Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On Layoffs - Advice to Indian Companies

The market conditions are bad now and those of us who want to survive until better times are upon us have to take harsh decisions. Those harsh decisions include cost cutting, and in most Indian companies, this means layoffs. By letting some people go, the company becomes better equipped to protect the rest of the company. That's reality. Now here is how I would like Indian companies to handle layoffs.

1. Do not couch layoffs as your regular performance related terminations.
Not only are you terminating people, you are also making it difficult for them to find other jobs. Who would want to hire someone who has been let go for lack of performance? If that is the genuine reason, do say so by all means, but not if your real reason is cost cutting. With no social or economic support, and a drastically diminished chance of landing another job, what will these people do?

2. Do it at one go.
Don't do your layoffs in bits and pieces. It justs makes the whole organization tense and does not create a management friendly or supportive environment that is required post-layoffs for the company to survive.

3. Don't start a witch-hunt.
Do not start scrutinizing employees' old resumes and expense reports to find minor discrepancies that can give you the opportunity to fire them on disciplinary grounds. If you believe somebody had genuinely cheated the company by falsifying records, fire them - I don't mean to condone such crimes. But not this way!.

4. Help the laid off employees to find new jobs.
Have a job fair. Give them good reports and genuine service letters specifically written by their managers. Introduce them to your trusted placement vendors. Use your network to place them in other offices. Give them open offers so that they get priority when a suitable position reopens again. Write them nice recommendations and help them improve their online credibility - there are sites like jobsbyref.com and linkedIn where you can do that easily. I am sure you can think of many ways to help them find another job soon.

5. Don't shy away from explaining.
Talk to the entire organization. Tell them your layoff plans - the reasons, the actions, the consequences (if you do and if you don't). Talk to those who are being asked to go and to those ones that get to stay. Do all that you can to make everyone understand why you are doing what you are doing.

6. See how you can provide some monetary support to the laidoff people
Can you afford to give more than the mandatory notice period payment? Maybe for an additional month or two? Those that are staying in company accommodation, can you let them stay for a couple of months more till they find their own place to stay? Waive/postpone repayment of any pending loans taken from the company? Double the notice period by halving the salary? Allow them to encash any of their unavailed leave? I am sure we can find ways to help without drastically affecting the company's future.

It would be a real nice New Year if some Indian CEO somewhere takes the lead and tells it like it is. It is time our society and the politicians face the truth. I guess Jet airways tried. Most commendable, but next time do not give in.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rebooting India

I have been reading all of James Herriot's books again (for maybe the fourth time!). In one of his stories in the book The lord god made them all, he describes how after the war the students who come to train under him teach him all the new advances and techniques that they have learnt in veternary college. "I found I was learning from them just about as much as they were learning from me", he says.

When was the last time you learnt from a student who came to your organization to do a project or an in-plant training assignment? More often than not, we find students coming out of college don't even know the fundamentals of their chosen discipline.

What could be the reason for this?

  • Do we need a war to spur development and progress?

  • Has the standard of education gone down?

  • Is everyone only working on financial engineering these days and neglecting real engineering like Tom Friedman is saying?

  • Has the average IQ of people gone down?

  • Have televisions, cell phones, cutthroat competition, stress, the internet and all the other distractions shortened the attention span of the younger generation to such an extent that learning has become very difficult?

  • Has the older generation failed to provide any good role models to emulate?


Whatever be the reasons, as Tom Friedman says, it is time to reboot, not just America, but India and the rest of the world as well!

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Layoffs by any other name...

An ex-employee of one of my previous companies called me today. He wanted to know if that company still existed (it does). It has been over 7 - 8 years since he left that company and joined the MNC where he currently works. So the sudden interest in my old company piqued my curiosity.

Apparently, his company(a very large MNC) has suddenly started scrutinizing the profile/resume, including previous employment and education records, of every existing employee . This chap (who has been working in that MNC for the last 7 years!) thinks this is a witch-hunt to layoff people on frivolous grounds. I cannot agree with him more.

And this is not the first (nor the only) company to do so. I am seeing this two-step process more and more often. The process is very simple.
1. Scrutinize the profiles and past data. Kick out people with discrepencies. If layoff number are met, end the exercise. If not proceed to step 2.
2. Scrutinize all expense reports, trip reports, sick leave, blog writings,... Kick out people with discrepencies.
Repeat until numbers are met.

Does this happen in other countries also? I don't mean layoffs - those happen everywhere - I mean disguising layoffs as firings (purportedly due to performance
or conduct).

There is another article in here about the multiple ways in which corporate India is screwing people in this current economic situation. And the cultural and political compulsions that are leading them to do so. Coming soon...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

News from Jobsbyref.com

The employer side functionality has been released. So now companies can register, post jobs and manage respondents.

Registered members can also now search for jobs and apply online. More to come.

Will post more often soon...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Laid off before joining!


Well over 80% of the fresh graduates who get job offers every year are recruited through campus recruitment drives. This year has been no different. Medium and large companies have gone to all the top tier and second tier colleges and "recruited" thousands of fresh graduates.

Like in recent years, the graduates who have passed the tests and interviews have all been given not offer letters but "letters of intent to induct at an apprpriate time". When the appropriate time will be is anybody's guess.

There is an article in Hindu Business line that talks about candidates given such letters in May (or even earlier) this year who are yet to join. In fact one company alone, which has "recruited" over 13,500 students, has yet to induct over 9000 of them! This company is not the only one. Most of the companies have been slow to induct their "recruits".

For the students, on the threshold of their careers, this is like getting laid off before even joining. Many of them are waiting patiently for the promised letters and hence are not even looking out for other opportunities. The bitter truth is, given the market condition today, many of them may never get their joining letters.

There is no point in blaming companies alone for this situation, for they have their own problems to solve. Not even the biggest and the greatest companies have been spared - why, even google is tightening its belt.

I urge every youngster to start actively looking out for a job now, irrespective of whether you have an offer letter or not.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Another way to avoid getting laid off

Assume you are hiring someone to do your job. Can you picture your perfect replacement? What would he/she be like?

Now, be that person.


Tip of the hat to Fish Tales!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What would you love to do?

Girl getting her hair doneImage via WikipediaSo, you've had the misfortune of getting laid off? Don't worry, this need not be the end of the world for you. Let's look at how this can be made into a positive event!

First, set aside your worries. Now, tell me, what kind of work would you love to be involved in? Is it in the same area as the last job you were holding? Were there other avenues you would have loved to explore, but did not seem lucrative enough or easy enough? Have you got interests and hobbies that require a high level of skill? Are there activities that you are naturally good at?

The happiest people are those that are doing what they like best - and earning their keep in the bargain! Here is an opportunity to join that elite gang - don't fritter away this chance of a lifetime. Get out there and do what you have always dreamed of doing. There are thousands of "non-traditional", "alternative" vocations that are interesting and can be lucrative.

