NITR's Pioneering Coup in Tata Steel WoM

NITR's Pioneering Coup in Tata Steel WoM

The programme Women of Mettle is directed at uplifting gender diversity and inclusion in the manufacturing sector. It was launched in 2017 to identify, groom, and encourage specifically the female engineering talent in India's manufacturing sector and display their ingenuity, understanding, and spirit. This program is a piece of the MOSAIC initiative – a mission to boost diversity and inclusion by TATA steel, prompting improved gender diversity in the workforce. Women Of Mettle is a challenge-based selection process where 50 sophomore female participants are initially selected from some of the top institutes of India like IITs, NITs and the likes. The candidates go through a rigorous selection process that involves technical challenges at different stages. Young confident, driven girls who represent various engineering domains participate in the competition. The fifth edition received the highest-ever entries from more than 950 female engineering students of over 50 premier engineering institutes across India. As a component of the programme, the candidates work on real-life technical challenges, and the top 10 shortlists work and present their answers to the esteemed Jury at the grand finale of the opposition. 

The program is conducted as follows:

Online Test (OT)

The OT conducted by AMCAT  is an online recruitment test by TATA Steel. It has 32 questions; 18 aptitude based questions and 14 technical questions based on department subjects. Through the OT, 50 participants are shortlisted for the further rounds. The platform is highly proctored, without negative marking and back navigation. All questions were compulsory to attempt.

Presentation:

The Top 50 selected candidates are asked to give their preference order from a set of projects, and finally, one problem statement is assigned to them that must be completed within a month. The candidates prepare a project report and present it in front of the Jury during the pre-finale (all Top 50 candidates give presentations) and finale (for selecting Top 3 out of Top 10) rounds. The Jury picks the victors based on their presentations, feasibility and quality of the proposed arrangements. 

The Top 10 candidates get a grant of 2,00,000/- in addition to an opportunity to pursue a career at Tata Steel. They are inducted into the company first as Technical Trainee Intern, and along these lines, receive a Pre-Placement Offer (PPO). The up-and-comers, positioned 11-30, are additionally offered a summer internship in the 3rd year of their engineering course. The remaining 20 are awarded Pre-Placement Interview (PPI) Offers.  All the candidates are awarded with swags and certificates from Tata Steel. 

NIT Rourkela laid its mark on WoM season 5, with a total of 6 participants making it through the Top 50, which is a considerable number from a standalone NIT. The Top 30 contestants were Subhashree Patra from the Electronics and Communication Department, Sudeeksha Vandrangi from Metallurgical and Materials Department, also pursuing a BSc in Programming and Data Science from IIT Madras and Yogita from Mining Department. Deepsikha Brahma from Ceramics Department got through the Top 10 and bagged a PPO and an internship offer from TATA Steel. The follow up is their journey regarding breaking through this difficult challenge and facing it head-on.

DEEPSIKHA BRAHMA: A TOP 10 FINALIST

THE BEGINNING OF WoM:

MM: How did you find out about this challenge, and what motivated you to participate in it?

Deepsikha Brahma: Many sources commenced my WoM journey, starting with guidance from one of my seniors, Namrata Nayak. She is currently a final-year student at NIT Rourkela and had made it to the Top 10 of WoM Season 4 in 2020. As a result, I had some prior insight into this competition. Later I was informed about the same from my Placement Coordinator. Further,  a webinar was organised by the Talent Acquisition team of TATA Steel which discussed the pros of participating in the WoM program and the multiple opportunities. The webinar was gripping and informative. WOM is a wonderful platform to showcase our knowledge to the highly qualified and excellent jury members from TATA Steel itself and the perks that one receives are really amazing; hence, I thought it was a schmick path forward. 

MM: How did you begin your preparation for WOM? Was there a specific routine that you followed?

