Over the past couple of years IT has grown organically, intertwining itself with several other disciplines: design, language, marketing, statistics, analysis and management, to name but a few. As a result, those who have studied in an IT-related field but also have backgrounds or hobbies in other fields can explore options such as gaming, interface design, app development and even online marketing. You do not necessarily have to be a coder to make a mark in the field of technology and we earlier spoke about these emerging tech careers.
But having said that, the traditional jobs are very much in demand. Be it software testing or developing, gaming and animation, to name a few, the demand for a professional in these fields has been steady. We spoke with some doyens in the industry who have carved a niche in what is considered traditional IT careers, adapting with changing times and have raised the bar. So read along as they share their insights along with job-seeking advice.
We also have inputs from LinkedIn, which will guide you in crafting a useful profile and networking with professionals to gain an edge in your career.
Software development and Testing
The IT industry is considered to be lucrative. Development and testing are the core functions of this industry, and attract aspirants with high pay cheques and international exposure. Testing and development work hand in hand, but are now emerging as individual careers.
With over two decades of experience in the IT industry, Manish Tandon, Senior Vice President at Infosys has moulded himself to play every role pertinent to any software company. He graduated from IIT Kanpur and then earned an MBA from IIM Bangalore. After a few years of IT and entrepreneurial experience, he joined Infosys in 1996, and in his own words, he has never felt the need to look outside after that. He has played multiple roles at Infosys, from software development to managing client relationships and managing a complete business unit. Taking up every responsibility with zeal and commitment, he strengthened the testing business for Infosys where he doubled revenues in three years while improving margins, business mix and market positioning.
Manish Tandon, Senior Vice President, Infosys
Aspirants should realise that just being a good programmer may not cut it anymore. You need skills in both the technology and business domains.
– Manish Tandon, Senior Vice President, Infosys
Adapt to changes
Manish Tandon has seen the IT industry evolve, specifically software testing and development. Manish says that the software industry today is doing more complex projects which are not just about the code, but about understanding business processes, anticipating requirements and creating systems which can be used by millions of people. The complexities and the nature of the work have changed dramatically. He says, “Earlier we were primarily doing app development, but today we are doing testing, infrastructure management, knowledge services, analysis and much more. There have been dramatic changes in the nature of the work that clients are looking for. The workforce required has increased; previously the industry used to hire 500 people and today it’s lakhs per year.”
Explaining the evolution of IT, he says, “Application development is moving more to the front end as most systems initially were in back offices. Earlier it was process automation and then we moved to the middle office which is more of analytics, risk management, and data interpretation support, and now we are moving towards the front-end where clients are taking technology and seeing how they can make a business model out of it.” Talking about current trends in software testing, he says, “Quality Assurance plays the balancing act of business risk versus cost reduction while building agility in their organisations to respond to business changes. Also to generate higher effectiveness and ROI, testing as a function is moving upstream so as to also focus on defect prevention rather than just defect detection. Automation, specialised testing and package-specific testing are also in the spotlight as significant drivers for productivity and faster time to market.”
Unfazed by the slowdown
Manish asserts that we aren’t going through a full blown recession, but there is a bit of a slowdown which we will break out of in the next 2–3 quarters. “Obviously there is some impact as you can see the NASSCOM forecast is slightly lower than last year. This means that we will get more business from some of our foreign competitors as the client derives more cost optimisation". He feels this field offers fantastic growth opportunities. "I think we still have a long way to go in terms of the growth of individual careers. It’s a fantastic place to make a career even now,” he adds.
Consider diversified skills
Today, as the industry matures, the projects taken up are more difficult and complex. So, just technology skills are not good enough and one also needs very good business domain skills. Moreover, you need very good interpersonal and behavioural skills. Manish points out, “Infosys puts in a lot of effort into honing not just the technology skills but also interpersonal and behavioural skills of raw talent. I think this is something that all aspirants who want to enter the industry should know. Just being a good Java programmer may not cut it anymore, so people need to both technology and business domain skills.”
“When we hire freshers just out of college, we offer an in-depth training program for 6 months that allows these aspirants to hone their skills. Then, we hire people primarily for their business skills too. So, we might hire a person from other field like the oil and gas industry with relevant business skills and re-train them by adding technology skills to their resume. So, you need a mix of business, technology and behavioural and interpersonal skills.”
He adds, “It’s a fantastic industry to be in. You will work on something new every year, which will bring immense satisfaction to creative types. It will give you tremendous opportunities to experience other cultures as you will be working for clients in various parts of the world. Most youngsters today focus quite a lot on tech skills, which is good, but we need to encourage and inculcate a sense of discovery and individuality too.”
The fields of animation and VFX have long attracted those with an artistic bent of mind. There is nothing more satisfying than having your creation entertain millions, be it a movie or TV series. Of course there is glamour, but beyond that there is lots of hard work fuelled by passion.
Biren Ghose started out as a business architect and his journey of over two decades has taken him through several industries including consumer products, technology, digital media, animation, gaming, and visual effects. At present he is the Country Head of Technicolor India, which is a leader in digital innovation in the media and entertainment sectors. He is also the Chairman of NASSCOM's Animation and Gaming Forum. Biren has seen the Animation & VFX industry in India from close quarters and has been a part of its success story, as it went from being an 18 billion rupee industry five years ago to a 44 billion rupee industry last year. And this, he says, is just the beginning.