Do you love to write? Maybe you could become a journalist, or even write a book. Start of with a blog on your favourite subject. This will cost you nothing.

Do you have an area of expertise? Register on squidoo and create your page.

Do you love talking to people? May be you can be a RJ or a show host?

Love taking photographs? Interested in wildlife and conservation? Green jobs are happening all over the place. Go find out how you can save the earth.

Love fashion? The vanity industry is one of the few booming industries now. You could design clothes, and jewellery, or you could be a hairdresser, a makeup artist, or whatever they are called these days.

Love to act/model? Go ahead, get your portfolio done. Meet directors and ad agencies.

Good with numbers, have business acumen? Set up a shop, start a business.

Love to cook? Start a restaurant, run a take-away from home, cook and deliver food in your area.

The opportunities are endless. Go ahead, give it a shot - what have you got to lose?

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Support for the laid off

I have been keeping an eye on how people are finding this blog. Over the last month or so, a whopping 80% have come in through google, searching for "how to avoid getting laid off".

And since the time I wrote about the (lack of) support infrastructure in India for people getting laid off, I have been scouring the web for a place where these people can go to, in order to find online support. Nada! There does not seem to be a single forum or message board available!

So, we've put together a site and a forum quickly using wordpress and phpbb where people can go and share their experiences, find advice and jobs.

I hope you find it useful. May you get your next job soon!

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cost of layoffs

Here is an article about the recent shooting of top executives of SiPort.

I am really worried about how Indians are going to react to layoffs. If you are planning layoffs in your company, think carefully about how you can support the laid off people in their endeavour to get their next job.

Take care.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Are we geared for layoffs in India?

Airbus A340-300 in an older colour scheme in 2005Image via WikipediaLayoffs and pink slips are not new to the people of the US. From the time of the great depression, layoffs have been a permanent fixture in their corporate environment. People there understand that getting laid off does not signify the end of the world, nor is it construed as a permanent, personal black mark on their resume.

However, back here in India, layoffs have not been part of the culture so far. To get laid off is still seen in many quarters as a social stigma, a direct reflection of the individual's lack of capability. Not even people such as Karthik Rajaram, who have/had made their lives in the US, have been able to rid themselves of their cultural baggage.

And for the first time in the history of India, it appears that layoffs are inevitable. Everyday, we are hearing rumours of layoffs - in TCS, Wipro, Satyam, Infosys and many other big corporates. Jet Airways has already laid off people (and reinstated them because of government and political pressure). A quick look at google insights shows that India is a close second to the US in the number of searches for the word "layoff", with bangalore, the IT capital of India, leading among the cities.

As a nation are we ready for layoffs? Will the people who get laid off have the necessary support and understanding from their family and friends? Without a dole system or a 401(K)-like plan or some other form of insurance to fall back on, how are people going to manage financially? Will companies induct a laid off person even if (s)he is well qualified, without hesitation?

Are there support groups for recently laid off people? Are there on-line forums and groups available for these people to get advice, share experiences, find an understanding shoulder to lean on, and maybe find their next job?

In a nation where children routinely commit suicide for failing in exams, what are we doing to stop many more Karthik Rajarams?

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Be careful

I just read a blog entry by Seth Godin. I would urge everyone to read it.

The advice he gives is equally true for job hunters. During times like this, when people are getting laid off and job openings are hard to come by, please be wary of people guaranteeing you jobs in large enterprises. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Every other day, there are news articles about people getting scammed out of thousands of rupees by fly-by-night recruiters who promise jobs, visa, passports, and anything else in demand.

If you have been just laid off or are fresh out of college, remember this is not the end of the world. There are still jobs available in the market. Use all the legitimate avenues available to you including
1. Recruiters who are well established and who don't charge you.
2. Job sites where you can freely upload your resume
3. Career pages of the companies you are interested in.
4. Cold calling the hiring managers
5. Your friends network
6. Your alumni network
7. Your ex-colleagues, relatives, acquaintances, and other people you know well.

Never pay someone who promises you a job for money. These people are the scum of the earth feeding off good people in desperate situations.

Keep your money safe. You'll need it now more than ever!

Keep looking. Your next job may be just around the corner. All the best.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Who to believe?

There is an article on rediff today that proclaims
IT firms are back and hiring big time!
Says Som Mittal, President, National Association of Software and Services Companies, while reflecting on the economic crisis that has ravaged the entire world:

QUOTE BEGINS:
Do such adjustments mean compromising on salaries?

They do. But then isn't getting a slightly less salary better than being jobless. Also, as I said before, the impact of the slowdown is only temporary. It will pass soon, may be within a couple of years and things would look much brighter then.

Also, let me put on record, IT companies are back at campuses, hiring big time.
QUOTE ENDS.

Follow this link for the original.

No corroboration, no references, no quotes,... is it just to make people feel good? Will it work? Unlikely based on the comments and feedback under the article.

What gives?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Internship

Most companies look for candidates who already have relevant work experience, especially in a down market. If you have not already been recruited through your college's campus recruitment program, then getting into a company without any work experience can be difficult. You need work experience to get a job and you need a job to gain relevant experience - another typical catch-22 situation. However there is a way to break this mutual dependency - Internship.

Many professional courses earmark a part of the final year of study for gaining work experience - the idea being that when you are out of college, you will come out with at least some real work experience in a professional environment. What you need to do is to find a company that will take you in as an intern. Once you get it, not only do you gain valuable experience, if you perform well, the internship can even transform into an employment opportunity as soon as you successfully complete your degree.

For students studying in tier 2 colleges, getting internship opportunities are still quite difficult. One of the steps you can take to improve your chances of getting an internship is to register on http://www.jobsbyref.com, enter the degree you are currently pursuing and specifying your requirement for an internship. That way, companies searching for interns will be able to find you and reach out to you.

Monday, October 20, 2008

How to avoid getting laid off

During difficult times like these, layoffs become commonplace. Companies layoff people not only to improve their chances of survival, but also because there is no significant backlash to layoffs at these times.

So, as an employee, what should you do to remain employed?

To start with, work as hard as you can.
No only does this help keep your company afloat, it also makes you a more valuable resource.

Stay where you are.
In many companies, the first people to get laid off are the people who have joined recently. If you have been with a company for a long time, now is not the time to switch, no matter how good the new offer may be.

Don't even look for a new job while still employed.
During these uncertain times, it is tempting to line up a backup plan, just in case. However, there can be unhelpful side effects. For example, if you post your resume on some job site and your current employer comes to know, then when it is time to make the layoff list, they will add your name to it - after all, you were planning to leave anyway, right?

Don't, not even for a moment, think that the thin privacy blanket provided by most online job sites will be sufficient to hide you from your current employer. Employers are a lot smarter than you think and there are a couple of simple methods to find out about your presence on popular jobs sites like naukri, monster and others.
Remember, your resume will not be seen only if your company uses its account to search the database. If your company uses somebody else's account, you will be seen. For example,
1. Many top employers use multiple recruiters to help in acquiring candidates. It is easy for an employer to ask one of the recruiters to check on a regular basis for "All employees from currently updating their resume". The recruiter would be more than happy to oblige.
2. Company HRs are a close-knit group and very often exchange job site account information so that they can see who among their employees is active seeking employment elsewhere.

