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There is a growing trend where recent graduates are shifting towards IT careers. This article aims to explore the noteworthy impact of this transition on educators who may hold the belief that certain students should pursue different fields.
Mr. K. Anand, a distinguished professional with over three decades of experience marked by technical excellence, innovation, and mentorship, is featured. He has an impressive record of 55 patents, which have made significant contributions to product development. During his tenure at GE, both in the US and Bangalore, Anand played a pivotal role in leading materials innovation projects across various sectors, including aviation, energy, and healthcare. He was instrumental in transforming GE Bangalore into a thriving hub of creative thinking. Even after retirement, Anand remains dedicated to fostering innovation as a key figure in the Deakin-IIT Centre of Excellence, with a focus on advanced materials, healthcare, and sustainable energy. He continues to share his wealth of expertise through consultancy engagements, benefiting academia and various organizations.
Mr. Anand, to begin, considering the increasing number of graduates opting for IT careers, what does this trend mean for educators’ efforts?
I’d prefer not to take a strong editorial stance but focus on the facts. IT remains the preferred career path for most engineering graduates, cutting across various disciplines. This trend is particularly pronounced in tier one and tier two institutes, where organizations in IT, finance, analytics, and other sectors actively recruit fresh graduates, leading them away from conventional engineering paths.
There are various factors contributing to this trend. Notably, IT jobs tend to offer higher pay. Additionally, the cost of living in major cities can be quite high. Even in tier one cities like Pune, Coimbatore, and Baroda, the cost of living is significant. When a career in IT can potentially earn 15-20 lakhs per year after 15 years, other engineering fields may seem less appealing. However, the country bears the cost of this shift, and we should consider it from an economic and national capacity perspective.
As a result, people are drawn to careers with better compensation, which is a fact. But we must think about this from the viewpoint of the youth and the nation’s overall capacities. Let me approach this from these two angles.
Let’s begin by looking at the state of manufacturing and product development in India. Besides the top engineering organizations, such as those in the automobile and energy sectors and their tier one suppliers, there is a significant lack of innovation in most other areas. The ability to innovate is lacking at the grassroots level.
While we maintain strong innovation at the top level, many other countries, like China and Vietnam, outperform India in various sectors. For instance, China is ahead of us in manufacturing, and we often need to import materials for certain industries. In electronics and chip fabrication, we lag behind other Asian countries, and in terms of semiconductor design, countries like the Netherlands excel. The United States surpasses us in capacity. This situation affects the types of jobs we can create in the country.
To understand the economic implications, we should look at the numbers. India’s population is comparable to China’s, but our automobile market is only one-fourth of China’s. Our per capita GDP is one-fifth of China’s, and this has a significant impact. To foster real growth, we need to go beyond a narrow focus on IT and ensure that we have the capabilities to engage in various sectors worldwide. This is the cost the country pays for the talent gravitating towards other sectors.
Now, let me express something from a student and professional perspective. There’s a unique connection between the mind and body when you work with engineering objects, metals, and components you design. It’s the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes from this mind-body connection, which fuels product development and invention. The engineering industry instills a passion that’s unparalleled.
I remember my job before retirement, where I’d willingly commute for hours in Bangalore, work long hours, and take calls at odd times because the work was engaging. It was something I experienced during my 20-year tenure at GE. I worked long hours at GE Aviation in the United States, driven by a strong motivation.
I want to ask these students directly: Is the goal merely to earn a substantial paycheck? There are various ways to make money, but there’s only one way to have a fulfilling career, where your mind and body are fully connected to something you’re developing.
IT can certainly provide that, but it can’t be a mass market where everyone writes code. There need to be project leaders who truly drive and guide programs and products, and it’s in those roles where you’ll find fulfillment, not from chasing Gantt charts and timetables or sitting in front of a computer.
You have a multidisciplinary background. Were you ever tempted to pursue an IT job because many of your friends did? What factors influenced your decision to stick with your current field of interest?
Back in my time, IT firms didn’t consider metallurgists; they were mainly interested in those with electrical and electronics backgrounds. Although I was well-prepared for a job in sales and marketing and even got job offers, I was drawn to the excitement of working on my BE project, which allowed for creativity and uncharted territory.
When I completed that project and my thesis advisor encouraged me, it sparked my interest in research. I ended up taking a sales position but decided to take the MTech exam, with no preparation, and was accepted into IIT Madras, which I decided to pursue. In essence, I was fortunate that IT jobs with significantly higher pay were not luring me away. This may not be the case for students today.
Today’s students need to make informed choices rather than solely being swayed by high-paying job prospects. Statistical accuracy is important when making claims, and it’s worth noting that a significant number of IT students are choosing to pursue integrated master’s degrees, which is a five-year program. In fact, in the IIT-IISc system, there’s a growing demand for integrated master’s programs, and many students continue on to pursue advanced degrees or work in technical fields.
In recent times, the criteria for Ph.D. admission have become highly competitive, and the students entering IITs or IISc for Ph.D. programs are exceptional. The technical capabilities and fearlessness they possess make them stand out on a global scale. Pursuing a Ph.D. abroad may now be easier than gaining admission to IISc or IIT.
Alumnus of NITK, Surathkal & IISc, Bengaluru
CEO QtSTEAM I Mentor QtPi Robotics I RJ I Columnist
Soft skills Trainer, Author, Counsellor & Consultant
Best Seller of 'She: Ekla Cholo Re'
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