ISRO

Life@ISRO

Compared to other Govt. organizations, ISRO is quite different in certain aspects. Let me point out a few.

Pros:

  1. Starting from time of late Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, Dr. Sathish Dhawan and many other, ISRO has contributed significantly in different domains related to space science. Being the only player in this field in India, it is now a “brand”, a name which many of us want our names to attach to. Being an ISRO-ian gives you a higher societal respect. It is a sort of monopoly. Like IT industries, if five more organizations start working on the same, then the glory which is there at present might get faded out in future. Nonetheless, you’ll yourself feel proud while dealing with classified national information which are otherwise inaccessible from outside the organization.
  2. The environment is academics-friendly. At Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC), you’ll be having one large library, free subscriptions to IEEE and other paid journals without paying a single penny from your pocket. Sometimes, you’ll be sent to different workshops held at various IITs and IISc being sponsored by organization  If the sponsorship amount exceeds Rs/-5,000, it is subject to the approval of an academic committee. Otherwise, your Division Head’s approval is sufficient. Also apart from these external seminars and workshops, they arrange internal seminars and meetings chaired by people out here for years. Professors from other institutes, e.g. BARC, are also invited to deliver lecture.
  3. You’ll get to know space science and technology closely. Computer Science people generally work in launch vehicle software development which are used either directly on-board of a flight or related to development of such software indirectly. While working in an IT company, you’ll never get a chance to get involved in development of a software which will fly thousands of kilometers away. Have you ever been surprised thinking that even the smallest of bug present in such a software, e.g. floating-point rounding issue, can cause a mission to fail leading to a wastage of 500-600 crores of INR? How are such pieces of software quality-assured? How is the offline simulation done? How much time is involved from the development of such a real-time software to be quality-approved? Or have you ever dreamt of developing customized system tools, e.g. RTOS, Compiler, Assembler, Linker, Loader, Simulator etc.? Electronics people generally work in designing and fabricating electronics packages. Some of them, again, in quality-assuring the packages developed. And ISRO is “the place” for people fro Mechanical background. The whole of the launch vehicle, satellite are realized by their ideas. Depending on the division you have been put in, you may get chances to travel to other ISRO centres, especially SDSC-SHAR, the only launch port of India. I went there twice during my last one year of stay at ISRO. Believe me, it’s an wonderful experice to touch a launch-vehicle which’ll be flying away tomorrow. Success of every mission will make you feel prouder as your service is towards the nation.
  4. Coming to professional benefits  you’ll be entitled to availing CHSS (Contributory Health Service Scheme) which will offer you and your dependents an unlimited medical coverage. PRAN, the new pension scheme (NPS – Tier – I) is there to support your post-retiral life. Annually, a decent sum will get credited to your account as professional update allowance. For the post of Scientist/Engineer – ‘SC’, it is Rs./-10,000 presently. Mostly the working hours is limited to 8 hours starting from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The post what is offered is of a Class-A gazetted officer. After the closure of one year probation period required for your background check by local police station and CBI, you can get one seal of yours to “attest” documents. Something funny, initially! Apart from that, the establishment is quite complete because of having a staff quarter, a post office, a bank and a health-center at reasonable distance from office. The area is well-guarded by CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) people. At canteens, the food is highly subsidized.
  5. After you finish three years of service life here, you can appear GATE as a sponsored candidate to get a relatively easy seat in IISc. and IITs. Given the level of competition in GATE now-a-days, this is a chance to fulfill the dreams of those who couldn’t make it through.
  6. Till now, the service is no-bond. You are free to resign from the organization at any point of time without paying any compensation.
  7. You will come in touch will people whom you have dreamt only during IITP – ISRO Induction Training Program conducted to induce you to ISRO.
  8. Like any other Govt. job, your future is assured. Nobody will fire you the next day once your back ground check is complete and found clean.
  9. Job deadlines are there, but depending on the nature of assignment, it is quite flexible. “Slow but steady” is the key here.
  10. Work environment is less hostile and less competitive compared to any private company. But those who’ll expect usual “sit-back-and-relax” type environment what is seen in many other Govt. organizations, a severe shock is awaiting them!

