Changing Perceptions: Dipam Chakraborty
A well-known name amongst the Electronics enthusiasts at NIT Rourkela, Dipam Chakraborty, belonging to the Dual Degree stream of Electronics and Communications Engineering, has not only maintained his academics well but has also contributed usefully to clubs like Cyborg, Astro NITR and teams like AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle). A man with a keen eye for all things tech, he bagged an internship at the prestigious Texas Instruments in Bangalore last year. In a candid conversation with Team MM, he talks about the internship, his plans for the future and the forces that shaped him into who he is.
MM: What kind of a student were you as a child?
DC: Neither was I a studious child in my school days nor am I in my college life now. However, I had deep interests in subjects like Mathematics and Physics. I lived in a suburban area named Hindmotor near Kolkata and did my schooling in Adamas International School situated in Kolkata. It was a full day-boarding school; I had to stay from 8 AM to 5 PM on school days and was too tired to do self-study once I returned home. There was a tuition teacher of mine in Class 8 named Subhasish Ghosh who was a retired army personnel. He had a very keen interest in technology. In fact, he is somebody who ignited my love for technology, which subsequently has led to its abundant presence in me.
MM: Were you always inclined towards engineering or did it happen to you?
DC: It was in my 12th grade that I got interested in the field of Science. I had appeared for both JEE Mains and the entrance examination for BITS. I was getting Physics in BITS Pilani but my parents motivated me to pursue a career in engineering. It is not that I did not like it; I always loved technology and decided to go for it. I still like science and love pursuing engineering currently.
MM: You are an active member of several technical clubs like Cyborg, AUV, etc. How do you think club activities help us, and how should they be balanced with academics?
DC: The courses that we learn here are not enough. One needs to go beyond the books and read on their own to get a basic idea about certain concepts. In my first year when I went to the Cyborg inductions, I was excited as it involved something, which I was greatly fond of and had done something related to that field earlier. I learned a lot from my seniors.
I would like to tell you that, on being asked what made me proud as an electronics engineer, I promptly replied to the HR of the company of Texas Instruments that I had helped a fourth year student with his B. Tech project while in my second year and this was only possible by expanding my knowledge through club activities.
By being in Team AUV, I learned many things, which were earlier not my forte. I was initially inducted for the Electronics part of the vehicle, but later, I got to learn a lot about the mechanics, control system and modeling, related to the vehicle. This made me push my boundaries and garner knowledge about the working of the vehicle as a whole. It was a huge learning curve for me. I have become a dormant member of Astro NITR as the club has such a policy after an individual passes out from his third year. I used to use the Automated Telescope in the Department of Physics, which was a very enriching experience in the club, and I learned a lot about astronomy. Handling the club activities was never tough for me and I tried to find the right balance by devoting my full-fledged attention to whatever I was doing.
MM: How did you come to know about the internship at Texas Instruments?
DC: We got a mail through the Placement Cell of our institute, which cited about the internship offer from Texas Instruments. It was mentioned that they would select based on an online test and I started preparing for that. For the preparation, I followed books like Art of Electronics and a book on Operational Amplifiers. The knowledge that I had accumulated in my clubs came handy yet again.
MM: Did you always want to do an industrial internship? How do you think it compares with a research-based one?
DC: For an industrial internship within a time of 2 months in a sector other than software, the company usually hires many interns and all of them are expected to synchronize with the work culture there. In this process, not much progress can be made as it takes time being tuned to a particular setup. Many interns in the company were asked to do a 6-month internship for the same to avail a better scope for learning for the students of various IITs present there but such an option was not available to us.
My project was a bit different and was based upon the designing of Multi-Stage Amplifiers using ICs, they had 10-12 methods of doing that. However, they are time-consuming and each of them takes around 3-4 weeks. Therefore, my mentor had an idea of combining all the methods to manufacture a tool that will process all the control data and give an estimate of choosing the best method possible for a particular scenario. Thus, it was a mixture of both research and industrial sector internship.
I honestly think there is a lot of scope for the industry in the field of engineering for both the undergraduate and postgraduate students and do not agree with the commoners’ view that the field is inclining more towards research. If one does an industrial internship, he or she understands that the practical problem persisting in a particular model and can channel all the required research towards the cause of improvement of that particular process. As there are more industries growing in India and with the start-up culture in trend, it provides a horde of opportunities for students in industries. I would personally like to work in a start-up, which involves automation and robotics.
MM: What were the exact procedure and the rounds involved in the selection process? Were there any pre-requisites?
DC: We had an online test and the results were announced one and a half week afterward. There were 5 people shortlisted for interns and 15 people for full-time interviews and we were called to Kolkata. They took our interviews in two technical rounds and one HR round. Nobody got selected for the full-time interviews and the organizers were pretty disappointed. Even though they thought that my interview was good, they still felt that the courses that are taught here are not taught in a proper way.
