The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Thu, Dec 11, 2008


Posted by Paul Orefice

NOTE: This is actually an A.R.Ramachandran post, who is traveling at the moment.

This article in Economic Times set me thinking.

I have worked for a couple of years at the Global Learning Centre of an Indian IT company and therefore can claim some understanding of the issues. Two valid and inter related concerns have been raised by the students. One, why are the recruitment standards not as stringent as Training standards, and two, why have the number of attempts allowed to clear the tests been reduced from six to two? Recruitment standards have been diluted ever since IT companies started taking people by truckloads. IT Companies were ready to absorb people from any Engineering discipline then ‘“ Instrumentation, Chemical, anything ‘“ and now are willing to take graduates in any discipline. The only thing to be seen being learn ability, as the article rightly points out. Young men, fresh out of college in any discipline, are naturally curious and willing to make their way in the world and this is generally mistaken to be learning ability. This is a mistake but there is no sure fire ways to test learn ability. Faced with the need to take thousands and not enough people just available, the next best thing to cloning is to dilute standards. (Those who came in late, IT companies see increase in revenues as a direct result of increase in headcount – yes, you read it right ‘“ not necessarily brain count).

This naturally leads to the next question ‘“ why are expectations from Training more stringent? All the massive recruitments would not be possible if Companies did not pin their hopes on the training programs, and the high intakes seems to have its admirers in the stock markets. IT majors have huge and aesthetically pleasing training facilities and spend lacs of rupees on training ‘“ the latest training gadgets, excellent accommodation, learning while having fun, outdoor experiences, outreach programs, global faculty and institutional tie ups, etc ‘“ and expect that all these will somehow turn people into software professionals (Just to digress, these training are not supposed to make them mere professionals but aim even higher ‘“ to make them Consultants). These temples of learning more often than not are part of the branding efforts of the Company. I remember an NDTV episode where Mohandas Pai showed the reporter around the Mysore Campus and had I been some ten years younger, it would have surely appealed as a product that I would aspire to buy.

So, on to the next question that the students have not asked, but we must ‘“ why are these Training programs not delivering results? Software Engineering is an evolving discipline and it is difficult to arrive at the specs for Training. Some Centers outline what is called the ‘common minimum denominator’ and train on those (Are they not something we thought colleges should teach?) areas and some other train on more Customer specific skills. In the first case, they get an overview but do not ‘match’ to specific customer requirements and in the latter case, they lose their relevance beyond the ‘immediate’ project requirements. A good balance between both is time consuming and there is an urgency to make them ‘billable’.

IT companies generally recognize that Professional education means more than just technical education. So, in the sixteen weeks, there are modules in foreign language, then dining and dressing etiquette and a short duration of outbound learning. And then you have soft skills. You will be surprised to hear the soft skill curriculum of one IT major ‘“ This starts innocently enough with iceberg example of Self (that Neo Freudians have made famous), and moves to Perception takes a turn to Motivation then takes a sudden jump to Belbin Team Roles and finally a leap to Kilman’s Conflict Resolution modes, and to this concoction is added a separate module on Systems Engineering. The evaluation questions are all designed to probe understanding of theory. Now, please remember that this is not taught in sixteen weeks to even a post graduate student of Organizational Behavior.

On the technical side, you have general modules on Software Engineering, and a couple of programming languages, apart from modules on Testing and Quality systems, to be completed in the same period. So, the poor student who may not have a prior software education, is thrust a huge amount of knowledge and information to be digested in the shortest possible time and be ready for a software career in 14 ‘“ 16 weeks.

To the students’ next question on reduction on number of attempts, my mind can only think of one reason ‘“ to quickly bring people on board. Mohandas Pai’s comment that trainees look at training period as a holiday seems cruel given the load to be assimilated in the given time. Infosys has always prided itself for bringing campus into the company and obviously, that should include the holiday spirit as well. Another comment that ‘one swallow does not make a summer’ in response to a query on students claiming that they were not informed of these changes, is even more ill advised and not expected from the company that always said that greatest assets ‘leave the gates every evening’

Whoever he is, the student who had sent the email has raised interesting questions and there is an urgent need to reflect on them.

| More

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.