What students think (Custom)

Lots of interesting things happened since I wrote on my blog last time and shared my thoughts with you.

In my last blog, I wrote about what students feel about their career and what does having a career mean to them. 

Our study continued where we spoke with many students, this time the students from engineering colleges pursuing the Computer science & engineering and Electronic engineering to understand how they would select a career (or a job for that matter) and what parameters would drive their selection of the dream job.

Two main questions were asked to the students and each student could answer up to THREE choices as the answers to each question.

The questions were as follows,

1. What would be your top criteria when you would select a job through campus placement (up to 3 choices)?

2. Given a choice, what kind of job would you like to do in your life (up to 3 choices)?

Each student was allowed to talk to others and friends to discuss about the options and take their opinions before putting up their answers.

The results of the survey are present in the attached image which you can view and download free from this URL as well as from http://visual.ly/what-students-think website.

Lots of interesting choices came out of the survey and I am sure you would have few surprises.

Let me know what you feel about this, go ahead,  comment!

 

Since last few weeks, few questions were troubling me.

“Do students really not care about their careers?

Are they really not motivated to learn and give due attention to studies while they are in colleges / universities?” 

To find an answer to this question, we decided socialize with few students.

Thanks to the enthusiastic support of the faculty of SICSR, Pune, we were able to have an access to few students and chat with them for few hours in different groups. Me, along with few of my interested friends had discussion with few enthusiastic students trying to understand what is the root cause of above questions.

Despite relative small group of varied backgrounds, we could uncover few important aspects of the student behavior and the related perception by the teachers.  This article, hopefully, will make an attempt to shed some light on some of them.

 

What does a career mean to the students in professional courses ?

We met two different types of students. One set with no prior work experience but with a bachelor degree, and other set with having professional work experience and with a bachelor degree.

 

Students with no work experience Students with work experience
  • lack of understanding or focus on what they want to do in life 
  • some of the students had dreams of being ‘someone’, but had no idea how to get there
  • they are driven by feedback from their senior students
  • easily influenced by face value factors such as salary, location, brand of company while choosing career (rather than understanding whether it aligns with the dream)
  • thoughts while choosing career were based on their family background (people with business background were more adventurous in choices, while people with services background chose safety first while deciding on careers)
  • their future careers are based on what they did in past (so called expertise), not on what they have learnt in their post graduate
  • thoughts were influenced by their work experience and were not easily changed despite availability of more career choices (due to post graduation degree)
  • they feel they know what they want to achieve, but lack of clarity on how to get there was evident
  • driven by face value factors, while deciding choices
  • essentially opted to join the post graduation to get better roles, higher salary
  •  

     

    What they think is missing ?

    careerchoices Students felt there is a gap of understanding in what happens within the IT industry and what kind of profiles are available for them when they will essentially be eligible for job placements.   They also were not aware of what kind of work will be expected out of them when they join their respective companies after placements.

    Many students, proactively, reached out to the college seniors to seek this information, but apparently did not get right information back that could help them make informed choices about their careers.

    They lacked the thinking the short term and long term vision about their career. No one could answer where they would see themselves in 3-5 years time.  They were also not sure which career option will give them better prospects in their future.

    One of the interesting facts we found that the people who had work experience, were NOT open to share their understanding of IT industry with their fellow students.  Surprising, but since all of them were supposedly competitors with each other in the job market, they felt that not sharing information will give them upper hand.

     

    Are you ready for working hard to achieve dream ?

    We spoke to the students about how and why it is important to see the big picture of the career from the point of view of achieving a dream. More importantly rather, why its essential to have a dream in life for career.

    While most of the students understood the need of having a career goal, according to one’s natural ability they found it hard to resist small gains. For example a student whose dream was to be an IT Marketing Manager, could not resist the temptation of accepting a job of IT analyst with very high salary and attractive package.

    Students also acknowledged that the gap between dream and reality came due to lack of understanding of what lies behind the scenes of these attractive packages.  When we asked them to list out what they think why people are not ready to put in hard work and long term vision in planning their careers, few answers we got were –

    • Probably it is true to certain extent that new generation of students are relatively lacking the passion to learn
    • Students want quick money, higher roles, better positions
    • Goals were always short term (getting admission to certain school, getting certain percentages, getting a job etc) than long term
    • Peer pressure affected the choices e.g., my friend got a job in XYZ company with $$$ salary, I would do everything to get better !
    • For students with service background job security was very important (they would rather join a stable company with some less money than more challenging role with higher salary)
    • Moreover, one of the most prominent answer we got “Students were confused and did not know what is right for them in their career.” There are simply too many choices around !!!

     

    These few discussions we did with students actually opened our eyes to the other side of world and how students felt about their own careers.  The most important part from our side was the interest shown by few students who turned up for discussions to open up and share their side of stories. 

    It now convinces me that the problem I talked about in my previous post, may not be that serious after all !!

    There is a hope, big hope !!

     

    In my previous posts on this series, I touched upon the viewpoint I had towards industry and how I felt during various stages of my engineering student life. How I was keen on knowing more on the other side of world i.e., the industry and corporate world and how keen I was to get into my professional life.

