Problem-solvers, not Java professionals are in more demand
Nov 23 2012, 2042
With macroeconomic worries in the US and Europe showing no signs of easing, the IT industry, whose biggest markets are these geographies, has taken a big hit. Uncharacteristically low profit margins posted by bellwethers of Infosys’ standing have deepened the industry-wide sense of gloom and doom. This is most evident in the delay of joining dates for freshers and lower attrition rates reported by IT companies. While lower attrition rates is a blessing, joining dates for freshers being delayed interminably is not. Lower attrition rates is a blessing because it cools the upward spiralling wage hikes that had become the industry norm and stabilises employee turnover rates. Delaying joining dates of freshers, on the other hand, is unfair as it dashes their dreams of joining the IT industry even before they take shape. Given the pundits’ predictions that the economic crisis, and by extrapolation a gloomy job outlook in the IT sector will be the ‘new normal’, it raises serious questions about an IT job being the ticket to a golden future. If IT fails to attract the hordes it has over the years, the ‘boom’ in the great engineering and MBA college bazaar would become hard to sustain. Students, of course, would gravitate to the next ‘it’ thing on the list of desirable qualifications. A medical degree in the ’70s, chartered accountancy in the ’80s, engineering in the ’90s and management degrees in the first decade of 2000s, the herd mentality will take students to whatever is ‘best for a job after graduation’, irrespective of where their talents or interests lie. Those who are already committed to an IT career and have spent time and money in acquiring degrees would have to ‘retool’ themselves. Translated from industryspeak, this means mastering the latest programming language. However, employees and students alike must take the maxim “never let a good crisis go to waste” to heart and retool themselves with skills and not qualifications. That mindset, of bulking up on qualifications and using it as a substitute for hard-skills, needs to change if such vocational ‘cycles’ are to be avoided. For while skills are ideas, qualifications are letters — the means with which ideas are given concrete shape. By skills, we mostly mean problem-solving skills in a very general sense. Though hard to define and definitely more vague than a “Java” or “C++”, these are, perhaps, the only skills that are transferable across industries and virtually ensure employability no matter how hard the times. For a good problem-solver is always in greater demand than a good “Java” professional. Here, educational institutions and companies have to play a leading role in getting their employees to learn ways of approaching, attacking and solving problems and thinking in abstract and unconventional ways. Our engineering colleges have for long focused on qualifications arising from course books, it is time they focused on skills in the real sense of the word.