We live in a world which is well connected not only by the internet but also through transportation that is superfast, reliable and safe, thanks to breakthrough innovations in metallurgical engineering and its applications in our daily life !

Bidyut Dutta, our next pathbreaker, Airframe Materials Engineer at Airbus, works as part of a team tasked with making sure that the materials, processes and tests involved in the manufacture of the mechanical structure or the skeleton of an Aircraft meet the standards set by the manufacturer and the regulatory bodies.

Bidyut talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about his masters project on advanced composites/alloys that sealed his interests and career in the Aerospace industry !

For students, the world that we see at the moment is definitely not going to be the same after 15-20 years, and a lot of those changes are going to be driven by disruptive advancements in metallurgy !

Bidyut, tell us about Your background?

I grew up in a town called Durgapur in West Bengal which is very famous for its steel plants, also known as Durgapur Steel City. My father worked as an Assistant Chemist in the Alloy Steel Plant which is a special alloy producing unit of Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), a Public Sector Undertaking under the Ministry of Steel, Govt. of India. This obviously shaped my interests towards the field of metallurgy which deals with the process of extracting metals from their ores and converting them into semi-finished/finished products. With the goal of studying engineering, I took up science during my class 10th and 12th board examinations. During my childhood, I loved playing cricket and travelling to different places in India during my school vacations. Travelling is something which I still love; meeting new people and getting to know about so many new cultures. Isn’t it interesting?

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I wrote the All India Engineering Entrance Examinations (AIEEE) which is now known as the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE – Main) and managed to get a good rank in AIEEE through which I could secure an admission in the Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) – Metallurgical and Materials Engineering course at National Institute of Technology (NIT), Durgapur. During my B.Tech, I did a research internship at IIT Bombay under the guidance of Prof. V.S Raja in the field of Corrosion Science and Engineering during my 3rd year of study. The 2 months of internship experience at IIT Bombay gave me an exposure to a whole new world of research being carried out in the field of Materials Science and Engineering. It inspired me to pursue my post-graduation in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science with a specialization in Corrosion Science and Engineering at IIT Bombay. 

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?

My father’s job in the steel industry gave me an opportunity to visit the plant once every year during the Vishwakarma puja, an opportunity given to the family members of the employees. These experiences exposed me to the fascinating world of metallurgy!

My brother, Mr. Debdut Dutta has been my source of motivation and encouragement at each and every stage of my life. My M.Tech Project guide at IIT Bombay, Prof. VS Raja is someone whom I look up to for guidance and inspiration whenever needed. My Internship opportunity at IIT Bombay under the guidance of Prof. V.S. Raja was a key event which has shaped my life so far. He is the reason I took the decision of going for a Master’s degree right after my internship experience at IIT Bombay. Mr. Sandipan Das, who was my college senior during my Bachelors and Masters studies played a key role in helping me make up my mind whenever I faced a confusion regarding my career choices. He is someone who leads by example, and his perseverance and dedication has taken him to the position of a Scientist at the prestigious Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

One key turning point in my life was getting selected in Airbus during the first day of campus interviews while also getting waitlisted for Tata Steel. Had I been selected for Tata Steel I would have definitely chosen it over Airbus given the proximity to my hometown. I would not have even considered the opportunity of getting to work in such an exciting field as the Aerospace industry!

Tell us about your career path that led you to where you are today?

I wanted to enhance my knowledge to the required level to be able to work in the Aerospace industry. My Bachelor’s degree provided the same. The internship at IIT Bombay encouraged me to pursue a Masters degree and a job involving research and development in the future. 

The next part was to further my knowledge to a level where I could contribute to the research and development field within the Aerospace industry. My Masters degree at IIT Bombay helped me in this and also ensured I was able to get the right opportunity in terms of the companies visiting the campus for placements.

Overall, my Bachelors and Masters degree in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering helped in setting up a solid technical background for my job in the Materials, Processes and Tests team at Airbus.

I also received the Ministry of Steel Scholarship during my 2nd, 3rd and 4th year of undergraduate study at NIT Durgapur which encourages students to pursue a career in the core metallurgical and materials engineering field in the future. Along with that I had also received the OP Jindal Engineering and Management Scholarship during the 4th year of study which encourages students to become future leaders in the field of engineering and management. Both of these scholarships encouraged me a lot in continuing my career in the core engineering sector. The TR Anantharaman Education and Research Foundation (TRAERF) Fellowship gave me the opportunity to undergo an internship at IIT Bombay during my B.Tech 3rd year of studies. This ultimately helped me in making up my mind to pursue a M.Tech degree from IIT Bombay and finally paved the way for the job opportunity in the Aerospace industry at Airbus.

How did you get your first break? 