So, if the job site provides a "complete stealth" mode, continue. Otherwise, the best thing to do is to not touch your profile on job sites, or even delete your account, if possible.

If there is talk of voluntary pay cuts, be ready to volunteer.
Some companies take this route, though it is usually a pre-cursor to layoffs. The best thing to do is to be open to this idea as the chances are pay-cuts and layoffs are in all probability inevitable anyway.

If you are currently unemployed, grab any opportunity that comes along.
This is not the time to be choosy. Some of the opportunities, especially with startups, may be more lucrative in the long run. Interesting times require interesting action.

In summary, if you wish to stay employed, just hunker down and let the current crisis pass.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lessons from a dung beetle!

Thought I'd make a "light" video response to Sequoia's 56 slider and other VCs' pronouncements(here, here, here, and here) of impending doom.

I believe that the rules of the game have not changed. The same principles that the dung beetle follows hold good for all of us - in good times and bad times.

1. Work hard
2. Persevere
3. Be innovative
4. Put up a good fight, and
5. Build something of value.


Here's wishing success to all start-ups. May y'all succeed.

If you can't see the video, follow this link: http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=0oQCyBAixEc

Monday, October 13, 2008

A long life or a swift death

As a start-up founder, I have been keenly following the recent comments and reactions from various quarters including
this from Ron Conway, this from Sequoia, this from Calacanis, and this.

Sounds like crunch-time folks. I don't know about you, but if a long life or a swift death are my only options, I am real glad. Much better than having the additional option of a long lingering death. So if you are a startup like us, be happy that your options have been narrowed down for you.

Now, ask yourself this simple question:
No funding, low valuation, no quick exit - am I ready?

If you believe you are catering to a necessity, have a clear revenue model, and are willing to work passionately to make it happen, your answer should be a resounding YES. Don't worry about what the doom-merchants are saying. Believe that you are in the right place at the right time.

If your answer is NO - find out the shortest route towards a YES. If you can't, cut your losses and make it quick. Closing one door opens another. Who knows - your next avatar may have the right answer.

We may have interesting times thrust on us, but the choices are always ours.

I am choosing a long life. What about you?

Friday, October 10, 2008

JobsByRef.com is in private beta

I don't know if I blogged about it here already. I don't mind repeating it, though :)
JobsByRef.com is now in private beta. Check it out at www.jobsbyref.com. 70% of the site is ready, though members cannot still apply to jobs or view available job postings. Duh! I know.

But we are almost there. Hopefully, we'll get there before too many people affected by the tanking market are pushed to take desperate measures.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Respondent management

During the y2k boom time and then again soon after the dot-com bust, every job opening we advertised resulted in literally thousands of responses. I remember once, we had advertised for a VC++ software engineer with 5 years of experience in Hindu's wednesday morning opportunities column. It was only a 3 inch ad. When I reached office at 8:30 AM that morning, our mail box was flooded with over 8000 resumes - all within 2 hrs of publication! By the end of that day, we had received well over 20,000 resumes. Of course, most of the resumes we scanned had no relevance to the job opening we had advertised. If there had been a valid candidate in that pile of resumes, we failed to find it, though I must confess that after having read about a hundred of the received resumes, I gave it up as a bad job.

When I think of the financial and market situation today, and when I read articles like this, I cannot but fear that we may be in for another round of resume overload. Are we prepared for it this time?

How are we going to track responses from multiple sources?
How are we going to separate the grain from the chaff (the 10% good candidates from the 90% of irrelevant respondents)?
How are we going to identify the promising ones out of the 10% of the respondents that are relevant.

The companies that have answers to these questions will be able to attract, find and employ the good candidates who become available in times like these. The others will miss the boat (again) because they will not be able to find the right applicants from among the 1000s of applicants.

At JobsByRef.com, we are launching an intuitive online respondent management system, so that you don't have to read through 1000s of resumes to find the right candidates. No matter where you advertise, be it online on job sites, on in traditional media such as newspapers and journals, we will let you keep track of the responses and provide you with advanced match-scores and analysis options so that you can zoom on to the right candidates everytime.

If you are an employer, you can register here if you are interested in our respondent management system. We will get back to you as soon as we launch (Mid-Q4 2008). Early registrants will get our free introductory 3 month offer.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Some things don't have to happen again and again

Last week, there was an article in "Times of India", I think, about over 50 people getting cheated by a bogus recruiter who promised them all jobs at the Hyundai facilities in Chennai for a neat sum of money.

Last month another bogus recruiter (same???) cheated hundreds of people after promising them jobs in IBM!

These are just instances in the last month that caught the media attention. We don't even know how many such incidents go unreported.

Why is it so difficult to regularize businesses and stop desperate people from getting cheated? All we need is a site where all recruiters have to be registered. If you are not registered there I won't deal with you. End of story.

Let me illustrate this with what happened to me 2 weeks ago and how I was able to get clarity quickly.

A man from a tamil monthly called "Pothu Nanayam" contacted me over the phone asking for an appointment to interview me for his magazine. After ensuring it was really me he was after, I asked him to come later in the evening.

Promptly at 5:00 PM, a smartly dressed, dignified looking man arrived and introduced himself as Udumalai Chandran, the chief editor of the magazine. He told me that their monthly magazine concentrated on articles about upcoming businesses and business men, especially those who were also involved in service organizations such as the Rotary International.
He told me their circulation was around 26,000 a month and all of their revenues came from advertisements sponsored by the people they interview. So, even before he started the interview, he had made it clear that I would be paying him somewhere between Rs. 1500 to Rs. 4500 depending on the kind of advertisement I chose. He also showed me the last six issues of his magazine, each covering over 40 people, many of whom I recognized as fellow rotarians.

The interview lasted for over 30 minutes, during which time he asked all the standard questions and jotted down everything in good, chaste, high-quality tamil. Finally he asked for a photo and gave me a receipt for Rs. 1500 (which was all I was willing to pay - that too only because he had come all the way to my office). I told him I'd mail the cheque along with the photo during the course of the week. He thanked me, wished me all the very best for my new venture and left. As he was leaving, I asked him to leave behind the last issue so that I could go through it in leisure.

I mentioned this to a friend later that day and said that I had agreed to pay because I felt guilty for having brought him to my office, but I was not happy since I had never heard of the magazine.

He laughed and said that it would be worthwhile to check them out before paying them. He informed me that there is an organization called the Registrar of Newspaper for India where I could check for the existence of any newspaper or magazine in India. Promptly, I went to that site and searched for "Pothu Nanayam" by name as well as by the registration number given on the back of the magazine "TN/MS (S) 246". No such magazine was registered on that site!

