this mandatory to do an MTech before one finds a decent job?
It depends what you aim to do. A BTech can easily carry out the routine job of an electrical engineer like testing and execution whereas an MTech handles specialised work. Later, one can also take up research if one is interested. For that, a PhD degree is an added advantage.

Can one move from industry to research in the latter part of one’s career?
Why not?
Even I worked in the industry for more than 15 years - for Indian Railway’s electrification, refinery, and power plants before I switched to research after getting a doctorate from IIT Delhi. While working as an engineer I used to analyse my tests, document these and have these showed to professional or research bodies for feedback. It all depends upon your acumen and aptitude.

Prof Pramod Kumar, head of the department, electrical engineering, Delhi Technological University Interviewed Vimal Chander Joshi