India is considered the land of “Engineers”. Though many study engineering, very few become engineers and of those who become engineers, even fewer contribute to India’s indigenous industry and the larger “make in India” initiative.
Rohith Pradeep Kongot, our next pathbreaker, currently works on the design, development and thermal analysis of Microwave circuitry/modules for Indian Defense and R&D Organizations, in the area of electro-mechanical design.
Rohith talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about opting for Mechanical Engineering because of its hands-on nature and being the most fundamental of all engineering disciplines.
For students, if products from our Automotive, Defence and Space Sectors are to meet global standards, we need world class engineers building world class products for India. Be one of them …
Rohith, tell us about your background?
I am a mechanical engineer working for Alpha Sesign Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (ADTL), Hyderabad since 2014. ADTL is a Defense/Aerospace company working for both Indian and foreign markets. I grew up in a family of engineers, and being the son of an ‘engineer dad’, I had an engineering exposure right from my childhood. So engineering was a career I knew about right from my childhood, and as I grew up, my inclination also began towards it, so I decided to pursue a career in it.
What did you study?
I completed my Mechanical Engineering from Sri Indu College of Engineering and Technology, affiliated to JNTU-Hyderabad in the year 2014.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?
My father was a key influencer in my life, which made me take up this career. Since my childhood he kindled a passion in me to know about things in detail rather than study for marks. He also encouraged me to follow my passion, rather than following what everyone was doing. In my high school, science, especially physics and chemistry were my favorite subjects. So during my intermediate, I decided to take up MPC and further pursue engineering. I took up mechanical engineering because I felt it is the most fundamental of all the engineering disciplines.
The first step to becoming an engineer was getting into an engineering college. So for that I had to clear entrance exams (like JEE, EAMCET etc.) and secure a good rank. For this I started preparing for EAMCET (which is an entrance exam for engineering medicine and agriculture in the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh) right from my intermediate (which is equivalent to 10+1 and 10+2 in Telangana) After two years of rigorous preparation, I secured decent marks in EAMCET and out of the colleges I applied for, I got selected in and joined Sri Indu college of engineering and technology in mechanical engineering department through merit.
During my college, apart from my course curriculum, I wanted to gain as much practical exposure as possible. I went for an internship at Ramtech Engineering Works, Hyderabad. This is the first time I was exposed to a CAD/CAM package (NX) and a 5 axis milling machine and a turn mill on their shop floor. I also attended technical workshops on various topics. Then after my third year, for my mini project, I joined BHEL, Hyderabad where I had a good exposure of their shop floors. I was also part of several industrial visits. All these experiences helped me gain good practical exposure to the industry. After engineering, I joined DesignTech for a paid certification training on NX. My strategy was that, being associated with DesignTech, I can get access to their internal job openings and also get trained by the people in the industry. Meanwhile I also applied for the post of JRF at DRDO and also appeared for the interview (for which I even got selected later).
Tell us about your first break and your career path
The real breakthrough I got was when I was called for an interview to Alpha Design Technologies pvt ltd, Bangalore. This is where I got my first full time job, and joined the company as the youngest engineer (as far as I knew) at the age of 21!!! This was a dream job in one way because I got myself into a domain which I loved and got hands on engineering experience which made me what I am today.
I joined the production department and worked for 2 years on TISK and optical sight projects. In that role, my team got drawings from the design department, which we would consolidate and classify as parts in a BOM (i.e. list of all the parts required to make a product) and then fabricate the part based on the drawings. When the parts are ready, we make an assembly of it and supply it to the customer. All this was done based on process and production plans for manufacturing and assembly so that no production line is idle and the product is delivered within deadline.
Later I was transferred to the Hyderabad division of ADTL to fill in some internal requirements. I got into the microwave department in the CAD team. This transfer was almost like a job change for me because my work profile changed completely, for the better, because I was guided by a good team and also the work was more challenging.
What were the challenges you faced in your career?
Initial challenges faced by me were during my intermediate. Being a student of AP state syllabus till class 10, I wasn’t exposed to the format of competitive exams like JEE or EAMCET. Another challenge was that I stayed at the college hostel for my intermediate. Since I had never been out of my house, being with so many new people was so new for me. So my first year of intermediate was a social and academic struggle. I overcame my academic problems with patience, dedication and hard work which helped me secure a decent rank for my entrance exam, and also built strong basics for my engineering curriculum.
My first professional challenge at ADTL- Bangalore was working under an abusive boss. Even here my patience helped me get the best out of the situation and learn a lot about my work, as well as about management and interpersonal relations.
Where do you work now? Tell us what you do?