Two days later Mr. Chandran called me for the cheque and I told him that since his paper was not listed in the Registry of Indian newspapers, I was no longer willing to pay him anything. He seemed flustered and sounded surprised at not being listed in the official registry. He briefly thanked me and hung up.

He seemed like such a nice man, but I think I did the right thing. I don't like paying for anything if I am not sure and it took me 2 minutes of guidance and 3 minutes of internet time to find out the antecedents of his "organization".

While I have no way of knowing whether the magazine is real or not, at least I was able to decide for myself based on the information available from authorized sources on the web.

Similarly, in the case of recruiters, there should be an avenue for people to find out the antecedents of people and organizations.

Knowledge = Willingness to check + access to information.
We, especially here in India, need to inculcate the first and provide the second. If we really want to help people, it should not be too difficult, especially if we are moved when we hear or read about poor, desperate people being cheated.

Instead of waiting for the slow moving wheels of the government to spring into action, we at JobsByRef.com have decided that we will provide facilities for recruitment organizations to register themselves along with details of which companies they officially represent. It may not solve the whole problem, but it is still a place to start.

If you have any other suggestions, do write in the comments section. Thanks.

Friday, September 26, 2008

JobsByRef.com is in private beta

We had a soft launch yesterday. Just for a few close friends and some of the early birds who had registered on our site. All systems fine and responding well.

We are sorry we could not accommodate all the registrants in this first round, but thanks for the overwhelming response. We will send you special invites as soon as possible.

The real launch is expected to be sometime around the end of October '08. It's an aggressive deadline, but we are very keen to meet it.

Look out for that invite.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cost of experience

So, what is the cost of experience today? I heard from a past colleague yesterday that it is about Rs. 10,000 for each year of experience. Don't understand?

Let me explain. Let's say a person has not found a job even two years after finishing college. Since he does not have any work experience, he does not get any offers. But he needs a job to get work experience. A classic catch-22.

Enter, a company that is willing to give him a service letter that states that he has worked with them for the last two years – with project descriptions to boot. At a price, though – for each year of experience that he wants the service letter to state, he needs to pay Rs. 10,000.

I have heard short-sighted people say that this is a victim-less crime. "After all, it has improved a person's employment-worthiness", they say.
WELL, I DON'T AGREE.
Not only are people who have worked hard to gain experience deprived of a well deserved opportunity, the employer has also been hoodwinked into employing an experience-less, most probably unqualified, highly UNETHICAL individual. Who knows what he will get up to once he gets hold of confidential information during the course of his work?

Obviously, we need the law enforcement agencies to nail these fraudsters. But, I don't see that as the whole solution. We need to be able to prevent these unethical companies from plying their wares. NOW.

What we need is a decent credibility checking mechanism – for individuals and companies; a way to blacklist companies that are into such unethical practices; a way by which employers can share such information with each other.

Are there any providers of such facilities out there? In India? In the US? Anywhere else in the world?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

NSG's impact on the Indian Job Market

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a multi-national body that controls the export of fissile material. The group came into being after india detonated an atomic bomb way back in 1974, an event that was called Smiling Buddha. Since then, the members of the NSG have refused to export to India any material that can be used in making nuclear devices.

Earlier this month, the NSG, under pressure from the US, lifted the ban. As part of the deal, India will have to disclose which organizations within India are civilian nuclear establishments and which ones are military in nature.

Civilian establishments, which are/will be predominantly power plants, will in theory get access to enriched uranium required for the production of electricity, while military establishments will need to continue to fend for themselves.

India is expected to spend over USD 40 Billion over the next 15 years in building and running nuclear power plants!

Setting aside my apprehensions about what the future holds for us Indians, I would like to speculate on the effects of the NSG waiver on the Indian job market. Till date, all nuclear related organizations within India have been predominantly military in nature and limited in number. Getting a job in a nuclear power plant has been really difficult because of all the security regulations involved and civilians have had very little opportunities to find jobs in this sector.

However, once the waiver is in place, there are already clear indications that large business houses such as TATA, and Reliance will enter the field and build their own nuclear power plants solely to produce electricity. When that happens, the number of jobs available to civilians in this area is bound to sky-rocket.

And, we are not talking about the need for additional nuclear scientists alone here. We are talking about a whole range of other qualified people and secondary establishments needed for the smooth functioning of these massive power plants.

Nuclear power plants are like super large factories operating in 3 shifts, 24 hours a day, throughtout the year. To start with, we need to build them which means there will be a tremendous increase in the requirement for structural engineers, civil engineers, architects, and other construction related personnel.

Once the power plants are in place, there will be jobs for highly skilled individuals as well as entry level personnel. For probably the first time in India, there will be ample opportunities for people with pure sciences background (A group that has been completely deprived of meaningful employment opportunities in India). Obviously, there will be a need for more nuclear scientists, research assistants, laboratory assistants, power plant operators, computer operators, quality control engineers.

The large power plants will employ thousands of people which will mean that each of these establishments will be like townships leading to a wide variety of indirect employment - from schools and hospitals to transportation services, to restaurants and cinema halls.

Finally we come to the informal and unorganized sector consisting of drivers, house maids, plumbers, electricians, and others required for the smooth functioning of the townships.

I am yet to see any official figures on how many jobs will be created over the next 15 years because of the NSG waiver, but I am sure it will be in the order of hundreds of thousands of jobs and that is good news. Especially when you consider that the number of job openings are coming down in most parts of the world!

One thing I can't help wondering about though is what this 40 Billion dollar budget can do if we were to concentrate on harnessing some clean energy source such as solar energy. We could be pioneers instead of buying outdated, expensive and extremely dangerous technology. There's another blog post itching to get out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Finding suitable candidates

When I am recruiting new people, I am almost always looking for people similar to the good ones already working with me.

And the best way to get them, I have found (short of cloning them), is to ask my existing employees to find such people from among their friends. After all, as the adage goes, "birds of a feather, flock together".

Works like a charm - every time! A gazillion points to referrals!

[Don't flame me. This is not the same as wanting people exactly like me. That would be disastrous :(, I know.]

Now, how nice would it be if I could ask a recruiter or a jobsite to "get me someone exactly like this"?

Do you have the same wish? Do you have a blue-print of your new employees in your mind?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A fresh green look at the job market.

Last week I had a small argument with the check-out guy at the Reliance Fresh shop near my house. The reason - I did not use those ubiquitous thin plastic bags that they provide to segregate different vegetables in the shopping basket.
"You have to put each kind of vegetable into a separate plastic bag, if you want me to bill them", he said and then added, "They are free. You can take as many as you want".

"I know. But using your plastic bags is not very environmentally friendly, is it?" I said. "That's why I have brought my own cloth bag for the vegetables. Here, put the veggies into this, please".

He wasn't very pleased. Started grumbling under his breath. I gave him my customary 2 minutes before I launched into my usual sermon about how, being the much younger of the two, the world was more his than mine. That it is in his best interest that he starts being more environmentally aware. That he should be the one taking the initiative to highlight this to his company. And how, who knows, may be they will appreciate it and even give him a promotion! He continued to grumble but he knew he had lost the battle and I came out without a single plastic bag against my name.

