To the most of us, engineering has reached a point where it has almost become a joke. Too many institutions and too less money with poor after graduation placements (if any!). Now, some can claim that that’s not the truth for many institutions like IIT and some NITs, but again, what’s the percentage of total engineering candidates studying there? Less than 2 Percent and that’s the reason it wouldn’t really make sense to use it as a sample to discuss the situation of engineering these days.
Back in 2012 when IIT-JEE and AIEEE were still different exams and there was no stress at all for the boards, engineering still sounded a bit fun, especially with everybody talking about the boom of civil engineering in those days. Bridges were constructed, foreign companies were being hired to build the signature bridge in New Delhi and a bunch of other important projects. I used to live in a small city in Haryana called Kurukshetra so, I was still pretty unaware of the complete situation of civil engineering, just used to hear what other people say and they used to repeat or even exaggerate things which they would again hear from somewhere else. Exam results came, I didn’t clear JEE, but I could get a rank of 43434 in AIEEE (I love this rank and that’s why I mention it everywhere! Out of all 14,00,000 different rank combinations that I could have gotten, fate gave me this one!).
I really wanted to do Mechanical Engineering but the rank wasn’t good enough for a decent university. For me being in a better university was higher of a priority than the course, which when I think now, wasn’t a smart decision, but again I didn’t know much at that time. In every stage of my B.Tech. seat counselling, I would book a place in a university at one stage and then free it up when I get a place in the next one. This is how I hopped from one university to another being a student of each university for a few days (and yes, this is the chronological order):
- Mechanical Engineering in GJU, Hisar
- Computer Science in UIET, Kurukshetra
- Chemical Engineering in DCRUST Murthal
- Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering in YMCA, Faridabad
- Civil Engineering in DCRUST Murthal
When I look back at that phase of my life, I just wonder that I could have ended up in any of these universities. I could have become a mechanical, computer science, chemical, electronics or civil engineer (which I, unfortunately, ended up doing). Now, don’t get me wrong. I ABSOLUTELY ENJOYED my four years of engineering with my friends and the Dhabas at Murthal, but that’s not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to share with you my experience of studying both Engineering and right now Management in Technical University of Hamburg
Clicked by: Brinkschmidt/Schlaich Bergermann Partner
Chetan Bhagat’s novel 5 Point Someone did a very interesting job of making engineering fields sound a bit cool and giving a face to this otherwise not talked about degree at all (Germans went nuts and people even bought the Hindi version on German Amazon). The first semester was nice. You try to meet a lot of people, try to act all adult and try to behave in a civilised way. Till the 3rd Semester, all of that is 100% disappeared and you would see people go around in the hostel like they didn’t see another human for a couple of centuries. People fighting to get a place in the toilet or even just water to take a shower. I was a bit different used to rather just do all of my stuff early in the morning and go to the lecture 15 minutes before. That is a habit that had always been with me because being late for something has always been my worst nightmare because I respect the other person’s time whom I am meeting and I don’t want him to think that I don’t that
As many times I used to be the only one sitting in the lecture room so early (well, that didn’t last long. I didn’t go to many classes after my 4th semester because I found a couple of friends who were the best influence that anybody could have ever imagined. No, for real), I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of lecturers without any distraction and it was fun.
The studies in engineering in India were a bit rushed and something you couldn’t really think of applying in real life. For me the divide between the knowledge and the practical applications was a bit uncomfortable. I am always motivated to do the things that I can imagine but when you are calculating Shear Forces and Bending Moments on the scale of thousands of Kilonewtons, you can’t really visualize it. So, other than a few field trips which the professors took us to and staying 14 days in a completely isolated Survey camp, the engineering degree was pretty forgettable in terms of academics. Learned a lot of things but didn’t apply it anywhere and didn’t see anything take form in real life.
When I moved to Germany, I was pretty determined to do my Masters in Structural Engineering too, but it was highly influenced by the internship I did at schlaich bergermann partner in Berlin and their beautiful projects. Even the ultra aesthetic Hamburg ZOB’s structure (the photograph above) was designed by them (All the more reasons to visit this city!)
As soon as I started my studies in Hamburg, I saw the extreme difference they had in studying engineering here as compared to India. Most of the things were done practically and if not done, were visualized by the teachers with tons of real-life example so that you can build an understanding of the course. The photos would range all the way from a broken dam, to a completely devasted high rise or landfill. Seeing something with your own eyes has been the strongest way to motivate yourself for humans for centuries and that’s what it was doing for me.
