Umesh Salunkhe acquired his civil engineering degree at a time when all a civil engineer did was stand on site, which is usually a dusty road, wearing a yellow helmet.
Salunkhe, too, went through the grind but a little value addition to his engineering degree opened up a new avenue for the 27-year-old. He studied construction management at NICMAR, Pune, and now works with reputed builder and developer Shapoorji Pallonji as deputy manager (planning).
"Earlier, a civil engineer simply built a wall," said Salunkhe. "Now he or she also uses principles of management to plan the optimum use of resources to build this wall."
A Thane resident, Salunkhe is like thousands of civil, construction, mechanical and electrical engineers who, thanks to the boom in the real estate and construction industry, have better career options.
"The industry needs high-calibre, techno-commercial managers," said Salunkhe. "Anybody with degrees in these disciplines of engineering and armed with a degree in construction or project management can enter a developer's set up at the managerial level."
Salunkhe's work profile is a far cry from his father's, who is also a civil engineer working with the Thane zilla parishad's maintenance department. "As a child I would accompany my father to site visits. That is how I got interested in construction."
Salunkhe had an option between specialising in mechanical or civil engineering but he chose the latter. After graduating from Datta Meghe College of Engineering, Navi Mumbai, in 2002, Salunkhe went through the traditional standing at sites from 8 am to 11 pm routine.
"I knew I needed value addition. A friend suggested I take up the course at NICMAR," said Salunkhe.
Four years later, he is glad he took his friend's advice. He now earns Rs 6 lakh annually. But works hard for it. He leaves for work at 9 am and often ends up working until 11 pm. When the deadline for the completion of a project approaches, he ends up working on weekends too. Whenever he does get a Sunday off, he likes spending it with friends watching movies.
But he has no regrets. He is, after all, part of a billion-dollar industry, which is growing at 30 per cent every year.
"When I graduated only the software industry was booming and all mechanical and electrical engineers went there," said Salunkhe. "Today, they are all returning to the construction and real estate industry."