Engineering degree has an evergreen attraction in India

A civil engineer who has worked on the Mumbai International Airport Project, Vidya Murugan says she has learnt through work that there is a precise solution for every complicated challenge
Updated on May 29, 2015 05:58 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByProyashi Barua, New Delhi

There is no denying the fact that an engineering degree has an evergreen attraction in India. “This is not difficult to understand. In the years following independence from colonial rule, there were a few professions that the upcoming and aspiring urban and semi-urban middle class could identify with and engineering was one among them. Crucial sectors like power, transportation, defence, real estate, telecommunications and information technology were directly or indirectly dependent on engineers,” explains PK Bhatnagar, a member of The Institution of Engineers, India . The socio- economic dynamics that attributed to the demand and supply of engineers (in India) did not change after liberalisation of the economy in the early nineties. Today in 2015, the demand for qualified engineers across all branches continues to increase. “And following the Modi Government’s pronouncements on 100 smart cities there is an unprecedented demand for civil engineers,” observes Bhatnagar.

A personal journey begins

Vidya Murugan, a civil engineer who is now a project manager with a real estate developer called NYC Luxury Developments in New York, says that as a child (who grew up in the suburbs of Mumbai) she wanted to become a million different things from a veterinary doctor to an air force pilot. However, when she passed her Class 12 she decided to endorse her family mandate - “pursue an engineering degree and after that you can do anything else that you want to do”.

“Engineering fees for students who studied on a free seat was heavily subsidised by the government. I decided to take up engineering if I got a free seat in a college in the western suburbs of Mumbai as I did not want a very long commute. As luck would have it, both my conditions were met. I got admission in the civil engineering department at Rizvi College and pursued my bachelors degree,” says Murugan.

Career trajectory

Murugan started her career as a management trainee in Simplex Infrastructures Limited, a leading contracting firm in India. “I spent the first year as a part of the management information system team. I soon got frustrated working with second-hand information received from the site and badgered the management to send me to the site,” she shares. Opportunity soon presented itself in the form of the Delhi Metro project, with Simplex playing the part of a contracting firm. “I was in the planning team and my job was to ensure that work never stopped because of material shortage. I had to forecast requirements, place indents/requisitions and do rigorous follow-ups . I was subsequently asked to lead a team of 10 project personnel to prepare the site for occupational health and safety, and environmental compliance during an OSHAS 18000 and ISO 14000 audit, which we successfully completed. This experience taught me a lot about how to create a safe and healthy work environment at a construction site,” she recounts.

When Simplex was awarded the Mumbai Metro Project, Murugan moved back to Mumbai to head the planning and billing team in the capacity of a lead planner for the project. “This project was very close to my heart, since it would have meant that a Metro would make my father’s commute to work a breeze. Sadly, he passed away less than a year before it started. Our team’s responsibilities included preparing and updating work schedules, preparing and updating cash flows, monitoring work progress and preparing progress reports for various stakeholders so that timely corrective and preventive action could be taken, carrying out root cause analysis, handling contractual correspondence, preparing claims, carrying out, rate analysis, co-ordinating with multiple agencies and sub-contractor billing and client billing,” she shares.

Her next assignment was with the Taj Group of Hotels and Resorts. “Here, in the capacity of manager-planning and scheduling, I worked directly with senior management and was responsible for analysing raw data, understanding trends and sending across progress presentations, status charts and other graphical representations for their consideration and review,” says Murugan. She says that though she already had the experience of putting together a work schedule for a mega sports complex, her stint with the Taj Group was actually her first real brush with buildings. “I saw how MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) services and interior works were sequenced, and how they were co-ordinated with civil works. Also working out of their corporate office gave me a chance to learn more about corporate culture and etiquette, and to improve my personal and professional presentation skills,” she elaborates.

According to Murugan, after her stint with the Taj group, she was confident enough to venture out to more challenging projects. In her words, “If working for a contracting firm gave me the opportunity to acquire hands-on knowledge of the functioning of a construction site, my stint with the Taj Group enabled me to view the business from the client’s perspective. Having worked with both a contracting company as well as a client organisation, I felt well equipped to join CH2M Hill, the consulting firm for the Mumbai International Airport Project. At this project, I was assigned the iconic Air Traffic Control Tower, MEP services and special airport systems like baggage handling systems, passenger boarding bridges, visual docking guidance system and vertical and horizontal transportation systems.” In projects of this magnitude and complexity often deadlocks occur due to clashes of opinion and interests of the numerous agencies involved. And Murugan’s experience was no different. “I had to support project managers in ensuring that all interactions were result-oriented. I also had to prepare reports for various stakeholders (client’s executives,and government bodies etc) apprising them of the project status. This would enable them to take timely preventive/corrective actions wherever required,”she adds.