Deepsikha Brahma: Since our end-semester exams coincided with WoM, I did not have enough time to study much beyond the academic curriculum; however, I cleared my doubts from the professors and tried to understand all the concepts fundamentally. I have also taken a minor degree in the Metallurgical and Materials department, which further strengthened my preparation. In my opinion, excelling in academics is the sole conceivable preparation in such competitions. I have always been a core oriented student. Focussing on core subjects helped me get through the technical test. For aptitude questions, I had prepared from IndiaBIX, which in my accordance is sufficient. For solving my project, I sought help from my mentors and several expert industry professionals.

MM: Did the pandemic offer any restrictions during your WoM journey? If yes, how did you go about it?

Deepsikha Brahma: The Talent Acquisition Group from Tata steel allots us some topics related to the life technical problems of the industry for the case study purpose during the WoM competition. So, without any prior industrial experience, it would be tough for one to assume the solution. I tried to acquire industrial knowledge from the Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP), but it was impossible due to the pandemic and month-long lockdowns. As a result, I had no practical experience or understanding before entering the competition. It was difficult for me to make assumptions about the life technical problem that was assigned to me. Thereby, I contacted several professionals from various steel plants like TATA Steel, TATA refractories and RSP to solve my project. Had I dropped by the steel plant in person, it would have been succour and informative.

MM: How did you manage the WOM preparation and your responsibilities as an ICS Coordinator and other academic-related work?

Deepsikha Brahma: I believe I can supplement my time management abilities, so juggling all of this was not a massive challenge for me. But I sure felt sometimes burdened because of overlapping schedules. 

During my WOM and subsequent rounds of registration, I was not a coordinator. I was undergoing the scrutinising phases, including a personal interview (PI) and various coordinator intern chores. The deadlines for submitting PIs and other tasks were close to our examinations. Our spring semester exams began on June 12, and my registration, PI, and OT for WoM were scheduled simultaneously. As a result, that month became quite taxing for me. The WoM OT round occurred on June 23, and because it was amidst exams, I couldn't afford any more practice. I looked through a few key ideas again. In July, we had Autumn semester examinations.   On July 1, the top 50 results were announced, and my project was allocated to me on July 9. On July 20, I was formally designated as the coordinator of ICS. As a result, I had to prepare for the WoM semifinals while coordinating the obligations of the ICS coordinator. When I was unable to attend several critical meetings due to WoM, my coworkers helped me out.

I followed a strict schedule to ensure that all of my work was completed on time. Being acquainted with my academic syllabus for exams aided me in completing the OT of WOM. I structured my schedule to provide equal weight to all of the club's activities, academics, and coordinator responsibilities. I was able to get through this with the support of my fellow mates and smart time management.

THE JOURNEY:

MM: On qualifying for the Top 50, what was your project priority and how did you begin its preparation?

Deepsikha Brahma: Following the OT, the Top 50 results were revealed on July 1, and the project was assigned on July 9. My research focused on the role of carbon in refractories. I had to examine carbon's role in several types of refractories utilised in the steel industry and avoid the disadvantages of adding carbon to these refractories. I had just finished my fourth semester; as a result,  I had a small grasp of refractories, but I needed to go over them again for my project. Mrs Saumita Gangopadhyay of TATA Steel was my mentor. I referred to a book titled Refractory Technology: Fundamentals and Applications by Prof. Ritwik Sarkar of NIT Rourkela's Ceramic Engineering Department. My mentor assisted me throughout my project. She asked me to deliver a topic before her, and such an exercise boosted my confidence. All of my seniors were also really supportive. They used to provide me with resources and study materials for reference and clarify my questions. More than that, they used to instil confidence in me that I would be able to succeed in what I am doingIn addition, I cited various research articles from Google Scholar and other such sources. Google and YouTube were beneficial to me. Prof. Debasis Sarkar, the HOD of my department, also provided me with reference materials for my project. I am thankful to all of the talented individuals that supported me in making it o the Top 10 in WoM.

