Reaching Out To The Stars, Literally : Narendra Dehury
N Manyata | Jan 14, 2019
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars - Norman Vincent Peale
Narendra Dehury's journey has led him to both.
Among the lakhs of candidates who appeared for the post of a Scientist in Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Narendra Dehury, a 2016 batch alumnus of ECE Department cleared the exam held on 22nd April 2018 with a staggering 7th position. In his winning streak, the young scientist has even secured a rank of 171 in the GATE Examination and the 78th rank in the UPSC ESE (IES) Exams by dint of sheer dedication, discipline, and hard work.
Undeterred by his family’s financial conditions, this small-town boy has overcome all odds to chase his dreams and soar high to make a career serving the prestigious space agency of India. Team Monday Morning brings you the exclusive interview of this overachieving alumnus of our college.
Monday Morning: A person of your stature can be widely searched online and researched upon. Keeping your every available online description aside, how would you describe yourself?
Narendra Dehury: I am less expressive towards the outer world. I find more solace in the beauty of nature and the solitude of peaceful places as compared to the hurried life of the city. I always believe in giving back to society. I love to interact with old folks, enquire about their ways of living, tradition, and customs and compare with our ages and get amused. I have also interest in ancient mythological scripts and stories.
MM: Kindly share your early memories of school life at Angul Saraswati Sishu Vidya Mandir. How were you as a student?
ND: My mark sheet speaks volumes about my academic well-being. I consider those days to be the golden days of my life. During those days we hardly had any access to mobile phones or the internet so my life majorly revolved around reading books, learning new facts or theories to my amazement and play cricket. I shared a deep-rooted love for Odia and English literature back then which later translated into Mathematics at the higher secondary level of my schooling.
MM: You studied at the College of Basic Sciences and Humanities before joining ECE at NITR. Tell us something about your days before joining NIT R. How important do you think were the four years at NIT R in your life?
ND: I have completed my higher secondary education from College of Basic Sciences and Humanities with Electronics as an elective course. Mathematics was my favourite subject. Back then, I loved Mathematics to the extent of devoting almost half of my study hours to it.
The four years at NIT Rourkela was an unforgettable and enriching experience. There cannot be any other better combination than NIT R and Cyborg for me. I enjoyed a lot in terms of learning, experimenting, and developing numerous skills. I even completed a good deal of projects that include some funded projects too.
MM: Phoenix Robotics Pvt. Ltd., a start-up company was co-founded by you. How did you come up with the idea of this successful startup? What were the difficulties that you faced while pursuing this idea along with your other friends at NITR?
ND: I think the CEO is in the best position to answer this. I was there in Public Relations team from Day Zero. Initially, there were no concrete ideas regarding the business, but it was certain that the foundation will be based on Robotics and Electronics. Gradually we interacted with industrial groups and bodies in Rourkela and tried to provide solutions to their requirements. The core team was remarkably strong. We learned from our mistakes, took feedback and provided better quality to develop a strong foothold in the industry. We never looked back since its inception.
MM: You secured a rank of 171 in the GATE Examination. How did you study for the same while preparing for ISRO?
ND: I had a very limited time span of six months to start everything from scratch and finish it. I believe my score could have been better. To qualify any entrance examination one ought to have strong fundamentals, to be followed by accuracy and reasoning capacity. Since the syllabus for GATE and ISRO is more or less the same with a slight variance, while that of ESE is more vast with considerable non-technical portions, it is comparatively easier to prepare for ISRO written exam.
MM: You left Phoenix Robotics to study full time for the ISRO Examination. What prompted you to take this decision? How did ISRO appeal to you as a long-term opportunity?
ND: I was doing great as a PR person, yet I always felt like something is missing so I decided to get a complete understanding of what Electronics is. Back then I hadn't decided on my plans for the future. I just focused on all the subjects and learnt all the subjects thoroughly. Now I consider myself a complete engineer.
ISRO has been doing excellent work in terms of space research. We are now witnessing a few transitions here. The private sector has been allowed to participate in space technology. A lot of new projects are popping up. Many records have been broken in recent years. ISRO has expanded its horizon to the interplanetary mission. ISRO is now considered one of the most successful space research organisations in the world for its cost-effectiveness and high success rate.
MM: You secured a staggering 7th position in the national level examination for the post of scientist/engineer conducted by ISRO on 22nd April this year. How would you describe this journey that took in your rigorous hard work, discipline and dedication? What were the steps during your selection process?
ND: The merit list of ISRO examinations is based entirely on the performance of the candidate in the interview, for which one had to qualify the written exam first. For the interview, I prepared for topics like Communication Systems, Advanced Communication, Satellite and Embedded Systems, in which I had a thorough knowledge. Initially, I was quite nervous to see a panel of 10 scientists then I managed it with ease. Sometimes questions were asked that required some kind of derivation on the blackboard. I was well aware of that after learning about the shared experiences on Quora. I was able to answer around 85% of the questions to the level of my satisfaction and my experiences in Embedded Systems acted as a bonus.
