Don’t be a wasted Engineer ! An advise for young & graduating engineers in India….

Dear Engineer,

As head of an engineering company , in the last 30 years I have come across thousands of so called engineers who have migrated into other functions. In a few cases, the migration was gradual, but in most cases the migration was the result of mostly a post graduate management degree/ diploma like a MBA completed soon after the basic engineering degree . While going into the job market, claiming to be “Engineers + MBA” or the like, these guys & girls have actually humbled the engineering profession . With a really limited knowledge and exposure to core engineering and after quitting the engineering profession early in their careers , I really do not know whether they have any right to claim that they are engineers. At times I wonder whether the Government & Universities should step in and take action and even revoke their degrees.

Willingly many of these “engineers” have chosen to work in soft professions like banking, finance, IT, HR, consumer product marketing, advertising, sales of non engineering products, management consulting etc. In their CVs they claim “techno commercial experience”, but very honestly I feel they do not even have the basic knowledge of any engineering in place. We also now have Engg MBA Presidents & CEOs who do not have any inkling .of what engineering is, and try and run manufacturing companies under the garb of being management professionals. We now have a growing breed of young managers who claim to be engineers on their CVs but have no fundamental knowledge & experience of engineering of any type. A sad story indeed, reflecting the poor situation of the engineering field in India where we spend thousands of millions of rupees in creating engineers and then watch them migrate into softer arenas. On basis of purely better communication skills ( read English skills ) and some presentation & discussion skills – MBAs in India- in the last 25 years or so have had an edge on purely engineers. They were paid roughly 20 to 30% higher at entry level jobs than Engineering graduates, which made a lot of good Engineers make a shift into management.

The above will sound as if I am casting aspersions on these engineers who have “run away” from a tough profession of engineering ( which it really is ), but the concern should not be that…but it should be why the engineering industry has let this happen- specially in the past 2 to 3 decades. A few fundamental reasons need to be addressed here, and a few strong rules & regulations be imposed. Also, the changing circumstances must be now highlighted to young Engineers , which will make them re-think about the shift into so called management.

Firstly, no one is matured enough to call himself an engineer unless he or she has hard core engineering experience of 5-10 years after his qualification. Without practical knowledge or experience it is impossible to be an engineer, just like how it is for a medical doctor . Government should step in to set up standards / monitoring conditions which make practical experience mandatory to use the engineering degree as a license or as a qualification. A practical endorsement must be made for all real/ working engineers improving their market value with further experience getting more value or points. It is time we specify grades of engineers- e.g. who is a Chartered Engineer/ Professional Engineer( like a PE in USA ) ,or similar .

Secondly, the Indian engineering industry should step in to set up management training in house to train engineers in management- who will work as engineers and continue to work as engineers . The government must give financial & tax incentives for such in house training institutes of the companies. The engineers trained here stay in the core engineering field and over a period of time mature as highly experienced well rounded off managers. This will stop young engineers leaving engineering jobs to take up an MBA and then ending up selling insurance, chocolates , garments, white goods or in banks, pretending to be using some engineering knowledge. Let us make it clear to them that a core engineering job is far more respectable than selling some consumer product, and let the industry pay well for such a job. This again is a leadership requirement from the industry.

Thirdly, industry should step in to educate the young engineers as to how complex engineering can be and how over a period of time, a core engineer matures into being a real manager handling really complex projects/ products/ companies which can never be done by a non technical person. His or her quitting engineering at an early stage can dampen his career prospects later. So, the incentive to remain in engineering is brought by the industry itself.

Fourthly, part time training in management subjects or training while in an engineering job is another area which engineering colleges or engineering companies can bring in to teach subjects of management. One need not quit engineering to learn other subjects. This initiative comes in from the industry and the education institutes both. The bond between engineering colleges and the industry has to improve and practical inputs from industry through well drafted programmes is a must for every engineering college. Engineering Management should become the by word in the industry, and new training standards set in this area to retain engineering talent within the industry.

Fifth, India should publicly appreciate the German , Japanese and Korean style of working for engineers where engineers really start with hard core practical experience and end up as highly experienced techno managers. The industry trains its engineers to be management professionals. This is evident when a German or Italian technician comes to India, his knowledge level far super seeds than that of an Indian engineers with a lot of engineering & MBA degrees from prime institutes !

Lets also start giving titles officially like “Er.” to engineers who are real engineers , the way say Egypt does, and who now dominate the entire middle east market.