MM: Did you expect to get chosen among the Top 10 finalists, and how did you feel?

Deepsikha Brahma:  I had no idea regarding the actual number of participants when I registered, but I later learned that there were over more than 950 registrations. The competition was open to all female candidates from selected institutes and almost all branches except a few. One's position should be among the top 25% of the respective branch to participate in this competition. With many such competitors, I was unsure if I would even make the Top 50. The 50 competitors chosen for the OT round were all excellent, and their proposals were all distinctive and fascinating. I wasn't sure if I'd make it into the top ten. The judging members lauded the answers given by the Top 50. As a result, the competition to move up to the Top 10 from the Top 50 was fierce.

MM: If not for TATA Steel, what is your backup in the internship arena?

Deepsikha Brahma: I am more inclined towards the core subjects. Thus, my goal was always to secure an internship and placement in the core industry. But now, I have been offered a scholarship, internship, and PPO from TATA Steel to continue with it.

MM: Any experiences that stood out for you during the  WOM journey that you would like to share?

Deepshika Brahma: I made it into the Top 10, but I couldn't get into the Top 3. All ten finalists were exceptional and excellent engineering prospects.

This taught me that life is a game. We win, but we also lose. We learn from our mistakes, but nothing is possible without hard work. We can achieve a lot if we work hard and focus on our goals. Achieving success is not important but rather learning from your mistakes. During my month-long preparation, I encountered this for quite a while.

MM: What would be your piece of advice for women pursuing WOM in the future.

Deepsikha Brahma: To all the eligible women for these competitions, don't hesitate and go for it. Personally, the extra-curricular activities helped me build my confidence and develop my skill set. Academics are equally important. It's all about time management.  We live in an era where women can pursue engineering, which was thought to be a male-dominated field. As of now, there are many opportunities, so we have to be bold. There will be difficulties but be confident and face them head-on. 

MM: Anything that you learnt during your WOM journey that left a deep impression on your life.

Deepsikha Brahma: I couldn't go on industrial inspections, so I opted to contact experts from core industries such as Tata refractories, Tata steel, and the Rourkela steel plant. I gave it my best since this was important to me, and I would have felt terrible if I hadn't made it to the top 10.

For me, the entire experience felt like a game, and I progressed through different stages in the same manner that we do in games. At each stage, I learned something new. For example, while registering, I was required to submit a 150-word abstract on why I wanted to work for Tata Steel; based on this, only fifty people were chosen to continue. After qualifying for the top fifty categories I felt myself wanting more. Like it’s said, desires achieved increase thirst like saltwater. So my next goal was to be in the top ten, which I did achieve by god’s grace. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the top three, maybe luck was just not in my favour. An important lesson I learnt was that one should be patient and stay grounded. Losing doesn’t mean that our life is shattered or that nothing matters anymore, it is just a part of the process. Don’t let negative thoughts get to you and take on the challenges confidently.

MM: What are your future plans?

Deepsikha Brahma:  I have been offered an internship at Tata steel, following which I will join the company. Subsequently, I will appear for the CAT exam to pursue MBA, And I wish to complete my MBA in IIM or Xavier's institute by scoring a qualifying percentile in the entrance exam. I haven't thought of doing an M.Tech or PhD, so after completing my MBA, I plan on focusing on the industrial field only.

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TOP 30 QUALIFIERS:

Monday Morning (MM): How did you learn about this challenge, and what motivated you to participate in it? 

Subhashree Patra (SP): At the end of my second year, I learned about the Women of Mettle challenge by TATA Steel through my Placement Coordinators. Initially, I didn't know much about the benefits Tata Steel offers through this program. All I knew was that it provides scholarships to the top performers. In the beginning, I was taking it with very ease, but possessing the competitive spirit, I couldn't resist participating in delivering the best of my ability to perform. I guess that's what boosted my performance, making me getting selected in the top 50 at the first stage. 