Learnings for life

Working on the Mumbai International Airport project was a turning point for Murugan both personally and professionally. “It presented a rare opportunity (rare for civil engineers) to work on mechanical systems like elevators, escalators and travelators, much less on specialised mechanical systems like baggage handling, etc,” she explains.

At a personal level the satisfaction was immense. “Seeing your work come up right before your eyes is a very rewarding experience,” she states. “In the course of my work life I have learnt that there is never an end to learning and that there is always a solution, despite the magnitude and complication of the challenge. One just has to stay calm to find the solution. Also, good team work is half the battle won. I have also learnt to be more meticulous and to double and triple check my work to catch errors. As a result today I am a more patient person and my thoughts are more logical and organised,” she concludes.


Vidya Murugan
Profession: Civil engineer
Day begins at: 10 am
Day ends at: No fixed timings here
Work hours: Not definite
Responsibilities: Coordinating and reviewing drawings, visits to construction site and architect’s office
Family: Try and spend time with them over the weekends
Vacations: Once a year to India
When not at work: Sleep, click photographs and write a travel blog

Getting to know you

Vidya Murugan is a simple hearted Tamil girl who grew up in Mumbai with big dreams. Throughout her academic life she was not just another exceptionally good student – she had unflinching passion and enthusiasm for studies. Her enthusiasm to understand the whys and hows of every subject matter lent her a natural edge in the subjects pertaining to the science stream. When she chose to pursue civil engineering she was unsure about continuing in the field for long. However, when she started her career she realised that there was a lot more to be learnt about the subject than what was contained in the course textbooks. According to her, every day brings new learnings and it is very satisfying when her work comes alive in concrete structures

Electronics engineer

Huge scope for innovation

Electronics engineers design and develop the systems used by machines and equipment in a range of industries, from mobile communications and computing to aerospace. “If you love electronics and like finding out how things work, this could be a perfect choice of career for you,” says Anshul Mahajan, an electronics engineer who works for a firm in the public sector. “To do this job well, you will need to be good at science, math and information technology. Part of the job is about finding better ways of doing things, so you’ll need to be good at figuring out problems and coming up with new ideas. You’ll also need good communication skills to get those ideas across,” he says. Employers who are looking to hire electronic engineers (those with a four-year engineering graduate degree with a specialisation in electronics) also hire people who studied aerospace engineering, software engineering and nanotechnology where electronics was one of the subjects covered in the course.

The starting salary of graduates varies from is Rs. 4 lakh to Rs. 35 lakh per annum.

Mechanical engineer

Base for manufacturing

Every manufacturing industry, including automobiles, aerospace, power generation, railroads etc have a consistent demand for trained mechanical engineers, who have an ability to analyse, test, design, construct, develop, install and maintain equipment. “The hallmark of an engineering mind is the ability to think logically and sequentially,” says Lalit Mehra, alumnus of IIT Delhi.

The course includes topics on engineering thermodynamics, dynamics of machines, power plant technologies and renewable energy technology. “Given the growing scarcity of natural resources, there is considerable scope for graduates in the renewable energy sector. The need for devising ways to re-use waste water and ideas for designing water treatment plants in an efficient manner have spurred the demand for mechanical engineers,” says Ankit Gupta, design and proposal engineer, Forbes Enviro Ltd.

Starting salaries of graduates in this domain vary from about Rs. 3 lakh to Rs. 30 lakh per annum.

Chemical engineer

In demand across sectors

Be it toothpaste, shampoo, detergent, medicines, paper, cosmetics or the clothes we wear, various products of chemical engineering touch our lives every day without even us knowing this fact. Chemical engineers are in demand across various sectors, including manufacturing, healthcare, food processing, and speciality chemicals, to name a few.

“The thought processes and skills developed during the course prepares one to tackle problems effectively in engineering, management and also healthcare. A chemical engineer can also move into any field of specialisation, from mathematics and physics to medicine and biotechnology,” says Danny Raj M, student, chemical engineering, IIT Madras.

Pay package for freshers ranges from Rs. 2 lakh to Rs. 35 lakh per annum.

With inputs from- Rozelle Laha

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