Companies today look for more than just a BE degree when they recruit manpower. So what makes an engineer tick? Caroline Diana explores the latest hiring trends.
Jayanth Kumar spent four long years pursuing a BE degree in Computer Science. Like any other renowned institution, Kumar’s college too conducted campus placements. The young engineering student was recruited by a popular MNC that offered him a plum pay package. But barely a month later, Kumar quit his job to join an event management firm. Fast forward two years: Kumar today is an assistant sales manager in a popular dot com company. So why pursue an engineering degree to do a sales job?
“It’s because of my mom and dad,” says Kumar. “Like most parents, mine too wanted me to be an engineer or a doctor. I ended up taking engineering. While in college, I used to be active in extracurricular activities like hosting events and coordinating with people. That reflected in my professional life too. I realized my passion was not in the technical arena. Although most of my friends are successful engineers, I have no regrets not being one. I am happy doing what I am doing,” says Kumar.
Many like Kumar have completed engineering, but have not pursued a career in the field. They have either become entrepreneurs or landed up in jobs completely unrelated to their specialization. This has led to companies grappling with the challenge of hiring the right engineering candidates. While a student may exhibit good performance in the aptitude tests, group discussions and personal interviews, he or she may not necessarily succeed in her role as an engineer.
Every company that hires fresh engineers spends a lot of time and money in training them. During the campus interviews, HR managers try to study the students and find out if they will stick to a company for a long time. “The trick is to find out if the student is passionate about engineering. When a company is short-listing a candidate, they try to make doubly sure if the candidate has an inclination for the products or service offerings that the employer promotes. The candidate should also have the right thinking that aligns with the goals of the employer,” says Senek D’souza, an HR consultant.
The other aspect that employers find challenging is the skills gap, particularly while hiring fresh graduates. “Engineering students are more bookish. While they are studying the engineering sciences, they are not putting the same to practice. Here, the education system is to be blamed because the traditional approach has resulted in a loss for employers, who spend a lot of time and money in training fresh graduates,” says Shekhar Sanyal, Director and Country Head, The IET India.
Yeshasvini Ramaswamy, Managing Director, e2e People Practices, on the other hand, believes that fresh engineering graduates are the best bet. “No generation is more at ease with online, collaborative technologies than today’s young people. These ‘digital natives’ have grown up in an immersive computing environment. Where a notebook and pen may have formed the tool kit of prior generations, today’s students come to class armed with smart phones, laptops and iPods,” she says.
Ramaswamy opines that hiring right candidates for the right companies is the need of the hour. “Corporate-academic partnerships should form an increasing part of the university experience, at a time when locating funding and controlling costs are key concerns. To attract corporate partnerships, institutions will need to demonstrate a commitment to advanced technologies,” she adds.
Sanovi Technologies, an IT recovery software company, hires engineers on a regular basis. The key aspect that the company looks into while hiring engineers, both fresh graduates and experienced professionals, is the candidate’s attitude.
“We are not focused on how qualified the candidate. We look for someone with a positive attitude, someone who is open to learning. Basically, our ideal engineer should understand what the team has to deliver and ask the right questions. He or she should be able to work with a team and he has to play to his strengths to complete the project,” says Lakshman Narayanaswamy,
co-founder & VP– Products, of Sanovi Technologies.
While hiring those with experience, the company primarily looks for someone who can take accountability and is not designation-centric.
Creativity and communications skills are other key factors that companies focus on while hiring engineers. “A technically brilliant engineer with little imagination is unlikely to add any value to the organization and will have a difficult time with different projects. An engineer who can channel their creative vision through careful planning and inventive use of existing resources is a valuable asset to any organization,” says Sudhanshu Arora, Co-founder, Director and Country Manager, Careesma.in. “An efficient engineer should be able to translate complex technical problems into plain English which clients and other stakeholders easily. An engineer having good communication skills is also able to build a meaningful relationship with colleagues and clients alike,” he adds.
As engineers move up the ladder, their role becomes more managerial in nature. So employers look for engineers who understand economic and financial issues and are comfortable working within a business-oriented environment.
Geetha Kannan, Managing Director, Anita Borg Institute, says the job scope for engineers would skyrocket if the focus is less on learning the subject matter and more on application of concepts surrounding it. “The reason for academics not focusing on some areas what the corporate wants may be due to the gap between the corporate and the academicians. This should be bridged by having regular workshops, talks, demos from industry at the colleges. This will also inculcate innovation among students,” she says.
In 2008 the Workplace Commission came out with the differentiation of knowledge and know-how. Knowledge enables one to understand what one learns in relation to what one already knows. It can be organized into intellectually tight compartments that can be conveniently taught as courses in a conventional curriculum.
Know-how is the ability to put knowledge to work. It requires the purposeful organization of knowledge from many different areas of learning. Know-how is taught through design courses, project work, industrial training and other opportunities for individual initiative and creativity.
Aakash Chaudhry, Director, AESL, says engineering has always been a good career option and would remain evergreen. “There is a dire need of technical brains that can support and maintain the fast-paced development that is taking place. Various companies are in the need of skilled intelligent and knowledgeable employees who can make their companies grow and expand,” he says.
With the advent of new technologies, even small-scale industry has become diversified. Business domains are expanding, creating a need for technical persons in all the corners of the world. India still has a huge potential to be explored and the Indian market is on a growth path. Engineers not only work for other companies, but after an engineering course, they enter into a world of opportunities where they can also become entrepreneurs. “There are many examples of students who started their own small business after graduating from an engineering college and today they are running a million-dollar business,” Chaudhry adds.
Engineering for women
While many believe that engineering is a “male dominated career,” the new generation thinks otherwise. In fact, being a woman has not negatively impacted one’s job prospects, in many cases, it has actually helped. Many people believe that engineering has to do with repairing engines, that being an engineer requires physical strength. Due to the myth, many potential female students are discouraged by the idea that engineering is “too difficult.” If women are exposed to science and technology, they will know the simple fact that engineering is really viable as a career.
The popular options for women are Information Technology, Architecture, Electronics and Communication and Electrical Engineering. These streams offer a good package and also a healthy environment coupled with growth.
Unlike common perception, women in India are getting good engineering jobs provided they are competent candidates. Their average annual salary package ranges between Rs 5 to Rs15 lakh depending on their experience and caliber. Key sectors like software, banking, construction and design companies recruit female candidates.
Employers look for the following traits when hiring an engineer