- The career of a chemical engineer and petroleum engineer is quite exciting and highly remunerative.
- The profession requires not only high-class technical skills but also management and soft skills. One has to communicate a lot with the policymakers.
- The profession gives immense satisfaction as one works in the core sector of the country’s growth i.e. energy sector. Only innovative minds and high dedication make a petroleum engineer successful.
- The profession also gives an opportunity to visit foreign countries and experience state of the art technologies in the field of oil and gas production.
- The industry is quite dynamic and demands one to update oneself. There is no room for complacency for a chemical or petroleum engineer.
- One has to be physically fit to do well in this job, especially on off-shore sites, where work is taxing, the environment is polluted and there is a danger to your life, though a lot of precautions are taken.
- Working hours are also not fixed, so one may not have much time for family and friends.
Name – Prof. V.S.R.K. Prasad
Profession – Director, Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy (IIPE), Visakhapatnam
Age – 66 years
Gender – Male
City – Visakhapatnam
Industry – Higher Education
Where have you been born and raised?
I was born in a small village in Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh in a middle-class family.
I completed B.Tech, M.Tech. and Ph.D., all in Chemical Engineering, from Andhra University and joined the same university as a faculty.
My father was a high school teacher and my mother was a homemaker. I have two elder brothers. He was a self-made man, did his graduation and B.Ed. and settled as a high school teacher. My mother, though not highly literate, is a practical person who managed the household affairs very efficiently.
I admire my life partner for her excellent qualities, which surprise me time and again. She had kept me free from most of the familial responsibilities, giving me more time to concentrate on my profession.
Who had the most influence on you and how?
I am most influenced by my paternal uncle, Dr. Jayarama Krishna, Specialist in Animal Genetics, who worked in N G Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad. He became a professor at the age of 38. He played a vital role in shaping my career and I regard him as my mentor.
My high school teacher, Sri Radha Krishna, is instrumental in making me more focused and disciplined towards academics. At Andhra University, I had the opportunity to interact with a few great academicians like Prof. Bhaskar Sharma (Director, Gayatri Vidya Parishad), who happened to be my teacher and colleague, Prof. Bhavaraju Serveswara Rao (Chairman Gayatri Vidya Parishad) from whom I learned the fine art of administration, Prof. G J V Raju, my Ph.D guide at Andhra University opened the doors of research and made me realize the true purpose of research.
I strongly believe that we get influenced by many people at different points of time in life. I do not shrink to say that even today I learn a lot from my students. Incidentally one of my students happened to be my teacher in the USA in 2007 when I went there for three-month training in Nano Technology.
The novel ‘Good Earth’ by Pearl S. Buck had a great influence on me. I read the various versions of Ramayana and Mahabharata which inspired me to understand that everything has more than one aspect. This lesson is very valuable to me today as an administrator since I have to understand the version of the other person too.
Please give us a summary of your career.
I started as a lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Andhra University in 1979. I was promoted to Reader and Professorship eventually and took voluntary retirement in 2008.
Then I served as Principal, ANITS till 2016. I became Advisor Academics to IIPE in 2016 and became the first Director to IIPE (Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy) in 2017.
As Member Lions club, I participate in all its activities.
I also serve as Chairman, SEAC (State Expert Appraisal Committee), which is responsible to give clearance to the industries regarding the pollution control. It is a state government appointment.
Which institutes are best for petroleum engineering?
All the IITs which offer chemical and petroleum engineering are equally good.
For master’s program students can always look for overseas institutes for a better exposure.
What are the costs associated with the education/training of this profession?
At IITs and petroleum universities, it is from 1.5 lakhs to 2.25 lakhs INR per annum. Reputed private engineering and private universities charge 1 lakh to 1.5 lakhs INR per annum.
At premier foreign universities, the cost would be around 9 to 10 lakhs INR per annum and other foreign universities may charge 5 to 6 lakhs INR per annum.
How does one enter in this profession?
One has to get a very good GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test Engineers) rank. Based on the rank, the premier government organizations like HPCL, GAIL, OIL, ONGC etc. will call you for an interview.
The postings will be across the country. You will be required to work both on-shore and off-shore sites.