I am working in the same company, ADTL, which I joined after my graduation. My current work provides me with novel challenges every now and then. What I do is, I get electronic schematics and block diagram of a device from the electronic design team, which I design and convert into a mechanical module. During this process, we face several problems in designing the module as per the size specified by the customer. My job requires a great degree of problem solving skills, which is used to design complex microwave circuitry within a small area. A great degree of attention to details is required in my work since even a small mistake will render the final product of lesser quality or in worst cases, useless for the requirement. A typical day in the office is spent in conceptualizing a new product, designing one or making drawings for part manufacturing (Using CAD package called AutoCAD and SolidWorks). Sometimes I also run thermal simulations (Using a CFD software called FloTHERM XT), to make sure my product (which is electronic) doesn’t have the ‘heating problem’ which we are so familiar with. What I love most about my job is that it helps me apply what I have learned in my engineering and lets me solve problems on a daily basis.
Can you tell us more about mechanical engineering field, different industries and opportunities in the market in more detail?
Firstly I’ll define what engineering in my own words. Engineering is the usage of scientific principles, methods and techniques to make a product of commercial value. In other words, engineering is making a commercial product using the best available techniques.
Basically mechanical engineering is the oldest and the most fundamental of the engineering disciplines because, anything physical you see is as a result of a mechanical engineer’s work. Examples are, any day to day steel or plastic object, door of a car, CPU cabinet, guns, fans, pumps, engines of airplane or a bike, submarines/sub-sea equipment, missiles etc.
Major industries where mechanical engineers are involved in, and are actively involved are:
- Automotive: This industry deals with automobiles like bikes, scooters, trucks, cars.
- Aerospace: This industry deals with aeroplanes, jets, missiles drones etc.
- Electronics: This is the industry I currently work for. All mechanical items like CPU cabinets, plastic casing for mobiles, or modems/ router etc. are designed by mechanical engineers working along with electronic engineers.
- Defense: Very diverse industry, which deals with products from arms and ammunitions to tanks and electro-optic devices to name a few.
- Oil and gas: This industry deals with, oil and gas drilling or sub-sea drilling equipment used to extract crude oil or natural gas.
- Medical: They say doctors diagnose and cure illnesses, but any device or equipment which empowers the doctors to make a diagnosis like MRI machines, implants, laser based machines are made by engineers only.
- Energy: Deals with making energy generating equipment and systems like solar, fuel cells etc.
- Construction/heavy equipment: In modern construction which requires steel rods to be used in concrete, to cranes and drills are made by mechanical engineers.
- Home appliances: Fridges, washing machines, mixers etc. are few products in this category.
Can you go back to your college and talk about various subjects you have studied in your mechanical engineering curriculum and also the job profiles in the industry which are based on those subjects?
If you are studying mechanical engineering, you’ll be in for a crazy ride for four years and that will change you and your perspective of the world completely at the end of it. You will be able to understand how many of the day to day life things are made and how many of the day to day machines function based on mechanical engineering. Engineering curriculum in any branch will contain both theory and labs. The below subjects will also be supported by labs to increase the practical knowledge of the students. The main subjects we study in mechanical engineering are:
- Mechanics, which is the study of how an object or body behaves under the application of forces.
- Strength of materials, which is the study of what happens to the object or body in consideration due to the application of forces.
- Machine design, which is the study of designing different types of mechanical components like gears, cams, joints etc. based on the above two subjects,
- Kinematics and dynamics of machines, which deals with relative motion of different types of machine elements like cams, gears etc. while they function inside a machine with or without considering force.
- Manufacturing/production technology is the study of how different types of mechanical parts like plastics, sheet metals, castings etc. are manufactured and also what machines are required for manufacturing.
- Engineering drawing. Yes, the art you loved to do during your childhood is back!! But unlike creative drawings, engineering drawings is based on certain rules and guidelines which is agreed by the engineering community so that the design is understood without any miscommunication, throughout the world. Now a days drawings are generated in computer using CAD (Computer Aided Designing) softwares.
- Metrology and instrumentation deals with measurement standards, techniques and instruments.
- Metallurgy and material science is about the study of materials, their structure, composition, and process to alter their properties.
- Fluid mechanics involves the study of fluids, flows and the design of hydraulic machines like pumps and turbines.
- Thermal engineering, which include thermodynamics and heat and mass transfer talks about how to deal with heat in any system you are working with, and also deals with machines like IC engines, compressors, gas turbines etc.
- Refrigeration and air conditioning. The name itself suggests what it’s all about!
We even learn subjects like math (probability, calculus, numerical methods etc.) basic physics, chemistry and programming, basic electrical engineering, management principles, environmental sciences etc.
These subjects translate in the industry as below. In other words, a mechanical engineer might hold these titles when he joins the industry:
- Design engineer: Uses CAD to design parts and make manufacturing drawings. Skills specified in point no. 3,5,6 in the above ‘subjects’ section (eg. Drawing, machine design skills etc.) are put to use by a design engineer. AutoCAD, SolidWorks and NX which I have mentioned before, and also solidedge, creo etc. belongs to this category of softwares.
