How to shape a career in the IT industry
Fri, May 11, 2012
We see a paradoxical situation in India today. On one hand India accounts for 50 per cent of the global workforce, yet on the other hand it has been able to garner only two per cent of the global IT market. With a vast supply of graduates and especially engineering graduates, the professionals most in demand in the IT and ITES industry, this talent squeeze may seem mysterious. Yet, when we see the employability and suitability of graduates there is a wide gap between the demand and supply of IT-trained manpower.
Two sides to the coin
India is ranked at the top, as the preferred off shoring destination by AT Kearney's Global Services Location Index and employs up to 2.2 million knowledge professionals in the field. However, with the proliferation of educational institutions, the quality of IT education is lagging behind. Institutions are unable to hire IT Faculty, infrastructure is poor and no stringent examining standards. There is also a significant lack of industry-academia interaction, weak link with professional bodies like IEEE, NASSCOM and CSI and virtually no focus on business communication skills. A "game of numbers" has resulted in inadequate institutes training students who become misfits in the industry.
What are the required skills?
The success of the IT Industry is dependent on a high calibre talent pool and a specialised, deployable workforce. This workforce must also adapt to the changes in technology and market trends. Here are some of the key skill sets:
An entry level engineer should have knowledge of permanent value and not "fleeting skills." We can call this an "Engineering Mindset", characterised by, an ability to "model problems, analyse the problem; find out inconsistent, ambiguous and incomplete requirements, and ask the right questions."
Abstraction and synthesis ability
Abstraction ability helps the professional separate the "grain from the chaff" and takes action to bring about the desirable outcome. They must develop their synthesis abilities along with their analytical abilities, and not just find "solution schemes" for a given problem.
Holistic thinking is an ability to identify factors contributing to the complexity of a problem on hand. The holistic approach helps the professional analyse the characteristics of a problem not shared by any individual component or subsystem. An access to this is provided by a systems thinking approach - which gives the right mindset to dwell on the problem without being bogged down by apprehensions about its implementation and execution.
A problem-solving orientations equips the professional to handle interdependent and interrelated factors. To manipulate "hard" as well as "soft" factors and approach the problem through multiple views and multiple perceptions. It also helps them look for answers to questions themselves. This not only requires a problem solving orientation but also a self learning capability.
These factors are the missing link at the entry level, and go a long way in assuring quality and employability in the workforce.
Do not underestimate the importance of non-technical skills. Given that you work in groups it is important to have people and situation sensitivity and be a dynamic and assertive participant. Having emotional maturity, showing initiative and going beyond your own realm of work to gain additional technical and practical skills is equally important. Having the drive and determination to think beyond the problem, and developing a systematic approach to problem solving is critical. Through all of this, high personal ethics and integrity, and finally good physical and mental health are critical.
Typical career path
Let us trace the career path and skills sets at each level for a typical IT professional:
The entry point is usually as a software engineer from a pool of Engineers/MCA's/ BSc Graduates with 0 to 4 years of experience and then transition to senior software engineer. A software engineer must have basic professional certification and proficiency in at least one language/ platform (like .Net framework, or Java). The certification with .Net would be Microsoft Certification while on the Java side Sun Certified Java Programmer.
With relevant experience you would move up as a Project Lead/ Module Lead/ Analyst with 5 to 8 years experience. Leads are expected to have competency in a few technology areas, programming languages/ platform/ domain. They are also expected to have deep expertise in at least one technology or domain or both. It is also important for them to understand software architecture, databases, platforms, hardware, servers, and an ability to translate functional specifications to design and systems specifications.
The next step in your career is a Group Manager/ Project Manager at 9 to 15 years of experience. Managers must have knowledge of process and quality compliance such as ISO/SEI/ Security processes and an ability to align team process with process compliance and manage risk effectively.
The next step is taking over as Vertical/ SBU Head/ Delivery Manager at about 15 years of experience. The Business Head requires adequate client management skills, and an ability to "clinch" business deals with customers.
The assessment criteria
When interviewing candidates for employment, IT companies expect the candidates to take a written test and a personal interview. They start off by assessing the educational qualifications and consistency of a candidate's academic performance. They also gauge their technical competency and aptitude together with their management and organisational ability. Companies look for good problem solving skills, ability to work in a team and potential leadership skills. It is also important that the personal have a good personality and ability to fit culturally into a globalised workforce.
The author is Jitendra Singh, head-advanced learning center, TalentSprint