MM: You joined at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) or Sriharikota Range (SHAR) for ISRO on September 25 this year, as a Scientist and Engineer. Please elaborate on the gravity of your position.
ND: SDSC/SHAR is the gateway to the spaceport of India. In this centre, the primary aim is to launch the rocket and contribute in the related fields. I have been allotted instrumentation department here, which provides the facility for measurements of various environmental parameters. Beyond this, I am unable to provide information due to the discretion associated with the type of work at this organisation.
MM: ISRO successfully placed GSAT-29 communication satellite on its heavy launch vehicle GSLV- MK3 D2 on its second developmental flight for the first time during your tenure. Please share your experiences of being a part of this successful endeavour.
ND: GSLV- MK3 D2 was certainly a successful developmental flight after which it was cleared for mission mode flight. Next payload on MK3-M1 will be Chandrayan-2 which is scheduled in the next month. It always feels proud when people all over the world praise ISRO and I realise that I work here. Every employee at ISRO contributes in a way to the success of a mission. It is a feel-good moment for me to be able to contribute to it.
MM: Adding another feather to your cap, you secured the 78th rank in the UPSC ESE (IES) Exams. What in your opinion is the right time to start preparing for such a competitive and difficult examination? What should be one's approach to the multiple steps of exams in order to crack ESE?
ND: The preparation for ESE Exams should be started one year prior to prelims as the course content is extremely vast with 25 subjects including 10 non-technical subjects. After an objective section, we also have subjective and personal interview sections. Each stage has a different approach to preparation. Going through the previous question paper will help you to understand and prepare in a better way. I prepared each section of it strategically and was able to crack it within a very short span of six months, which once seemed impossible to me.
MM: India’s steady successes in the realm of launching satellites and building reliable launch vehicles is the result of a generation of engineers. Taking you several years down the lane, how do you see yourself in this Indian space research wing? What is your take on ISRO going shoulder to shoulder and even bettering some of the premier space agencies around the globe in its recent pursuits?
ND: Out of interest I have studied some major failures of different space organisations. When I realise the reason and observe the process and the procedure, I find the very reason that ISRO has a high success rate is quality principles that it follows.
ISRO has a zero-defect policy. However small work it may be, there will always be a procedure for carrying it out and there will always be people to ensure that it is carried out in the exact same way. There are a lot of ambitious plans for the future, and I believe ISRO can achieve grandeur levels of success in all its endeavours.
MM: The Prime Minister during his Independence Day address had announced `Gaganyaan — India's maiden human spaceflight programme'. This is the most ambitious space programme undertaken by ISRO till date that plans to send the first Indian into space by 2022. How do you envisage ISRO to play a turning point in using space technology and its application to various national tasks?
ND: India's human space programme will start from the Gaganyaan mission. It will be a milestone along the way of success. ISRO is working in numerous domains ranging from Communications to Remote Sensing, VSAT, Mobile Telephony, Surveillance, Defence, guiding aeroplanes, Aviation, Navigation, Disaster Management, studying environmental parameters, forest cover, geology and many more. Also, it is likely to improve and expand even more in the coming days.
MM: How do you handle the pressure and disappointments? Any hobbies that you indulge in during your free time?
ND: As a normal human being, even I get a little disturbed when it comes to pressure and disappointments, but when I realise that it's a part of life, I accept it. I do not get pressurised because of studies. I have cultivated various hobbies which follow a cyclic order like robotics, playing table tennis and chess, watching series, reading books, updating myself with the latest news and technology, etc.
MM: What do you think of the alumni outreach of an institute of national importance like ours? And how can the alumni interactions be improved?
ND: In my view, the alumni outreach of our institute is not adequately good to the degree it should be because I could remember I hardly interacted with any alumnus apart from a few known seniors. However, alumni outreach can be a great source of guidance and inspiration for many people which can help the students understand what is going on in the outside world.
It will be better if we have a database of all the alumni and that information should be made public so that anyone can view and interact with them through a specified channel for guidance and all other things. Alumni are always ready to connect to the alma mater. The only thing is that the channel should be initiated by the current student bodies with the help of the Institute for once, and as a chain reaction it would go on.
MM: What advice would you like to give to the current aspiring generation of engineers/scientists?
Engineering is a discipline, in fact, it is the only discipline which gives the students the opportunity to follow their passion, exercise their interests and do what they love. I would simply suggest the current generation of engineers to find where they fit the best, and pursue it that which would ultimately lead to success and satisfaction.