Amidst the growing concern of economic downturn, there is also uncertainty around the availability of jobs. While it’s true that the jobs are hard to come by, those with the right skillset shouldn’t find it difficult to find a job. In fact, the recent Naukri Job Speak index indicates that hiring has picked pace in the first two months of 2013. The first two months of January and February saw an upswing in hiring activity, especially in sectors like software services, BPO and pharma.
The problem is not the availability of jobs, but more so the lack of right candidates who fit the bill. There is a fine line that distinguishes unemployment from unemployability—and this is the cause of concern. While there are jobs in the market, the companies are facing trouble finding right candidates with the skills required for the job. With newer technologies being adopted, they need candidates who are quick enough to adapt and equip themselves with the latest skills. Currently, compared to the pace at which the skills are being replaced and adopted, the workforce is not quick enough to adapt. There is a huge deficit in the supply of those skilled in the latest skills. And when we spoke to leading IT companies, this is the point that they rued about.
Not surprisingly, the number one quality that they look for is the ability to adapt and learn new skills. As newer technologies emerge, the clients expect the companies to adapt the same and provide them with solutions. Deepak Jain, Senior Vice President and Global Head – Workforce Planning and Development, Wipro Technologies, explains things from the perspective of the companies, “How it works is the customers may either ask us to develop a solution for them, implement a solution or run a solution for them. It could be all the three roles that the customer may award to Wipro, or just a part of it. And they are looking for a very quick execution of the project.”
Deepak Jain, Senior Vice President and Global Head – Workforce Planning and Development, Wipro Technologies
He explains, “Let’s say somebody wants to implement cloud then their expectations are that we should complete the project in as short a period as possible, typically six to nine months. This includes right from design to execution. This means that the workforce that will be deployed on the project should be able to perform the role that is expected out of them and not learn at the cost of the customer. So there is a lot of pressure on companies like Wipro to create solutions and workforce around these technology areas, so that they are able to cater to the needs of the customer. And in turn, the pressure gets passed on to the workforce and experienced people have to learn these skills very quickly.”
Seconding his opinion is Vineet Gupta, General Manager, Software Engineering, Directi, who says, “What we look for is the ability to pick-up new skills as today you have cloud computing or mobility, but two years from now it could be web or something else. So what we look for is how quickly can a candidate pick-up new skills, gain new context and start delivering. In short, it’s imperative that the candidates have strong problem solving skills, great communication skills and the ability to learn fast.”
Even when hiring freshers, the emphasis is on hiring candidates who are quick learners. They expect them to gain in-depth knowledge, have practical knowledge and also show flair to learn new skills. When it comes to those with few years of experience, the companies expect them to possess in-depth knowledge, have domain expertise and be an analytical thinker.
The next big thing
Based on the data that we received, the three areas that companies are heavily investing into are Network Security, Cloud & Mobility Infrastructure and Big Data. Naturally, these are also the areas where hiring is on the rise. So if you are a developer with a few years of experience under your belt, then you can focus on these areas and acquire the related skills.
The nature and scope of network security has increased manifold and embodies a wider area right from managing the in-house servers to data on cloud and even the devices used by employees. It’s therefore advisable to pick one area and focus on gaining expertise in the same. The functional areas that are in demand today include Vulnerability Assessor, Penetration Tester, Application Security, Code Review and Mobile Application Security, amongst others. Taufiq Ali, Manager, Manager – Security Assessment, NII Consulting, says, “Skills that are in demand in security space are spread across various domains, i.e. application security, network security and mobile security. A person who is well versed with basic fundamentals of networking like TCP/IP and how popular protocols work, they can certainly be put to use to identify various security related issues that could possibly allow them to completely take over devices like Firewalls, Routers, Switches, Operating systems, Databases etc.”
