Posts tagged "it"

Who Cares What Your Dreams Are

I asked my friend a question the other day, I don’t think they got why I was asking it though. The question I asked was: At what point is a country sufficiently developed enough that the people are able to pursue a career in a field that actually interests them instead of doing what pays the best.

Yes, it was an uncharacteristically deep and loaded question for someone of my nature. But it was after several bottles of super-strength (not below 6%) Kingfisher and in these circumstances such musings are often liable to surface from hidden depths.

You see, in India, for most of the lower-middle classes (and particularly in the rural areas, the middle classes) it’s the parents who decide what degree the child should pursue. It doesn’t matter if the child has aspirations of being a nurse, an accountant, a fireman, an electrician, a designer or a retail manager; the parents will tell them what degree to do.

For the most part the parents will choose an Engineering based degree because this gives them a greater chance of earning more money. One of the most popular courses is called Bachelor of Computer Applications (BCA), which is basically a programming degree because until recently, there has been a strong demand for programmers as the IT outsourcing boom continued.

Parents will put their children on these courses (and in cases where the students can choose, they will put themselves on the course) because IT pays so well compared to all other industries and is also accessible to the less wealthy – unlike a career in banking, law or medicine which is still the preserve of the wealthy kids who have had a very good private education.

It doesn’t matter if the student is particularly interested in IT, programming or computers. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have any aptitude towards the subject. All that matters is that it can potentially give a high paying job. Interests and ultimately job satisfaction considered optional, or maybe even a bonus.

Actually, a job as a career adviser in India is probably the easiest job in the world. “Programmer. Next!” “Call centre. Next!” “Programmer. Next!” “Call centre. Next!”. I might make enquiries!

To further their chances of employment based on academics, the vast majority of students will do two degrees, usually 3 years of Bachelors of Computer Applications and then another 1 year to do their Masters of Computing Applications.

So now we have the case where a company takes on trainee programmers, fresh out of college and holding high academic marks with their multiple degrees, yet because they have no passion or enthusiasm for the subject they are hopeless as a software developer. I’ve seen a number of freshers who’ve been so spectacularly bad you wonder how on Earth they got through university (or even managed to get dressed in the morning).

(On a separate note, I would love to know how job worthy kids in England and America are when they come out of university)

The tragic part of this is that often families will take out large loans to send their kids through university, doing courses the child has no interest in but in the hope (and sometimes expectation) that they will get a well paid job based on the degree. When this doesn’t work out and the developer has no aptitude towards software development, sometimes through no fault of their own, they have basically wasted three to five years of their life and the family may have put themselves in to huge amounts of debt.

In the company I work for, if a developer fails to make the grade we try and accommodate them by training them to become a software tester, but you can’t force someone to be good at something if they’ve got no passion or interest. In our most recent programming recruitment drive of 15 freshers, who were highly qualified on paper, after 5 months only one remains as a software tester. We had to let the others go because they failed to make the grade.

Often I will interview an SEO analyst or a designer and when I ask them why they are doing this as a career the reply is “I wasn’t good enough to be a developer”. I know of people who might have three degrees in computing but since their aptitude is zero they are employed to press CTRL-C / CTRL-V (that’s shorthand for copying and pasting for you non-nerds out there!) all day. As a ‘career’. I’m certain they have great talents, but it’s not in IT and it probably wouldn’t pay them as much.

I do think that India might be shooting itself in the foot for the future development of the country. Too many students are following computer and programming related degrees and will fail to make the grade in the business world. Their skills and talents lie in other areas – area’s which India will undoubtedly need over the coming decades, but right here, right now, software development pays many, many more times than anything else (a Policeman with six years of service would earn less than a trainee programmer fresh out of college), and I think that’s going to be a problem in the long run.

Essentially I believe that the IT industry is sucking India dry because it’s not producing a wide enough variety of talented students in different fields, it’s producing millions of mediocre programmers.