But as soon as the first semester was about to end, I talked to a few colleagues of mine at work in the company where I was till recently working as a werkstudent and I just talked to them about the job opportunities and what kind of salaries can civil engineers expect after their Masters in Germany. The responses that I got didn’t really thrill me and that’s why I decided it doesn’t make sense to waste another 3 years of your life doing something, which you were thrown into almost by fate. Most of the civil engineers would spend their days sitting in front of a computer, pulling out their hair and getting annoyed by the real-life problems that they had to solve with very less human contact. To be honest, civil engineering might even be the only engineering field where you have some kind of human contact, like going out for surveys, construction supervision and talking to your team and so on, but it was still not enough for me.
Till the end of the semester I started my YouTube channel, mostly to just respond to the questions I was getting too often through videos, so that I don’t have to respond to every single query, but I can just rather give them the video link, they can check out the video and take some value out of it. The horror stories that the other students were telling me about the consultants was even a bigger motivating factor for me to keep doing it further and build it in a channel which soon will cross its 100k subscribers. Now, during this journey, I realized that I actually love working with people. I love speaking with them, I love brainstorming about new ideas and I absolutely love to help others out. That means, I needed to find a Masters course where I had more to do with people than with machines. Luckily TUHH had a great course called “internationales Wirtschaftsingenieurwesen” to which I quickly shifted to because it was one of the best-ranked courses for Management in Germany. When I started studying that course, it was only made more evident to me why people consider it one of the best courses here.
The curriculum of the management course was very strict. You had compulsory attendance compared to the Masters course of structural engineering in TUHH. There was a difference anyways between studying in India and studying in Germany but there was an even greater difference between studying engineering in Germany vs studying management in Germany. The professors were very stiff, in the sense that they really want you to present the best possible research paper, best possible format for presentations, best possible colloquium and if you do anything below excellent, you will hear a nice long lecture from them about how this was “unterniveau (below level)”
In the first semester, we had a lot of compulsory online modules that we had to complete along with having midterms, presentations, assignments, group projects and oral exams. Yeah, that was absolutely hard but somehow it was fun. You meet so many other colleagues who are extremely motivated and who want to be the best. Although sometimes, it becomes a bit too much. Where in Engineering, if you are failing in your minors, your friend would more than happily join you and you might both go to Dominos to cry laugh about your life, but in Management, it’s different. Every single student I met in my course is an organisational monster. They work with calendars, they have their appointments and they participate in whatever they can get their hands on. So compared to the very chilled and lenient atmosphere in the structural engineering program which I wanted to study, this was cutthroat. You have to be the best or you wouldn’t be recognised and this also represents the industry of management in Germany.
You can even watch this video and understand what other students in my batch think about the course structure and the studies. I recorded this short video with a friend of mine for the marketing project of the university.
Moral of the story:
Where you make friends in engineering, you make colleagues in Management and if you are lucky, you can also find yourselves some pretty all-rounded friends. German is absolutely important if you want to study Management in Germany and that’s not something I am saying by myself. I went to a small even in the University of Hamburg, where a representative of the Management Consulting firm McKinsey was there. I waited till she asked for questions from the audience and people were asking a lot of different questions. Me, being the only brown person in the room had a different question in my mind. I asked her in German: “Is it possible to work in Business Administration or Management field in Germany, if you can’t speak German” and she responded to me “If you can’t speak German, we can’t send you to our DACH clients (DACH is the term used for countries: Deutschland Austria Switzerland) and that’s why we would rather take somebody would be very fluent in German and English both than taking somebody who is just in one”.
Now, I don’t want to paint any one of these fields in black or white. Management degrees are extremely rewarding in Germany, mainly because of the value they would be getting out of a candidate, who has around 3 years of work experience, is fluent in English, is fluent in German, is fluent in his mother tongue, has great intercultural competence as he has already worked with people from a different country. It is also possible to shift from pure engineering to management positions within the company itself but that would be a longer career path if you want to have more responsibility, want to do more with people and even to just earn more. But that would always come with compromises with your personal life and free time.
As far as I am concerned, I can say that I have figured out what I want to do. Having your own business is great, building things from scratch and nurturing your small community as growing plant is something I genuinely take pleasure and pride in, and it might well even be the thing that I would end up doing in the longer term. I am being more efficient, more effective, know how to organise things better and how to manage people which is a skill you can only learn in practice and unfortunately, not while solving theory questions in engineering.
So, the decision is yours. Whatever you want to do, engineering or management, just don’t forget that you don’t ever have to be entirely one or the other. If you don’t like what you are doing right now, make efforts in the direction of what you want to be doing and if your efforts are strong enough and planning is smart, you might even just end up doing or making your own dream job!
ABSOLUTELY DO NOT FORGET to let me know what you think about management and engineering fields in the comments section or just share the story of the field you are studying in! I am really curious to hear what you have to say.