This is the third article in the series of articles I am writing on my views on the education in India.  In both the previous articles, I wrote little stories about my own feeling and thinking during the time I was student.

Here is another little story. This time, about the choices in life we have to make as a student. Most importantly, about the career choices.

I would again like to take you back to my student days when I was in the MNREC, studying the Computer science engineering. I was in 3rd year and as a part of our group discussions within my GD group, another topic we used to touch was the “dream company” and where each one of us would fit in, eventually, knowing our capabilities.  Obviously, in the 3rd year of our engineering, none of us knew what was in store for all of us, including the future employers or the work we wanted to do in our life. In fact, we knew a little about the software industry and what kind of work happens once you go in the corporate world.

The introduction of the IT industry for all of us was one where you do lot of programming and you must have great logic and problem solving skills.

Partly right, because even today, majority of the software industry is driven by developers and they drive the industry forward. However, its equally true that software industry does not only consists of developers !!

When we entered into final year and the companies started rushing in our college to do campus interviews, we started to understand few rules of the games that probably sounded little bit confusing to me. Some of the most notable were as follows,

  • All the companies essentially had a cut off by percentage for the people who could actually be eligible to apply
  • Most of the companies chose to only opt for Computer Science and Electronic engineering students and other stream students were not allowed to sit for the exams
  • Aptitude tests were compulsory for most of the companies and again, there was a cut off with passing percentage

Career choices ?Eventually I got through a top MNC and was placed in one of their offices. When I entered the corporate world along with few of my friends, we found ourselves “grouped” into technology verticals based on our academic record.  All the students who had computer science or electronics engineering background, were grouped into “Open source” or “web technologies” group. All the students who had non-CSE background were grouped under “legacy” or “Mainframe” technology group

Once the grouping happened, the related entry level training started. After a month of rigorous training, we all were placed on live projects eventually.  Over a period of time, few new people from either of groups could not survive and had to leave the company because company thought they could not perform up to their expectation level.

 

 

If you have read the story carefully, you would have known the following facts,

  • The hiring company has strict eligibility criteria so only “good” students could be filtered through
  • Only good students eventually got the job through aptitude, group discussions and interview filtering criteria
  • The hiring company decided who goes in which group based on their academic background (i.e., open source vs mainframe)
  • The hiring company put expectations on the employees and raised the bar based on the training provided against specific “technologies”
  • When few people failed, they were shown the door out
  • Remember, all were excellent students !!

So, where do you think things would have gone wrong ! We had good students with very good academic records selected through a stringent criteria.

In my opinion, the we have two fold problem here.

1. General lack of awareness about career options within IT field (development, support, maintenance, testing, process management etc)

2. Generic assumption by employers that everyone is fit to do everything

The first problem is about making students aware of the opportunities that lie within the corporate world that are not “development” kind of jobs. 

Awareness about career choices is a key issue we currently face in the premier institutes. The students tend to choose their career by the name of the hiring company, than the the work they would eventually want to do and would enjoy more.

I have seen students who are very good academically but not so good programmers. Their strength was in their analysis of situation and power to remember things and follow certain laid out procedures. These people could make an excellent career in “testing field”.  Similarly someone who is keen to explore new stuff and learn more each time and think out of box could be very good for “Research & development & innovation cells”.  Some people who have shown good organization and management skills they can rather build their career around program management etc.

Not everyone is born to be a developer !

The second problem only compliments the first one by giving both corporate businesses and students a platform to prove the mismatch.  It is obvious that the student who is not so good in problem solving techniques and algorithm building, can not be a good programmer. 

The companies today pay huge money to do the campus recruitment and hire top talent. Unfortunately, if the fitment between the type of person (student) and does not happen, the person eventually leaves in a year or two out of frustration and looks for change.  This means that these companies are more often than not are tend to lose money that they have invested in these people before getting full recovery out.

I know it is a complex problem and we may not have a ready solution for this but I think it is worth considering.

What do you think ?

In my last post I wrote a small story about myself.  There I mentioned about how I felt the need of having someone from Cognizant to available to talk and get some guidance and unfortunately could not get it.

In this post, I would like to tell one more short story of me and few of my friends when we were in college.  

sproutDuring our college days, I think in 2nd year of our engineering we had formed a group of 6 friends. All of us used to discuss on various topics every now and then and one of the topics, favorite of ours, was discussing about our future.  What kind of job we would get, what kind of work we would do and what is in store for all of us.  Pretty interesting topics !

During those days of college life, we all (well most of us) had a dream of having our own company. Being an entrepreneur and making it big in life.  Well, great dreams we had. Entrepreneurship was one of the common topic that we used to discuss.  Although getting job in final year through campus was a priority, the dream was still in-tact for us that one day we will become entrepreneurs.

So the days passed by, eventually all of us got placed through reputed companies during campus interviews and our discussions kept ongoing.  We kept on discussing lot of ideas and kept on building dreams. We all had grand visions and some very nice plans of co-working together in building businesses.

Fast forward present, all of us are now grown up corporate work-horses. Bigger positions, fatter salaries and busier life is now the mantra for most of us.  But unfortunately the fact is, none of us are entrepreneurs !

 

So, where did it all go wrong ? We all were supposedly bright and talented students, academically doing well, had passion for technology and few grand dreams.

 

Why could not we achieve our dreams of being entrepreneurs. Who could have and probably should have helped us in realizing our dreams. Who should have spotted the talent in us to motivate us / mentor us / guide us to the destination.  May be .. just may be, one of us could have been the (earlier shall I say) Zukerberg !