Taufiq Ali, Manager – Security Assessment, NII Consulting
He also points out that owing to the new technologies that are evolving, the opportunities for the security professionals are enormous. He explains, “The web is growing more and more complicated with the advent of newer programming technologies. The art to break into these or at least research from security point of view is an interesting skillset to have in your arsenal. A person who has basic programming experience in technologies like .NET, PHP, JAVA etc. can be a good candidate for being an application security specialist. This skill allows you to crack at poking holes in websites, actively searching for security vulnerabilities that you can exploit. Of course, this is all ethical. There are several bug bounties by likes of Facebook, Google, Paypal etc. where people can participate in findings bugs in their website and they are rewarded a bounty from anywhere from 200$-10000$ (it can vary depending on how serious the bug is).”
Another emerging area is that of mobile application security, he elaborates: “With the increasing demand of smart phones, there is growing risk of information that can be stolen from hand held. A person who can creatively think out of the box and has basic exposure to reverse engineering, code review techniques can very well disassemble the application and figure what exactly is the app doing when you install and run it. Apart from web and mobile, even with technologies like NFC (Near Field Communication), Wireless, 3G, 4G, GSM etc. there is immense demand.”
Cloud & Mobility
Cloud and Mobility have taken centre stage since 2013 and are the two areas where companies are investing heavily into. According to a recent survey by Gartner, household adoption and spending on consumer technology products is shifting faster than expected in favour of gadgets and services that are portable or mobile. Mobile application development, both at consumer and enterprise levels, is growing exponentially. Applications are no longer just confined to gaming or entertainment, but the mobile platform is also enabling banking, m-commerce and enterprise apps, amongst others. Mobile app developers are in huge demand and it’s not just the technical coding skills that are desired, but equal emphasis is being placed on UI/UX.
On the other hand, while there are a lot of mobile app developers focusing on the Android platform, there is a demand for those who can develop on the Apple OS. Vineet Gupta points out, "With iPhone selling like hot cakes and many mobile applications making a lot of money, I feel that knowledge of Objective C is certainly a key skill. Even though the sale of iPhone in India is marginal, the same is not the case in the US and elsewhere. And a lot of iOS application development work is being outsourced to India. So it makes sense for app developers to put in some efforts to learn Objective C.”
Vineet Gupta, General Manager, Software Engineering, Directi
Lastly, Big Data is something that has been creating a lot of buzz and is another area where there is huge demand for professionals to manage and analyse the data. Big Data refers to huge of volume of data that is been generated thanks to the pool of information from social networks, sensors, log files, transactions, videos, pictures etc. There is a need to analyse this data to figure out trends, hidden patterns, correlations and much more. And the data we are talking about is upwards of 2 quintillion bytes. There is a lot to be gained from analysing this data and the demand for professionals in this area is huge. You don’t need to have special skills, as Deepak Jain, puts it: “A person can come from any background he could have been a Java person, or a .NET person or any other equivalent programming languages. But if the person can understand some of the additional frameworks which are required for implementation of Cloud or Big Data, then he are she will be able to handle these projects and get rich experience.”
Some of the technologies/skills in demand
NoSQL – It refers to a broad range of non-relational databases, which are preferred over traditional relational database management systems owing to the scalability and flexibility offered by them. Some popular NoSQL databases include Apache Cassandra, HBase, Coherence and Ehcache.
HTML5 – Hyper Text Markup Language or HTML is the backbone of almost all the sites on the Internet. HTML5 is the upcoming edition, which will introduce several new features, including the much-touted ability to directly embed media and the ability to store offline data for web apps.
Amazon Web Services – Amazon was the forerunner when it came to introducing the Cloud platform. Today, several businesses around the world run on the Amazon Cloud platform and having knowledge of the workings of the Amazon Cloud architecture will give you a huge edge.
Microsoft Azure – Similar to Amazon, the Azure is Microsoft’s cloud platform for business and enterprises. The knowledge of this platform is a good skill to have in your CV.
Objective-C – A programming language used extensively to develop on the Apple platform. While the popularity of Apple in India is not that high, there is a lot of demand for programmers who can code using Objective-C thanks to the outsourced work.