It is amazing that a huge company like Reliance takes such a cavalier attitude towards the environment. All the more strange when you realize that they are in an awesome position to get maximum mileage out of it, in terms of branding and goodwill.

If I were in their position, this is what I would start with:
1. Give discounts for people who come with their own cloth bags.
2. Sell sturdy cloth bags with Reliance Fresh emblazoned on one side and "Real men carry cloth bags to buy vegetables" or something like that on the other side.
3. Quickly phase-out the plastic bags.
4. Talk about the company's commitment to improving the environment in every aspect of their business - from the farms to their retail outlets.

The reason I chose to write about Reliance Fresh, of course is the fact that for them to take this stand seems to be a no-brainer. But if we think about it, almost every company can do a lot to go green. Go ahead, take any industry, any company you can think of. In five minutes, you will be able to come up with cost effective and highly beneficial (to their business also) ways of going green.

Let me take the example of the job site that I am currently working on - JobsByRef.com. At first glance, you might think "how can these guys help the environment?". Just of the top of my head, I can do the following(at hardly any additional cost):

1. Promote the site as the place for your definitive resume. You keep your profile up-to-date on our site and whenever anyone is interested in your candidature, you just send them a link. There is never going to be any need to print your resume, ever. We will provide ways to manage these links so that you can always decide who gets to use them, for long, etc.

2. Provide functionality for conducting remote interviews. That way, candidates do not have to travel in order to attend interviews. We are working on making this happen. I don't want to reveal too much at this stage but we are working on ways to ensure that some of the most common concerns relating to telephonic interviews are taken care of.

3. Promote telecommuting so that it becomes mainstream. We are providing functionality for people to actively search for telecommuting jobs as well as for companies to look for such people.

I am sure we can do a lot more. Can you think of other ways we can help the environment? For example,

1. How can we help companies that are trying to move jobs to rural areas [as against bringing the rural masses to urban areas in search of jobs]?
2. How can we link causes to volunteers and vice-versa?
3. How can we help NGOs and not-for-profit companies find better candidates?
4. How can we help organizations working on conservation projects find committed employees?

I am sure you can think of a 100 other ways to go. Do write to me if you have any suggestions or leave a comment on this post.

Thanks in advance.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Power to the team leads

How many times have you, as a team lead, explained at great length to the HR department about the kind of people you want to recruit for your team, only for them to come back with a “short-list” of a few hundred candidates?

I know this can be frustrating, but for a second, look at it from the HR’s position. If your requirements are very specific, the HR personnel do not find any candidates (because the search criteria used is too narrow) and if you have painted a broad picture, there are thousands of matches.

Obviously, the HR executive is not in the best position to decide which search criteria to relax and which ones not to. So who is in the right position?

YOU.

That’s right! Nobody knows exactly what you are looking for better than you. So, go talk to your company today. Get them to let you choose your own people. Use your contacts and network. In no time, you will have the best team in the company.

Go ahead, make your day!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Have connections. Will use.

Recently, I read a very interesting article by Aruna Viswanatha on livemint about job hunting and personal references. The article is very much in line with my thinking and though it may be a "plug" for shine.com [Both shine and Mint are owned by HT Media, as clearly mentioned in the article.], it is impartially written.

The gist of the article is that referrals from friends are the number one route to a good job/employee. My own experience and that of countless recruiters and HR professionals that I have talked to, confirms this. And yet, no job site has made a decent attempt to find a way of incorporating a meaningful referral mechanism into their solution.

The existing job sites can be categorized into three distinct classes:

1. Traditional job sites
Sites like naukri.com, monster.com, timesjobs.com, shine.com that are merely repositories of resumes and job postings with superficial variations in functionality.

2. Referral based sites
Earlier, I said, "No job site has made a decent attempt to find a way of incorporating a meaningful referral mechanism into their solution". The operative word is decent. Most referral sites have two buttons next to each other - Apply and Refer. Basically, what they are saying is "Here is a job opening. If you want it apply for it. Otherwise, see if you can refer a friend for it". As an employer, I do not care if some stranger refers some other stranger to me. What I need is a personal referral. In this context, personal means somebody personally known to me - and not some stranger on the other end of the internet.

3. Networking sites
Essentially LinkedIn. Since LinkedIn started as a professional networking site rather than a job site, it is at best just another avenue by which one may find a job and, unless things change drastically, will never be the typical job hunter's first choice for a job site.

When the time is ripe (closer to launch, is what I mean), I will write about how jobsbyref.com, the site we are currently working on, brings together meaningful functionality including the ability to use one's connections to get a better job.

Hold on, it should not be too long now!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Education is our only salvation

For a change, instead of complaining about the Indian education system and the "irresponsible" corporate world, I have decided to write about a few different things I have heard over the last week or so that show that there is hope for us yet and Corporate Social Responsibility is alive and kicking in India.

This morning, the full front page of Times of India was about their new initiative called "Teach India". It is a truly ambitious plan to get together the educated teaching volunteers and poor students needing tutoring.

Yesterday, people from Ashok Leyland came to my son's school and talked to us about how they plan to create interesting assignments for children that will encourage free thinking as well as engender interest in different fields of engineering.

Earlier in the week, a long-lost friend of mine wrote in about www.lipik.in, a site that has, he says,
"firm focus on the non-english speaking market in india. This new technology facilitates easy and accurate typing in Indian languages. I am sure you will agree that an easy local language data input method is necessary for spreading Internet amongst non English speaking masses of India. The web based service is called Lipik and available at www.lipik.in. It uses an AI module to predict what you want to write based on what has been written so far. This greatly enhances typing speed and accuracy even for users who don't know the language very well. It includes a virtual Indic language keyboard that eliminates the need to know English. It also allows search in the local language and publishing to blogger.

The service is currently available in Hindi, Tamil, Panjabi, Kannada and English and we are working on adding more languages.
"

My friends at TutorVista and Edurite tutorials need to be mentioned here. They have been around for a while now in the online tutoring world and have fantastic technology that allows teachers and students to work with each other at mutually convenient times no matter where they live in the world. All that is required is that the teacher and the student are connected by the universal umbilical cord - the internet.

Imagine if we could bring together the $100 notebook, TutorVista's technology and teaching staff, vernacular language support from lipik.in, broad based and career focused study material from corporates and the educated volunteer teachers galvanized by Times of India working together to bring education to every corner of India!

Today India. Tomorrow THE WORLD!!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Job sites and privacy (3)

When you are using an online job site to find yourself a job, you want potential employers to find you and yet you do not want to be seen [by all and sundry, and especially by your current employer]! A definite conundrum?

