Create the Future
One problem that the industry has faced is that there is no local market for games in India. Companies abroad think twice before sending work, as they prefer people with gaming sensibilities. This, Rajesh says, is bound to change thanks to the growing domestic market. “There are many enthusiasts who love playing games, but unless they have intrinsic talent, competencies and skill sets, they will not be able to be on the development side of gaming. The good news is that the industry needs a very diverse set of talents: programmers, artists, designers, sound engineers, script writers, etc. People who get into the gaming industry today have great opportunities to become leaders and influential people five to ten years from now, as India is going to have a robust market. The key thing is to be realistic about assessing your capabilities and making sure that you get trained in the right manner.”
Make the Right Choices
While being an enthusiast is a definite plus, that alone isn't enough to establish a career in this field. You need to do your research, he says, “The best way is to do a quick self assessment and there are a host of online resources where you can learn about various career options. Alternatively, you can approach some of the good gaming institutes which offer counselling and aptitude tests. Another avenue is to join forums like the NASSCOM Gaming Forum that has city chapters and conducts meets where you can interact with developers and gain knowledge about the field. Here you can also find out what’s happening in the industry and where you can fit in. Testing is perhaps the easiest to get into. It’s typically a good place to start, and you can work your way up. Typically in the west testing is done inside a game studio. In India there are companies who are only into testing and nothing else. Game testing experience shows that you have a degree of commitment and desire to be in this industry. If you have the profile of an artist or programmer and you say that you also have experience as a tester then it always works as a plus.”
Teamwork is one quality that Rajesh cannot stress enough. “It is so important to be team player. Programmers, artists, designers—everyone has to work together. Another thing we look for is the ability to stay objective and there should be a zest to learn new things. Nobody should say 'I have three or four years of experience, I am doing well and am at the top of my game'. There is no such thing; you have to keep evolving and keep learning new things.”
Chief Technology Officer
A Chief Technology Officer needs a never-say-die attitude and passion for learning. The CTO has to stay connected with the latest technology and keep a keen eye on what the market is trending towards. He has to quickly adapt to changes and help the company exploit them to its best advantage.
From working with leading IT companies such as TCS and HP, forming his own software company and being acquired within a year, and shuffling between India and the US, Sunil Thomas now holds the position of Chief Technology Officer of Web18, part of the Network18 Group. He graduated from Thadomal Shahani Engineering College in Mumbai and made full use of the various educational programs offered by HP when he worked there. He honed his managerial skills with an MBA from Washington University. With about two decades of experience, he reflects a cool attitude, calmness and composure. He has played an important role in setting up a tech culture and New Media division at Network18, by launching and growing a number of online products including Burrp, Askme and Yellow Pages Online.
Sunil Thomas, Chief Technology Officer, Web18
You need to have good leadership skills and face new challenges. You don't have to be the smartest person in the tech world but should be focused on your goals.
- Sunil Thomas, Chief Technology Officer, Web18
Staying on Top of Trends
Sunil started his career as a software developer, and he believes it was TCS where he got his grounding in software development and also his first taste of leadership as a project lead. Today, his responsibility is to stay on top of the tech curve and decide technology investments for the company. Talking about his role, Sunil reveals, “A CTO has three major roles. One is deciding technology directions for the company like the products that the company can invest in, and keeping an eye on what the market is trending towards in order to prepare the company for that shift. If people are working on a particular product for a year and they suddenly see that by definition they are one year behind, then catching up is very difficult. A CTO has to ensure that the company is already prepared for such changes.” He further reveals, “Another part is around engineering execution. This can be done by putting processes in place, and setting up a good environment and work culture so that the engineering team delivers on the roadmap. Tech teams have their likes and dislikes; what motivates one may not motivate another. The third big role is to be in line with the business and give it the tools it needs. Eventually, tech has to aid businesses; it cannot be tech for the sake of it and should be capable of making things faster, better, and cheaper, to attract more business.”
Challenges and Skills
After 10 years of experience in the US, Sunil feels that engagement brings passion to the job, and this is a key ingredient for a successful company. He also points out that hiring and retaining talent is yet another challenge. He said, “Skills depend on the job we are hiring for. The skills required for each job are different. When you need to be on top of the tech curve, it is difficult to get skills readymade. If you are looking for an engineer then there are thousands of them with good resumes, but it is also important to have that never-say-die spirit, love the job and have a good attitude. So, even if the tech skills for each job are different, the attitude is common.” When asked about the skill set required for the position of a CTO, he replies with a hint of smile, “I think it requires you to be a leader who can go into new areas with his troops following and face the new challenges that the world throws at you. He may not be the smartest person in the tech world but should be focused on his goals. The problems and difficulties that one may have to face are unknown and sudden, so a good leader should be connected to technology and mould himself and execute whenever needs be. Sunil points out that in a tech company, technology skills are important, but for a CTO an MBA also helps. In his words, “If a Chief Technology Officer can read even parts of a balance sheet then it’s much better. Managerial skills broaden the scope of a pure technologist. Now, you don’t get these skills only from the MBA schools, you even get them with diverse exposure and your interests. What an MBA gives you are some basic tools.”
