Engineering-- The Farce that it is

Aug 1999 was the year that i stepped into my alma mater to pursue engineering in electronics and communication. There was this huge buzz abt ECe that you can make it big in telecommunication or computers. I really sucked at computers and was not a major fan of coding, hence ECE seemed to be better. Not that i was great at soldering or circuit design , i felt i was pretty good in math and ECE had relatively more math in it than CSE. Digital design , flip flops really fascinated me. With full zeal , all the fresh(men/women) embarked on their sojourn into the world of engineering. The first two months were really rigorous, I am not kidding, we really studied hard for the first two months. Everyone was awake till 12 AM and people got up at 5 had their bath in the icy cold waters of Siruvani which flowed through our Hostel taps and resumed their hobby of studying. People who slept were those folks who had already given up or the ones who had unique nostradamus skill to predict how things were going to be 2 months down the line.

Come October 2009 , the hostels were filled with slumber prone sloths including yours truly. Unshaved, Dishevelled Life forms roamed around the hostel corridors. Books were strewn to the corner of the room that they were deemed to be opened only during the auspicious month of april when we have our final semester exams. Radios and Casette players were blaring in full
throttle while the TV gasped for its breath on being subjugated to endless state of existence with power turned on for eternity.The zeal that accompanied the freshmen had dissappeared all of a sudden and i was privy to the celebrations too. after all it was the summer of 99 when you had the dotcom boom where anyone with an engineering degree got recruited and all you had to do to get recruited was to tresspass the placement office. There was this popular folklore running during the summer of 99 that companies would load you in their trucks to their offices even if you were not a final year student. Two of my seniors were hired in the fag end of the second year by companies. Such was the rat race for talent...

With such an invincible aura around it, the IT sector had become the poster eyed sector in the placements. Others hardly stood a chance. With the requirement for qualification being decent grades with an ability to speak english( which we have already learnt during the best part of 16 years of school education), the degree became more or less a formality. The zeal with which i studied DSP or digital circuits made no sense as the number of jobs in that sector were already too low and i just did not dig deep into it to possess the mastery to get into those niche sectors.By having 6 subjects a term the education sector really killed students by making them a jack(ass) of all trades and master of none. whatever we possessed was mere bookish knowledge and not too much into the depth. I am not going to fault my professors as i believe we had few of
the best professors in the country by virtue of studying in a government college. But they were the last of the breed as i believe no longer we have people who are passionate about teaching entering thr profession of education. and the education system did not really test us. so we studied the books the way everyone does it now ( read as roting) .

Slowly and steadily i became mired in the quagmire called as engineering which By the third year i was convinced was a farce and i had myself more to blame than others.I never understood certain subjects nor did any of my friends. the exams just did not test our ability of understanding the concepts but the ability to reproduce what was provided in the book. The excitement which i felt while solving inorganic equations in chemistry, the challenges we faced while solving thermodynamic equations or physics problems fom irudov, the constant thirst for solving more and more differential equations during my school years just evaporated during the 3 years and i too became a typical engineer. We survived as engineers for 4 years to have fun,
make friends , pass exams for the heck of getting the degree and yeah becoming eligible to get the coveted IT job. To say that i studied ECE and cannot explain the nuances of cellular technology or how to properly solder a component in a chipboard hurts me. In the end engineering turned out to be a means to the end of getting an IT job. Because we needed to
have a degree to get into IT we did engineering and the degree was not conferred because I had solid understanding of my fundamentals but because i knew what was in the book (literally).

I have often discussed this with one of my close confidante's from engineering days and he also feels the same way. we have seen a hell lot of our friends getting onto roles which were not at all in sync with what they wanted to do. I feel we as a nation lost these immensely talent folks to sectors where they dont really belong. It seemed a criminal waste of talent. Now
i hear things are even worse than during our times. Engineering is supposed to be four years of jolly ride. We are not producing Engineers but producing folks with the degree behind the name. If engineering is defined as being a degree conferred on a person who has a solid grasp of his area of interest , my gut feel says that 95% of us are not engineers.

You may wonder, why the suddent outburst ? You might question, nobody stopped you from pursuing what you wanted to, then why ?
I am not blaming anybody, but myself. Maybe i was not at all an engineer in the first place. The only grudge i have is our method of gauging a person's knowledge. we need to get out of this degree churning mills that we have and make sure that engineering degree has to be earned. have lesser subjects but make sure folks know their subjects well. let us have not more than 3
credits per semester. have more practicals and exams should test application of knowledge. when i am writing my digital circuit exam test the student on how to design counters.

Unfortunately we cannot do this as we have standardized tests and we need to have standard exams to test the so called engineers capability. With the IT sector slowing down I hope we get to see a future breed of engineers who apparently know the subject. I am not faulting the IT sector too, as all of us need to be thankful to IT sector without which the dreams of middle class wouldn't have bore fruit. IT had been an employer of choice, its just sad that we had to take the path of engineering to get to IT. maybe CSE or IT would have only been the relevant fields but other branchess were also swayed to IT as the opportunities seemed so less in their core areas.

Chemical, Civil, Mech, ECE everybody hopped into IT bandwagon. Now the bandwagon has stopped chugging at the frenetic pace, sanity should return sooner than later . Hope the me-too colleges that mushroomed for profiteering close down. We should be producing engineers according to the demand and not due to whims and fancies of every politician who owns these colleges. Can somebody haul up AICTE and ask them what the hell they are doing in terms of according accreditation to every college which has applied for approval.

I would say Our country failed to produce engineers during the late 90s and 2000's. we had degree churning mills in every nook and corner of the country. Commercialization and satisfying the demand of IT sector we have unfairly destroyed the reputation of engineers who had really earned the degree the hard way in the early 90s and prior to it. To all old timers and engineers who have studied engineering the way it should be , my sincere apologies on not being a worthy heir to your legacy. I hope the future generations will study engineering the way it is supposed to.


rahul said…
great, prashant i liked ur article in
turn this was exactly the same thing which i wanted to jot down for a long time,i think 99% of the engineering students belong to our breed
Saras said…
Spot on! I am glad that a member of the fraternity himself has written this excellent article. In the mad race for the newly found IT Lure, real skill of engineering seems to go into oblivion.

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