Engineering Colleges should benefit the Students. (Probably More)

Trust me most of the Engineering Colleges are struggling to live up to the expectations of the students or to fill up the number of seats they offer. There are almost 3393 Engineering Colleges in India offering 14.86 Lakh seats. In West Bengal the total number of degree level Engineering & Technology colleges is 90 with an intake capacity of approximately 28751. Our IT-BPO Industry is taking 1, 60,000 – 2, 00000 students. Have you ever thought of what will happen to the rest of the engineers (students) passing out every year after spending lakhs of rupees?

It is high time the colleges understand that they play a crucial part towards the development of the society. In this post I will prescribe some suggestions to the colleges to reach to a win-win situation.

Branding: First and one of the most important steps to be taken by colleges is BRANDING. This does not mean advertising their own brands. Rather they should be branding their own college students.

The following activities can be followed:

a)      Showcasing the achievements of their students  in news pages like education times, online student communities, and social media

b)      Conduct symposiums on specific areas which are linked as per the industry needs

c)       Organize workshops, events and invite speakers from the industry ( not typical tech fests )

d)      Allowing students to participate in industry related events ( like NASSCOM IT Niketan )

e)      Opening the gate to IT SMEs and IT Start-ups to come as mentors  to students, allow then to work on live projects, and hire the interested students

Add-On Courses: The colleges must start “add-on courses” in the following areas:

a)      Open Source Technologies: PHP, Python, PERL, Ruby on Rails, Word Press

b)      Mark-up Languages: HTML5

c)       Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

d)      Javascript

e)      LAMP Architecture & WAMP Architecture

f)       Web Application Framework: CakePHP, Symfony, CodeIgniter, Yii Framework, and Zend Framework

g)      Search Engine Optimization

h)      Software Testing

( Note: Add Course structure can be edited/modified. These are just my thoughts)

Colleges should partner with individual companies working on specific areas for the skill development of students (IT SMEs and Startups can be easily approached with a proper value proposition).

Live projects: The engineering colleges should take an active part in organizing more than 1 live project for the students to work on.

Internships: The engineering colleges should inspire the students to start working as interns by the end of first year. They should be opting to work as interns in IT SMEs and Start-ups.

Lab work: The colleges should approach IT SMEs, collaborate with them and work on IT solutions in their laboratory.

I have been recommending this to the college promoters, principals, students & faculties. If one college follows it, others might follow suit. This mission will benefit the students hence the colleges and the industry at large.

Note: The figures are taken from sources like AICTE, Department of Higher Education. It may vary from time to time. 

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Fate of Engineers

Recently I had faced many such questions… the answers are totally based on my observations.

Fate of Engineers

Q) Will our IT industry will need engineers?

YES, we will need engineers.

Q) How many engineers?

It depends as long as they are affordable and coming at low cost.

Q) Does our Industry only need engineers?

NO, As far as IT software sector is concerned it rightly said Industry will need only 20% engineers and it will go down.

Most of the software companies take engineers for the following reasons:

  1. It is a client requirement
  2. For H1-B visa purposes
  3. Billing for engineers are higher compared to non-engineers

90% of the engineers are utilized just as programmers (persons who can code) in software companies. And to learn programming skills one need not be an engineer. Institutes teaching programming languages like C, C++, Java, .net etc can easily substitute engineering colleges.

Software companies are looking for resources in the following fields:

  1. Software Testing – Not taught in engineering college
  2. Designing – Web Designing, Graphic Designing – not taught in engineering college
  3. SEO professionals – not taught in engineering college
  4. Specific Programming knowledge – Upcoming programming skills are not taught in engineering college
  5. Software architecture – just basics are taught in engineering colleges.
  6. Software analytics –not taught in engineering college

And the list can go on…

The trend which has already started is that BCAs and BSCs are getting into IT sector. They will be preferred over engineers because of low cost.

40% of the work force will come from institutes like NIIT who are teaching and enhancing mainly programming skills.

Remaining 60% will come from two areas a) Engineering colleges (20% – 30%) b) Normal Graduates – BCA, BSC (30% – 40%)

Note: Figures mentioned above are based on assumptions and mostly my prediction

 

 

As more institutes are offering courses on Software Testing, Analytics, Data warehousing, Web Designing etc, the percentage of intake of engineers will fall.

In no point of time there will be a situation when the IT-Software industry will not take engineers unless and until the other geographies from where the work is getting outsourced makes some.

Policy changes or work which is being outsourced does not require such qualification ( e.g. work related to animation, gaming, content, digital marketing etc does not require any an engineering degree)

Another trend which has already started and it will increase – Core Engineers like Mechanical, Civil etc will be hired by IT software companies since the companies are moving up the value chain. But again the percentage will not be HIGH.