If we do not start doing all this, our engineers will keep taking pride selling and marketing silly stuff and yet claiming to be engineers, wasting their own education , money & government resources and also living in a fools paradise of being called managers. In reality an Engineering job is far more challenging, complex and requires far more of grey matter than a typical job an MBA does after his studies. Our Engineers have to know this, and this can be made known to them by experienced professionals. The true merit of management comes with years of experience on specific functional roles. Engineering Management is a great profession to be in , but only after you have honed your engineering skills. You can be a fantastic techno –commercial, business administrator even after just a BE / BTech degree, but provided you have matured in engineering over a couple of decades. Now, who will explain all this to a 22 to 24 year old something that is a just fumbling to find his ropes in the bad business world?

MBA Education itself is a big business now, and marketing savvy MBA colleges will make all marketing efforts to get all Engineers to do their full time or part time MBA or other courses to get business revenue. In fact some MBA colleges even have an official Business Development Department !!! But keep in mind, to get an MBA, you can do MBA even by correspondence !!

A good thing that is finally seen lately is that with the plethora of MBAs that are passing out in India ( the way engineers did for many years ) , the value of the Indian Engineer is also now at par with MBAs and Engineer MBAs. If this continues to happen, Indian engineers may then soon lose their MBA craze and work purely as engineers. However, at this time the industry has to come in to support the engineers stolidly with the ideas discussed earlier in the article before we lose most of our qualified engineers to selling laundry detergents and soft drinks or air conditioners . Do not ever forget- Science , Medicine and Engineering are fundamental subjects needing training, learning & education BUT Management is a man made subject- ,structured, evolved & marketed into a course/ degree , crafted out of just some basic common sense . Does it REALLY add value to your knowledge after your engineering as a 2 year full time course ??

Make your choice wisely, keeping long term career goals in mind. With the kind of high tech development that is slated to happen in India for the next 50 years, we do need good engineers in their correct places who are bound to be paid well than other professions – provided they know their stuff well. Maybe it is time to do an ME or MTech now and pursue a MBA part time much later or even by correspondence. DO NOT DILUTE YOUR TECHNICAL SKILLS, YOU WILL REGRET IT IF DONE.

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Is it time to overhaul the IAS & replace it by an ISS ( Indian Specialised Services ) gradually or partly ?

Is it time to overhaul the IAS & replace it by an ISS ( Indian Specialised Services ) gradually or partly ?

Dear Shri Narendra Modiji,
Prime Minister of India

Respected Prime Minister,

I am writing this letter to you ONLY because I see hope for the country after you have come in as the Prime Minister. I request you to spend 5 minutes of your valuable time.

This article is not questioning the calibre, capabilities or intentions of any IAS officer (who are the top most authorities in running the government), but just highlighting how the subject of administration is to be viewed in the context of drastic changes that are happening around us. There is no question about the calibre of IAS officers who get selected through a gruelling process……but after that what ? What about the experience that they gather over the next 35 years, and whether the current way of their career path is a correct way to build experience and expertise ? I am suggesting just an alternative and a systems overhaul to improve the governance & deliverables.

1. ​The age of generalisation or general administration is over. The age of specialisation ​is in. No company OR organisation -be it a public limited, private limited or a public sector one can ever survive in the cut throat competition around it. No wonder, top executives in many private sector organisations are forced to leave after a stint of two to three years if they have not delivered results. That too after being given the liberty to select, change or terminate the staff or non performers under them.

This is the fact of life, in the result oriented private sector . On the other hand you have the government and public sector top positions, which have an immunity against service termination- even in case of non performance . Unfortunately, the performance of the IAS officers who head large government departments and even government commercial organisations, is never questioned even if there is an insurmountable mess created in that organisation.

2. The role of “the generalist” is over. The time has come for expertise and experts. It is 2015, not 1947. Top level decisions make or break an organisation. Several millions of rupees are lost due to incorrect decisions at the top level. In the private sector, the CEO’s would be shown the door if the organisation had floundered due to erring or lethargic staff below them or even if they themselves were inefficient / corrupt / not able to produce results . The blame in the private sector is always on the CEO of the organisation for not putting things in place. Unfortunately that is not the case with the Government CEOs. The maximum punishment is only a transfer.

3. Today’s government setups require specialised skills to deliver and be profitable. The MCGM ( Brihanmumbai Municipal Corpn ) for an example would possibly be run in a developed country by a CEO who knows design, planning, land economics, costing, PMC, developmental planning and town planning, real estate economics, construction management, SAP, GIS, e-tendering, outsourcing, and many other latest management and engineering tools & techniques. This CEO knows finance, engineering, personnel, computerisation and many other things. Such a CEO if not found inside the organisation, can be always be sourced from outside . This CEO has to keep his Chief Engineers & Chief Accountants and also Vigilance officials on their toes, and identify their mistakes, eliminate corruption, and improve the functioning of the organisation . In short you need a dynamic guy who is an expert in the field in which he is supposed to operate. If the CEO is a generalist and not a specialist in that field, it is likely that he will not be able to take any bold and difficult decisions correctly and be really able to control specialists under him-specially in this fast changing and technologically dynamic times.