Sudeeksha Vandrangi(SV): I first heard about this challenge through Jasmine Nayak (click here to know more), a senior from Steellun. She was a winner of WoM, so she was the one who pointed me in this direction. Talking to her was very insightful; she played a pivotal role for me on multiple fronts, not just for WoM. Generally from the Metallurgy Department, we have a good traffic of people applying for WoM, so I knew about it. Later, I read testimonials of the past winners, which kindled the notion of competing in WoM for me.

Yogita: I learned about this competition through my seniors, Rohan Kumar Pattnaik and Shubangi Srivastava, in the last few months of my 2nd year. When I came to know about this, I was thrilled. I was sure that this was something I wanted to be a part of because many people told me that it mightn't align with my interests when I got mining engineering. Still, I always believed that whatever I'll get, I'll consider it my destiny and do the best possible in my way. And this competition gave me that opportunity to do something in my core branch.

MM: How did you begin your preparation for WOM? Was there a particular routine that you followed?

SP: As the written test of WOM was conducted between the two end semester exams, I didn't feel the need for any separate preparation required for taking the test. I was already thorough in the academic curriculum as the syllabus of the ECE department covers all the basics. All I needed was a revision of all the core concepts to brush upon. Besides that, I habit of solving some aptitude and reasoning at leisure to lighten up my mood. So basically, there was no strict routine that I followed but being consistent throughout the year is what I believe made me taste this pinch of success. 

SV: There were some who prepared for it at a very high level, but I banked majorly on my classroom learning. My department has excellent professors who are ever ready to clarify our doubts. For Round 1, whatever I remember learning during the online classes was sufficient. It was a completely different call for Round 2, as we were assigned mentors and projects. My project was about the Process Capability study of mechanical properties of critical grades of Hot Strip Mill Steel. It was completely different because it wasn't even related to anything I had learnt before. So it was challenging at every stage because it is new, and no matter how many research papers you glean through, it is always different in the industrial landscape.

Yogita: We were told that there would be a Technical test that will include basic aptitude type questions and Domain related questions. For the first part, I took help from the internet; there are many websites where you can prepare for basic aptitude, logical reasoning kind of things and the second part, I didn't have to schedule extra because at that time we were having our end sem exams, so most of the syllabus of my 2nd year got covered at that time. I did try to follow some routines, but due to exams, I couldn't.

MM: On qualifying for the Top 50, what was your project priority and how did you begin its preparation?

SP: To say frankly, though I had performed well, I wasn't expecting myself in the top 50 because WOM is being conducted at an all India level. And to be the first from my department in all the five seasons so far is bliss. The project was allocated in the mid of July, and as no classes were going on, I decided to give the project my topmost priority. My project was "Reliability model for Control valves and study for solution effectiveness". All the selected candidates were allotted one month to go through the industrial problems faced in the arena and design a real-time solution that can practically boost the process. Being a student of ECE background, I had a brief knowledge of 'control system', but the 'control valves' was ultimately an alien concept to me. So, I began with the basic concepts, gradually understood the problem statement, and successfully delivered a real-time solution.

SV: In my project, the 'Process Capability study of mechanical properties of critical grades of Hot Strip Mill Steel', I was given data about five different steel grades manufactured by Tata Steel Kalinganagar plant, and I had to do a process capability study, i.e. whether the process that was being followed in manufacturing the steel was capable enough or not. And finally, based on the result, I had to suggest changes to the chemical composition of the micro alloys added for the purpose of strengthening the steel. It was a completely different landscape from what I had learned until then, but it was pretty fun while thinking about the solutions and being guided by a mentor who was ever ready to help.

