Thursday, October 29, 2015

To skill a mocking bird

"Ars longa, Vita brevis" could soon be replaced by "Project longa, Tech brevis"!! for the rate at which newer techs are identified, they far out speed the life span of existing trends. With the IT industry in itself being autosarcophagic in nature, it forces the issue rather than wait for action to be taken. Due to this fickle nature of the industry, re-skilling resources, becomes a necessary evil which has to be given its due. Necessary - to meet the need of the hour. Evil - will try to explain why.

Unlike educational institutions that have the luxury of a specified syllabus, which probably could be the root cause of the issue faced by the industry, learning programs in corporate organizations are more driven by market strategies, need of the hour requirements and at the core of all - Budget.

Every year sectoral giants strengthen their employee base by recruiting entire batches of final year college students. The reasoning could be manifold from staffing for upcoming projects to marginal optimization. And obviously such precious "raw materials" need proper polishing before they can shine in their career. Its been a pretty long pipe dream that the college syllabus has to prepare industry specific and readily deployable resources and that might help them to kick start their career being productive from day one. I often wonder, when its been decided that a particular company wants to recruit students in droves, why not them decide what they need to study which could save so much cost for the company at the same time, assuring job for the students. Understand this is a controversial thought process. But guess couldnt be far off from reality.

As much as one can understand their drive behind skilling fresh resources, a not so fastidious approach towards mid level experienced employees is the concern behind this post. Every organization worth its salt, has a training program, lump sum amount as training budget and even boasts about the same in their RFP's and sales pitches. Yet, the ground reality couldn't be far different. The two basic questions of "when" to train and on "what" to train are often in conflict with each other. With targets of 100% utilization and 100% billability becoming industry norms, how does one scope in time for training? Valid to question, why to pick a person already employed on a project to be trained. "Strategic reserves", "Resource pool" or simply put as "bench", whichever way it was, the concept of having trained back fills have long disappeared. People are expected to be utilized 100%, be billable (read profitable to company) 100% yet still have to get trained on technology and trends that can't be coached outside but only available as on the job training.

Wonder what would be the level of motivation or interest for a resource for taking up a new trend, under threat of being billable. It impacts not just the quality of their  deliverables but also restricts them to the specifics of the project. Very rarely do people get to explore at least 10% of all the options available on a product completely, before jumping onto a new one.
With product companies forever under pressure, in their race against time to deliver newer versions to outdo their nearest rival, their clients having been made to toe the line due to lack of tech support or to avoid legal wrangles, more often than not, a good stable product which could've very well sustained their business model go waste unused.

Few suggestions to mend this bend -

Corporates can look for tie-ups with universities for teaching specific courses that would prepare their resource pool even before them joining the company, without the concept of having multi year bonds. Ethical torch bearers, please bear with my suggestion. As much as you hate to believe it, education has long become the mode for earning money than for imparting knowledge. Those hand few who want to push their learning beyond monetary means are anyway still going to do it and with a monetary incentive it could be a win-win.

Trainings to be conducted ONLY by those having hands-on experience so that the discussions could be centred around what works for them and what doesnt. Any major product company worth its salt, from Oracle to IBM to new entrants like WORKDAY, they've a standard set of course syllabus which is bland to put it least. With their vast database of product fixes and bugs, they may want to try to use their training sessions to breed new suggestions. It provides a whole new direction to their RnD.

We've more than 7 billion people on this planet. And in this so called internet age, more than half that population havent even come across a computer, leave alone the internet. Rather than spending billions in cramming up more into the chips and releasing "for-the-sake" versions replacing start buttons, may be the software giants can think of making their product reachable to the masses in their native languages. Multi language capability just doesnt stop with translating buttons and labels alone. It needs a cultural background approach and that might probably make the product more usable and comprehensive.

Every organization must've a humanities training/course in their learning calendar. Majority of the user issues and queries can be addressed better if the support personnel understand the background and reason behind the query and empathize with the client rather than treating it as a puzzle to crack. Understanding and accepting the cultural differences could help this in a big way is my belief.

To summarize, i feel we are repainting the same wall in the name of new technologies and newer products. Its high time we took stock of what we've and how to put it to better use.

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