Problem Solving in IT Series – The Resource Constraint

July 3, 2009 5:54 pm 5 comments

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A lot of people have their opinions on what would make IT flourish in the country. From academics, individual & company certification all the way towards marketing, there are a lot of varied views going around. There are a lot of problem statements and few solutions floating out there, so let’s document some of them. This is an ongoing series of articles which will focus on a specific area in each post. If you have any idea’s of your own, please feel free to put them up in the comments section. 

Resource Constraint

The last couple of years, a lot of people running software houses as well as managing IT departments have had one compaint in common. Not enough manpower to deliver projects.While most of this is attributed to the academics side of the equation, i think the problem is actually two-pronged.

On the one had, academics do lag behind in terms of the demands of the industry. Kids graduating from universities and technical institutes around the country are not really capable to take on commercial projects because they are weak in concepts. Universities, on their end, have tried to incorporate various technical languages into their courseware, from teaching java to dotnet to it’s students in a bid to get them good jobs. While the students are also more eager to learn the latest ‘language’ out there, in this rush, many of them tend to forget the basics of what make up a programming language and the platforms on which these languages run. Without these basics, many of the graduating classes have only, in my opinion, ‘time-bounded’ skills, which decay at an exponential rate. A student who has learn how to program only in dotnet, without having a clear grasp of, lets say, object oriented programming will only be useful till s/he has to write using a framework that uses inheritance as a core principle. And as soon as new frameworks and concepts crops up, they pretty much require a steep re-learning curve.

This problem doesn’t stop here as teachers are pretty much to blame as well. While i’m slowly seeing teachers who can be termed visionaries, many of them are just followers without an original thought. I’m sorry to be sounding to blunt here, but that’s how i see it. Not having a background themselves of the concepts they teach, many are just shoving book content down their student’s throats.

So overall, a bleak picture, but thankfully, there are still quite a few students and teachers out there who want to excel and basically teach themselves to above and beyond the requirements of a particular course and get into the nitty gritty of the subject. And when such a student-teacher pair develops, the results are plainly obvious. These are termed superstars and are the only actively recruited.

The solution?

While i will not say that i have the perfect solution, i’ll present one which i think might work. It’s already in implementation at quite a few places and needs more attention. Instead of focusing solely on the students, the teachers are the one who need focusing on. We can’t get to a hundred thousand students all at once, but maybe we can get to a couple thousand teachers.

In order to develop these superstars, a relationship with a good teacher is essential. There are a few superstars in almost every class around the country, but without teachers there to nurture them, they miss out on their potential.Once we develop teacher skills in various IT concepts and languages, then the chances of developing superstars in universities increase manifold.

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  • Haris Mirza

    Another major issue is the diminishing interest of youth towards Computer Science(CS). Business education is the most sought after discipline now days. A popular CS university which use to get 4000+ applications few years back is now putting hoardings on Karachi Roads to attract youth. 4-5 years back CS universities were inducting top students now days this is not the case. I am not sure about Lahore and Islamabad but this phenomenon is evident in Karachi. Young people are perceiving CS jobs as dull, nerdy and low paid. While MBA stuff is perceived as more fun, challenging and shortcut to riches.

    Looking from the demand side, I doubt that industry wants abundant high quality resources. I feel what industry demands is large number of technicians who know the tools and can remain with the company for the duration of project. Most of the companies demand low value skills, like website development. Reason I see is, that the end customer of technology in region is not ready to pay for high quality, thats why companies don’t wan’t to develop and retain high quality skills, obviously why they would spend on something they can’t sell. There is lot of lip service by customer and vendor for high quality but price and schedule often do not reflect this desire. Companies operating in other regions like Europe, US or companies involved in product development do require high quality skills because there customers demands and are ready to pay for it but they are minority in industry, employing relatively low share of professionals. So its a simple case of supply and demand, I know many good and experienced CS professionals who have either switched there field via MBA route or ventured abroad because market here doesn’t require many experienced CS people.

    I also see important responsibility in skill development on industry other than the academia. Once a person has graduated and associated with a company than greater responsiblity of his further development lies on that company. Here again the question arise that the company really wanted to develop the skills and what skills would be beneficial in future, obviously that relates to vision of company.

    To conclude I will say that the industry has to evaluate what it wants, take the responsibility and play its part in resource development. Putting blame on academia is not going to help. After all its there business which is going to suffer.

  • @Haris, you make some very valid points, This is some thing i wanted to write for a long time but mansoor beat me to it.

    The problem of work is not as much there as it seems, I agree there are alot of software houses focusing on what Mansoor has mentioned as technicians with a life span of only 2 years.
    How ever there are a lot of cutting edge work also being done, a lot under the radar though, in field of embedded systems, high value web products (not the website development) mobile and financial work spaces.
    For me the core of the problem is students and their parents not realizing that one can make up a career in CS in Pakistan, only thing that they know is CS is good if their child either wants to go on H1 or higher studies, otherwise they think no body can make enough money in IT Sector and have a long term career where they retire in a CS job.
    This is a gross misconception that CS jobs are underpaying plays a major role, i my self know that people who graduated with me and then went to do MBA from top universities like LUMS/IBA are still lagging behind me in terms of Pay, Pays for a talented CS graduates is a lot, and if you have a proper mix of management skills (Not MBA) you will be valued a lot more and the oppurtunities are alot.

    Industry knows what it need but i guess the missing piece as i have said earlier is a bridge in between come kind of counseling to teachers and studnets, making them aware what is required at foundation level so academia updates their curriculum and industry helps them with active internship for students and advising to teachers.

    I am sure the whole industry or atleast a dozen people i know will gladly be ready to volunteer, all we need is some one co-ordinating. some one like P@SHA, Rozee, Brightspyre or PSEB probably would be best to take this up on a non profit basis for the sake of industry, because currently the major factor holding us back is this human resource issue

  • Thank you for your inputs haris and qazi.

    they definitely do help a lot.

    haris: see the next in the series for what companies can do to nurture talent :)

  • Imran

    A proper internship would be a better solution for students to become better professional in industry. I have seen this in the American universities and people have been successful in there careers in terms of pay and growth, and in return it helps the industry for growth.
    Here the concept of internship is consider short job, not process of learning, from student level. From the employer view the internship is considered short term house cleaning on projects, and not considering investing in the students for growth. These preconceptions needs to changed so the academia and industry can work on students together for growth.

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