Since our industry is mainly service oriented, soft skills will be very much important and vital both in IT and BPO sectors.

 So what immediate steps need to be taken?

1. Number of skilling institutes should start offering a) courses on programming in areas like PHP, Ruby, Python, PERL  b) web designing c) SEO d) Mobile Phone application development e) Testing

2. For Engineering colleges to survive, they must start partnering with such training institutes and offer such “add on” courses to the students

3.  IT SMEs should invest more on training and development and they should partner with such training institutes.

4.  Proper credit facility needs to be in place so that engineers who are not getting jobs can join such institutes and learn a particular skill set.

5.  There needs to be Policy changes – a) AICTE (or the board concerned) syllabus needs to be upgraded frequently which will help a lot of engineering colleges to survive and it will help the engineering students.

Why one say “No” to IT start-ups?

I have personally interviewed a lot of students and asked them why they do not want to join a start-up or SME. I have even asked many IT professionals why they always prefer joining IT MNCs and not SMEs/start-ups.

I will not elaborate much on this, but just in brief would want to share with you the reasons for someone not joining a start-up.

80% of the candidates feel start-ups (1-7 employees) are more interested in “Profit Maximization” rather than “Wealth Maximization”. Hence they feel in secured. Few of the candidates say that start-ups need to be professional (not casual). Some of them feel that start-ups are not “stable” in nature. There are even cases when candidates do not prefer joining a start-up because of peer pressure of the society.  So all these negativity spreads via word of mouth and goes viral, almost like a grapevine,  because of which a candidate does not dare to take the “risk” of joining start-ups (No, I am not blaming the candidate for not taking the risk).

Let me assume 80% start-ups are ambitious, they have a future plan, they are working ethically and are thriving hard to achieve something. But may be out them one player has caused a problem, ill treated a candidate or did something unethical, which in turn spoiled the brand name of the entire IT start-up community.  

Branding does not come by building a glossy website or having a presence in social media. Branding should be an “in-ward – out” approach.  Branding is an evolutionary process and fragile in nature.  So next time if you are not getting any resource to work for your start-up, do not blame the candidate. Let us accept our mistakes (if we have done any) and correct them, minimize the problems as much as possible and let us hold hands to build a strong IT start-up community.

I am not an Engineer, how can I join IT Industry?

I often get to hear this question from students, parents and even from working professionals of other sectors. To the audience I tell one simple thing that “Our IT Industry does not follow any caste system”. At first instance most don’t understand this phrase but later when I simplify it and say, “Even non-engineers can be a part of our IT Industry”, for a moment I see an initial glow on their face. But, the glow fades away very soon. I have to face series of questions just like bullets. Some of these bullets hit me hard. I overcome some of the bullets, while some take a reverse direction (credit goes to NASSCOM for teaching me the reality).

 Let me share with you some of points, which I usually advice them.  Someday you may even face such questions, so these points might help you (act as bullet proof jacket).

 Note: When I mean IT Industry, I am only considering the software segment.

Designing (User Interface Professionals): This is one area, which is of high demand and one need not have to be an engineer to become a designer. Currently there is a “war for talent” among IT Companies to hire world class UI Specialists from India. UI Design is an important and in-demand skill. UI Designers enable the development of complex user interface navigation and workflow process, which further enhances customer experience and increases product value.  There are designing schools where one can pursue designing as a career. Apart from that one can even learn designing from various institutes. At this juncture let me warn you, do not think Web Designing, Animation and Multimedia are the same. These areas are interlinked but not same.  I want to stress on one point – almost 80% of the IT-Software companies are web based companies and they need good web designers. On completion of web designing course – which usually takes a month (you can learn the tool in less than 15 days and rest depends on the level of passion and practice) one will get a job in IT SME/Start-up with starting salary ranging from Rs 8,000 – Rs 10,000 per month (for a fresher).

Content Writing: This is one more area where there is a huge requirement. But content writing is not like essay writing/paragraph writing. One needs to have knowledge about Search Engine Optimization to write good web based content. There are even requirements in areas like technical writing. As more products/services are becoming localized, there are huge requirements for vernacular (e.g. Bengali) content writers. There is a huge growth market in verticals such as Media (Printing & Publishing). As per NASSCOM report the total addressable market for year 2020 for Media (Printing & Publishing) is around USD 17-20 billion. Another business segment where content writers are required is in the field of e-learning.  There are very few institutes who are teaching content writing but the numbers will go up very soon. For a fresher who want to join an IT SME/Start-up can get a salary ranging from Rs 6,000 – Rs 8,000 per month.