Biren Ghose, Country Head, Technicolor India
One needs to have passion, perseverance, performance and pizzazz. Also, it is important to remain grounded, as you are only as good as your next product!
- Biren Ghose, Country Head, Technicolor India
Then and Now
Biren opines that India is less than one percent of the global market because we are only 10-15 years old in this industry compared to other countries. He says, “The platforms in India are mainly TV and film, with advertising gaining importance. By 2016, we are expected to be about 120 billion rupees out of a 1457 billion rupee Media & Entertainment industry. That means we should be eight percent of the total Indian industry. If we can create fundamental change in improving the availability of trained talent, a 12-15 percent share of global animation is an entirely achievable objective. The industry is bound to gather momentum and the power of media is growth in regional businesses.”
Reasons for growth
Even though India is just about finding its legs in the international arena, there are factors that make it a lucrative prospect for outsourcing. With a huge talent pool plus available technology and infrastructure, India is heading in the right direction. “In the global context, animation work is distributed across the ecosystem of production entities based on financing, emerging talent, technology, and efficiencies. India has increasingly found itself becoming an active ingredient in this global production recipe. PricewaterhouseCoopers has reported large double-digit growth rates in training institutes that have mushroomed to cater to industry demands. It is my view that the growth is not all quantitative. Even as the global recession continues to cast its shadow in the short term, the industry view on India is that it will continue to garner a larger share of the pie while keeping the growth rate intact. This is not exaggerated as India has a low single digit percentage of global animation production today,” he says.
Creativity meets Passion
Biren believes that to be successful in this field you need to understand creativity and have an artistic orientation across the processes. Apart from that he stresses the importance of finding your areas of strength and focusing on them—it could be lighting, rendering, rigging, or anything else. You need to pick an area and then develop it. He explains, “One needs to have passion, perseverance, performance and pizzazz. This 4P scorecard differentiates the winners in the field. It’s not just skills, but attitude and disposition. Believe in yourself, believe in the long haul, and believe in mentors and teamwork. Let your pride grow with your accomplishments. Innovation is a given in this field. A student must find his/her sweet spot. Fine Arts helps in early understanding of the domain better, but the tools, technologies, pipelines and workflow can be very specific and different. Abilities in visualisation are a key deliverable.”
Glamour? Think again
There are many students who are attracted to this industry because of the associated glamour. It’s easy to think that a course in animation will land you a job, but simply knowing the software will not take you far. Biren has a word of caution for students: “Movie makers across all fields in the industry take great pride in their work, as the end product becomes a widely known consumer brand, eg. Madagascar, Tin Tin etc. If you are associated with the brand, it will naturally boost your confidence and family and friends may see this as a ‘cool’ occupation. But at the workplace this is as demanding and pressurised a job as any. An animation studio has a unique character; on one hand it has an informal ambience; working spaces, the canteen, the ‘play’ areas that are meant to relax in and encourage a balanced life. On the other hand it’s a pressure zone where directors and producers try and achieve a constantly higher level of performance vis-a-vis time, output and quality. It has a creative focus with a strong work ethic. Artists are generally helped to grow, encouraged and motivated. Also, it is important to remain grounded, as you are only as good as your next product!”
Gaming isn’t mere child’s play anymore, building and designing games for consoles has evolved into a serious career option. There are several industry specific institutes that help impart the skills required to make it in the gaming industry.
Any reference to the gaming industry in India would be incomplete without the mention of Rajesh Rao. When he established Dhruva Interactive in Bangalore some 15 years ago, he became the pioneer and set the ball rolling for game development as an industry in India. He comes from a computer engineering background and prior to Dhruva, headed a multimedia company. It was then that an evangelist from Intel coaxed him into looking at gaming, and as they say, the rest is history. Rajesh has also been active in promoting the game industry in India and been seen on advisory committees with NASSCOM, FICCI, National Institute of Design and iGita.
Rajesh Rao, Founder, Dhruva Interactive
We have been positively impacted by the downturn, as US companies have accelerated their off shore initiatives. India is going to have a very robust gaming market.
- Rajesh Rao, Founder, Dhruva Interactive
When Dhruva Interactive was established, it had a hard time convincing people to join. Recollecting those early days, Rajesh says, “Our early hires were from areas like animation and multimedia. While some joined out of curiosity, we had to convince others that this was a great industry to be in. Most of them hadn’t even seen a console before so we had a game room in our office. From there things have evolved considerably.”
The gaming industry in India depends largely on work outsourced from studios around the world. Even then, it wasn’t affected by the global slowdown, and on the contrary gained more work. Rajesh explains, “Since 2008 we have been seeing a huge influx of work, because the gaming industry worldwide was not outsourcing in an optimal way in the past. This was mainly because the global gaming industry is still at a stage where the 'all under-one-roof' model is slowly crumbling under the more evolved model of specialised people coming together for a project and then going away. So the industry is in the process of transition and is embracing things like global distribution of development. Also, the downturn actually helped, because most of the companies are listed in the US and they were under pressure to maintain their profitability. So many of them accelerated their off shore initiatives at that time that as a result, we have been positively impacted.”