I got my first career break through the campus placements at IIT Bombay when Airbus visited the campus during the first Day of interviews. There were 3 rounds of interviews: First, a written round where a mix of technical and aptitude questions were asked to all the students who had applied for the job. The second round was a technical interview round where the interviewers asked various questions to test my knowledge about the industry and the job profile, my understanding of the subject and passion towards working for the company. The final round was a Human Resource (HR) round where the interviews tried to get a behavioral understanding of my ethics and attitude towards work and the company through various questions.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Challenge 1: Given my extraordinarily high grades during my Bachelors and Masters, one challenge which I used to face during every interview was to convince the interview panel that I would like to pursue a job rather than go for a PhD. The research projects which I was working on during my Masters were focused towards solving an industrial problem which helped me to justify my career choice. I have always enjoyed solving real life problems! The project involved designing a Nickel based alloy though a proper heat treatment cycle which imparts the capability to resist premature failure of the parts manufactured using the alloy, due to ingress of hydrogen from the surrounding environment, a phenomenon popularly known as Hydrogen Embrittlement. This mostly happens in the aerospace and oil and gas industry where the alloy is used extensively due to its high temperature strength and ductility. If you are curious to know more about the research please do visit this link to access the journal paper published on the same topic.

Challenge 2: I was pursuing a degree with a specialization in Corrosion Science and Engineering which, in spite of having a diverse range of applications in the Aerospace industry, is still limited given the wide range of topics covered under the industry’s scope. The freedom which the IITs offer in terms of choosing any subject of your choice as electives helped me a lot. I had taken up the Advanced Composites elective during my 2nd year of study at IIT Bombay and coincidentally the job opening which Airbus had was in the domain of Composite Technology. The knowledge of the subject helped me a lot in answering the technical questions at the time of interview.

Where do you work now? Tell us about your role at Airbus

I work at Airbus which is a global pioneer in the field of Aerospace and Aviation. The mechanical structure or the skeleton of an Aircraft is known as the Airframe and this is the department that I work for at the Airbus India Engineering Center in Bangalore. The Materials, Processes and Tests team within the Airframe department is tasked with the very important responsibility of making sure that all the materials, processes and tests involved in the manufacture of an aircraft are qualified according to the standards set by Airbus and the regulatory bodies. It also ensures that the materials are compliant with the environmental regulations. The team also actively works towards development of new and efficient materials to meet the ever-changing needs of the industry of the future.

What skills are required for your role? How did you acquire the skills?

The job requires an understanding of the basic material properties and their applications in the Aerospace industry. Majority of these skills were acquired during my Bachelors and Masters study. The initial phase of 6 months in the company gave me a perspective of how things practically work in the Aerospace industry since some of the knowledge required for the job is very specific to the industry and the company itself.

What is a typical day like?

The company has a flexible timing policy which gives employees ample opportunity to plan their day according to their pending household chores, thus ensuring a proper work life balance. I typically go to the office, use the office cafeteria for having breakfast/lunch or bring my own. We can work as per our convenience using either one of the meeting rooms or seated in a cubicle with the rest of the team, have some fun and relaxing times with colleagues over a cup of coffee/tea whenever needed. Once the work is completed as per the day’s plan, we can leave the office at leisure, which pretty much sums up the day. The most interesting part is, nobody is encouraged to address other employees, however senior, as “sir”! This ensures that every single employee is treated equally and allowed to voice out their opinions irrespective of their position in the organizational hierarchy.

What is it you love about this job? 

What I love about my job is the wide range of challenging opportunities available for each and every member of the Airbus family which they can pursue. The only requirement is a passion and knack to take up new challenges. You can come up with your own ideas and be rest assured that you will find a lending ear eager to support you in your journey towards implementation of the idea.

How does your work benefit society? 

Aviation connects people around the world. Try to imagine a world without aircrafts and helicopters? Wouldn’t our opportunities to visit and explore and conduct business across different countries and continents become limited? Imagine a situation where one of your near and dear ones is not keeping well. How easily one can now reach any other part of the country in a matter of 3-4 hours? Even medical facilities can be made available to a person living in the remotest part of the country within a matter of hours. Difficult to imagine right? 

My job at Airbus helps me to contribute to making this world a more connected one and a better place to live in!

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

There was a drone designing and flying competition in my company where all the participating teams had to design a drone from scratch and then fly it steadily for a minimum duration of 1 minute. Though our team lost the challenge I still remember the experience where all the team members used to stay back after work for hours together trying to understand the philosophy behind drone design and flight. The satisfaction of building something on your own and then seeing it come to life during flight is incomparable to anything I have experienced so far!

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Have a dream career and work towards it. But don’t be too adamant about it. It might happen that you end up having a different career altogether! That’s absolutely fine. It takes time to figure out the right career option. It’s a journey, and the destination might be completely different than the one which you had in mind when you started. During the journey don’t miss out on any opportunity to explore new things. The more you explore, the more you will come to know what you enjoy and what you do not, and I am sure that along the journey you will definitely stumble upon the career which best fits your passion and skill sets!

Future Plans?

I plan to continue working in the Aerospace industry and innovating for the future through different research and development projects. I think there is a lot which the Aerospace industry can offer in terms of the technological advancement of the society. The world which we see at the moment is definitely not going to be the same after 15-20 years. Who knows flying cars and space travel might become as common as riding an autorickshaw these days. The day is not far!