Vital tips to overcome challenges in engineering careers
Emphasising the importance of multi-disciplinary skills in a globalised knowledge economy.
In order to succeed in today’s knowledge- led economic environment, one will need to take that extra step beyond just academic excellence. Business leaders are looking for talent that possesses multi-disciplinary skills. Along with academic excellence and technical/functional knowledge, organisations are looking for soft skills like culture adaptability, strategic acumen and creativity. To become employable, students need to understand the market and acquire skills that are in demand.
An organisation typically starts with a vision and purpose and then further breaks that down to objectives for the next three years. This leads to focussing on:
- Markets- where it wants to operate
- Products- what it wants to create
- Technologies- that it wants to develop/acquire to create the relevant products
In order to achieve these objectives, it becomes important to define the competencies that are needed in an organisation. An important part of planning is to identify and define competencies that have to be developed internally and externally. One should encourage and value engineers with in-depth technical knowledge along with leadership competencies. One needs to have a technical competencies framework in place in order to enable one to develop a competency evaluation mechanism to help improve the skills of our engineers.
If you are an engineer aspiring to work in a product company, it becomes important to be aware of the technical competencies that are needed in the market/industry. You have to map your interest area with the required competencies and focus on sharpening the relevant competencies and skill sets. Certifications in the core area add to enhancing the competency level e.g. if the core area is Firmware – certification in Firmware will help in improving your competency level and create an edge for yourself. At the minimum, it can take you to the basic proficiency levels required in that particular competency.
Having said this, business houses also notice that there is a challenge in hiring candidates who have complete understanding of the fundamentals of engineering. Statistics say that a large proportion of engineers graduating are not readily employable. So while you build on specific competencies, consider how strong your fundamentals are and how confident you are of being shortlisted by the technology companies.
The National Employability Report of engineering graduates (2011) reveals the following findings which also confirm the challenge that corporate houses are facing today. Even though India produces more than five lakh engineers annually, only 17.45 per cent of them are employable for the IT services sector and only 2.68 per cent are employable in IT product companies, which require greater understanding of Computer Science and Algorithms. Hence it is important to make sure that it is not only important to qualify yourself but also to make sure that you become employable by acquiring the right set of competencies required for the sector you are interested in.
- Identify your strengths and ensure that you continue to grow them as you move through semesters.
- Identify 3-4 subjects that you want to excel in and ensure that you strengthen them. E.g. take up offline projects, do the exercises prescribed in your text books, become a member of online groups, read blogs about this subject etc.
- Work on your communication and interpersonal skills – take up a leadership role in your class/college, take up areas where you need to negotiate with others, understand larger issues, advocate for internal customers, etc and build skills in “establishing good relationships with peers”
- Write technical white papers, submit stories to your local college magazine, write to your local newspaper etc – it is very important to have the appropriate written and verbal communication skills
To sum it up, a qualification might open a great avenue but to remain relevant to that field one needs to keep learning from real life requirements. Along with the theoretical knowledge, ability to adapt to business environments in different geographies and constantly upgrading your learning will help boost your career.
— The Author is the HR Director, Ingersoll Rand India