Cons:

  1. Common disease to all Govt. organizations is being unbelievably slow-moving. ISRO is also affected by the same in certain cases. As an example, last year one of my friends resigned with a notice period of one month. In spite of his earnest efforts, ha failed to acquire the relieving letter on the day of his resignation. I was with TCS, a privately held MNC, which required only half a day to process my resignation! Thumb rule for those who have worked in a private company, “Never expect nothing to happen lightning fast here”.
  2. Salary wise it is never comparable to private companies. Though the initial salary may be higher than the starting salary offered by an average IT company, the growth rate is pathetic. For all the promotions, at least four years or more gaps are needed. Worst is, it may get delayed failing to satisfy DPC (Departmental Promotion Committee). Those who are having M.Tech. as their highest qualification, they will get the first promotion in two years instead of four years unlike B.Tech candidates, but subject to the condition that 1/3 of their course tenure must have to overlap with their service period in ISRO.
  3. For Scientist/Engineer – ‘SC’ post, around Rs./-3,500 will be deducted from your salary every month. If you resign prior to your 60 yrs. of your age, that amount will not be refunded back. Our honorable Govt. has not yet decided any policy for such employees. Also, 50% of EL (Earned Leaves) will be en-cashed in case of resignation.
  4. Scientist quarters are not readily available after your joining. It may take a couple of years or so as there will be many people in the queue ahead of you. Bachelors quarters are immediately available, but the problem is that you can’t allow anyone to stay three along with you, even parents.
  5. Until and unless you finish three years of your service here, you can’t apply for either academic sponsorship or study leave. Even if you go as a sponsored candidate after three years, you have to serve a mandatory service period of five years after joining back, otherwise some ~10 Lakhs of bond amount has to be paid from your pocket.
  6. A word of caution to people who have worked in any average IT company. Neither environment nor life is as “shiny and gorgeous” as it is in an IT company.
  7. Unless having special permission, one can’t carry mobile phones inside the office premises. It takes some time to get friends and relatives trained to ISRO culture of not attending calls during office hours.
  8. A gazetted officer, as you will be, may be called in weekends, theoretically 24*7. Saturday and Sunday are the usual holidays, but in certain occasions depending upon the workload in the division you are working in, you may have to work the whole day. “Stay-back” is an usual term here. In such cases, you’ll get car drop to you place.
  9. There are certain division (I won’t name those), though very few, are carrying out “bogus” activities which are not anyway related to launch vehicle. If you are that much unlucky, you won’t get the feel of being in ISRO. To make the matter worse, there is no formal procedure for division change and location transfer. You don’t have any control on which division you’ll be put in prior to joining. This is solely an organizational decision.
  10. Paper work is more here. People are still relying on signature in black on a white paper rather than signing it digitally!
  11. Organizational knowledge management is very poor. Information is either absent or scattered.
  12. Most of the PCs in the workplace are Intranet-only. Only few restricted Internet nodes are available. The constraint is due to restrict the free flow of information from inside the organization. Even the proxy allows only 25 KB of upload from behind. If a mail-chain becomes larger, specially containing inline images, it becomes impossible to send.
  13. In my case, the date of publishing of the recruitment advertisement and date of joining had gap of 13 months contrary to few hours in case of IT companies.
  14. Concept of resource/energy-saving “green” office is still far away.

Now rate and evaluate ISRO yourself. Enough input has been given. :)

I have been bombarded with the question with the question many a times. Why are you leaving ISRO to pursue M.Tech@IIT? Is it a decision worth taking? Won’t it cost you giving up something which many a students crave for? Then surely there is something seriously “wrong” with ISRO, right?

Actually “no”. Perspective matters. Why did I resign from TCS and join ISRO initially? It’s because I was fed up with corporate lifestyle and seriously wanted a break. Joining ISRO rather than an “XYZ” company is always much more preferable. And what I have done here for last one year, may be a bit more, was professionally quite satisfying. But, I was half-hearted since beginning. This is the place for people who are devoted, dedicated to space science. My interests are quite different, cryptography and information security. Evidently those are not aligned to my subjects of choice. I feel this is the time to choose between my passion and profession. And I preferred the former over the later.

What does some expect from an M.Tech. programs@IITs? Might be the following:

  • Academic growth, research opportunity, a platform to pursue Ph.D./Post. Doctoral degrees.
  • Professional growth, a job offering a thick packet at month end.
  • Association, having an opportunity to get to know best technical merits in India.
  • Attitude, brand, being an IIT-ian, more like a dream to many a people.

And my decision to join M.Tech. is dominated by one or more of the following, precisely the first one.

Once again, it has got nothing to do with ISRO being good or bad, perspective matters.

