In the third of the IT hiring series, we look at the niche skills that are in demand.
The Indian IT industry generates at least one lakh new jobs a year. But if you think that makes jobs readily available, the reality is different. That is because the industry, which employs more than four million people, has changed the way it hires. Basic skills are no longer in demand, and companies want candidates to be job-ready from day one.
At a time when the sector continues to be on a hiring spree, Moneycontrol looks into what has really changed in the way IT companies recruit. The five-part series looks at each emerging trend with a detailed lens.
“Looking for an engineer, preferably with specialisation in the computer science segment”, read a newspaper ad by an Information Technology (IT) sector major seven years ago. Today, IT firms are no longer looking for basic engineering school graduates for jobs. While these schools are still one of the avenues of hiring, companies are looking for niche skills to meet the changing demands of the business.
From the basic knowledge of the computer software that IT sector firms were looking for, it has moved to skills like data mining, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain development.
A recent study by online education company Simplilearn says that five of the top IT jobs of the future in India are data scientist, AI engineer, cloud architect, cyber-security expert, and digital project manager. Fresh graduates for these positions are most-preferred.
“There is a widely-held view that the IT industry is facing a challenge around hiring employable professionals. To an extent, this is true because the services and solutions landscape is evolving so rapidly that one needs to constantly reinvent themselves to thrive in this environment,” said Visweswara Rao, the senior vice president and chief human resource officer at IT services firm CSS Corp.
Why the change in stance?
Piyush Mehta, the chief human resources officer – Genpact, feels that the IT/ITeS industry is in the middle of a massive disruption and that nobody can really predict what the future holds. But, as emerging technologies continue to transform both the workforce and workplace of the future, he believes that the demand in skills will rapidly evolved too.
IT major Tata Consultancy Services, for instance, had in 2018 started a process to pay higher to candidates with better digital skills. These candidates were required to take part in a second stage of their online National Qualifier Test that required excellent coding skills.
Human resource consultants say that, across IT firms, the package is usually double for those with skills like SaaS, coding and cyber-security. A regular package for an entry-level graduate at IT firms is Rs 3-4 lakh per annum.
Considering that a majority of the firms in the IT/BPM sector have a presence in India and globally, it is imperative that the skill-sets of their employees match the international requirements. The key is to have an in-depth knowledge and think out of the box when it comes to problem solving.
Take SAP India for example. The company is in lookout for team members that love to experiment, think out of the box and drive initiatives that can contribute to the overall success of the company and in turn the industry.
Shraddhanjali Rao, the head of human resources – SAP India, says that the company looks for people in the field of core developers, UI experts, data sciences, consulting services, as well as sales. She adds that, with the changing technology landscape, their requirements has also evolved.
The more niche the skills, the better are the chances of finding employment in the IT sector. This is because not only is there is a huge demand-supply mismatch but companies also have a shorter turnaround time.
IT service management firm CSS Corp’s key focus is on the workforce that is able to solve complex customer problems. According to Rao from CSS Corp, to drive innovation from within, the firm hires professionals with expertise in technologies like Big Data, BigTable, Tensor Flow and Hadoop.
“Building a strong understanding and grasp of next-gen technologies, problem-solving abilities, and communication skills are critical for growth within the industry. To sustain this constant learning process, professionals need to have a natural curiosity and fire in the belly to keep pushing their intellectual bar higher,” said Rao.
Skills getting redundant faster
Estimates suggest that 40 percent of technology skills get redundant in two to three years. HR officials said that IT firms of all sizes had earlier mandated up-skilling after three years. Since the past three to four years only candidates with relevant skills are being hired.
For skills such as AI that command a premium salary, at least 30-35 percent job roles are vacant. Mehta of Genpact said that the ability to “apply” the best technologies and the “new” stack to solve business problems would carry a huge premium.
“What is also important is to combine skills in new emerging technologies with depth of knowledge and skills in domain – for instance data science applied to pharmaceuticals, natural language understanding applied to wealth management, service orchestration applied to invoice processing, and so on,” he added.
To ensure a steady flow of talent with specific skills, IT firms are also tying up with specialist education firms like NIIT so that just-in-time hiring is facilitated.
In-house facilities are also being utilised to ensure that a varied set of problems can be resolved in the shortest time. At CSS Corp, they have an innovation laboratory that has people serving across a wide section of functions, right from UX designers, extreme programmers, big data engineers, AI & NLP experts, data scientists, domain specialists and skilled professionals from diverse fields like linguistics and behavioural research.
Soft skills also matter
It is not just the technology knowledge that makes a difference. When technology skills are combined with on-ground ability to pick up softer skills depending on the job role, these candidates are the best fit for a job role.
At companies like Genpact, professional skills are increasingly becoming important to equip talent with leadership skills, collaboration skills and storytelling among others.
“I strongly believe that curiosity, agility, and the willingness to experiment with new ways of doing things, will help prepare organizations for the future,” added Mehta.
IT sector no longer has the age-old practice of allowing employees 16-18 months to settle into the companies by gaining the relevant skills. If you not ready on Day one, you will no longer be relevant. A mix of online and offline courses are being actively used to keep up with the needs.(This is the third part of the series. The first part of the series talked about how hackathons are gaining popularity to hire talent, second looked at how H-1B visa issues under Trump administration could actually be a blessing in disguise for IT majors. Tomorrow, the fourth part of the series will look at the steps being taken by IT companies to boost gender diversity)