Rohan Ajith, a 2017 Chemical Engineering alumnus talks about his placement experience and subsequent selection in Vedanta. He talks about the work culture at Vedanta and what they look for in employees. He also gives a lot of insight and interesting opinions on how PoRs can be used effectively to overcome CGPA barriers and help in your day to day work.

The Dynamic Work Culture

My experience with Vedanta has been great so far. I am placed in Bharat Aluminium Company (BALCO) a subsidiary of Vedanta based in Korba, Chhattisgarh and am currently designated as GET-VLDP (Graduate Engineering Trainee – Vedanta Leadership Development Program).

As a part of the training, I was given 2 projects aptly named Action Learning Projects. These projects had a technical base with a business angle. Vedanta consists of many companies and for my first project, I worked in my home location, Chhattisgarh in BALCO. My second project was with Hindustan Zinc Ltd. in Rajasthan. In addition, there was a  third project in Vedanta’s CSR department focused on child welfare in village Anganwadis (Now Nandghars in association with Vedanta) in Rajasthan.  Basically so far I have travelled across companies within Vedanta and gained a wider perspective of a group and witnessed what a huge diversified metal company really has to offer.

The only downside is that I have not been assigned my role yet (It is decided but not conveyed to us). I would know my exact role and responsibility at the end of an extended induction & training period which focuses on various individual technical facets of the aluminium smelting process. This is geared to make me take up my role in the end in a smoother fashion with a proper understanding of company from within (Yeah they are investing a lot in us!). The training so far at Vedanta has had a very steep learning curve. From what I understand, I would be placed directly under the higher management or even may be part of a major ramp-up project planned here. And even if I am not in either, there are other exciting projects which provide a lot of opportunities.

The Unique Aspects of Vedanta

Vedanta gives you responsibilities early on. Unlike several other places, you don’t have to undergo a lot of training sessions doing menial and mind-numbing jobs. Even in Vedanta’s training period, you undertake responsibilities. During my training, I reported directly to the Head of the plant and presented to the CFO and COO. They considered my work seriously and gave constructive feedback. My mentor within the group is the CFO of BALCO and his guidance has been invaluable. In these ways, Vedanta broadens your perspective and is an ideal place to start your career.

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Two factors make Vedanta unique. One, Vedanta is a truly Indian company with core Indian values. Second, India has a rapidly growing market and Vedanta being a B2B company is ideally placed to capture this growth. So, it is a good place to be in.

What Vedanta looks for in employees

Vedanta has 7 core values. Of which I often iterate three points to anyone who asks me:

Entrepreneurial spirit – You should be ready to take ownership and think of ways to make things better. Vedanta is quite aggressive in this aspect.

Trust – They expect a person with strong integrity who follows the code of conduct. Since Vedanta trusts you with responsibilities early on, you have to build and maintain that trust.

Innovation – Vedanta assesses candidates for out of the box thinking capabilities. You must be able to bring new blood and new ideas to the company.

The other four – Excellence, Care, Integrity & Respect are equally important.

Core or Non-Core

The way I decided this was quite shaky to say the best. I never had much ‘enthu’ about core-core Chemical Engineering and was never much into acads. I was rather into extracurriculars, working in Saarang and EML. I never thought that I would end up with a core profile!

I actually weeded off options one after the other. I did an internship in Furnace Fabrica, which is a core Chemical Engineering company. The work was good but I did not see myself continuing there because it was a design based consulting company and not production oriented. Then I did an internship at Schlumberger.  This again was a limiting sector. It was a niche oil and gas upstream consulting firm and I really didn’t see myself going anywhere in it. I realised by then that I wanted to work in a proper industry. But I was sure that it should not be a complete core profile. Vedanta fit ideally into these constraints, for the role is a semi-technical and semi-management one. You need technical expertise but it is not complete core Chemical Engineering. It has aspects of management sprinkled in it.

I was also inclined towards the finance sector. Thankfully, I am not there. Entering finance would have been pigeon-holing myself in one sector. I don’t have a definite answer as to how I arrived at the conclusion but I am happy with my decision. Now in my view, non-core with no specific field in mind is frankly gambling with your career. It may turn out good, but you never know. I wasn’t interested in individual fields available, other than a borderline interest in finance. So it was clear early on, this wasn’t for me.

Placement Experience

Placements are one hell of an experience. You can make stupid decisions just to regret them later. But thankfully I didn’t do so. My placements were kinda ‘chill’.

The problem is, companies are divided into sectors and build rigid walls around these sectors.

I was so pained with lack of actual diversity in the engineering roles that I was applying for on my own outside the placement circuit (Asian Paints, Foseco India). I wasn’t sure about  Vedanta because they decided to come just a day before the placements. But the second they opened their profile I was sure that I wanted it. I also applied to JP Morgan and even got through preliminary rounds. Now that I say it, I wonder what I was thinking applying to a finance company. I am not a finance guy and would have hated it had I got selected!

I feel that placements could have been better managed. It need not be so hectic. I am not sure if I am correct but I felt a little disappointed in the way it was structured and run. I am no one to judge. I don’t know the hell the placement team goes through. But looking at how much the profs and management look into Saarang & Shaastra, placements felt decidedly different management wise.

Vedanta Placements

Vedanta was a day 2.1 company. I had a group discussion round where the topic was demonetisation. It was like any other GD. I had a just one interview for half an hour which contained both technical and HR. They went through my resume, interns and PoRs. In Furnace Fabrica, I had worked in a sulphuric acid plant. So, they ‘grilled’ me on the various engineering and technical aspects there. My HR round was decidedly different, but then it is subjective. I cannot comment on how it would turn out for another person. Look placement is a two-way street Just like you are looking for a company to work in, the companies are looking for candidates who would stay with the company and are well-suited for the job. My father had been an employee of Vedanta and had quit a while ago. So, they did ask me what I saw in the company and why I want to work here when my father had left (see, decidedly different). It wasn’t hectic because I was prepared for these questions. Frankly, you should prepare for HR separately for each company. That’s what I did and it helped me a lot. Even in JP Morgan, I was not selected because of my lack of coding skill. But they did offer me a chance for an interview at a later stage if I was willing to work on my coding skills. This was because I could convince them that I am good team player. So, HR is something you should focus on.

