Three young Engineering graduates: Kirit, Saju, and Gopal – like the now-famous “3 idiots” – were freshly out from the University Oven. All set to make their careers in Information Technology. Their parents have been looking forward to them getting good jobs with fat paychecks and getting married to cute young girls from well-to-do families. Then, everyone would live happily forever.
Kirit applies to various companies and gets many offers. A top company offers him a good pay package, and he laps it up.
Saju and Gopal apply to comparatively smaller companies and manage to bag reasonable pay packages.
After 18 months on the job, Kirit’s salary increases, making enough to settle down to married life. His parents couldn’t be happier. They have started looking for a suitable match. Things are going according to plan.
But Kirit is restless. He has been drawing screens all day at work for so many months that he sees screens in his sleep. His career seems to have gotten stuck on screens. He is afraid he knows nothing about development tools.
When he speaks to Saju and Gopal, he feels left out despite being with a top-of-the-line IT company. He is resisting marriage. All he can think of is moving to the development section. Even a smaller company would be acceptable to him. What if they don’t accept him even though he is willing to climb down on his salary? Is it too late?
Saju moves to another company and is now learning a new development tool. He is told that it is cutting-edge technology.
When Gopal meets him two years later, he thinks Saju seems to be talking of things that he has only heard of but has no skills in.
Each time a new tool comes along, it seems better than the previous one. New tools come onto the scene before one can utilize a tool to its fullest potential. Saju has learned the skills and uses them, but something is not right.
His years of experience have still not made him create new systems. He can manage the front end, but the database, stored procedures, and other aspects of a system development elude him. He feels like an incomplete circle.
Eight years down the line, Gopal, Saju, and Kirit meet. Now Saju is talking about how he changed four companies and learned new tools. He seems ebullient yet is restless. He is earning well but getting rejected as new tools emerge constantly, and fresh engineers are available to work on them at a much lower salary.
He wonders how long a new tool will last before the next one comes up. Each time he begins to master a tool, a better one seems to replace it. He feels he knows more than his seniors about tools and how to use them effectively. But he finds that he doesn’t get enough scope to use his abilities and feels under-utilized. He is worried about his market position as juniors at lower salaries can work on new tools and do better.
Gopal now talks passionately to Saju and Kirit about a new automation system that his team has been designing for a large corporate. He is also working with the implementation team to see how the system performs in real-world use.
Not being a rolling stone, the company thought he was a dependable asset and invested in training him to become an analyst, giving him new projects. His team uses modern technology and tools. Gopal does not know the intricacies of the new development tool, while his team handles it with ease. He knows its capability adequately for using it in the systems he designed with others. He understands the security, performance, and user experience aspects of it. But, now, while being a part of the execution, he sees how humans react to the system and the changes it brings. He is starting to learn the management of change. Gopal feels like he is a part of the senior IT professional team. Salary-wise, he is doing quite well and is secure, irrespective of changes in technology. He knows that he will be strong enough with his higher-level skills even when new tools come.
In the meantime, Kirit had moved on to another large company as a supervisor, getting two fresh engineers to work with new tools to build screens.
Saju sat wondering, after years of hard work, who had finally arrived in the IT field?
Chasing one tool after another in the rapidly evolving tech world can leave deep dissatisfaction in IT developers who feel like an incomplete circle.
The next logical question, perhaps, is, how does one complete the circle?
The straightforward answer would be: The junior developer must get an opportunity to develop and complete the circle. This means they must get employment with a company that cares for them – for their development professionally.
But the actual solution isn’t so straightforward. There are very few companies that are inclined to give such opportunities to junior developers.
Why is that the case?
Most companies find it cheaper to pay higher salaries.
That sounds funny, isn’t it? How can a company pay a higher salary and say this is cheaper? Let us examine it…
A genuine concern for the junior developer (let us call them a “growing professional” or “GP”) lies in improving their skillset and knowledge in the field. What does this mean for companies? It means training the “GP” in newer areas of technological development. This also allows them to be mentored to move to higher-level jobs.
Everyone knows that fresh graduates do not have adequate skills and knowledge of the professional world. They can build amateur programs, which is vastly different from professional work. They have to be trained well before reaching a professional skill level.
This eventually means that if we wish our “GP” to become an IT professional, they have to be trained for professional work initially and subsequently given inputs for still higher-level work like building new systems (analysis and design).
Our educational system does not train our graduates to learn high-level skills by self-learning. Reading books alone does not improve the skillset for building systems. The company has to invest in mentoring and grooming them so that the juniors can reach higher skill levels. However, for the company, it also means having to put up with the slower ability of the junior (our “GP”) to produce results because they are still learning.
