Two letters to my past self!!

If time travel was possible, I would have sent two letters to myself in the past.

And the first one would be dated Sep’2005. It was the time when I joined the university for my Engineering studies. Out of school, starting a new journey. Different thoughts, so many uncertainties in mind. But answer to none.

Obviously, time travel is not a real thing. At least this is what I know, if someone has other information, please send details 😊.

That means I will not be able to send this letter to myself 😒.

But there are a lot of students who are about to start their own journey of engineering. They may be going through the same thoughts which were troubling me during my time.

So, this letter is dedicated to all the students who may be in the same situation where I was 16 years back.

Learn with my learnings, here you go!!

9th Sep 2005
Hi Praveen,

Hope you are doing well.

First of all, congratulations on getting selected in Applied Petroleum Engineering at UPES. You may be surprised that I called it Applied Petroleum Engineering and not Gas Engineering.

But this is the crux of my letter. Expect the unexpected in life!!

Let’s keep that aside for now because I know you are worried.

And why not? Most of your friends are all set to pursue a career in IT or Computer Science Engineering from some prestigious or known colleges.

And here you are, with a college known to few and with an engineering stream not pursued by many.

But you have made a decision.

And sometimes, it’s important to follow what you like or want. If you are still in dilemma about IT or Petroleum, toss a coin. 😇

But do not look at the coin when it falls. 👀

Because while the coin will be in the air, there will be a moment when you will know what you really want!

You only need to follow it as there is nothing like a right or wrong decision when you pursue what you like.

Ok, if you are convinced with the above, let’s talk about the next four years.

Believe me, it will be nothing less than a fantastic journey!

You will learn about engineering for sure but more importantly, you will get prepared for life–

Challenges, opportunities, mistakes.

You never know what is going to happen next. You may want to make a plan for your future. It’s a good step. But often, plans don’t work.

Recession, downtime, pandemic – these may be new words for you today but any of these can become a reality in the future and you will have to deal with it.

So how can you make the most of the four years so that you are set up to take on any challenge?

Here are some suggestions:

Start Strong 💪
  • You are pursuing Engineering which is a professional course. Understand the essence of engineering. It’s not just about studying the concepts but it’s about applying them in the real world. Look around, you will find an engineered item everywhere. Always be proud and feel the essence of engineering in your study.
  • Don’t pay heed if someone says that Engineering study has lost charm. Engineering was relevant 100 years back and will be relevant for the next several hundred years. If you are reading articles claiming that a lot of engineering students are not fit for the job after engineering, it is not due to engineering study but it’s about how we study engineering.
  • Now, the first semester (and probably second too) may appear boring! You just came out of school studying physics, maths and chemistry. And it is being taught again 🙁.

But consider it as a refresher of what you studied earlier. You did well in these subjects in school and probably that’s why you are in college. Utilize these semesters wisely. Use is to build a strong foundation for your academics.

  • Why not start reading your core subject books from 1st semester? Go to your library and find out which is the best handbook or reference book for your core area. Every day, spend some time reading it.

I am suggesting reading such books so early as I can see three benefits.

The first one is psychological. There is no exam on such subjects at least for the next few semesters. When you read something without the pressure of exams, you start enjoying it! And when you enjoy something, you gain the most from it.

Secondly, when you reach the semester when the core subjects are taught, you will have some basic knowledge and it will help you to understand them better. You may also have a better engagement with lectures during class. Or if you get a chance to meet the industry specialists say, during seminars or conferences, you will be able to ask meaningful questions.

Remember, sometimes asking the right question is more effective than answering one!

Lastly, if you are planning to attend conferences or technical fests – which you should definitely do – you will have a good idea of what topics you can select.

 Start strong and it may help you to end strong as well!

Soft skills, what is that? 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♂️
  • Engineering is a technical field. But your behavioral skills, we also call them soft skills, will be a crucial aspect in your career going forward. Try to develop or enhance your soft skills as early as possible.
  • Keep assessing yourself for the following:

o  Can you communicate comfortably with your fellow students? Probably yes. But what about your seniors, your professors, the dean!

And suppose you meet the Chairman of your college in a lift, what will you say to her/him?

o  If you have a fear of public speaking or presentations, college is the perfect place to start practicing and get rid of the fear.

Keep in mind, you will make blunders during the initial ones. Don’t get demoralized if it happens because that’s exactly why you are doing it.

This may be too much for our context but remember:

‘The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle’

 o  Interacting with your fellow college people may still be easy. But can you manage external people? Try it. The best way is to be part of the organizing team of any college events. Try to take roles where you need to manage vendors or sponsors. Your decision-making skills will be at a test for sure.

Be practical 🎯
  • Attendance – probably the most haunting aspect of college! You may feel that you can self-study. You may be assured that you don’t need to attend classes. You may be right.

But when you don’t attend class, you are missing the opportunity of interacting with the lecturers. You are missing to develop the skill of effective listening while taking valuable notes. And believe me, this is one of the key skills which you will need when you join the industry.

You also need minimum attendance to sit for exams. Do not miss your exams and eventually reduce your career options for reasons as petty as attendance!

  •  Grades – You need to have a balance between studying for knowledge and studying for grades. It may sound strange to you but believe me, both are not the same thing.

You may be fully knowledgeable about a subject but the exam question may still be tricky. On the other hand, you may be able to solve the exam question because you practiced it a lot, but you may not have gained a thorough understanding.

Ok, you may argue that grades are just numbers so why bother so much.

I will not deny it.

But what if your dream company comes with a cut-off of minimum grade? It’s a competitive world. Always be aware of what you will be competing against.

So, study smart. You need to understand the basics. But your grades are also important.

Collaborate 🤝
  •  Never undervalue any of your fellow students. Avoid thoughts like she/he may be scoring more grades but I am the knowledgeable one. Or my grades are the highest, I will get the best opportunities. People who don’t appear to be very good in the first impression, may surprise you in their success later!
  • Develop a habit of celebrating the accomplishment of others. Always appreciate the hard work, talent and achievements of others. By doing this, you will be building a support system for yourself. And you will need it.
  •  Learn from others and teach them too!
Plan 📋
  • From your first day – ok let me be a bit lenient to you – From your first semester, you need to start planning about how the last day of your college should be.
  • At some point in time, you need to decide on what type of career you want to build. What are your interests and what are your core skills? The earlier you decide, the better you can plan.

It’s always easier to achieve a goal when you have the target in mind.

  •  So, when you have decided on your goal, can you answer these questions:

o  Which are the major companies in your interest area? What are they doing now and what will they do in the future? What is the recruitment process? What are their selection criteria?

o  Which subjects do you need to focus on if you want to join them?

o  How many people from your favorite industry do you have in your network?

o  How will you get an internship in a company you want to work for? Networking, research

o  What is your agenda for the internship?

o  If you have to prepare a CV, what will you write?

  • Update your CV after every semester. Develop a habit of talking about your skills, achievements and areas of improvement.

After the end of every semester, pretend that you are appearing for an interview. Stand in front of a mirror. Talk about what you did good in last semester and what needs improvement. Keep a note of all good things and all improvement areas. When you appear for an actual interview, this will be very handy.

Enjoy!! 🤸‍♀️⚽🎸🎶🕹🏍🚌🍕

The four years of your engineering can be the best of your life! Follow a discipline in your study but do not miss on:

 Making friends, travel to places, watch movies, play games, impress your crush, fights, pranks and celebrations!

And just one minor suggestion- don’t pay the security deposit to your first hostel, they are not going to refund it!! 😄


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Praveen Tiwari

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15 years in EPC | From Concept Phase to Commissioning
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