Despite biotechnology being a trending career path, biotechnology students (and graduates) face several issues when it comes to employability. Even for those who have attended an IIT, things are not too different in the core biotechnology domain. Let’s face it – getting a job after B.Sc/B.Tech Biotechnology is a challenge. It becomes even more challenging when students are looking for non-core jobs. Even B.Tech Biotech students at IITs face challenges.
However, with the right attitude and skill development, it is absolutely possible to find a job in the non-core sector. In this post, Siddharth Dialani, IIT-Madras alum (Integrated Masters in Biotechnology), co-founder & CEO – BharatAgri, and Forbes-30-under-30 (2020), talks about his own career journey and how to improve employability after B.Tech Biotechnology in India.
Career and Job Guidance for Biotechnology Students in India
Q&A with Siddharth Dialani, Co-founder & CEO, BharatAgri
Choosing Biotechnology after Class 12th
Tanmoy: What made you interested in Biotechnology?
Siddharth: There’s no story behind it 🙂
Given my JEE rank in 2010, I had to choose between a good college with a lower-ranked branch or a lower-ranked college with a good branch.
I chose the first option. IIT Madras at that time was consistently ranked among the top 5 IITs. Now it has been ranked 1st for quite a few years.
People around me suggested that a good college and peer group can have a good impact on your growth. At the same there’s so much more you can do over and above the academic curriculum. And hence this decision.
Tanmoy: Why did opt for the integrated B.Tech + M.Tech Program at IIT-Madras?
Siddharth: Not many people know but IIT-M is actually famous for its dual degree course. I had read about it and found it cool to spend one more year in IIT.
While in college, many of our batchmates got their B.Tech converted into Dual Degree courses.
Academics, Flexibility, and Co-Curriculars at IIT
Tanmoy: How would you describe your overall experience at IIT-M?
Siddharth: Experience at IIT completely changes who you are.
- When we had joined IIT, we were treated like adults.
- You can choose a few courses in the academic curriculum. I think 80% were fixed and the rest were of your choice.
- You can join clubs, take up projects or be part of management committees.
- At our times, hostels didn’t have many rules which again felt like we had decision-making in our own hands and we weren’t treated like kids.
- One place where IITM isn’t relaxed is its attendance policy. We had 85% compulsory attendance which kind of makes no sense and defeats the purpose of treating us as adults and giving us freedom.
Highlights of IIT-M for Me:
- Peer – Such a peer group is really difficult to find. People don’t only enjoy their lives at IIT but also are highly ambitious and driven. They clear the basic checkbox of having a good attitude and being curious, which every employer wants.
- Academics – I never enjoyed academics at IIT. Unfortunately, the curriculum seemed outdated. At the same time, the professors weren’t really trained to be good teachers. They were subject matter experts but were quite bad at teaching. And hence many students lose interest in engineering completely within the first few semesters.
- Projects – I was the student head of the Centre for Innovation at IIT Madras. We participated in many national and international robotics competitions. One of them being Robocon. If you find this of your interest, do watch Robocon IITM 2014 videos on YouTube.
Preparing for Non-Core Jobs as Biotechnology Students in India
Tanmoy: What were the problems you faced as a Biotechnology student?
Siddharth: We did face some fun challenges being Biotechnology students.
The job market for biotechnology is actually bad. Moreover, even non-tech or non-core companies don’t prefer hiring biotechnology graduates due to their poor mathematical or analytical skills.
So, we were made fun of, that we won’t get good jobs even after graduating from IITs.
These were all fun problems.
You can always train yourselves towards higher IQ and better analytical skills. Some of us in the Biotechnology department did that and got good jobs.
Tanmoy: How did you prepare yourself to learn the transferrable skills and bag a job at Housing.com?
Siddharth: At IIT-M, many students lose interest in their core department. There can be many reasons for this but I feel that the most prominent ones are:
- We have not been able to attract good companies and jobs for core engineering positions.
- The curriculum is outdated
- Professors are quite bad in teaching and engaging students
As a result, students start to find the below fields much more interesting:
Moreover, these fields attract better pay and companies.
IIT co-curricular does a good job preparing you for these. Companies are looking for people with:
- High IQ
- Driven and problem solving attitude
- High energy and bias to action
- Analytical skills
Through different co-curricular activities and by being part of the executive committee at IIT Madras (only 8 out of 8,000 were elected to be part of the executive committee), I was able to train myself for the above skills.
Tanmoy: How should biotechnology students (and graduates) prepare themselves for core Biotech jobs?
Siddharth: I’m not the right person to give advice to those students who are interested in the core biotechnology field, as I didn’t pursue it.
Focus on Skill Development
- If you are in the Biotech department and are looking for good jobs in the non-core sector, do focus on the above skills.
- Prepare well for them. The most important ones are high IQ and analytical skills.
Know What You Want
- Another important point here is to get clarity in thoughts. Most of the students are not clear about what they want and why.
- It’s important to realize which area one wants to work in and tailor their profile accordingly.
- Once you know then you can need to learn about that new domain.
Read Books to Learn about Other Domains
- The answer to all these lies in reading books. This single habit will give you clarity of thoughts, help you understand yourselves better and at the same time learn more about the new domain.
- As students, we skip reading books but we realize later that that’s the most important thing to do. One must develop a habit of reading books every day.
- Any book is fair game. And everything else starts to fall in place.
Tanmoy: What would be your advice for high school students who are interested in Biotechnology (after 12th)?
Siddharth: If you are truly interested in the field, don’t worry much about the job market. First job or first salary is just a short-term benefit.
- This is a field that pays really well after higher education.
- Love towards the field must be more important than the pay.
- Moreover, internationally, Biotech engineers have very high respect and demand.Summary
Summarizing Quick Tips on Getting Jobs Outside Core Biotechnology Domain
Get familiar with the alternative career paths for the biotechnology and life sciences domains. Learn about a couple of them in deep through reading books, networking with the experts, attending workshops, taking online courses, and doing internships.
Even within the core biotechnology, explore beyond the pharmaceutical and medical domain. Read Careers in Biotechnology Outside Medicine and Pharmaceuticals.
In one of our earlier posts, we had done an interview with Isha Sharma, who switched to management consulting after completing B.Tech Biotechnology from DTU. According to Isha, you should build strong computational skills (Biotechnology has evolved) and the ability to perform lab work. Besides, working on individual projects and publishing your findings adds credibility to the work.
Tamoghna Das (B.Tech Biotechnology from VIT) had also faced a few issues due to the lack of emphasis on Maths and Programming in the Biotechnology curriculum. Read how Tamoghna made a career change from Biotechnology to Data Science.
In the next post, Siddharth will talk more about his entrepreneurial journey, Agri-Tech, and BharatAgri. So, stay tuned!