Yogita: All the projects that I was asked to choose from were based on the current problems faced by mining engineering. The project I got was "To suggest a suitable non-destructive technique for rock breaking, eliminating conventional blasting technique". I took guidance from my mentor, Mr Sambhu Nath Jha. First, we started to get the answers to two questions,
1. Why we need new technologies for breaking rocks.
2. What problems mines are facing due to conventional methods. Then Mr Debadatta Dey, one of our department alumni working at Tata steel, helped me finish my presentation. I got a lot of help from my department professors, Prof. Singam Jayanti and Prof. Ram Manohar Bishwal. Prof. Jayanti asked me to go through some of his technical papers and case studies of different mines where some new methods of rock breaking were used. And finally, I proposed the idea of using hydraulic breakers and splitters, controlled foam injection technology, and explosive agents after discussing with my mentor.

MM: Were there any challenges that you faced during the project preparation and presentation? If yes, how did you overcome them? How did your mentor help you through it? 

SP: I did face some challenges during the project preparation; I met many issues at delivering a solution to the problem. My project mentor had allocated his subordinate to guide me. He spent 30-45min every alternate day enlightening me on the concepts and problem statements. But eventually, the idea of the solution had to be given from my side. As the control valve is vast, my mentor told me to focus on the jamming problem in control valves. I spent too much time finding a research paper that would allow me to take a clue, but the numbers were too less. I gathered information on developing a reliability model by talking to seniors like Abhishek Pramanik (click here to know more), Soumya Sambit Rath (click here to learn more) and an intense search on google scholar. Prof. U C Pati has guided me a lot in the process of developing the reliability model. My mentor also helped to refine my solution. Lastly, a big thanks to Nischay Nirajit Mohanta, my cousin and an alumnus of NITR, for having helped me from the very start till my submission. My position in the top 30 was a success owing to the help I received from all. 

SV: Although I had to go through the actual process Tata Steel was following to manufacture the steel, my project involved a lot of modelling to depict the process capability index using the 3 Sigma Process. Hence, I came across specific mechanisms that are not only relevant to the steel industry but rather are preambles used to study any business scenario. Thus, I had to learn a lot within a brief period, but luckily the data provided to me was competent. My mentor helped me a lot by conducting 2-3 sessions where he offered a complete overview of Tata Steel's processes and the standards they follow. Many insights are now augmenting the understanding I have of the current subjects I'm learning.

Yogita: The major challenge I faced was collecting information about these new technologies of rock breaking. Most of them are in a preliminary stage, so there have not been many case studies or projects which could give information on whether these methods are economical, productive or not. My mentor was beneficial, and he helped me get this data, taking references from mines under tata steel.

MM: What would be your piece of advice for women pursuing WOM in the future.

SP: To all the aspirants out there, I would like to say - follow your passion, be it WOM or anything else! Get your concept clear and stick to the basics, as these are the only things that will make you pass through the maze of exams. Along with this, practice a good deal of aptitude and reasoning questions as you will be facing them in almost every online test you give to get shortlisted. Manage your time, plan out things properly, keep calm and then boom, success is all yours! 

SV:

So I usually go by two rules. Rule 1: 'Don't sweat the small stuff 'and Rule 2: 'It's all small stuff". 

Even when I was applying for WoM, even though I had guidance from such an outstanding senior, my friends had to push me until the last minute; I kept having doubts about whether I'd find it exciting and worthwhile since I'm more interested in data science and coding and WoM seemed entirely different from what I was working on. However, I'm glad I did this because it was an experience, and I couldn't be more proud. Initially, it was difficult for me even to comprehend that I had made it to the Top 50, but in the end, things turned out for good. So it would be best if you kept an open mindset and never say no to something before you even try them. You should explore and give yourself at least 2-3 months before you make a decision. Be patient with yourself, and with this attitude, you can do anything.

Yogita: I will only say that this competition is not about getting selected; you get to know more about your branch far from books, its present problems, innovations, and your capabilities. So do what your heart says and prepare for what your aim requires.

Team MM congratulates all the achievers for their tremendous efforts and wishes them good luck for all their future endeavours. 

Designs by – Insha Mustafa

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