The company, in turn, would expect that the “GP” would serve them well and for a longer period. So that both gain from the relationship.
Another skill that the “GP” lacks is the ability to deal with people. They are okay dealing with machines since the machines show no emotions. Even if they make the same mistake several times, the machine won’t shout at them.
On the other hand, human beings are emotional, and one has to be careful while dealing with them. Wrong words, poor communication, and inadequate or improper responses can cause a breakdown of work relationships. Moreover, a system that a designer and a group of developers create as a team ultimately has to be used by people. And implementing systems involves getting people to use them. And using a system means changing the way they have been working so far. Since humans don’t like change, they resist new systems. And the resistance is expressed in different ways. Bringing about change requires a good skill to deal with people so that they will adopt the new system created by the professional team.
The only way to learn this skill is to be able to participate in implementing a system. This will help our “GP” see the processes that made the change possible for implementing the system.
To begin with, our “GP” at this stage of development has first to see the end-to-end life cycle of a project. Starting with conceptualizing a system, analyzing, designing all stages of development, including spec-ing, coding, testing, documenting, training, installing, implementing, and maintaining.
Many of the GP’s friends and peers don’t even know about such concepts and hence think that these stages do not concern them. So even when they are presented with opportunities to work and learn higher skills, they do not grab them. Our “GP” – let us hope – will get the benefit since he can see the opportunities when they come. And he is willing to work harder to learn these skills.
Now let’s look at what all our “GP” has to learn. They have to learn professional software development methods and skills. They have to learn system analysis and design skills, along with implementing skills. And this includes dealing with people.
Another major skill they have to learn is project management. A system is reasonably large, with several programs knit together. And the set of programs has to work on data. If the data is erroneous, the results will be wrong. And when there is a large number of programs, developers make mistakes. There may be bugs not yet detected. Bugs may show up when two different programs interact both of the programs expect data in different sequences or forms, and so on.
On top of it, project management requires various tasks to be done in the right sequence, and some can be done in parallel so that the project can be completed on time. Our “GP” is required to work on real projects to be able to see how to “manage” them.
Most of our “GP” friends do not get to be groomed on projects. They spend years on development work but fail when they have to handle projects. They do not know how to estimate the time required for each task. Have they heard of “risk analysis”? How does one reduce risks? Planning and scheduling? How many persons of various types do you require on a project? And then will they be able to distribute the tasks appropriately to various people? And then finally monitor the project, so they get done in time.
What we find is that most of the juniors like our “GP” are unable to do these tasks effectively. The projects get derailed and they suffer from time overruns, meaning they get delayed and don’t get done properly. Thus, for others who aren’t like our “GP”, the circle is still incomplete!
So why is it that the peers and friends of our “GP” lack such skills?
That’s because most companies are unwilling to spend time and effort to train juniors like our “GP.” It is much cheaper to recruit them as skilled employees and pay them higher salaries rather than training and grooming them as juniors to help them reach that level.
Unfortunately, friends of our “GP” do not know what skills an IT professional must learn and how to achieve these skills. No one has told them. Most of them do not have guidance from parents and relatives because they lack knowledge of this profession. Their teachers also do not know much beyond the basic software skills and stick to entry-level jobs.
So then what happens? The friends are happy having got a job, and then a job with a higher salary, and then another with a still higher salary, learning newer tools all the time. For them, the circles will remain incomplete – or perhaps end up as distorted circles.
Sadly, no one has told them that learning a different new tool is like learning to drive another car brand.
At SBNT, we believe in upskilling and systematic training of new recruits and juniors.
Developments in technology are made available to all regularly. We consider it our responsibility to provide the opportunity for the conscientious and willing to grow and develop professionally through learning and practicing higher skills and grooming and mentoring them adequately.
This holds true not only for developers but also for those in other areas of work. At SBNT, we believe in ensuring that those who care to grow professionally have an opportunity to do so. Being involved in the end-to-end functioning of a software system, the 360-degree view and experience are unique – it is an excellent enabler of professional development.
We care for our “GP.” We like to see him/her grow as an IT professional.
Like the Emperor Penguin caring for the single egg*, we care and nurture every professional.
This is how we contribute towards completing the circle.
*The female emperor penguin lays a single egg and then goes to sea to feed, leaving the male to care for the egg… She swaps place with the male and takes over caring for the chick. Then the male penguin heads out to sea to eat for the first time in four months. Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/facts/emperor-penguin