 Note: Content Writing and Designing is interlinked, we are living in an age of “info graphics”

 The other areas where there is a huge requirement – Search Engine Marketing, Internet Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Mobile Search marketing. And to learn all these you do not have to be an Engineer.

 There are many students who cannot pursue engineering – may be they could not clear the join entrance examination, or may be some have cleared but due to certain family issues they could take it ahead or maybe there are many students who are not privileged enough to take up engineering.  So if you now have this question in mind “I am not an Engineer, how can I join IT Industry?” or if you come across this question from anybody, you have few points to answer.

“Great Indian IT Product Story” – what is stopping us?

I am sure my friends from the IT community will be able to relate to this. I have read a number of articles and have heard many people giving their insights on this topic. Some will say ecosystem matters a lot and start blaming the government and the state, some will allege “skills are missing”(some will state India produces less PhDs compared to other countries) , and some will say “they need proper funding”.

Let me not get into all these for the time being but, let all of us for sometime start thinking from a different angle.

To start with I want to make a simple statement “You don’t need to invent, rather innovate”

It is completely wrong to say India do not have products (IT products are not included here). Let me give you some examples of products, which are built on Indian innovations and are now slowly moving into world markets (developed countries) – a) Ford, Toyota want to sell their India designed low cost cars globally b) Maggi noodles – a low cost and high nutrient product of Nestle which have been primarily developed for India is on its way to Australia and New Zealand c) General Electric’s low cost versions of ECG and ultrasound machines primarily for Indian markets are now moving to world markets d) Pepsi’s – Kurkure and Nimbooz e)  McDonald’s Aloo Tikki Burger. The list can go on. All these products are “innovated –in-India” and then slowly are moving towards the global markets.

So how such innovations (non-IT) are possible? Why cannot the same happen for our own IT Industry?

If you analyse carefully – traditionally products were designed in developed markets and adapted by the rest of the world. Technology came first followed by price. But what is happening now and will continue to happen is called “reverse innovation” that is low-cost but high value products being developed primarily for emerging markets (like India), which will eventually graduate to the developing world. Now technology is tailor-made keeping cost in mind.

Now back to the IT Industry. Indian IT companies (start-ups and SMEs) are unable to build a product on Indian innovation and then scale up globally. But MNCs or foreign companies have been building products (example many MS products are build from India development centre, many small start-ups in India are working on product development, which have been outsourced to India) How is it is happening? In my opinion “Cost” is a major factor. I totally do not agree with the fact that “we do not have ideas”, we do have ideas but the “cost of execution” and “scaling it up” is a hindrance to this.

By the year 2020, total IT addressable market (NASSCOM-McKinsey Report- Prospective 2020) from new geographies – BRIC region (Brasil, Russia, India, China) will be around USD 380-420 billion ( For India – USD 90-100 billion). That means we will see a lot of IT Innovations happening in Indian Markets. But the question is can our IT start-ups/SMEs do it? US IT Companies can achieve their growth, build products and reduce cost by outsourcing it to India but how can we (Indian IT start-ups/SMEs) innovate? – outsource (how? and to whom?) or focus on our frugal engineering skills (Jugaad)?

Because of these numerous questions I sometimes see a bad dream quite often – Re-birth of East India Company .

What can you do? I am a B.Tech.!!

How many of you have heard of people (especially students) saying, “I am a B.Tech (or M.Tech)” when you have asked them what can you do? I have heard this “n” number of times especially in this industry (IT).

If you ask your cook “what can you do?”  He will say “I can cook food for you” and then he may get into his specialization – North Indian, South Indian etc.

If you ask a driver the same question “what can you do?”  He will reply, “I know driving” and then he will talk about his area of specialization – 3 wheeler, 4 wheeler, 6 wheeler etc.

If you ask a plumber the same question “what can you do?” He will reply I know to “fix the leaks” of the tap.

When I ask any candidate fresh out of college (sometimes even experienced IT Professionals) “what can you do?  He/she will reply “I AM A B.TECH.” But what can you do? The same answer “I AM A B.TECH.”

I am not making fun of anyone but trust me this is a serious problem.

When do we move from “qualification” to “skill set”? When will the time come when students, fresh out of college, will approach IT companies saying “I know programming in PHP, and I can build a particular solution for you in 72 hours”? When will the time come when students will start saying, “I want to work in a small medium company and learn a particular skill set”?

Some suggestions to the student community:

  1. Mention you skill set rather than qualification when someone asks you “what can you do?”
  2. Before visiting any company with your CV, write on a piece of paper 5 points – why that company should recruit you?
  3. Do not increase your “price” – remember you are just a new product without any brand value, just launched in the market. No one will buy you if your rate is high unless you have a particular skill set.