- Analysis engineer or analyst: Uses CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) or CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) software to make engineering calculations like thermal, structural, flow etc. based on the industry and role. Knowledge of any of the 1,2,4,9 and10 points in the ‘subjects’ section (eg. Mechanics, thermal etc.) is required to be an analyst. FloTHERM XT which I mentioned earlier belongs to this category of softwares, and is used specifically for electronic product cooling. Other renowned packages in this category are ANSYS and Hyperworks.
- Production engineer: He/she gets the drawings from the design team, subsequently, he/she produces the part as per the drawing, planning for the required quantity. CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) softwares like masterCAM are used by a production engineer to get his work done by the machine. Subject no. 5 i.e production/manufacturing technology and also management techniques are put to use by the production engineer to do his work.
- Quality engineer: Quality engineer uses measuring instruments to check whether the produced part is as per specifications. He/she may also make plans and procedures so that future lots of parts is not be defective. Calibration of measuring instruments to ensure its accuracy is also his/her responsibility. He uses the skills from subject no. 7 i.e. metrology and instrumentation to do his job.
- Maintenance engineer: They are responsible for the uninterrupted running of machines, plants or equipment, making sure all maintenance activity is done on time.
Others job roles are installation, value engineering, costing, refrigeration and air conditioning etc.
How does your work benefit society?
My clients are Indian Defense PSUs like DRDO, BEL etc. and also few Russian and Israeli companies. So my work is a part of the government’s ‘defense make in India’ initiative which stresses on reducing imports from foreign countries and enhancing indigenous capabilities. A system purchased from, say Israel, and installed on the field in Rajasthan, will incur a large cost if it requires maintenance or replacement of any sub-system or even a single part. This process will take much less time if produced in India by companies like ADTL. So my work is contributing to the nation in this way.
Tell us about your most memorable work
My most memorable work was the design and development of a super component module for DLRL. I spent 6 months conceptualizing and designing this module based on the stringent specifications of the customer. And this event was my first major project which I have handled single handedly. This gave a major boost to my confidence.
Advice to students?
My advice might be a little conservative here, but that’s my experience.
Traditionally anyone may say, follow your passion. But practically, I would say, also research the market for the skills in top demand and then make a decision. Choose your career based on your passion, the market demand for your domain of interest and your financial condition. Financial condition because when you have graduated, and if you have personal responsibility like taking care of parents, loans etc. then you should choose a path which is in good demand and offers a decent starting pay, and where fresh graduates have a better absorption rate so that you can make a relatively comfortable start to your career. The IT industry is an example of this. No matter how much anyone tells you to follow your passion, the skill you are passionate about should have a good market value; otherwise what use will that skill be to anyone? And passion towards your career is also important. At least make sure you don’t dislike the work you do because 8 hours a day, 5 days a week will be spent as your work hours, and this is a major portion of your day. So during that major portion of your day, you should be doing something you think is worthwhile. And only passion for your career will make you last in your domain. Otherwise you may lose interest and want to switch careers.
If you want to choose mechanical engineering as your career, then, the future might be brighter than now. Because other than automotive, domestic defense and space companies are coming up, and the government is supporting them well. So this will throw up several more opportunities in the future. And these are the decades which our country is expected to grow the fastest, along with a strong government so the best time is yet to come!!
Career is a marathon, not a sprint:
Secondly, I would like to tell students that the when you talk about a career, means you are into the long term. Patience and dedication might be required for the long run. We are already conditioned from school to college with the mentality that ‘study for this one year and then you can enjoy life’ or ‘once get into a college you can enjoy’ etc etc. But in reality, career is a journey. You will have to keep working on it, and upgrading yourself till your retirement, if you want to be relevant in the industry or at least satisfied with your own work/contribution.
You may fail:
Since school we are brought up in a safe environment, of memorizing stuff and writing it in exams and scoring good marks, which we think are achievements. But the reality hits us hard when we join the industry. We have to manage a lot of things like skills, network, communication skills etc. to really have some achievement here. So in that process you might fail. But don’t let it get you down. Stand back up and keep marching forward!!
Finally, I want to give a ‘disclaimer’ to the students, to just take the content of this interview, where I shared my career journey, only as a guideline for their own career building. Some insights which I shared regarding the industry are not a comprehensive or complete one. Therefore, please do not take any such point as a basis for any decision in your career, because for such an action I would recommend you do further research. Because, what I presented here is only my perspective and my story, and there is a chance you may misinterpret what I meant to tell, or in some case, my perspective might not be close to reality. And secondly, times are changing fast and some points I presented here might be rendered obsolete by the time it becomes relevant for you. In short make sure there are no speculations before you make your career decision.
I’m open for mentoring! :
And also feel free to come in touch with me on LinkedIn or mobile, if you want any further clarification or guidance. I will help you by whatever means I can.
Mobile/whataspp: +91 9611984939