Design and Engineering are the cornerstones of every successful product. Design is driven by functionality while Engineering is driven by technology. One school of thought says designers (non-engineers) and engineers complement each other.

But Industrial products require engineers with design thinking, to meet stringent and precise specifications of performance, stability, safety and tolerance.

Sanchita, our next pathbreaker, talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy  from The Interview Portal about her work as Mechanical Design Engineer in designing reactors.

Sanchita, can you tell us about your background?

I was born and bought up in a middle class family in New Delhi. My father is a businessman and my mother is a primary teacher. Talking about my childhood, I have always been curious and interested in how things work. I remember disassembling a wall clock when I was little just to see what the mysterious reason for its ticking was. So, I believe somewhere deep within I knew that engineering was the field for me.

I completed my schooling from Ryan International School, Rohini, Delhi. Apart from academics, where like all parents, my parents felt I needed to excel in, I would like to give credit especially to my mother for making sure that I took part in extra-curricular activities. This way I engaged in several activities like classical dancing, took part in debates, interjections and speeches along with studies. I took the science stream with Engineering Graphics in 11th standard. In 12th standard, being good both in studies and co-curricular activities lead to my selection to represent my school at the ‘Mission to Mars’ themed competition at NASA Space Center Houston, USA. It was truly a rewarding experience and our team won the first position. Looking back at my schooling and interests, I can say that early exposure to science and technology laid the foundation for my career.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I completed my B.Tech in Mechanical and Automation Engineering from HMR Institute of Technology and Management under Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi. During my bachelor’s, I wrote two technical papers and presented one of them at the India International Science Festival 2015 held at IIT Delhi.

I completed my M.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from University of Engineering and Technology under Maharshi Dayanand University, Haryana, with TEQIP scholarship and two technical papers under my belt. I presented my thesis paper at the India International Science Festival 2017 at Anna University and IIT Madras, Chennai.

What were the key influences that led you to this career?

The key influencer in my life hs been my mother. Hailing from the small town of Nainital, her early struggles of studying and settling in New Delhi inspired me to push my boundaries every single day. Other key influencers I look up to are Michelle Obama, Simon Sinek and Indra Nooyi.

Besides the constant support of my family, I have met some remarkable people who have helped me shape my career. My mentor, retired Col. Devendra Dahiya, has always been a pillar of wisdom and strength.

First position at the Mission to Mars themed competition held at NASA Space Center Houston (USA), Technical presentations during B.Tech/ M.Tech at the India International Science Festivals held at IIT /Madras respectively and Mechanical Engineering Internship at ARIES, Nainital were a huge motivating factor for me.

While job hunting, I had an important realisation. It stuck me that it is vital that we identify which positions intrigues us before applying for a role. Usually job seekers keep applying at their dream companies with no specific role in mind. I believe it is essential to first figure out what drives you and which pre-requisites you need to possess, and then apply for the job.

Tell us about your career path

Right after completing B.Tech, I decided to pursue higher studies. When I got admitted at the M.Tech Mechanical Engineering course at UIET, MDU, I was happy for two reasons. One, I was offered the TEQIP Scholarship which helped me be financially independent to pursue the course and second, I had enough time to hone my skills to search and apply for a technical position.

The TEQIP scholarship was granted on merit basis (B.Tech aggregate percentage) for the first semester and was subsequently granted on the basis of the semester performance.

Subsequently during the course of my Masters, I took up projects / internships, taught B.Tech students (under the TEQIP scheme) and undertook online courses at edx.org and Coursera.org.

One of the internships I applied for while pursuing my final year of M.Tech was a paid online internship at Aquasolis Global. I found this opportunity on internshala.com and was selected after two rounds of telephonic interview as a Mechanical Design and Development Intern. The internship involved designing a Linear Fresnel Mirror Solar Concentrator with Solar Tracking system for Aquasolis Global’s desalination plant. I had to make sure that the LFR unit was optimized and feasible to construct using Autodesk Fusion 360 .

These mirrors are capable of concentrating the sun’s energy to power the desalination plant.

After completing my Masters, I learned that job hunting as a fresher was less of a hunt, more of a challenge. Why? Because it was difficult convincing the recruiters of my potential without having any experience to back up my claims. Hence, after 3 months of tirelessly trying to secure a job, I decided to apply for internships instead. This helped me work on my skillset while I kept the job hunt on.

