Why do B.Tech Courses Need Seminars?

I once interviewed as a Technical Writer for a startup in Kerala – I was just 1 job old, and very nervous.

As you might have understood already, this job doesn’t require one to have a B.Tech degree, and, like most people in India, I was also an accidental ‘engineer’. (This word is highly misused. Passing Degree != Being Engineer)

So this interview panel consisted of three men. The first part of the interview went really well – I had decent work experience and could answer all their questions. However, the interview went really, really long, and as is the case of long interviews, it went haywire. I think they ran out of questions after a point, as it was probably the first time they were interviewing a tech writer. They started asking me about the thing I knew least – Electronics and Communication.

I was flustered. There I was, explaining to them the differences between serif and sans serif fonts, and suddenly they were grilling me, in what they identified to be an area I had no interest in, but spent four years studying.

“You mean you can’t say anything substantial about four years of your life? Really? Hahaha”

“Explain in 2 sentences, everything you studied there” (Apparently, one guy’s daughter was trying to join the same course in my college)

“Surely you must know something about the real life applications of your final year B.Tech project”

“What do you mean you can’t remember your seminar?”

I made it clear that I wasn’t prepared to answer any questions related to my B.Tech. It was very difficult for me to get through the course, and it was my distaste for engineering that made me choose Technical Writing in the first place. Of course, that meant nothing, and they moved further along my resume.

The more they asked, the less I could remember anything, and I resisted trying, because it had nothing to do with my job (or their company).

I got out of that interview feeling like absolute crap. My ears burnt and there was a puddle behind my neck. I hated the fact that I was mocked for being bad at Engineering, something that I had had enough of in those four years in college anyway. I probably wouldn’t get this job. Damn. Why couldn’t I say anything about the seminar – after all, like they said, I prepared a report and even blabbered nonstop about it for 15 minutes!

Why did B.Tech courses need seminars anyway?

Fast forward to..

Tonight, I’m in the balcony with B. And he’s telling me that his knee hurts.

As he starts counting the number of times he rubbed my stomach when I had cramps, I (mock)complain and (mock)whine and get up.

We were talking.

He says, “Shouldn’t there be a robot that can help me do my physio?”

Me: “Yeah, I figure there should be one somewhere in the world”

B: “Yeah?”

Me: “Yeah”

Me: “Wait..”

And kids, that’s the story of how I remembered my seminar topic for the year of 2012.


And maybe this was why my B.Tech course needed a seminar – so that I could do some research about a robot that did physiotherapy – lower limb rehabilitation to be precise, talk a full 15 minutes about it, prepare a report, get a grade for it, forget all about it, get taunted during an interview for forgetting, fall in love with a boy, get married to him, see him get through a year of physiotherapy due to an injury, help him with his bouts of knee pain, and someday when he asks, “Shouldn’t there be a robot for it?,” reply, “Wait…..”


PS: I never got that job – I still don’t know what they were looking for. In retrospect, not only were those men clueless about what to ask, they were pretty sexist, too. When I was negotiating my salary, one guy said “Why’d you need so much money? Your dad was an NRI.” (Any NRI-sons reading this who ever got asked this during an interview, please let me know).

PPS: How many times does an interviewee need to say “I don’t know,” until you stop asking them about a particular topic? (I stop at two)

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