Taking another example to illustrate this, I’m desperately looking for a content writer who has English as good as mine (and it should be noted that my English is pretty terrible so it shouldn’t be too difficult!). Since most universities teach in English and English is a second or even first language for most people you’d have thought this would be quite easy but even if a student had an aptitude for the English language, they’d have gone to study programming because English as a skill isn’t seen as being as ‘valuable’ as programming, so due to the laws of supply and demand, I will pay a good content writer more money than a programmer because they are a rarity and hence more valuable!

So this takes me back to my original question and the blog title. Who cares what your dreams are in India, become a programmer and earn more money. Or that’s the plan for now anyway.

Indian IT Professionals Come Down To Earth With A Bump

When I came to India in the first quarter of 2008, the economy was still pretty much in full swing as I set about building my team of superstars. As I interviewed candidate after candidate a few things started to irk me, such as their belief that by changing jobs it could net them a 100% to 300% pay rise.

There seemed to be a belief that pay was related to experience, not expertise. When an SEO analyst said they had 3 years of experience, it usually meant that they had been pressing CTRL-C CTRL-V for 3 years and never took it upon themselves to learn anything new. Yet because they had been copying and pasting for 3 years, they felt that they deserved 3 times the pay of a fresher.

Err, no, it doesn’t work like that.

Another peeve that I had was when I went through a resume and found a person had as many as 6 jobs in 4 years (I honestly kid you not!) and when pressed on this it was for ‘career growth’. It’s fairly normal to read a resume where a person has lasted 12 months or less in each company before moving on.

Here’s a top tip for y’all: An employer wants to see commitment from the candidate. Changing companies every 6 months sets off nuclear alarm bells that says this person isn’t worth an interview, by the time you’ve offered them a job, they’ve already applied to the next one.

My understanding of career growth is that you progress in seniority if you change jobs. Apparently not in India. When asked why they wanted to change jobs, invariably it was for ‘career growth’, when told that they would have the same designation as they’ve got now, this would rarely be a problem – so where’s the career growth?

The HR guys tell me that I got off lightly with candidates. Such was the need for programmers during the boom times, the candidates would play companies against each other and say “well company X is offering me 4 lakhs (400,000 to my uneducated friends!), how much can you offer me?” And an offer is made and they go to the next company and say “company X is offering 4 lakhs, company Y is offering 6 lakhs, how much do you want to pay me?” And so we had the situation where candidates were putting themselves up for auction.

Fortunately Agriya refused to partake in this, if any candidate tried to auction themselves, our (err, that is, Agriya) interest was immediately suspended.

So, what is the situation now?

It really brought it home to me how rough it is out there the other day when I was interviewing two candidates from the same company.

They had both come in looking for a job. The company they were working for had not paid any salaries for the last two months – yet the employees still went to work on the hope that they could get paid.

When it came to asking about expected salaries, we have turned a corner, there were no requests for 1.5x – 2x their current earnings, they reply came back meekly… “whatever the company wants”. Unfortunately the candidates, despite having four years “experience” didn’t have any more expertise than I would expect from a fresher who’s been at the company for 6 months.

Another top tip: Employers are looking for expertise and passion, not just experience! I read a great article today where a gaming company hired a real estate agent to help develop their new game because he was a passionate gamer and ‘modded’ dozens of games out of personal interest. Give me passion over experience anyday!

So, back on topic how hard is the global economy hitting India?

Well, of course it’s having an effect. The smaller IT companies are folding left right and centre (my writing is Americanized [note the ‘z’] now that the English spelling of ‘centre’ just looks plain wrong), the larger multi-national IT companies are shedding staff – up to 10% of the workforce in some cases, freezing their fresher intake programmes and in some cases imposing compulsory salary reductions as they look to adapt and survive.

One of my friends owns a consumer computer chain store throughout Chennai and he says it’s the toughest he’s seen it as the geeky IT crowd who make up the bulk of his clientele dries up.

Still, India has a very strong domestic economy – 1.1bn people still need to be fed, move from A-B, get clothed, socialize, have spectacularly over the top weddings, be entertained and live.

So while the West is mired in recession, shrinking economies and the looming face of deflation looking more and more likely, India’s annual growth forecast has been cut from 8% to a ‘paltry’ 5%. The West has sneezed, India has the sniffles, but it hasn’t caught the cold – yet.