Pursuing M.Tech. or joining Govt. organizations, e.g. ISRO, BARC etc.? A burning question indeeed. To my understanding, it can’t be unanimously answered. Both have their pros and cons. It’s you who have to weigh both the ends and settle down to a decision. Rather I’d try to aid your thought-process providing with certain information which people are generally unaware before joining ISRO.

I wrote GATE 2012 and had an AIR 1403. Also, I took ISRO entrance exam in 2011 and had an AIR 11 out of 23 CS candidates selected. GATE result came out in March 2012 and prior to that in November 2011, ISRO result was published. My joining at ISRO was on March 16, 2012. I’ve mentioned the precise timing just to highlight that for me taking decision was somewhat easy. GATe result was not upto the mark as per “my ” expectation. So, I joined ISRO and gave a second try.

Life is not so smooth always. One of my friend has an AIR 115 in GATE 2012. He joined ISRO initially along with me, filled up the forms in IITs and resigned after three months to join M.Tech. in IIT-M.

So, what do you conclude? That having a stunning AIR in GATE always prioritizes joining an M.Tech. rather than joining ISRO, right? Unfortunately, no. Some more stories follow.

After coming down here at ISRO, I have found one lady having ME@IISc. in 2008, one guy having a dual-degree (B.Tech. + M.Tech.) from IIT-M in 2012 are also working here. Our Deputy- Director, who is an ex-IISc-ian, is still contributing here for last thirty years. One lady from ECE discipline, discontinued from IIT-KGP in 2009 and joined ISRO. During our induction program (called as IITP – ISRO Induction Training Program), I met may people who we can see in TV screen during launches. I have seen many people taking our classes who have earned “Padmabhushan”, “Padmabibhushan” and similar kind of series of national and international awards. And ample such examples are there. Though I didn’t disclose the names of the people I have taken as examples above, count on me. Such people are there.

Why will you join ISRO? What can you expect out of it? Why will you even bother to stick to ISRO? Read this.

And why will you pursue M.Tech.? This is what my perspective is.

Now, choice is yours. Never allow anyone else to dictate you what to do. Ask yourself, and take a decision for which you yourself will only be responsible.

I have been asked this question numerous times by many aspirants. Being tired of iterating the same time and again, I thought of sharing my experience with you.

As many times I have been asked the same, I can bet that I could never satisfy anybody with my reply.   To my belief, no special preparation is required to crack the test. Anyone with a decent knowledge of Computer Science and an average preparation, can pass through the filters. At least it is true for exams conducted in the years of 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. Now, “decent” and “average” are quite qualitative terms. Let me try to explain what I mean.

I wrote ISRO entrance exam. for the recruitment of Scientist/Engineer-‘SC’ on April 14, 2010. The advertisement came out in the month of February. I was working in TCS at that time. The project which I was working in was under extreme stress. Hardly a day passed when I did not have to work for extra hours. Almost eight months lapsed after I passed out B.Tech. It was that time only I “started” thinking to prepare for GATE. As you can understand, the situation was not at all favorable. What I could only do was to practice CS2007, CS2008 and CS2009 question papers available in their website. The exam pattern was like 1.5 hrs., 80 questions, 3 marks each. No calculator was allowed. The questions were not that difficult either. Just take a note that, only “real” challenge in it was the time factor. The time is half of that in GATE and number of questions were more than that in the same. Later on, I discovered that few questions were from previous years’ CS/IT GATE question papers itself.

Result came out. I was shortlisted for interview with an AIR 91. Adiyar ISRO guest house, Antariksh Bhavan, Chennai was my interview center. I was with the same company this time, too. Work pressure was a bit humanly at that time. Yet it was not at all comparable with a regular candidate. To cut the long story short, I appeared in front of the panel consisting of 7-8 members. They asked me questions from all the major topics in CS including Operating System, Networking, Data Structure, Software Engineering etc. It duration was about half an hour. I could answer most of the questions. But I was not confident. After all, it’s relative performance what matters. The next day, I left Chennai with a throbbing heart.

Time for the final result. They published it in the last week of November announcing me as AIR 11 out of 23 candidates selected in total. Joining date was March 16, 2012 at Vikram Sarabhai Research Centre (VSSC), ISRO.

[wpfilebase tag=fileurl id=22 linktext=Here /]  is a collection of results for all branches for the recruitment in 2011.

Hope the information helps.