The entry-level designation would be Executive Engineer (Training), and there on Chief Manager, Deputy General Manager, General Manager, Chief General Manager, Executive Director, and Director finally.
One can also apply to OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and work abroad. The software industry also absorbs these graduates through campus recruitment.
What is the range of remuneration one can expect when starting out in your line of career & industry?
My line of career has been faculty position at the university, Principal at a private engineering college and Director of a national level institute.
The UGC (University Grants Commission) scales will apply to all the positions starting at INR 60,000 per month to INR 2,00,000 per month.
I would like to give details of the remuneration for Petroleum and Chemical engineering graduates who work at Industries. If they choose again teaching the remuneration will the same as mentioned above.
5 years of experience — 5 to 6 lakhs INR per annum in the government sector.
10 years of experience — 8 to 9 lakhs INR per annum in Govt and 12 lakhs to 15 lakhs in Pvt. sector
15 years of experience — 15 to 20 lakhs INR in Govt. and 20 to 30 lakhs INR in Private sector.
20+ years of experience — 20 to 30 lakhs INR and above in Govt and 30–40 lakhs INR per annum in the Private sector.
Please describe your work.
My typical day starts with a morning walk on the beach. As the Director, IIPE, my day starts at 8.30 am. I have a lot of communication with the Ministry of Petroleum, IIT Kharagpur, and HPCL. These organizations are directly involved in the development of the institute. I monitor the progress of the permits and contracts of the construction of the buildings. I have to meet people from other IITs. Also I have to plan for new labs and supervise the regular class work. I also conduct meetings with the experts to frame the syllabus for the ensuing academic year and to design the syllabus for the new programs to be introduced. There are no fixed hours of working. Sometimes I stay back at the institute till 8 pm.
What are some of the positives, which would encourage someone to consider this career/job?
Unlike the software jobs, which are practiced by several engineers, this field offers attractive remuneration.
The oil companies offer better facilities like family insurances, living quarters, recreational activities and so on.
More job security in comparison to the IT sector. Though the work on site is quite challenging, the rewards are equally attractive.
What are some of the challenges that you would want someone to be aware of when considering this career/job?
In general, an engineer faces the gap between theory and practice at the beginning of the career. Only proper internships will help them overcome the professional and technical problems.
Apart from this, an engineer has to work for the benefit of the fellow human beings. As a petroleum engineer, one needs to be physically very fit to work on off-shore projects.
The working hours are not fixed and you are exposed to pollution. Your safety is another issue.
You also need to know resource management.
Many a time, petroleum industries may face public wrath, thus they need to have the best communication skills. Since they work in plants and offshore, they have to work in shifts. The regular social life is not always possible.
What are the relevant trends/skills/technologies that are currently commanding a premium in your job profile?
One has to be computer literate. All skills relevant to administration like resources management, people management, time management and the best possible communication skills are required. Developments in engineering streams are dynamic and every day there is a new discovery or innovation. From time to time one has to acquire skills in the new technologies.
What kind of person would be happy in your career?
People who love a little bit of adventure and physically fit are best suited to this profession.
The onsite work in the middle of the sea drilling is quite a demanding task. For chemical engineers, apart from the routine job, the lab work would be quite exciting.
One with loads of energy and with an eye for precision fares well.
One should also be highly disciplined if chose to work in this industry. As a faculty, one has to constantly keep oneself updated about the latest developments.
Given another choice, what would you do differently as far as your professional selections are concerned?
Teaching is in my blood. I come from a family of the teachers. I could not think of any other profession other than teaching. It gives me immense satisfaction in producing the most useful citizens of this country.
Still, if you persist, my second option would be to work in the laboratories pursuing research in the premier R & D institutes.
What would be your advice to students or professionals who are just starting their journey on a path similar to yours?
Think and decide what you want from life. Do not go by the popular beliefs while selecting your specialization. Dependency, transparency, and truthfulness are very important for any professional student. Goal setting and working on the realization of the same actually provides a direction to the young minds. According to me, anyone without a proper goal becomes directionless and useless. I strongly believe that all the engineers should also have enough knowledge of management skills. Since they all have to take an administrative position in their profession, it is important that they acquire all kinds of soft skills.