Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Big B.E

At a family wedding I met a “kind” old gentleman, who retorted “Oh God! Why on earth are you studying B.Sc Mathematics?” when he asked me what I was doing. I was speechless.
It made me think if studying mathematics is that big a crime?
We live in a country where getting a B.E or a B.Tech degree is the be all and end all. Every parent wants his or her child to become an engineer and get into a good software job. Pure sciences have lost their place. They’ve become outcasts; kinda like how I felt when the same gentleman (at the wedding) went on and on about his grandson pocketing a handsome “software salary” after having done B.E. Electronics and Communication from some god forsaken college in the outskirts of Chennai.
After successfully completing my bachelors degree, I got into Anna University (one of the most prestigious colleges in India), to pursue Masters in Computer Science. I thought of it as getting the best of both worlds; I have mathematics as a strong base, and now I am specializing in my field of interest. In the third semester of my Masters, I had to attend a number of campus interviews from potential recruiters until I got a job with a CMM Level 5 company. Most of the tests I wrote were just an eye-wash. The companies wanted only B.E candidates. They might as well only call for B.Es. Why take the trouble of saying “All degrees” and insult others by recruiting only engineers?
I remember one such company whose test I had passed and moved on to the interview. I had to attend two rounds of interviews, both of which I did pretty well. I was quite content with my performance and was confident that I would get through. The results were announced the next day. Three B.E students were selected. The thing that was most shocking was that none of them were from a computer science background. One person had done “Metallurgy”, another “Rubber technology” and the third “Soil Mechanics”.
That day, it dawned on me that, what these companies are looking for, are not good programmers or people with computer skills, but people with ‘B.E’ as a suffix to their names.
Education is getting to be a farce. People no longer do the kind of job that they study for. If not medicine, “engineering it is” seems to be the mantra.