A little background: AICTE(All India Council for Technical Education) states that approximately 1.5 million engineers graduate from India each year, worth $3.7 trillion to the economy. According to a report published by the National Employability Report for Engineers, only about 20-30% of engineering graduates are employable in the IT services sector. Less than 3% get into the creamy layer of tech jobs (8–10+ LPA), and the rest are left to fend for themselves.

The bandwagon effect is a psychological phenomenon in which people do something primarily because other people are doing it, regardless of their beliefs, which they may ignore or override.

We hail from a culture that places great emphasis on success, income, and acquiring wealth, albeit often at the expense of prioritizing job satisfaction and overall happiness. India is obsessed with Engineering, especially software engineering. India boasts of having the largest population of engineers globally. From a young age, Indian parents instil in their children the belief that a career in engineering is not just a choice but an expectation. This mindset is fuelled by a stream of success stories and testimonials from friends and family who have achieved prosperity. Indian parents primarily see two career choices: engineering and medicine. While medicine may offer prestige and social status, engineering, particularly in the lucrative field of software development promises financial stability and career advancement. And I am not even touching the train-wreck that is getting into IITs. That is a separate story for another day.

Yet, beneath the surface of this collective pursuit lies a complex web of consequences. While the influx of engineers into the workforce may bolster India’s economic growth, it also exacerbates issues such as extreme unemployment and intense competition. With only a fraction of graduates securing coveted high-paying jobs, the majority, including you and I, are left grappling with uncertain futures and unmet expectations.

We both commence our journey from similar starting points, studying the same subjects and sharing common interests. As engineering students, we harbour distinct aspirations and ambitions as we navigate our paths in this world. Our goals are aligned in the pursuit of earning money, achieving success, and attaining happiness. However, our approaches diverge: I am driven to innovate, build something meaningful, and excel as a software engineer, aiming to make a tangible difference. Conversely, your focus seems centred on securing placement without necessarily aiming for broader impact or personal growth.

You, an engineering graduate, mugged up computer networks and operating systems, solved hundreds of Leetcode questions, and built a bunch of “Task management react applications,” “Boston House price prediction,” “Netflix Clone,” and whatnot of projects, only to find yourself amidst a sea of fellow B. Tech graduates, all striving for success and job satisfaction in the ever-competitive tech industry. Yet, it won’t be long before you realize that this path paved with promises of prosperity does not align with your genuine aspirations.

You realize that this is not something you want to do with your life. Deep down, you yearn for something more that resonates with your passions and purpose. You realize that you’ve always wanted to teach. You’ve wanted to watch and review movies and make music. Maybe you wanted to travel, roam around, see places, or become a journalist, or a photographer. Or, maybe you wanted to pursue the bubble of fashion and entertainment, become a star, pursue film school; or maybe direct movies, sing or become a guitarist.

Now, faced with the realization that you’ve invested four years in a different educational field with an additional two to three years in discovering your true passions, you resolve to pursue higher education in your chosen field. You leave your job, engage in heated debates with friends and family, break your FDs, and embark on this adventurous journey of self-discovery, anxious and oblivious to what this path entails. Down the line, you figure out that now irrespective of whether you’re successful or struggling, you’re happy. You are content.

Looking back, I am immensely proud of you for confronting and surmounting the challenges that have crossed your path. Your journey, though marked by challenges, is also a story of growth, resilience, and the pursuit of personal fulfillment. While I applaud your courage to rebuild yourself, all of this turmoil could have been avoided if you had made educated career decisions based on your passions and aspirations rather than succumbing to societal pressure back in secondary school and high school.

India’s obsession with engineering, particularly software engineering, stems from a deeply ingrained societal mindset that equates success with technical prowess. Parents and colleges, acting with the best intentions, guide students, mirroring societal norms and expectations. While this fixation has propelled India to the forefront of the global tech industry, it’s imperative to recognize the value of diverse talents and passions in shaping a more vibrant and inclusive society. It is essential to discover that true peace and contentment lie in excelling at the career which you’re passionate about.

To those who find themselves at a similar crossroads, I offer this advice: dare to defy societal norms, heed the whispers of your heart, and embrace the journey of self-discovery with unwavering courage. For, it is only by following your true passions that you can truly find fulfilment and purpose in life.

For those grappling with the decision of whether to leave a lucrative yet unfulfilling job, I implore you: take that leap. In the end, true peace and contentment await you in a place where you can cultivate your own Utopia, rather than striving to fit into a cityscape teeming with misplaced ambitions and frustrations.

I am trying to get a rice paddy while you struggle to grow potatoes. We’re both tilling the soil, hustling, irrigating, and yearning for a peaceful night’s rest. And when the day draws to a close, looking at the orangish pink dusk from the farms, birds flying out, soaring high, there’s a profound satisfaction in knowing that we’ve given our all, that we’ve poured our sweat and toil into nurturing what we hold dear.

Worry about excelling in your farmlands. Work harder to strive to be the best. Grow the sweetest potatoes out there. Polish and build yourself, for you, and only you are skilled enough to produce the sweetest potatoes in all the farmlands, in all the worlds.

(“Success ke peeche mat bhaag, excellence ka peecha kar, success jhak maarke tere peeche ayegi”. - 3Idiots)