Not quite! Suppose you get yourself a front man, say, your own personal career manager to act on your behalf? He could then discreetly (Though not like this!) make sure all potential employers are made aware of the fact that a person of your qualifications and caliber is available for employment. He could also check out these potential employers and give you advice.
Finally, after consultation with you, he could put you in touch with the potential employers of your choice so that you could take the discussion forward.

Now that would give you full privacy without reducing your options!

Why can't job sites do that for you? If they were really interested in making your life better, they should, don't you think?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Will any other company go to CEG for campus recruitment this year?

CTS has already given offer letters to (all?) 1,100 students at the College of Engineering, Guindy. Read more here and here.

Now tell me, why would any other company go there for campus recruitment this year? So, essentially, the students of CEG now have no choice but to join CTS, whether they like it or not. And they are not the only students affected. At some other college, the first company to visit will be TCS. What do you think they will do? Exactly. They will make offers to all the students there. After all, they need to meet their requirements too. HCL, Satyam, Infosys will all follow suit.

Welcome to the era of one college - one company!

All you students out there, answer me this: Is this a good thing for you?

Now, go to your Dean(placements) and ask him to remove all restrictions regarding the number of interviews you can attend this year in campus. That way, you will still have a choice of where you would like to work.

Not that CTS is a bad place to work, mind you. It's just that you need to have a choice.
Go!

Monday, June 30, 2008

CTS makes record campus offers for Anna University


On 23-Jun-2008 Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS) gave offer letters to 1,100 students of College of Engineering, Guindy. link

According to the official website of the college of engineering(CEG), Guindy, their intake of students into undergraduate courses each year is around 800 . Though I cannot find exact figures for the intake of post graduates and research students, I am guessing it would be around 400. Thus, assuming all the students graduate, every year around 1200 students pass out of the college.

Which implies that CTS has given offer letters to practically all the students coming out of CEG next year!

From the point of view of CTS, this is an excellent move, both strategically as well as tactically. Students of CEG are generally very good, both because of the stringent admission criteria (which ensures that only students with excellent academic records gain admission) as well as the quality of their facilities and faculty. So CTS can expect that at least 50% of the students will join and do very well at work. The time and effort to get over 500 good employees in this manner would have been really low.
From a tactical stand point, CTS has ensured that none of the other players (TCS, Infosys, Satyam, etc.) can get anyone from CEG! (Most campus recruitment rules stipulate that if a student has got an offer from one Tier 1 company, he/she cannot appear for any other interview).

As for the college, all their students have gotten placed and that augers well for the future reputation of CEG.

Only when I think of this with the student's interest in mind and that of the country as a whole, do I start to worry.

1. To start with, what CTS has done is to hoard potential employees. In one fell swoop they have reserved all the candidates for themselves and ensured that the students cannot get themselves jobs in any other company through the campus recruitment process. With this kind of control, now the company can delay the sending of appointment letter for as long as it wants without too much risk.
And this happens quite a lot already. I have heard of many a case where the student received the appointment letter (from a very large company) only 8 months after she completed her degree. Even after that, for over 6 months she was not involved in any project. So effectively, for nearly a year and a half, she did not do any work. Of course, from the outside we can all ask why she did not go and find herself a job elsewhere. But, in reality, most students (and their parents) are very reluctant to rock the boat once they have received an offer letter from a large company with a "good" reputation.
While I am not suggesting that CTS will follow this path, given how the market is yo-yo'ing these days, this could very well happen.

2. Of the 1,100 students, only about 10 - 15 % of them have computer science degrees. All the other are from such varied disciplines as Civil, Electrical and Electronics, Communication engineering, mechanical engineering, Industrial engineering, manufacturing engineering, printing technology, mining engineering, material sciences and engineering and agriculture and irrigation engineering. Not only are these students ill-equipped to work in a software engineering environment, by joining a software company, they are also ensuring that all the work they have put in (apart from the efforts put in by the faculty) to learn their discipline goes completely to waste. Where are we going to find the next generation of competent civil engineers? Who is going to help improve the Indian agricultural sector? Who is going to lead us in our competition with China in the manufacturing sector?
Again, I am not suggesting that this problem has only arisen now because of CTS. We have been facing this problem ever since the start of the software revolution in India. It is just that, instead of addressing this problem, the Indian industry seems to be doing things to exacerbate it.

3. Will the 3rd year students who have got the offers continue to study with interest now that they have got a job offer in hand? What incentive is there for students of other disciplines to study when they already have a job offer and the subjects they need to study have no relevance to the work they are going to do! Why cannot these campus interview be conducted at the end of the 4th year (for 4 year degrees) thereby giving the students an additional one year of opportunity to learn and gain interest in their area of expertise.
The power to allow campus interviews only for students in their final academic year is completely in the hands of the colleges. If the guardians of education do not care, who will?


4. Do the students studying disciplines other than computer science have any future in their field of study/interest? Is there any overlap at all between their area of study and their field of interest? If such a overlap exists are we doing anything to sustain and encourage that?

5. What happens to computer science students from other colleges, especially tier 2 colleges which are not able to attract companies to come and conduct campus recruitment? Despite having studied computer science, do they have job openings in their area of expertise?

Has individual, corporate and collective greed become so all-encompassing that we cannot even see the kind of lop-sided growth we are fostering? We are no longer behaving like a country that wants to progress in all fronts including science, technology (other than software), equal education and employment opportunities for all,self sufficiency, alleviation of poverty, good and affordable health care for all and self preservation. We have merely become a provider of semi-skilled labour (whatever is the flavour of the day or decade) for the world.

Today, India has become just a temp staffing outfit!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Job sites and privacy issues (2)

Another question that crops up frequently is
Does fudging my contact details on my online resume reduce my credibility?

The answer, most definitely, is YES! In fact, fudging leads to more than just diminished credibility, it could actually take you to jail! Fudging any part of your resume is a big no-no. Your curriculum Vitae or resume is a sacrosanct document which typically ends with
I hereby declare that the information I have provided is accurate to the best of my knowledge
followed by your signature. While this does not make your resume a legal document, your employment contract is most definitely a legal document and it is based on the belief that the resume is factually accurate.

Given the fact that this method of "privacy protection" is used quite often on online job sites, most employers try to rationalize this behaviour. Nevertheless, on deeper probing many of them do agree that at least at a subconscious level, some amount of credibility of the person (who has done the fudging) diminishes.

Let's look at this from the potential employer's perspective.

It is only natural for a potential employer to think "if he has fudged this, what else would he have fudged?" With that thought, in one fell swoop, your entire credibility goes down the drain. Guilty until proven innocent!

Additionally, no matter what the realities of today's corporate world may be, it is difficult for most employers to understand why people have to hide the fact that they want to move on to another job. Remember, they face this situation every day in their own offices with people leaving for one reason or another (however legitimate the reasons may be). So they have been in a situation before where one or more of their employees started looking out for another job while working there. So it does not take a great amount of imagination to figure out that they will think "If she is doing that in that company, what makes us feel she won't do the same thing here?". There goes your trustworthiness, even before day one at the new job!

