On Becoming a Metallurgist


At this stage I’m supposed to say that I had a burning desire to be a metallurgist from when I was only knee-high. Not so. Just like I made the right decision at the right time to retire for all the wrong reasons, the reasons for choosing metallurgy could at best be described as half-cocked.

In the first place, why an engineer ? “Well, I’m good at maths, but I don’t want to go into teaching …”. Sounds convincing ? Thought so. At least I had sufficient self-knowledge to see that I didn’t have the temperament to be a teacher. Besides, my dad’s experience as a primary school teacher acted as a warning flag that teaching was drifting in a direction where the wrong temperament could well cause you a little bit more than a mere nuisance.

So I did the entrance exam and passed. How did I get from there to metallurgy ? There was no need to choose anything in the first year, since the subjects were generic ones for everyone. A rough split had to be made in the second year between the options of architecture, civil, mechanical, electronic and chemical engineer. I can’t quite remember why I chose the chemistry branch – maybe I didn’t quite fancy the other branches.

For the last three years the chemistry branch was to split between textile, chemistry proper, and metallurgy. The decision was made on the basis that in my second year I really struggled with organic chemistry, and only just scraped through. And since metallurgy was the only one of the three options that concerned itself mostly with inorganic chemistry the decision was basically made for me.

And after all, there were not many people choosing metallurgy. Hence the logic was that even if there were not many positions for metallurgist there would not be much competition for those jobs either. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I can only say “Ha ! Bloody ha !”.

It also goes to show that I didn’t have much of an idea of the industry I was gearing myself up for, nor what an engineer really did once in a job. But that is the topic for a future blog.

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