I wrote an article about an year ago about lack of support for entrepreneurship and innovation in our education system, where I mentioned a general lack of enthusiasm of trying out something else when its ‘easy’ to get a job in India, especially if you are student of a decent college. 

Further to what I wrote in my article, few facts I gathered in last year or so,

  1. Institutes will support innovation and entrepreneurship only if its part of their curriculum.  Otherwise not !
  2. Corporate organizations will support student innovation only if they see eventual benefit to their companies
  3. Government is helpful, but process is very tedious
  4. Angel investors, VC funding is available but reaching out is not yet easy in India
  5. The students, who want to be entrepreneurs, forget all about it once they get the job !
  6. We are not taught to make mistakes and learn from them, we are taught to avoid it !
  7. Someone is yet to write and publish “Idiot’s guide for being an entrepreneur in India”.

I am sure me or my 6 friends are not the only one’s whose dream probably has not yet been fulfilled. There are thousands of guys like whose dream started when they were in university college but could never fulfill them as of now due to some or other reason.

If you ask the question “What do you want to do in your future, a job or your own business ?” to an average 1st year engineering student. We have observed that 8 –9  out of 10 students (80 – 90%) eventually say they want to do their own business some day.  The same number drops to 3-4 students (30 – 40%) by the time they come to their final year of education.

Unfortunately less than 5% of the people actually realize their dream.  Less than 0.2% sustain in long term !

We do have a problem at our hands ! How serious, not too sure, but worth considering, definitely !

I have been talking to few friends of mine about the way the education is taught in the engineering colleges and there were few interesting topics we touched during our conversation.  One of the topics we touched about was the readiness of the premier engineering students for the rigors of the industry. 

We all know that our education is mostly based on the curriculum that does not necessarily reflect the work that will be done by these very students after they pass out of the engineering.  Also, the industry interaction at most of the companies is also limited up to few sponsorship labs (eventually to attract talent to these companies) or the final year sponsored project. Innovation projects or promoting entrepreneurship is not a very common sight in many of the colleges.

I spoke with few professors about the scenario and in their opinion the lack of initiative from the industry people to consistently support the re-shaping of the education system is one of the main reason for this status.  Although the industry people are very good at providing so called recommendation in shaping up the things, they were not very good at providing grass root level support in ensuring that the recommendations reach the deserving students. 

Obviously, me being one of the representative of the corporate industry, it made me think on how this could be done ?

Mostly in all the companies, we do have entry level training programs in order to on board and make the students adjust to the technical / behavioral and professional demands of the industry and make them fit for upcoming project deliveries. More over, many of the organizations also run the scholarship programs to encourage learning, motivate high performing students and pay their fees for entire course.

Although we all acknowledge that the industry has a bigger role to play in re-shaping and consistently supporting the education in India, what else is required to be done, and once we know what needs to be done, we also need to find out how it needs to be done and consistently ?

The answer to this is not simple and I guess one article is going to be small enough to cover the details. So let me tell you my small story and try to elaborate one aspect of this.

 

My story

Let me take you back to my engineering college days.

I was studying Computer Science Engineering in MNREC (now MNNIT) and all those years I was studying, my focus was rather in learning what came in my way, rather than focusing my learning on what I want to do in my life.  Heck …, until I got a job in my final year, I had no clue what I was going to do in my life.  I was just studying in order to get decent level of marks in all my subjects to ensure I am eligible for campus placements.

Student - confused with choices Till the time I did not get a job, I was clueless about what kind of work I am going to do in my life (read – confused). And after I got a job in one of the premier companies I was even more confused as what will happen to me once I join and what kind of work will be expected out of me (read – even more confused)  !

Although experienced people used to tell me that I got through one of the best companies and my future was supposedly bright, I spent the rest of year contemplating what kind of career I would have in my life and would I enjoy it. In the previous 4 years in my college, I had developed a passion for programming and web development and I was desperate to continue working in that field, but again, there was no guarantee that I would be working on these when I join my new company after I finish my college.

I did join Cognizant (then CTS) after I finished my career and spent initial few months learning the basics of the technology.  Fortunately or unfortunately, me being from the Computer Science background, they through I would do well in the Web technologies domains and hence they put me through a rigorous training program for 1 month making me take coaching on HTML, Java / JSP, Oracle and Unix etc., technologies.  I also had to appear for an exit test after a month and ensure I pass on so that I can make myself available for the project selection, for one of which I eventually got selected.  More over, while talking to my other friends who got through various other companies, I also learnt that these entry level programs are very common and similar natured in other companies. 

Then I had a question !

When I was selected out of campus almost within a week into my final year start and had a full year ahead, why I did not know what I could do to prepare myself for my eventual entry into corporate world ?  Would a diligent self learning for a year, made me prepare myself better ?

Probably the answer I would give to myself was Yes ! Then why there was no one who was available for me to talk to or guide me on what I should have done and helped me make a better use of my available time in my college ?

These companies go to the college campuses year on year, select students year after year, but unfortunately most of them end their relationship only there. Few go a further by setting up sponsorship labs (as mentioned earlier) or providing student scholarships. Unfortunately not beyond !

When I was a student and had a job offer, I felt a need of having someone to talk to, ask questions, seek answers and prepare myself better. I wanted to make better career choice, I wanted to feel and know the various aspects of industry world. But unfortunately, there was no one who could help ! 

Industry people, can you make a difference here?