For years now, IIT is considered as the ultimate destination for every aspiring engineer in India. Graduates from IIT, are assumed to be brilliant engineers, optimal hires and the top talent in the industry.
This year, 11 lakh students attempted JEE Main and only 2 lakh qualified for JEE Advanced. The pool becomes even more concise, as only 10,000 students are admitted into an IIT or an IISc. What about the rest? I refuse to believe that there are only 10,000 brilliant students, who can be moulded into great engineers every year.
I’m an alumni of IIT and I’m here to tell you something important: You can be an amazing engineer without going to an IIT. It’s a great institute, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only place to learn. Being an engineer is about learning, exploring and instilling a skill with proper guidance. That guidance, isn’t limited to your professors or your college, you have a universe of resources available to you to be the best at what you do.
Here are a few tips to help you get there:
1. There are plenty of engineering colleges that have stood the test of time
There are some great colleges out there, that don’t fall under the IIT umbrella. These are colleges that fall within the top 25 best engineering institutes in India, according to the National Institutional Ranking Framework. Most of these colleges have better Teaching Learning Resources (TLR) than some of the IITs on the list.
Entrance Exam: Tamil Nadu Engineering Admission (TNEA)
Alumni: Verghese Kurien (Milkman of India), Mylswami Annadurai - scientist in ISRO
Institute of Chemical Technology
Entrance Exam: MH-CET
Alumni: Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani - Reliance industries
National Institute of Technology Tiruchirappalli
Entrance Exam: JEE Main
Alumni: Natarajan Chandrasekaran - Chairman of Tata Sons, Rajesh Gopinathan - CEO of TCS.
Entrance Exam: WBJEE
Alumni: K.S. Dasgupt - Director, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Subir Raha - Ex Chairman and MD of ONGC.
National Institute of Technology Rourkela
Entrance Exam: JEE Main
Alumni: CP Gurnani - CEO of Tech Mahindra
2. Access great learning resources that are openly available
Your learning is not limited to your immediate professors. In fact, it should transcend the barriers of a classroom and explore every resource, to see what works best for you. As an engineer, you will be expected to stay updated with new technological advancements in the industry. However, as an aspiring engineer, you have 4 years before you enter the field. Use these 4 years to learn as much as you can and discover your interests.
Learn from IIT professors
Great faculty, is the reason IITs are popular. The teachers are experienced and give you great insights that aren’t universally available. Teachers are the ones who inspire students, one good lecture at a time and you can attend these lectures, from the comfort of your own home. NPTEL is a site where many IIT professors upload their lectures on a plethora of topics. You can choose to enrol for a course taught by your favourite professor, access videos, assignments and participate in discussion forums, even without being an IITian.
Learn from the faculty of MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, among other renowned universities
You can leave the IITs behind, by getting intel from the best professors in the world. You can learn anything from Python to Data Science by the faculty of internationally well known universities on EdX. It’s not just limited to universities, even companies like Microsoft provide basic courses, which you can benefit from.
Develop your interests with specific courses
If you have a few areas you want to explore like ethical hacking, cyber security or AWS, you can take a masterclass in any of these and a lot more on Udemy. The fee is nominal and it’s guaranteed to give you more substance and a deeper understanding that can supplement your classroom knowledge.
3. Get as much exposure as you can
Learning is one facet of engineering, another is applying your education. There are a lot of ways to get some recognition in the industry, so that it makes it easier to get a job after graduation.
Write a research paper
One way is to write a research paper about a topic that interests you most. It takes up some time and effort, but it helps you deep dive into an aspect of engineering you are curious about. You can learn a lot more than you would with a basic course. You can publish this research paper on plenty of sites, to get recognition and start an intellectual conversation with peers and experts in the industry.
An internship in any field is a great way to get some experience. You will get the opportunity to see what your day to day job would look like in the future. It will also help you observe your seniors and fill the gaps in your knowledge with the help of other engineers, who can guide you best.
4. Reap benefits from an IIT, even as an outsider
Being an IITian is not the only way to access what the institute has to offer. Even as an outsider, you have a lot of resources at your disposal.
Do you want to learn ethical hacking or how nanotechnology works? You can participate in an IIT Techfest and learn with workshops and lectures from the best in the industry. A Techfest, can help you measure yourself among the IITians. Participate in competitions, where you can build your own race car, beat your peers in a hack-a-thon or even try your hand at robotics.
If you wish to learn about Magnetism, Digital systems or Biology, you can go to an IIT and simply register. Every IIT has short courses that last a week for a nominal fee. This course includes practice material, notes, hands on experience, and it is taught by professors at IIT.
A teaching or research assistant is basically an internship under the supervision of a professor. IIT offers a TA position, where you can earn a decent stipend for 8 hours a week. Apart from the monetary benefits, you get to shadow and learn from an expert.
5. Get placed with the biggest players in the industry, without an IIT stamp.
The primary reason most aspiring engineers flock towards an IIT is good placement opportunities. It’s true that some of the best companies recruit from IITs, but they aren’t exclusively hiring from just one institute. In fact, some engineering colleges have better placements than the newer IITs. Here are some industry leaders who have recruited graduates from institutes other than IITs:
Anna University: Google, Adobe Systems, Amazon, eBay, Flipkart, Ford etc.
Jadavpur University: Deloitte, Facebook, Reliance, Pepsico etc.
NIT Trichy: Microsoft, Oracle, Tata Motors, Godrej, Sony etc.
BITS Pilani: Bain, McKinsey, Mahindra, Schlumberger etc.
VIT: Myntra, Godrej, PayPal, Honda etc.
About the Expert:
Manish Kumar graduated from IIT Bombay in 2006 with a degree in Metallurgical and Materials Science. He then pursued masters in Materials Science Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, USA. Post his graduation, he joined Indian School Finance Company, where he was part of the core team responsible for business strategies and growth. In 2013, he co-founded SEED Schools, a venture focused on improving quality of low-cost K-12 education in India with a vision to make quality education accessible. He is currently Vice President of Product - Learning & Pedagogy at Toppr.com.