Civil Engineering requires you to handle lot of physical hardships – says Somnath Mitra in conversation with Team MentorClub.in

Somnath Mitra, Civil Engineering at Amec Foster Wheeler

Insights into Civil Engineering as Profession

  1. Civil Engineering calls for lots of physical hardships as most of the work happens in outdoor and has to tackle all sorts of adverse weather conditions and situations.
  2. One has to tackle a lot of diplomacy and politics in the office culture.
  3. Civil Engineering is a field that is totally based on practical experience. The more experience one gathers, more successful one will become in future.
  4. The remuneration is quite good. Most of the time OT (over time) is paid for extra hours worked.
  5. Engineering is undoubtedly one of the best career options if someone is genuinely interested.
  6. Companies invest a lot of money on manual laborers. So, even tiniest of mistake makes you answerable to your boss. So, one needs to be extremely careful with work.

Profile Details

Name – Somnath Mitra

Profession – Civil Engineer at Amec Foster Wheeler

Age – 54

Gender – Male

City – Kolkata

Industry – Construction and Engineering

Where have you been born and raised?

I was born and brought up in a small village in North 24 Parganas in West Bengal. I was raised in a typical middle-class family in West Bengal. My father was a small businessman of woods and furniture whereas my mother was a simple housewife. I was raised along with my 3 other siblings, two elder sisters, and one younger brother. As my father was into business, the income flow was not always very regular. There were lots of ups and downs. But it was my mother who managed the household with utmost perfection blended with happiness. She was the living soul of our family.

What is that one factor that motivated you to become an engineer?

Well, being in a typical middle-class family, I was well versed with the economical crunches that our business brought in. So, from a very young age, I made up my mind that I will not be in business. I wanted to be in a job, which facilitated fixed and regular income. But back in my time, I had not much idea about various career choices, because there was no one to guide me. It was one of my distant cousins, who guided me about this career option and told me to take up engineering.

Are you satisfied taking this up as a career option? How good is Engineering as an option for the career for today’s generation?

Yes..(With a moderate laughter). I have spent 30 years in this profession. But these days, things have changed so much. Back in our time, colleges were few and the branches were also few. These days there are engineering colleges everywhere. Back in our days, we only knew about the four branches that were civil, mechanical, electrical and chemical.

If someone is genuinely interested, engineering is undoubtedly one of the best career options. Today, anybody and everybody take up engineering. I believe one should only take up a subject if he/she is genuinely interested.

Someone you would like to mention who has motivated you throughout?

Well, this may sound a little cliché but it’s my mother and my wife. I had always been amazed to see how my mother used to manage the entire household with utmost passion, patience, and love. Although she was just metric passed, she was very intelligent. During our hard times, she never complained. She was a master in management. She has always amazed me with her patience. I think these three elements are the key to success i.e., Love, patience, and endurance through tough times.

And my wife has always been more than supportive in every stage of life. She sacrificed her career for mine, which I feel is something very big. These two women have been my pillars in growth.

How would you define your journey to the platform you have reached today?

After class 12th, I complete my B.Tech. from one of the government institutions in the first division. After that, I joined CAB Engineering. And then my journey started, which included a lot of hard-work, sleepless nights and several failures too.

I believe failure is the best mentor in your life who teaches you the art of getting up after you have fallen down badly. And once someone masters this art he/she becomes invincible in his field.

Which institutions are best for the entry-level courses?

There are a lot in India. I feel good colleges with proficient teachers and state-of-the-art practical labs are required for proper guidance.

Apart from IITs, NITs and other government colleges, there are also some good private colleges such as VIT (Vellore Institute of Technology), BITS Pilani, BITS Goa, MIT (Manipal Institute of Technology).

There are also many colleges which provide Diploma courses in engineering.

What is the remuneration one should expect while starting out in your field/carrier?