What the company works in, is Analog Electronics, which is a very basic subject. But, I personally feel that it's not taught properly and it is what they felt too. They asked us about who taught us this subject and we had no answer to that because we do not have a specialized separate cell for it.
Coming to pre-requisites, basically, if you need to prepare for this, you need to prepare from the courses outside of what is being taught. The HR round, I think was just a formality. The questions were very basic and they just wanted to know how interested I would be in the work. After the interviews, they presented me with the offer letter there itself.
MM: How long was the internship period and did you receive a stipend?
DC: I stayed there for some 11 weeks, from the 9th of May to the 21st of July, and we received a stipend of 25,000 INR per month and a one-time travel expense of 12,000 INR. I would say that the amount was pretty sufficient and I made a lot of savings too.
MM: Tell us about the reception. Did you face any problems with the accommodation or with the stipend?
DC: The entire process was very fluid. Once we reached there, they asked us to open a bank account in a particular bank, for which they gave us forms and there was absolutely no problem on that part. On the 31st of every month that we stayed there, the money would simply be transferred to our accounts.
We were not provided with any accommodation, so we had to stay as Paying Guests. Again, there was no problem with that because there are a lot of PGs near the institute and you just had to call them and get yourself a place to stay at. The lodging and the boarding were broadly the only things that were upon me. There were no problems with the logistics.
MM: Do you believe that the academic routine here was useful for this internship?
DC: You definitely have to give importance to academics, but I think you need so much more than just academics. You can follow the academic routine but you need to go to the depths of that. I myself have never been very studious.
But I feel that if you really want to excel in some field, you will have to find at least one subject that interests you and set apart some months time to learn more about it.
For example, for this internship, you need to be really clear about Analog Electronics, so you have to put in extra effort into it.
MM: When you graduate and venture further into this sector, you would necessarily deal with a lot of practical situations. How do you think that this internship boosted your practical knowledge?
DC: See, the subject Analog is such that what you study in the theory and how you implement it practically, are closely related. I know it's different in the case of other subjects, but for Analog, it's the same. For this internship particularly, they do not ask you for your practical skills. You only need to be clear with the theory for this, and I would say that the practical only involves simulations and the like. Apart from that, the analysis and everything else is entirely what you learn here. Even then, I got to learn how the Integrated Circuit Industry works, how the labs there are, and it definitely would help me if I do anything in the future related to that.
MM: As a budding engineer who has had the first-hand experience of a real industry, how would you rate the laboratories of our institute?
DC: The laboratories there are equipped only for that particular purpose. They are not general purpose labs. They have everything in place for making Analog ICs and testing them only. On the other hand, our labs are more general. But if I had to say, the labs obviously are not very properly equipped here and they require a lot of revamps. Like, for example, in our labs, you cannot expect reliability from the equipment itself. There was this time when I was doing something for my Product Development Lab and we required an all-time oscilloscope. I went up to my Faculty Advisor to ask for it, and he was pretty reluctant about the whole thing, about me taking the oscilloscope to my room. I had to go within class hours to use it, and even then, if the equipment wasn't functioning well, that would take more time.
MM: You have received several accolades at institutes such as IIT-Kharagpur, in a lot of different occasions. What do you think helped you in that regard?
DC: I think it's because of my seniors. I used to watch them when I was in my first year. They used to spend so much of their time learning new things. Every time I used to ask, they used to tell me about something new that they were doing, or something that they were learning. Apart from that, our batch was very enthusiastic for that competition.
In my first year, I lost in all of the competitions that we participated in, at the Tech Fest at IIT-Kharagpur. But I learned a lot in that process. I learned a lot from my opponents too, even though we lost completely to them. It enabled me to keep trying and pursuing and as of now, I have won three times in competitions like this; one was at IIT-KGP in my second year, IIT-Bombay in my third year and IIT-KGP in my third year again.
MM: What then, are your plans for the future?
DC: On one hand, my parents feel that I should take up a job for some years at least. I have considered it, and I might sit for the placements next year. But, I really want to do my higher studies in Robotics first and then try for this maybe. I'm giving my GRE this May, and if I get a good scholarship for a good foreign university, I'll definitely go.
MM: Would you like leaving a message for our readers and other aspirants for this stream?
DC: Yes, I would like to say three things:
First, expand your knowledge beyond what is being taught in the class. Try to spend time learning at least one subject, very thoroughly. Second, try to get hands-on experience wherever you can, whether in simulation or other practical ones. And finally, get out of your comfort zone. Do not be afraid to do new things. Try as hard as you can, and even if you think you cannot do it, if you need it, work for it. Don't keep doing what you're best at doing, because that's again your comfort zone. Step out of it.