There is no point in starting the rest of your career on the back foot. Don't make the mistake of fudging your resume. If your job site does not provide adequate legitimate means of privacy protection, dump them and go elsewhere.

Like I said before, fudging your resume, for any reason, is a no-no!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Job sites and privacy issues (1)

Many people have expressed concerns about the privacy protection actually provided by the current crop of job sites. Despite the fact that most job sites boldly declare "100% privacy protection guaranteed" on their home pages, these concerns seem to continue to remain at the top of the users' minds - with good reason!

Having tired of explaining to each one individually, I have decided that a series of blog entries would help all concerned. In each post of this series, I will try and answer one of the constantly recurring questions. Here goes...

Q. If I register myself on a jobsite, will just anybody and everybody be able to see my resume? Importantly, will my current employer find out?

A. The short answer is yes, mostly. The longer answer follows...

Most job sites, such as naukri, monster, timesjobs and shine provide the user with multiple levels of privacy. It is very important to understand their capabilities and limitations clearly.

The first option provided is the invisibility flag. By default it is set to false so everybody can see you. You can, however, turn it on. What this does is that it effectively makes you invisible to all. Including potential employers and recruiters - which may not be quite what you want! However, you can still log on to the site, search through their list of job postings and apply for one or more of the jobs, just as usual.

The other options that sites provide is a flag that says "Don't let my current employer see me!" Usually, this is set to true by default. While the intent of the job site is good, this option, based on my discussions with many HR departments and recruiters , is pretty much worthless.

The way this option works is that when your current employer uses his/her account to login and search for candidates, you are automatically excluded from the search results so that your employer does not find out that you are actively searching for employment behind his/her back. If other employers log in with their user id / password and search the candidate database, if your profile matches the search criteria, you will be part of the search result. So far so good.

But employers are constantly worried about attrition and are desperate to know who all among their employees are planning to leave. That is quite understandable, especially in industries with high attrition rates like IT and ITES. So, what they do is identify a friendly organization, a sister concern or a recruitment firm that has accounts with some of the popular job sites and exchange account information. So company A uses company B's account, logs in and searches for "All candidates who are currently employed in company A who have updated their profiles in the last x months". Presto! they now have the list of all their employees attempting to jump ship including, unfortunately, you!

Finally, there is the third option, which is to fudge your contact information and any other details specifically identifying you, from your profile. Most job sites do not and cannot check the validity of any of these entries and so your employer will never find your profile online. Of course, there are problems with this approach. which I will address in another blog entry.

In summary, none of the existing job sites can guarantee the kind of privacy protection that you would ideally want. Not that it can't be done, mind you. Complete privacy protection is definitely possible, but you would require serious gumption to implement it! Check out Search In Stealth.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What do you do at work?

My home desktop's monitor died on me recently. I called Dell customer service and had the best customer support interaction ever!

The customer service agent, let us call her Anu, took down the monitor's serial number and after a few seconds told me that my warranty had expired 20 days earlier. I asked her if I could extend the warranty now and still have the monitor covered. She said she would check and was gone for about 3 minutes while I waited impatiently, all the time cursing my luck with gadgets which seemed programmed to die immediately after warranty expires. Just as I was beginning to think that she was never going to come back, she said "I'll tell you what; I just had a chat with my manager and this is what I'll do - I will replace your monitor as part of the existing warranty and then you can call the warranty department and extend your warranty at your convenience, if you so wish. How does that sound?"

I was obviously overjoyed and agreed to it whole-heartedly. She asked for another couple of minutes while the system registered the details during which time she continued talking to me about other things with genuine interest.

The very next day, at half past nine in the morning, I had a spanking, brand new monitor on my desk!

If somebody asks her what she does at work, she can truthfully say "I keep our clients happy by providing friendly and efficient customer services".

So, what do you do at work?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

An appropriate parable

A long time ago, the parable goes, in a land just like our own, was a rich and prosperous kingdom, ruled by a benevolent and intelligent king. The land was fertile, the education system was good, and trade with the neighbouring kingdoms highly profitable. In short, the people of that land, all lived a good life.

One day, the king decided to check how good his people were. So he told them that he would like each family to donate one pot of milk for a yagna to bring more prosperity to their kingdom. He then kept a huge drum in the temple and asked each family to bring one pot of milk that night and pour into the drum.

Overnight all the families came one by one and by morning the drum was full. However, when the king checked the drum in the morning, he was heartbroken to find that it contained mostly water with just one or two cloudy patches to indicate that some (very little) milk had also been poured in. Obviously, most of the people had assumed that their pot of water would go unnoticed in the whole drum of milk and had brought water instead of milk.

Thus the pot contained mostly water and whatever milk a few good souls had brought was also lost due to the miserly acts of the majority.

This parable is a good analogy to the state of most of our current job sites. With millions of resumes in each database, people assume that whatever falsifications they do in the resumes would go unnoticed.

However, all they are doing is diluting the quality of the entire database of resumes and making extraction of the good resumes within nearly impossible, thereby diluting the credibility of each and every resume within the database.

I don't know what the king did, but I think I have a few ideas that may just work...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What if...

What if you knew more about the job market and your prospects?
What if you knew how your salary compared with that of others in your industry?
What if you knew how your salary compared with that of your peers, ex-colleagues, classmates?
What if you knew more about your employment opportunities in different cities?
What if you knew, to a ballpark, your total future lifetime career earnings ?
what if you knew your career growth path for the next 5 - 10 years ?
What if you knew which jobs will result in interesting opportunities and challenges?
What if you knew that switching now
--------Will not make a difference in your total earnings?
--------Will adversely affect you earning in the long run?
--------Will have a significant long term impact on your earnings?
What if you knew that you will have more responsibility but less pay if you remain in your current job for the foreseeable future?
What if you knew exactly what courses to take in order to improve your career?
What if you knew exactly which new skill sets to acquire now for a great career?
What if you knew which company will make you the happiest?
What if you knew which company will pay you the most in the long run?
What if you knew which company will provide you with the best environment for growth?
What if you knew which company will let you achieve the most?
What if you knew you will always earn more than you need no matter where you work?

What would it take for you to plan your career now instead of looking at just the next jump?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Productivity and happiness

For many people, going to the office is borderline misery. To them it is an unavoidable activity that needs to be performed, however unpleasant it may be - kind of like having to take a leak midway through a beer session - only more time consuming.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Let us look at one common complaint that people have and the steps that can be taken to avoid it.

"I am spending 12 hrs a day at work and my boss still complains that the work done is not enough!"

Now, if this happens only rarely (like during sudden unforeseen times of increased demand), then it may be ok. But if this situation extends for long periods of time then the possible reasons could be:
a. Your boss is an as**ole.
b. You are not spending your time productively

While it is convenient to choose option (a), that may not be the sole reason. If it is, remember life is too short to work under an as**ole. Quit now and find some other work place.

If you think some part of your problem is due to reason (b), then we are already on our way towards the solution.