Apache Hadoop – It is an open-source, Java-based programming framework that facilitates processing of large data sets. Today, the Apache Hadoop framework supports search engines, targeted advertising, e-commerce and mobile data amongst other things.
Sencha Touch – An upcoming platform, it is a user interface (UI) framework that has been developed for the mobile web. It allows developers to quickly build HTML 5-based mobile web apps that will work on multiple platforms like Android, iOS and BlackBerry.
What will give you an edge?
Besides the perquisite technical knowledge and the skills, companies give equal importance to things like in-depth knowledge, domain expertise, creative thinking and, most importantly, good communication skills when hiring candidates. When speaking about the skills they look for when hiring, Nandita Gurjar, Senior Vice President and Group Head of Human Resources at Infosys, says, “Client centricity, problem solving orientation, engaging communication, ability to learn and culture fit are the key attributes looked for in addition to the base technology/domain competencies required.”
Acquiring domain knowledge, in addition to the technical skills, especially when it comes to those who have a few years of experience, will work as a huge advantage. As the companies cater to clients hailing from diverse verticals, they value candidates who bring with them knowledge of a particular industry – in fact, they are much sought after. Focus on getting domain knowledge and then move on to be a specialist, and eventually you can make your way to become a consultant. In fact, consultants are highly in demand and most sought after.
Apart from programming skills, domain knowledge is a must (Image: GettyImages)
Nitin Bhatt, Global Hiring and HRSS Head, Genpact, says, “We obviously look for people who are also able to bring some business thinking to the table. We don’t pursue technology for technology's sake, but to improve a certain process or to make it more consistent and more. And therefore, it is important for the people that we hire to also have some sort of a techno-functional kind of a mix. They may have the technical skills, but along with them, if they have knowledge of a particular industry like, say, finance or pharmaceutical, then it’s an added advantage. Because then they can easily apply their IT skills in a specific context, knowing the implications of what will be the impact of making a certain functionality or not making it.”
What’s also equally valued is having in-depth knowledge. Deepak Jain laments the fact that youngsters these days lack the in-depth knowledge that can be detrimental to their growth: “We find people superficially learned, but not practised enough. If they have to build a great career they have to get into depth. I think this attitude and aptitude is very critical for their success. Secondly, they should also understand that the companies cannot provide them with everything; they can enable them to learn, but finally they will be captain of their own ships, so they will have to spend enormous time and leverage the facilities provided. We find that the young blood is distracted in many things in life and if they spend their formative years, i.e first four five years, on getting into depth and becoming subject matter expert in a new area, then it will be a great career advantage for them.”
Vivek Punekar, Chief Human Resources Officer, HCL Infosystems
Another important factor is the drive to constantly learn and keep evolving, says Vivek Punekar, Chief Human Resources Officer, HCL Infosystems. He explains, “Our objective has always been to acquire quality people and groom them to become entrepreneurial leaders, and we are constantly on the lookout for intrapreneurs. We pride ourselves on a culture where our people are given the freedom to take their own decisions and are empowered to learn, grow and own. We need people synonymous with passion for performance, high need for achievement and commitment to job. One of the most important skills is agility to learn and constantly developing yourself.”
All leading IT companies provide training facilities for their employees and also encourage those opting for courses to further their careers. It’s crucial for an individual to leverage these facilities provided so as to stay ahead in the race. Adding new skills in your arsenal will provide you unprecedented advantage over your peers. However, learning new programming languages or new skill set while balancing your work can get demanding. In such a scenario, you can explore the many online resources that are available, which encourage learning at your own pace. Additionally, training institutes too offer courses targeted at working professional, which will help them to advance their skills. NIIT, for instance, offers certification courses from Cisco, Microsoft and even Oracle.
Lastly, what’s also crucial is having good communication skills, as they have to communicate with other team members, some of whom maybe in another city or, in some cases, in another country. In such cases, the ability to articulately communicate is crucial. And when short listing candidates for a role, companies give equal emphasis to communication skills along with technical abilities. In fact, if they have to choose between two candidates, the one with better communication skills will be given preference over others.
Cover image: GettyImages