PoRs Matter!

There is something to be made clear about PoRs. More PoRs are not going to get you anywhere. It is what you learn from them that actually matters. You should be in a position to not just show them in your resume but also pitch them effectively in the HR interviews. Your PoRs will help you even in your day to day work to learn and adapt.

My PoRs were very helpful in this and are helping me to this very day. I approached them very differently. I considered them not as a means to an end but did them out of genuine interest. I was in EML PR team. EML might be a big thing now, but when I was in my 2nd year EML was nowhere near this big. It exploded up in my 2nd year (Big thumbs up to Sudarsan our core that year!!) and I could witness it as a part of the team. We got great speakers and in my two-year tenure, we experienced everything from auditoriums bursting with people, to empty ones where we had to handle the situation with speakers. Hell! We even had a press release conducted for Dalai Lama’s EML! This success gave me a big boost personally and taught me some important lessons. We were working with four groups of people who had stakes in the event: the student community, the professors, the speakers and the media. All four stakeholders had different perspectives and expected different things from the same event.

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I was on the Outreach team of Saarang and here too there were different events, pro shows etc. where again you had to convey different ideas to different people. I understood this need for multiple perspectives early on and it helped me a lot, later in my career. Now when I am making a presentation for different people say my manager, CEO or Vice President I ensure that I give each one of them what they want.  

I was the Publicity Head for Saarang, handling events which were thousands of kilometres away from Chennai. We organised Milan Kolkata, Pune, Mumbai etc all outreach programmes all organised and managed from Chennai!

Now, this helped me make companies realise that I had management potential and they value this a lot.

In a nutshell, your PoRs are not going to help you unless you learn from them and you bring value to them. These are 2 important aspects. Being in 10 teams is not going to help but will rather show that you are not sure about what you want to do. Knowing what you what is crucial. It may be okay in your 2nd year, as you are trying to find what you want. But in your third year, you should have found out your interest. Don’t do PoRs for your resume. Do it out of genuine interest.

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CGPA Needs

CGPA is extremely important. But a very high CGPA above 9.5 is also toxic and a too low one will greatly limit your options. Like I said, placement is a two-way street. The companies want to hire good candidates who will work for them as much as you want to get placed in a good company. So, if you have a very good CGPA but cannot convince them that you really want to work there you may have a problem. CGPA is important in the beginning to shortlist candidates. With 400 students applying, the companies need to weed out and select a few for the interviews and this is where a decent CGPA comes handy. My CGPA was 7.98 which was sad because a 0.02 higher CGPA would have opened a lot more shortlists.

But once you are sitting in front of the interview panel CGPA matters as much you want it to matter. It depends on how you decide to take the narrative forward. My CGPA was low but I could convince them that I had a good knowledge of Chemical Engineering from my internships. I projected my management experience, outgoing attitude, ability to get things done and result-oriented work, all gained through my PoRs. This with my general demeanour in interview helped me overcome barriers set by low CGPA.

Placements – To be kept in mind

Don’t take placements too hard. I know a lot of good people who deserve good company, not getting selected because they took things too hard and too seriously. You should be ‘chill’ during your placements. The companies are not doing you a favour and need you as much as you need them. Always understand why you want to work for that company before you go for the placement. A clear understanding of why you want to do that specific job will definitely help you get the job. If you are not clear about it right now it’s okay. Read about it and know about the company. Prioritize companies you want and apply selectively and seriously to them. Placements are not very tough, they are just mentally taxing. Don’t worry too much and you should be fine.

Insti Life Gyan

Oh, boy! Haven’t I babbled enough! I will just summarize what I think. Since you are giving your time to PoRs ensure that you have genuine interested in them. Don’t do them just because ‘Senior ne kaha, isle kartha’ (senior told me to do it) or just because they would add a good point to your resume. Like I said, (1)You should learn from them and (2) You must add value to it in your tenure.

Make sure that you have a decent CGPA. At least an 8+ which is in fact not difficult. I am telling this from my personal experience. I could have scored a better CGPA but I deliberately ignored academics, which should not be done. Seriously don’t do it.

Understand that your time is valuable. Once it is lost you cannot get it back. So, manage it effectively and spend it productively. And most importantly enjoy your insti life. It’s fun. I don’t miss it much now, not because it wasn’t good but because I am enjoying my life here now. I enjoyed my insti life then and I am continuing to do so here. So that is something you shouldn’t miss out on.

And above all keep an open mind to things. I speak for myself here. I often found myself out of depth with the incredible people in insti. It was frankly intimidating and kinda scary realising how much I had to improve and that I had the rare opportunity to do so right there. Nietzsche says envy is not evil but rather good (Oversimplification here!) and I agree. It showed me exactly who I wanted to be. Now procrastination definitely did limit me (how can’t it) but still, I am happy where I am and I am looking forward to an exciting career. Not thanks to myself, but because of the incredible people in insti who taught something new every day and the eye-opening experience that is IITM!!

Authors: Renganathan Subramanian (BT-CH ’20) & Hari Ramachandran (DD-MM ’20)

This article is part of our series – The Placement Guru where we bring fundaes from some our graduates who have been successful in cracking the placement process and bagging some of the most coveted offers. For more such articles, you can follow us on Facebook.