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Take charge & go-ahead! It is your career

Last updated: 06 September, 2011
G Krishna Kumar 18:03 IST

Polish up

It is not a perfect world where everyone gets an opportunity that matches aspirations

Requirements management, User experience, Build and release Management, Triage management are some of the roles that were never heard in the Indian software Industry say 10 to 15 years back. However, over the past few years, these niche roles have emerged in the Indian Software landscape among both the services and product companies.

These, together with the standard roles in development, testing and project management, provide engineers with several options to pursue a career in the IT Industry. The myriad of options, often adds to the confusion especially among engineers in the less than 10 years experience range.

While there are a few engineers who are aware of the value they deliver currently and how they would enhance it in the future, a vast majority of them are not sure. Salary increase appears to be the sole parameter to measure growth.

Most IT organisations have developed career paths on technical and project Management ladders to help their employees. It is to be noted that the work content in software product and services companies is similar to a great extent and there is no dearth of opportunities in both technical and managerial ladders.

In general, managerial roles are more acceptable in the Indian society. However, technical skills are always at a premium, in high demand and provide immense potential to realise value both for the individual as well as for the organisation.

Although career plan is strictly a personal initiative, there is a popular perception that it is owned by the organisation as an HR initiative. How can we expect an organisation to own the career plan for each and every employee?

It is important to understand assuming that an individual has a fair idea on the future goals, let us look at the practical aspects in realising the goals.

Spend disciplined effort
It is not a perfect world where everyone gets an opportunity that matches both the individual’s aspiration as well as business needs. In reality, it is highly likely that the current job may cater to say 50 per cent of an individual’s aspirations. This means, the rest needs to be “earned”, by spending additional disciplined effort to strengthen the areas not covered by the present job.

For example, let’s take an individual aspiring to be a Software Test Architect, while the current job is that of a manual tester. The Individual could learn/enhance programming, scripting, creating Test benches etc. Another example could be that of a developer involved in maintenance of a software product.

It is very likely that the scope of work will be limited to a few modules. However, normally, the engineer would have access to a lot of product resources that could help the engineer in gaining deeper product knowledge. In general, understanding the overall purpose of the project and seeing the big picture always help engineers appreciate their current work.

The next logical question is to find out if this knowledge can be put to good use. It is safe to assume that opportunities are aplenty in any organisation. It is a matter of interest and commitment from an individual that would open newer opportunities.

Focus on Fundamentals
Over the past few years, the Indian engineers have learnt the need for soaking into a domain in order to gain expertise. All the Domains like Wireless Telecom, Finance, Health care etc offer hundreds of sub domains that can be specialised over many years. For example, a wireless telecom engineer can be an expert in a niche sub-domain like a layer in LTE protocol stack or multimedia framework etc.

An individual could identify and gain expertise on multiple sub-domains. Each of these domains is evolving and this, not only provide an opportunity for the individuals to be abreast with the latest changes in the domain, but also, potentially contribute to the standards.

The next important area for an individual to focus on is, programming language or scripting language as the case maybe. Best programmers are always in scarcity and are equally desirable for a pure software Development project or a maintenance project. Programming languages, akin to sub-domains are an evolving area and a new programming language emerges into the arena every few years.

Importance of Mentor
It is important that the engineers are fundamentally strong in programming and design so that they can seamlessly move into new programming languages without much effort. While parents and close relatives play an extremely important role during education and early part of the job career, it is important to identify a mentor who could either be from the current organisation or from any other organisation.

The mentor can guide the individual in taking key career decisions and could even guide the individual in handling inter-personnel challenges. It is important to realise that the mentor is not the decision maker. Softer aspect like communication skill is very critical and is often ignored. It is extremely important to be clear and articulate while communicating with stake holders including customers, immediate managers and other team members.

Thinking of a solution for a complex problem is just one part, clearly articulating and obtaining buy-in from the stake holders is immensely important. It is also important not to get into an “I-know-it-all” mindset, to remain humble and be a good team player. One more important factor is the longevity of the individual in any organisation. It is fairly established that, in a growing organisation, a good performer will always have plenty of opportunity to grow rapidly.

To sum up, it is the Individual’s career which is at stake and hence more than anyone, the Individual needs to “own” the career plan. Organisations can play a supportive role with framework and policies and a personal mentor can help in key decision making.

It is imperative that the individual focuses on enhancing technical skills and there-by adding value to self as well as the organisation. Sticking to an organisation longer certainly helps. Amidst all these, it is vital to focus on softer aspects and be a genuine team player to experience true career growth.

(The writer is Director and Head of Mobile Devices Delivery, Teleca software solutions India)

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