Look, I believe remuneration should not be the sole factor. Like I said before, one should be passionate enough in the field he is pursuing. And in this field, experience holds a lot of value. The more experience one gathers the more he can expect his remuneration.

But there are several other factors that count-in for the remuneration such as the College you have graduated from, or the course that you have pursued i.e. Diploma or Graduation or B.Tech. and M.Tech.

Following is a broad range of remuneration one can expect:

0–2 years – 2–3 Lakhs INR

2–5 years – 4–5 Lakhs INR

5–10 years – 7–10 Lakhs INR

20+ years – 12+ Lakhs INR

Please describe your work.

See, I have been in this field for more than 30 years. I have worked in companies like Larsen & Turbo, Simplex PVT Ltd, Toyo India, GDC engineering, Amec Foster Wheeler and lot more.

I absolutely loved and enjoyed my profession and had mostly handled many constructions and refinery projects.

My working hours had generally been from 8 am to 7 pm. On a normal day, my office starts around 8 am followed by daily breakfast meeting and then followed by client meetings where I am answerable to the client for the progress of work (Construction work). This is followed by site tours, where I am supposed to inspect the ongoing construction work. I generally work for 5-days a week and every 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month. On an average, I work for around 50–60 hours per week.

What kind of person would be happy in civil engineering profession?

I feel someone who is ready to work hard, devote long hours, meet commitment and deadlines and of course someone who is in love with construction sites and petrochemical refineries. I feel this career has a lot in store for you but only if you are ready to devote yourself to this profession.

Someone who has a creative outlook and is ready to devote long hours in outdoor because most of the civil engineering is all about construction sites and outdoor activities.

What are some of the positives that would encourage someone to take up civil engineering profession?

Civil Engineering is a very interesting choice, where you get to explore the creativity in constructing building, refineries and other such projects satisfying one’s creative thirst.

This job gives you good remuneration in terms of salary and OT’s (over time). You get rich in a short time period.

The office atmosphere not only teaches you to work but other things like meeting deadlines, doing a presentation for clients. One learns proper teamwork and office culture.

As the work demands most of the time outdoor activities you get resistant not only to physical hardships but also the mental stability of handling projects. There is a scope for a lot of personal and professional growth.

What are some of the challenges one is expected to face in civil engineering?

This profession demands a lot of physical hardships. Since it mostly involves outdoor stay, it becomes a lot more physically challenging than other professions. Be it scorching summer heat or adverse monsoon conditions, a civil engineer has to go through all of it.

The working areas could be dangerous at times and open up a lot of scope for casualties and accidents. As there are a lot of open manholes, unfinished construction sites. In fact, I myself had met with a fatal accident long back in my youth.

Lots of small detailing has to be kept in mind during a construction project. Because a small change in the positioning of a machine, or a small change in drawings could create a huge delay in the project; putting the entire work at stake. A lot of money is invested in projects, so you become answerable to your clients and bosses.

You have to tackle a lot of politics and diplomacy from your colleagues and bosses. At times you also have to deal with favoritism. You also need to have communication skills where you have to tackle not only your bosses and clients but also laborers and workers. Because you also have to deal with a lot of workers strike and other such problems.

What are some of the skills/technological advancement one is required to possess in your job profile?

This field demands practical knowledge yet a strong grasp on basic math. But for work, the practicality of the work counts. The person should be good with basics of theories of physics.

These days, being proficient in relevant computer tools and technologies also count. This helps in understanding the drawings and the architecture. So, it is advisable to learn computers.

Given a choice, if not a civil engineer what would you see yourself as?

Umm… Maybe a cricketer. Although not sure. But I loved playing cricket as a kid. I am still a big cricket fan.

What would be your advice to students or professionals who are just starting their journey on a path similar to yours?

I would definitely say go for it. This is a profession, which gives you a lot of freedom, pays you well. You can live a complete and satisfied life. Just be serious with your work and be in the position to learn and grow. The more experience you gather the better you are able to grow in this field.

Contributing Writer – Soumik Mitro