    To know more on how the thinking of the students have evolved over all these years since I left college, I made an attempt to connect with professors of few institutes. One of them was the NIT (Formerly REC), one premier college in Pune and other one in my home town. Three different tiers of the colleges and expectedly three different tiers of students studying in them.

    Initial Expectations

    My initial expectation across these students (before I actually spoke with the professors) were as follows,

     

    College National Institute of Technology Premier college in Pune A descent college outside Pune
    Institute infrastructure Fully day boarding, Wi-Fi compus, Internet access in student rooms, advanced computing facilities including super computer on campus Good computing facilities with access to internet from institute Decent computing facilities with limited access to internet from institute
    Type of students Coming through a tough national level entrance exam.
    Academically very good records.
    Higher intelligence.
    Coming through the state level entrance exam.
    Academically very good record.
    Intelligent.
    Coming through the state level entrance exam but with relatively lower ranking.
    Academically good / above average.
    Average intelligence.
    Equipments available with students Laptop with every student, access to internet Laptop with every student, access to internet Laptop with every student, access to internet
    Economical status of the students Mixed backgrounds Mixed backgrounds Mixed backgrounds
    Expected behavior of an average student (not every student though) Very interested in learning things.
    Regular in attending classes.
    Early adapters of new learning techniques.
    Proactive and interested in innovation.
    Interested in real world projects and network building.
    Excellent / Very good communication skills.
    Confident and bold.
    Aware and interested in latest technology trends.
    Socially connected using Facebook, Twitter, Orkut.
    Interested in learning things but not proactive.
    Regular in attending classes.
    Interested in innovation but limited thinking.
    Interested in real world projects and network building.
    Very good communication skills.
    Confident and bold.
    Aware and interested in latest technology trends.
    Socially connected using Facebook, Twitter, Orkut.
    Reactive learning. Forced upon by professors.
    Regular in attending classes.
    Not much idea about innovation.
    No clue of real world projects.
    Poor network building.
    Good / Average communication skills.
    Not much interested in latest technology trends.
    Socially connected using Facebook, Twitter, Orkut.
    Expectation from student towards learning Proactive
    Demanding and highly interested
    Uses internet to learn new topics
    Interested in research and innovation
    Interested in learning but needs guidence.
    Uses internet to learn more on topics taught.
    Not very much interest in research and innovation.
    Little interest in self learning. Depends on teacher / professor guidance.
    Uses internet if asked to explore more on any topic.
    Not interested in research or innovation.
    Expected Industry placement percentage of CS / IT students 95% or above each year 65-70% or above 25-30% approx

     

    I am sure most of you would envisage the students in these colleges probably on the similar lines as what I mentioned above, may be with a little difference somewhere.

     

    Reality is different

     

    Further to my discussions with the institute professors to understand more about the students and their behavior towards learning, two things came out as a common pattern

    • Decreased tendency of proactive learning and laziness towards working hard
    • High expectations towards results (getting job, salaries etc)

    Lets look at the common patterns found during the discussions with the professors. Not necessary they are the only patterns found, but they are all very common patterns in the student behavior.

     

    College National Institute of Technology Premier college in Pune A descent college outside Pune
    Actual behavior towards learning No interest in innovation, not proactive towards learning
    Uses internet to download movies, use facebook, twitter & orkut
    Ensures the percentage is maintaied to get through campus placement
    No interest in innovation, not proactive towards learning
    Uses internet to download movies, use facebook, twitter & orkut
    Ensures the percentage is maintaied to get through campus placement
    No interest in innovation, not proactive towards learning
    Uses internet to download movies, use facebook, twitter & orkut
    Ensures the percentage is maintaied to get through campus placement
    Actual interest shown in learning Assumes he / she knows everything
    Little or no inclination towards joining institute backed initiatives
    Expects things on platter (nice job, descent salary etc)
    Assumes he / she knows everything
    Little or no inclination towards joining institute backed initiatives
    Expects things on platter (nice job, descent salary etc)
    Assumes he / she knows everything
    Little or no inclination towards joining institute backed initiatives
    Actual industry placement percentage of CS / IT students 95% or above each year 50-60% or above 15-20% approx

     

    In general, all the professors expressed their worry and helplessness towards diverting student interest towards more involved learning.

    Professors of the NIT & the engineering college of Pune feel that the real cause behind this is as follows,

    • Corporates are in a great need of talent hence availability of jobs is not a problem
    • There is a scarcity of “employable” resources around and the hence recruitment happens in numbers
    • Companies are preferring ‘quantity’ over ‘quality’
    • From the student perspective, the jobs are easily available and once the job is secured through campus placement, there is very little for the student to achieve apart from ensuring that certain percentage is achieved in the final year
    • Students are easily influenced and unable to decide their priorities

    They all feel this is a bigger problem currently faced by education institutes all over India. I am unsure of how things are in IITs but now, I would not be surprised to know they are no different .. !

    We do have a real problem at our hands ..

    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 !