Rohan Sablay has used print, blogs and video to fight for student rights on campus and beyond. He speaks to us about his journey so far and his plans for a future beyond Civil Engineering.
What first drew you to engineering?
I come from a middle-class Indian family and I was good at maths and science. These factors in combination often lead to a career in either medicine or engineering! But I always had more inclination towards engineering: it seemed more innovative, and a subject in which I could question the fundamentals. I worked extremely hard to get into college; luckily the hard work paid off.
So no regrets? Do you enjoy studying engineering?
I would have liked my courses thus far to have had greater synergy between theory and practical problem solving. IIT Bombay has outstanding teachers and infrastructure. In terms of theoretical instruction, it’s probably amongst the best in the world. However, what the college lacks – and I’m speaking as a Civil Engineering student here – is sufficient industry collaboration and student involvement in real-world projects. However, I’m pleased to say the syllabus is under review, and may in future include more practical, hands-on experience for students.
Have you gained hands-on experience outside of the classroom?
I interned with the leading construction company in India, the Hindustan Construction Company
, which is famous for its creation of the Bandra Worli Sealink and many other projects. This was a fantastic insight into the working world of a Civil Engineer, and I worked on interesting projects, including the design and analysis of bridges, which helped with my third year coursework at IIT Bombay.
Tell us a bit about your student journalism.
I was always passionate about reading and writing.I tried to convert this passion into fruitful work by associating with InsIghT
, the media body of campus. What started as small reportage articles in my freshmen year soon manifested into articles that were student opinions challenging the system to bring about change. In my Junior Undergraduate year, I was inducted into the Core Editorial team consisting of eight members at the time. It was during this period that I used the power of the pen to fight for issues which affected the student community. These included the Hostel 8 Bus Stop Chronicle
and MCM Scholarship in Issue 15.1
. I also initiated a series of articles called ‘Flip Side
’ - a platform for inbound foreign nationals to express their views about campus and about India.
I also led the IIT Bombay Broadcasting Channel team
(IIT Bombay's video channel). We started a new segment, ‘IITBBC Spotlight
’, focusing on unique personalities on campus. We were also able to achieve the first ever pre-election coverage of the ‘Elections Debate’, helping students make an informed decision. In a nutshell, I have had a great learning experience working with the team and hope that InsIghT continues to make a difference.
You have one more year left. What plans for the future?
I am somewhat unsure about the future: I guess that’s pretty standard across the world! I wish to take things as they come and explore. Speaking personally, and in terms of my field, it’s going to be tough to go in to Civil Engineering unless something really exciting and challenging turns up. The construction industry values experience. In India it takes a long time working at low salaries before you start earning well. Having said that, once you get to a high level, you have tremendous personal and financial growth. There are a some companies in the Oil and Natural Gas Sector which have challenging jobs and provide a competitive salary. I would definitely consider them.
So you're considering various professions?
To be honest, because consulting (Technology and Management) and finance jobs pay the highest salaries, they are the most coveted jobs – even among engineering students – on campus. I would like a very fast-paced job which pushes me to my limits through my 20s. So that means consulting or finance.
But I should also stress that there are lots of engineers on campus who are committed to long careers in their field: many are really into research and pushing the boundaries. In terms of IIT Bombay, I’m really proud to be part of an institute which provides so many opportunities. My teachers have been passionate and inspiring. It was actually working in Civil Engineering that made me realise jobs at the junior level were not challenging enough – and I wasn’t prepared to wait it out through these years.
So will you need to do an MBA at some point?
Yes, almost certainly, but after some work experience. I won’t do it straight after engineering.
What do you hope to get out of EngineeringBecause?
Networking is so important today. It’s a cliché but for a reason: the world is shrinking. So we need to take advantage of that, sharing knowledge, ideas, opportunities. So I would love to use the site to exchange information and collaborate with people across the world.
Is there anything you’d like to share with EngineeringBecause members?
I recently worked with CTARA
on a project for financial inclusion. We visited a lot of rural villages around Mumbai. I’d love engineers to have a look at their work and see if they’re interested in helping. Since the project with CTARA, I’ve become much more interested in development, reading widely about the central issues and discussing them with my fellow students. After working hard for a few years, I want to give something back to the world and help those without the same opportunities I’ve had.