I was exhilarated when I was selected for a Mechanical Engineering internship at the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, Uttarakhand, based on the online courses I had took up before. Under the wonderful guidance of Mr.Nandish Nanjappa, I was able to formulate and research on the interesting problem of dome seeing and local atmospheric disturbances effect on the 3.6m Devasthal Optical Telescope (Asia’s largest telescope) at Devasthal, Uttarakhand. These effects in simple terms are the reason for distorted image production by the telescope which we aim to minimize. We used the NX Unigraphics as the designing software along with utilizing ANSYS for simulation and analysis. After coming back to Delhi, I applied for multiple internships and bagged one at SKP Engineering Solutions Limited as a Mechanical Design Engineer. Here my work involved waste engineering design study and involved a product-oriented research to build  a solar powered trash compactor bin. I used the Pro-E for designing the same. An important takeaway for me was developing hands-on experience of using various software to solve real world problems.

How did you get your first break?

During my internship, I was continuously looking for open positions in mechanical-based companies. I started adding people from these companies using LinkedIn and made a specific questionnaire for each of them. I inquired about their jobs, companies, role requirements, challenges and current work process. I made it a point to learn the required skills and curate my CV accordingly. And one fine day, it finally happened. After applying to more than 100 companies and giving multiple on-site interviews, I got a call from Honeywell UOP. After 3 rounds of interview and a waiting period for a couple of weeks, I finally had an offer letter in hand.

What were the challenges? how did u address them?

It is vital that you keep on cross-checking what skills you possess and what skills the market demands, especially the skills required for your dream role. Learn and excel in these specific skills either through online or offline courses.

We can personally do nothing about the lack of jobs in the market. Thus, it is essential that you know your ‘unique value’ and what are you bringing to the table that other candidates might not. For me, besides technical knowledge, it was prior internship experience, hands-on software experience and strong communication skills.

Unlike foreign universities, we do not have a career counsellors in our schools and colleges which makes it over-whelming when we are asked to choose a career for ourselves without any previous information. I found where Mechanical Engineers could be hired from open positions at various companies online. It is in this case where websites, such as theinterviewportal.com, come to one’s rescue and let them know real stories about interesting roles and different career paths.

What do you do currently?

I work as a Mechanical Design Engineer at Honeywell UOP, Gurgaon.

My work involves designing pressure vessels such as reactors and basic engineering piping review for different petrochemical and refinery technologies.

Besides a degree in Mechanical Engineering, you need to have thorough knowledge of strength of materials, material sciences and engineering mechanics. In case of software skills, you should be well-versed with latest mechanical design and analysis software.

We are responsible for understanding and following the ASME Code and applicable sections for designing the pressure vessels, mainly reactors, for different refinery technologies. We have pre-planned schedules that help us sort the projects in hand. The work is engaging and interesting where I get to learn new things every day.

I love the fact that I am able to apply my engineering degrees directly in my line of work. The role is as per my technical qualifications and helps me advance my learnings further. The mentors and seniors at my job are helpful and supportive which greatly helps.

How does your work benefit the society?

I am currently aligned with the refinery technology that utilizes bottom of the barrel crude oil to give out better dividends. The company has been in the forefront of renewable technology. Usually refineries convert crude oil into gasoline and petrol which in turn are non-renewable sources of energy with large carbon footprints. We are working on using the vegetable oil/animal fat to run these refineries and make the same product.

Tell us an example of a specific work you did that is very close to you!

In terms of interest and experience, my internship at ARIES, Nainital will always be close to my heart. I am an amateur astronomer and take tremendous interest in astronomy, star gazing and astrophotography. This internship was truly amazing since it combined two of my favorite facets together; astronomy and mechanical engineering.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Keep talking to people in diverse field and make LinkedIn your primary search engine. This site is amazing in terms of finding interesting jobs, people and career paths!

Future Plans?

Currently my plan is to continue working at Honeywell UOP and learn the nuances mechanical designing used in different refinery technologies across the globe. For the future, I hope to continue working in the field where I learn something new each day because as they say, ‘If you have a passion for learning, you will never cease to grow’.