Evolve with time
The industry is changing rapidly, and our professional lives are evolving too. Talking about the role of a CTO, Sunil says, “I don’t want to say that the responsibility has increased or decreased but the relevance has definitely increased. Today, the CTO has to be aware of the latest and upcoming trends. There is so much risk involved. The world is moving faster and the competition is fierce. One gets very little time to adapt to changes later. If you put on blinders and sit for three months and do not move along with the changes then the consequences could be troublesome. Awareness is important and a CTO should be able to adapt his organisation and also get the people to adopt these changes.” Having started his career as a software developer, he believes learning programming gives you a head start. It teaches you to get the logic right and break big problems into smaller ones. Finally, one should never stop learning new things.
Networking tips from Linkedin
LinkedIn, with over 161 million members globally, is the world’s largest professional network and has helped many to be more productive and successful. A platform like LinkedIn is not only for professionals, but even students can use it to gain a foothold in the industry.
Hari Krishnan, Country Manager at LinkedIn India, has held key positions in companies including Cisco Systems, Yahoo! India, Travelguru, Stylkist and MySpace in his career spanning over a decade. He holds a BE (Honours), Electronics & Telecommunications Engineering from the University of Bombay; an MS in Telecommunications from the University of Colorado; and a MBA from INSEAD. Hari has also won several accolades for his leadership skills.
Hari Krishnan, Country Manager, LinkedIn India
Students have used the platform to reach out to professionals, get internships and secure their first jobs. You can connect with alumni of your school/ college.
- Hari Krishnan, Country Manager, LinkedIn India
Not just a social network
LinkedIn is often sidelined as just another social network, but as Hari points out, “At LinkedIn, we always make sure that our members see value in our offerings. While there are various sites to keep in touch with friends and family, LinkedIn is a purely professional platform and our communication with our members emphasizes this. We have consciously worked towards educating professionals about the value of curating and updating their online profile-of-record to manage their career effectively. We encourage members to identify connections that add credibility to their network rather than fixating on a large number of connections which might not add as much value. Our focus has been to be accessible to professionals wherever they may work—on a PC, mobile phone or tablet.”
Leveraging the network
Hari emphasizes on the fact that LinkedIn is a platform for building a professional network outside of your workplace. He says that you need to leverage the various tools offered by LinkedIn to build a strong, credible and comprehensive professional identity. He shares some tips about building a strong profile: “As a professional, you can keep yourself updated about the current trends and happenings in your industry. You can read and share articles, follow select news sources, share your point of view and also see what your peers are saying on a particular topic. As a professional who wants to be on the radar of employers, it pays to be engaged. Leverage tools like Groups, Polls and Answers. Many hiring managers prefer professionals who have volunteer experience, so if you have worked with an NGO, make sure to display it on your LinkedIn profile. Another great way to get noticed is to position yourself as an expert in the industry. Share your knowledge by using tools like Polls and Answers. Additionally, go through the LinkedIn profile of the person you are meeting for the first time. Knowing his/ her professional record makes for a great conversation starter.”
LinkedIn for Students
There is a general perception that LinkedIn is meant only for professionals, however, even a student can leverage it. “A college graduate should first create a complete profile, as this increases your chances of showing up in search results. Also, it’s important to have a short headline that will help people understand you in a professional context. You can start by connecting with members of alumni groups of your school/college. If you want to reach out to someone in your extended network, request an introduction from your common connections. This is one of the best ways to reach out to professionals. You can seek guidance form industry experts by asking them questions through the Answers tool. Several students have used LinkedIn to get internships and secure their first job. One of our members got a chance to work on an international project at AISEC and an offer to be on the research team for an international publication for the Commonwealth Games, at age 18.”
Make your profile stand out
You need to ensure that your profile is concise and free of errors. “Nothing builds credibility like third-party endorsements. The most impressive LinkedIn profiles have at least one recommendation associated with each position a person has held. Think about soliciting recommendations from professors, internship coordinators and colleagues," he says. "Set your LinkedIn profile to “public” and claim a unique URL for it (for example: www. linkedin.com/in/yourname). This makes it easier to include your LinkedIn URL in your email signature, which is a great way to demonstrate professionalism. A final way to enhance your profile is to add links to examples of your writing, design work, or other accomplishments." The profile functions as a dynamic online resume, so you can take advantage of links, applications and other things that cannot be done on plain paper. A profile online should be just as informative and carefully prepared as your resume.