4. Gone are the days when, with some basic knowledge of administration and people management, one could be a boss of people/ experts from a range of disciplines.The current CEO has to be an expert who knows an organisation/ its field of work inside out.

5. Today’s Govt. CEO’s have to be experts in several areas of work. They could be pure engineers, or MBAs or just ordinary graduates with a sharp knowledge of directing an organisation which they have mastered over the years in the same organisation. It is time we hired CEOs for the government who have excelled in their work, to deliver results. These CEOs could be from anywhere but will come with specific industry knowledge.The CEO’s will be monitored for the performance of their organisation, and sacked if required. They may as well hail from the private sector or industry, and will not be muddled by the IAS tag or the accompanying bureaucracy. And yes, they will be paid market salaries.

6. The generalist IAS officer’s days are numbered. They were selected & trained in another era. This era is different. You really cannot be a State Excise commissioner one day, and a Municipal commissioner the next day, and a MIDC CEO or an Information and Publicity head of a state after 3 years. Each such responsibility nowadays requires in depth knowledge and years of work experience to perform as CEO or commissioners. You would need officers who have excelled in the subject -whether from within or outside or outsourced from the private sector. What is more dangerous is a person who comes from say, being a sales tax commissioner or a state excise and prohibition head, to be transferred suddenly as commissioner of a municipal corporation…..really speaking WHAT SKILLS & EXPERIENCE at the top level does he bring in after his transfer to the next posting in a field alien to him or her? Answer : Skills to keep himself busy for 3 years till the next transfer possibly as a Cultural Secretary of a state.

We want people at top who know the business or work that they are in to perform and deliver results, and not people to just be ornamental heads for a short term, and then moving on as a decorative crown from one another ailing government department to another.

7. The time has come to train specialist officers from each govt. department / organisation to take charge of the highest position. These guys have to be the best of the lot in any organisation and real performers. They need to be drafted into the Indian Specialised Services ( ISS ) at mid career – around 40 years of age, trained throughly in different functions and sent back to the organisations they came from. They need to be confined to their parent organisation or related disciplines and their skills honed to take on the topmost positions. With the indepth knowledge in their field, they will really contribute well at the highest level. Yes, a ISS officer from the from Mumbai Port Trust could be transferred to JNPT or Chennai Port Trust, but not as a Sales Tax Commissioner.

Respected Modiji, I hope you will read my mail in full and implement some changes.

Thanks and best regards
Dinesh Bandiwadekar
BE(Hons) Civil) (VJTI) PGDCM (NICMAR) MBA( IIFT)
( 20 years of working experience in India and 10 years overseas )

Mobile: + 91 -9619545460
Skype: dineshb777

Mumbai, India

First blog post

The potential of the USA market for the Engg KPO business.

This piece is written for all my friends connected with  India’s engineering business, after getting a good insight into the worlds most advanced country in engineering, possibly after or with Japan, and with feedback & inputs from some  Indians settled in USA and working in  responsible positions.

I am writing this from O Hare airport Chicago,  on way back from a crazy tour of 6 states of the USA where I drove several hundreds of miles meeting clients for business in the states of  FL, GA, OH, PA, IL, IN,WI – all  in 20 days .

I had a great insight into 6 major American cities – Orlando, Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago,  Milwakee & Madison, and also the country side, the people and their ideologies and of course the Detailing Business. Since most of the Fabrication companies were away from the cities and in most cases in remote locations, I had to drive around into the hinterland, and sometimes through an exotic countryside. The drive I had from Milwaukee & Madison into the Wisconsin countryside was one of the most fantastic experiences in my life. Two of the largest American fabricators who deliver  steel for  Chicago Skyscapers are located in interior Wisconsin.

For sure, USA is the most technologically advanced and most work wise professional country .  If you are good, you are in , otherwise you go home. There is technology & efficiency  evident in all aspects of life, literally you can see it everywhere, right from the way they hand over the rental car to you at the airport and the way  take it back from you.  The highways tell the story of American engineering. If you are willing to take the challenge, the Americans can give you any amount of business- irrespective of your location, passport cover, skin color and anything else.  If you are really good, you can become the CEO or President of the most respected companies in the USA- again – irrespective of your location, nationality, skin color and anything else . Not like the camel brained middle east (where I worked for 9 years) -still stuck to the love of white skin from Europe. Pity the chaps- employers & employees  working in the Gulf, wish they had exposure to the USA and its professionalism. In the USA, the presence of African American, Asians, Latinos, and Caucasians has resulted in a melting pot which respects professionalism to the core, and hence any Asian/ Indian coming in has as much respect as others, and gets his due if he is good.