Making the 12hrs into 14hrs in NOT the way. This is a classic case for "less is more". Here's what you need to do:

First, get a life. Find something interesting that you have to do every day or at least most days. It could be anything that you already have a passion for. Then, decide that you will stay in the office only for 8 hrs. This will make you focus on the things you need to get done so as to get out in time to do that which interests you. Once you start prioritizing big chunks of your time, you will become adept at prioritizing and scheduling the smaller bits that make up the bigger chunks. Soon you will be able manage your time better. And that is the secret to productivity.

A Life + productive work = happiness.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The difference between a job hop and a career move

In a day, you have 24 hours.
If you are like me, you will spend at least 8 hours of that sleeping.
Another 1 hour on hygiene.
An hour and a half eating (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
Another hour and a half traveling to and from work, if you are lucky, that is.
A couple of hours on personal work
About 9 hours in the office.
Leaving you all of ONE HOUR to do what you like.

If you take a job where you can put in those 9 hrs for better pay, or a better designation, or something like that, then that's a job hop.
But if you find a place where the ONE HOUR (doing what you like) gets converted to TEN HOURS of enjoyment, then you have made a career move. It's that simple. And it's all in your hands.

Don't just find your next job. Go ahead - make your career move!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ten things that will help you land your first tech job

  1. Show up for the interview. Arrive on time or even a little early for your interview. If you are late, the message is that you are not interested.
  2. Inform the relevant person that you have arrived. Don't hide in some corner trying to blend with the wallpaper. With so many "No shows" nowadays, nobody will come looking for you.
  3. Introduce yourself with a bright smile. Don't behave as though you are doing the employer a favour by attending the interview.[You may be nervous, but try and be cheerful]
  4. Keep a copy of your resume ready. If you are confident, say that you intentionally did not print your resume on paper because you want to be carbon friendly. Take your resume in a pen drive or a CD instead.
  5. Have some favourite (Academic) subjects which you are comfortable with. Since you are fresh out of college, you obviously don't have any work experience. So the only thing that you can be questioned on is what was taught to you in school/college. Better that they question you in the areas of your strength than on other subjects. So state clearly the 2 or 3 subjects that were/are your favourite areas so that the interviewer asks questions around these topics.
  6. Know your subject in these areas. If, after several years of education, you cannot answer basic questions in your favourite areas, nobody will believe that you can be taught anything, ever.
  7. If you know, answer. If you don't know but think you can guess, say so and then try your answer. If you haven't a clue, make that clear too.
  8. Be aware of the latest happenings in your industry. Know about blogs, twitter, techcrunch, social networking, SAAS, AJAX, or whatever else is the latest craze.
  9. Have other active interests and hobbies. Show that you are having/pursuing an interesting life. Browsing and watching TV are not hobbies.
  10. Keep your phone on silent during the interview. Don't answer calls. I have had people answer their phone in the middle of an interview and saying (to their current boss, presumably) that they are having lunch with a friend. No one will recruit a liar.
  11. Bonus: Stick to the truth, always. This is non-negotiable.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Why am I talking about my son's education here?

Last week, I went to my son's school and collected all his books for next year (he is going to class 6). Yesterday, I happened to look at his science text book. Every page has typos and grammatical errors. There must be over a hundred errors in that book alone! I am yet to see how many factual errors there are (Will post on that too, later). In one place, for "insulating tape" they have printed "insulting tap". Despite the anguish I was feeling, my son and I were rolling on the ground laughing. Imagine opening a tap at home and it says "idiot"!

But this is no laughing matter. The book is called "Learning elementary science - For class 6", published by Goyal Brothers Prakashan, New Delhi. Its in its fifth edition. My son and I are planning to collate all the mistakes and write to CBSE, NCERT and the publisher. If you are reading this and are concerned, please take some time and do the same.

But why am I writing about it in this blog? What relevance does it have to the job market?

Well, as employers we are all constantly bemoaning the lack of qualified engineers and employees. But can we expect any better if the fundamental education is so bad and the attitude so lackadaisical?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dis-education begins early

Human intelligence is largely dependent on pattern recognition. The very survival of the cro-magnon man depended on his ability to recognize repetitive patterns. Much of our scientific discoveries and inventions owe much to our innate ability to recognize patterns. The solar calendar, identification of agricultural cycles, Mendeleev's periodic tables, genetics, theory of evolution, most(all?) of mathematics, and most(all?) of science have come about due to the human brain's ability to ferret out repetitive patterns in everyday occurrences.
So, pattern recognition and learning how to do that in a scientific manner with checks and balances (lest you end up with superstitions which are the result of over-active pattern recognition with no cross checking) is very important.

Last week, I was going through my son's 5th standard math text book and there was a section called "complete the sequence". The following problem, lifted out of that text book, really stumped me:
Find the next three numbers in the following sequence:
1, 17, 22, 12, __, __, __
While I was wracking my brains, my son filled it up quickly with 28, 33, 23. When I asked him how, he said "Oh! that's easy. Take 1, add 16 and you get 17. Add 5 and you get 22. Subtract 10 and you get 12. So with 12 add 16 and get 28. Add 5 to that and get 33. Subtract 10 and get 23. Done. That's how the teacher taught us!".

They are teaching children to see patterns where there is not enough data. Had to coin a new word for what our education system is doing - Dis-education! Hereafter, if someone says "school did not teach me anything", I'll say "Aren't you the lucky one!".

Monday, March 31, 2008

While others are getting discriminated against…

On the one side we have people who have had the opportunity for a good education but have wasted it. On the other side…

Near my house is one man - Mohan - who has an ironing business. He and his parents collect washed clothes from all the houses in the area, press them at Rs. 2.00 each and return them, crisp and neat. Together, they probably make about Rs. 500 per day. They are not educated, but hard working, sincere and very good at their work. Mohan has a son and a daughter. The son is 3 now. Last week his son was denied admission into a school because he (Mohan) does not have a college degree!

I cannot think of anything more unfair than that!

Latest interview experience

Yesterday I interviewed one candidate. Before I get into the details of the interview, a brief background about the candidate.

MCA (Masters in Computer Applications) - from SRM university, Chennai., prior degree - BCA( Bachelors in Computer applications) - together adding up to a whopping 6 years of core computer science(?) education!

As usual, I started with ” Since you are a fresh candidate with no work experience, I would like to limit the topics covered in this interview to your top two favourite subjects [not including programming languages]”. He chose DBMS and Data structures.

Data structures: I asked him to insert an element into an existing array. Despite repeated hints and suggestions, he failed to answer the question. Questioning on data structures over, I moved on to DBMS (purely out of curiosity to see how bad it can get).

Q: “What is database normalization?”

A: It is the decomposition of programs for improved efficiency and reduced redundancy ! (Huh!?)

Programs? Is it anything to do with programs or are we talking about tables? Apparently he was quite sure that it was program he meant. Quite obviously some of the words he had read had remained in his brain, just not in the right order or context.

What to do?