Parthajit Patra

Parthajit Patra

Consultant at Tata Consulting Engineers Limited

Country India

Specialisms Design, project management, water

Career highlights

How I became a civil engineer

I studied for a civil engineering diploma after leaving school and went on to do a civil engineering degree. I worked as a graduate engineer for several contractors and local government before taking a masters degree in public health engineering and moving into engineering consultancy.

After completing my masters degree in environmental engineering I went on to work on many projects in the water sector. The Guwahati water supply project sought to provide the city with a consistent supply of drinking water. I also worked on the Kolkata environment improvement project where I successfully designed the drainage system for India’s largest ever sewerage project.

I’m now working as Deputy Team Leader on smart water management and climate and disaster resilience on a project funded by the Asian Development Bank. We’re improving drinking water in rural areas of West Bengal.

Parthajit is an ICE Superhero because...

Parthajit Patra is a civil engineer passionate about sustainable water conservation and sanitation.

Parthajit earned his superhero status and nickname Metro Man for his work constructing Kolkata’s first underground railway and his contribution in various Metropolitan cities on developing urban infrastructure.

Kolkata water project

Kolkata water project

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I’ve realised that all engineering projects have a social value and understanding the needs of the local community is a really important part of being a great civil engineer. It might as well be called social engineering!

Parthajit Patra

Consultant at Tata Consulting Engineers Limited

I would recommend a career in civil engineering because

This profession is a challenging career building path – every civil engineering project has unique problems to solve which makes it very exciting.

The most important aspect of this is that as civil engineers we get to create infrastructure in the right way to suit the community we’re building it for. Civil engineering is the lifeline for developing our society and to make human lives easier.

I believe the profession is as noble as medical professions as it keeps people alive, healthy and enables our modern way of life. No other field of engineering touches the lives of billions across the globe like civil engineering.

What’s the biggest/most complex thing you’ve made out of Lego? How long did it take you?

In a petrochemical refinery project I was in charge of the construction of a hydro-cracker unit, one-third below ground and the rest above.

It was a complex structure with columns and walls of different shapes and sizes; a hollow rectangular shaft in middle, covered at the top and bottom, with lots of bolt anchors.

The consultant’s requirement was to cast it in a single go to avoid construction joints. It took about three days and two nights of continuous casting.

The main challenge to me was to design the arrangements of the shuttering and scaffolding needed – for about the height of a three storey building. Slip-form concreting (the usual method) was not going to work well in this complex situation.

I proposed to modify the shuttering boards to create different sizes and shapes with grooves. We had to fix these boards in place in stages as the concreting progressed – a novel approach which worked very well. Later I realised this was very similar to building with Lego!

Which individual project or person inspired you to become a civil engineer?

My father and my grandfather were in the civil engineering profession. This family legacy inspired me and from my childhood I dreamt of continuing the tradition.

Complete this phrase: I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also …

An environmentalist and nature lover.

What about being a civil engineer gets you out of bed each morning?

Facing a new challenge every day and solving it. Facing challenges is in the character of all civil engineers, and especially those who deal with project works.

What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?

The one great thing I love about being a civil engineer is the opportunity to get to meet different people and learn their cultures, customs and communities.

When I was young, my understanding of civil engineering was simply about designing and getting the project built as per the drawings.

Since I started working in the urban sector (cities) I’ve realised that all engineering projects have a social value and understanding the needs of the local community is a really important part of being a great civil engineer. It might as well be called social engineering!

Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on??

I got to work on my dream project - the Metro railway project I worked on for three years. It was my first major project, barring some small road and building works. This project attracted me more than any other project.

I would love to work on the metro railway again if I get an opportunity in the future. It has got immense challenges, mainly in construction management.There is always chances of improvisation in implementing the project as per site requirement.

Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust.

Some people seem to think that engineering, and especially civil engineering is an ‘average’ sort of profession, perhaps not highly skilled or respected.

I remember in 2002-03 when I was working on the Kolkata’s Sewerage & Drainage project, inspecting a network of pipe line alignment, when a passer-by approached and asked me whether he was talking to a civil engineer. I was astonished and asked how he guessed. His answer was that civil engineers were the only professional who could be seen on site irrespective of any time, day or season.

Being involved in construction does not mean that our intellect or our talents are less than other professionals. As everyone working in the industry knows, our dedication to the profession and providing the vital services society needs shows that civil engineering is a career for men and women who aspire to greatness.

If anything, you could accuse civil engineers of being too modest so perhaps we should shout more loudly about our work so that the public understand it better. This is the reason I agreed to become civil engineering superhero ‘Metro Man’ for ICE, so that I could help inspire young people to join the profession.

Has civil engineering helped you overcome any personal hurdles/difficulties?

Yes. In my schooling days I was an introvert and shaky when it came to expressing my views even though I had innovative ideas to contribute.

Being a civil engineer, interacting with so many different people and working in large teams has helped me to overcome it and I can now speak confidently when I need to.

Anything else? i.e. personal causes, hobbies?

In my spare time I enjoy photography and travelling.

I want to become a civil engineer.

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