The American dream is fantastic, but for last 20 years was made in China. But, it also seems like the American Engineering ( 50% of  backend/ non design activity of any development) could be made in India in the next 20 years. The work quantum is huge. American companies like Bechtel/ Technip and many other engineering corporations and others get business from all over the world, and outsource a large part. Indian companies are the potential beneficiaries here….provided they deliver quality.   There is a fantastic opportunity waiting for Indian engineering companies to possibly design as well & but most certainly to do the down the line engineering for a lot of engineering verticals- either directly or through their Indian offices. However Indian companies have not explored this option properly. We have the talent & resources  to enter this market, but we do not have the quality perspective, patience and  a long term thinking to play a really profitable long term game.

Like software, the Engineering KPO is the next story around the corner for India.  The Industry has to wake up.  No ”Chalta hai” attitude anymore. It seems a lot of work outsourced in software development to India is now  going back in the USA- all because of shoddy product and shoddy deliveries from Indian offices in Pune , Bangalore and other places.  It is time for attitude development, creation of engineering ethics, and  skill development at all levels.  Honestly, we do not need hi-fi IIT engineers and hyped IIM MBAs to tackle this. We need skill development at all levels to reach the quality levels & need the perfect attitude. We need a lot of good institutes similar to those like the  American community colleges- e.g. ITI’s ( not IITs ) and similar, to excel in the working world….because engineering is a process down to the last nut & bolt from concept level, requiring talented people from top to bottom levels .

It is not just the cost factor that will shift the engineering  backend to India for the next 25 years or more- it is our skills and a decent education system that we have developed over the last 60 years. Honestly- India is doing well because of some good education we received …..even Mexicans, South Americans, Chinese, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis and our esteemed neighbors with a unique colored passport are cheaper than us- …..but why does only India dominate the global market in software & engineering  ? It is because of our education- though not perfect, it is great.  Now we need the attitude to make a killing, no more fancy qualifications or hi-fi IITs  are needed now………(something very interesting here…… My friend from engineering school now settled in Chicago told me- the director of IIT ( Illinois Institute of Technology ) said in his welcome address to  freshers in 1987 where  a lot of Indian had enrolled- “welcome to the 7th IIT guys “!!…….but today they have changed the name of the institute to Illinois Tech……..just too many IITs around – Raipur, Guwahati, and what not !  We are producing Quantity  and not Quality. Nevertheless, Indian have excelled in education and that’s helped us a lot, lets keep it up.  But important is to change the attitude of delivering work.

Another thing I noticed was the hands on, highly pragmatic and highly technically skilled CEOS & Presidents running American companies. The CEO/President is technically very very sound.  He is not like the Indian CEO—what ? “ A technical question ?”- “my engineering department will get back to you !!”….no B.S. in USA- the guys know their jobs- they aren’t there just because of some fancy MBA or IAS qualifications acquired 20 years ago  by just writing an exam and getting through it once.   They are there for their day to day performance. Surprisingly, a lot of Indian Engineer MBA selling soap also claim to be Engineers when it comes to discussing their skills !! India must adopt the American system of accredition for  engineers such as the P.E. to succeed ! ( which is similar to the C.A. institute in India ).

With call centres slowly moving out of India to China, Philippines , South America and even to Africa, the value added proposition of an Engineering KPO is for India is evident and may become a necessity.  I met a patent holder & top honcho of Parsons in Chicago , who outsources design to a talented engineer in Mumbai. He says he is very happy with his work.  We can look forward to more such propositions, provided we respect of engineering and technical skills and enhance ethics and skills development in this area.

The Americans are most courteous when it comes to business. I made several cold calls to offices in USA, and was always worried how I will be treated. They welcomed me with wide open arms without an appointment- but warned me of prior issues that they had with Indian companies. Still,  they were friendly- if you deliver what we want and the way we want, we are game !  And mind you there is a great margin in exploiting any technical skills.

Written in the interest of Indian engineering.

Thanks & Best Regards,
Dinesh Bandiwadekar
Vice President ( Business Development )
InSteel Engineers Pvt. Ltd.
804, The Ambience Court, Opp. RTO Office,
Sector-19D, Vashi, Navi-Mumbai-400 703, India
Email:   dineshb@insteelengg.com
Skype:   dineshb777
Tel:      +91 22 4111 2003 (direct)
Mob:    +91 8879920765  Mobile USA : 321-337-5878
Web:    www.insteelengg.com