B.Tech Degree Shops (aka engineering colleges) – Who will clean the mess?

Recently I met a 3rd year student of a private engineering college in Greater Noida. To avoid problems for me and the college, let’s call the College Best Standard Institute of Technology (BS-IT). Here is the profile of the student I met (let’s call him Sam), so that you can decide for yourself if this is a representative sample of students going to normal private engineering colleges in the hope of good education and degree:

Class XII – No name school in a no name place with average marks because he was preparing for IIT-JEE in Kota for 2 years

Class X – Top notch school in an industrial township, average marks

Decent performance in school level Maths and Science Olympiads (the ones that start from Grade 2-3), very good at logical and memory-related skills

Middle-class family, father a PSU employee Continue reading

IIT Mania – Can kids be kids?

Recently, I read the news about JEE (Advanced) Delhi topper (who is also JEE 4 nationally), who said

I have been preparing for five years for this exam

Wow! This means he started when he was in Class VIII, aged 13-14 years. He goes on to say

When I had school, I usually could put in about four or five hours of study every day, but as soon as the holidays begin, I usually put in about nine hours minimum

So when was he doing things 14 year old kids are supposed to do – like playing with friends, net surfing, reading non-textbook books, watching TV, playing pranks, socializing, etc.? Continue reading

Indian students in US – comparison with UK and Australia

In my previous post ‘Foreign students in US – China, India, South Korea’, I made the point that India is seeing a downward trend in terms of graduate students over last 3-4 years (while undergraduate has grown slightly), while China has been accelerating at a rapid pace in both graduate and undergraduate. Here is a comment I got on the Indian phenomenon:

I wonder how the trend would be if you were to include Indian students going to other foreign destinations such as Australia, UK etc. May be coming to US has flattened due to tighter visa policy and grim job prospects. Just a thought.

This is a very good point. So I tried to look at UK and Australia data. Strangely (but maybe not so strangely), India doesn’t have such data easily available for its own students, so I had to go look for Australian and UK sources. For Australia, I used Australian Education International‘s site, which has tons of data, and a very handy pivot table available with exactly the data I needed. For UK, I leveraged data available from Higher Education Statistics Agency which publishes (and sells) this data. I had to read through the press releases to get the summary data for China, India and South Korea that I was looking for.

Interestingly, South Korea doesn’t figure in top 10-15 countries which send students to UK, I don’t know why that would be the case. For Australia, South Korea was in top 3, the way it was for US.

Also, both these countries had undergraduate and graduate data combined. Here is what the trend looks like: Continue reading

Foreign students in US – China, India, South Korea

Someone forwarded this article from New York Times: Getting Ahead in India Means Getting Out of Town. Here are some excerpts from the article:

“… is among a rising number of students in India’s rapidly expanding younger population who want, and can pay for, a better education. Yet they know that in a country where thousands apply for each spot at a handful of top universities, the chances of this happening are remote. These students say a good foreign degree will get them a better job and a better life. And if the potential return on investment appears worthwhile, they will put their money on it”

“… the number of Indian students going overseas annually has doubled in the past six years, reaching more than 200,000”

The fact that the education in India at this level lacks in quality is a well-known problem. However, just so you understand the scale, consider this: India produced 400,000 technology graduates and 2.5 million general college graduates (75% of former and 90% of latter are unable to find work – When More is Worse). So we are talking about 7% of graduates coming out of India universities. Story of rest of 93% is much less glamorous – most of these are about sub-par skills and scarcity of jobs in India.

To understand this data about students going to US for higher studies, I also looked at past trends (thanks to Open Doors Data) to understand this phenomenon better. Here are some interesting findings I had: Continue reading

Career Lessons from Indian Movies – Taare Zameen Par and 3 Idiots

Over last few months, I watched 2 Hindi movies, both by Amir Khan, which reminded me of some of the career lessons I have found useful to follow and to pass-around via my blogs and discussions. The 2 movies are Taare Zameen Par (movie review here) and 3 Idiots (movie review here). While Taare Zameen Par talks about a dyslexic kid totally misunderstood by his parents and finally salvaged by an art teacher in a boarding school, 3 Idiots is the story of 3 college students and friends as they navigate their college days and adult life with different aspirations and different interpretations of what learning and success mean.

These have been commercial successes (3 Idiots is now the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all-time), and they are great films to watch for their entertainment and inspirational values (typical Hindi movies J).

However, here are some of the lessons about career and life that these films depict very beautifully (much better than the ways I have been saying them in my blogs! J): Continue reading

Managing conflict at workplace – II

In the previous post, I described the scenario of two smart people in conflict in an organization and why they need to engage in a deep conversation.

Here are some of the aspects of such a conversation that A and B need to keep in mind:

  1. Create shared goals: Without such a goal, no conversation or work relationship can happen. Assuming A and B feel they want to belong to this organization; they have a good place to start creating a shared goal. If they want to contribute significantly to the organization, this is another shared goal to use. A and B need to have at least this conversation before other kinds of conversation can take place.
  2. Empathize: Putting yourself in other person’s shoes is critical to understand why the other person is behaving the way he is. If you can truly see things from other’s perspective (and hold off your own biases), results are sometimes very surprising and insightful. Both A and B need to try it.
  3. Be charitable: Both A and B need to be willing to give the benefit of doubt to the other, and assume they have good reasons to behave the way they are behaving. Just changing to this perspective can make each of them understand the other better. Ask the question “Why would a rational and smart person behave/say the way they did in all these examples?”. Continue reading

Review of career sites – Mission impossible?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been reviewing some of the career sites that seem to be popular in India. The goal was to understand how good (or bad) these sites are and then hopefully recommend some sites that are useful. However, while going through these sites, I realized that I promised to deliver something which is very hard to achieve. This post discusses my insights from this exercise in a broad sense.

Here is what I tried: I looked up popular sites (based on search results and my review of local ads of these services in India), and proceeded to review their content, presentation and layout, and overall value they offer. In most cases, I had to register for the site, which I did rightfully. Based on what I saw on these sites and what I claim to know of career management, I started to capture comparison parameters to be used across sites. However, most sites fell woefully short of any reasonable utility value to their target audience.

Here are some of the observations I have, based on this exercise: Continue reading

List of career counseling/information sites for review

As I mentioned in my previous post, I plan to review some of the web sites/companies that offer services in the general area of career counseling/guidance/management. Here is the list that I have come up with. Here is how I picked these sites:

  1. Listed some of the web sites that I heard about via TV channels or friends
  2. Did Google search and Live Search on “career management india”, “career counseling India”, and “career guidance india”, and looked at sites listed in top 2-3 pages. I picked the sites which looked useful as well as those which seemed to be used by people (testimonies, client names, etc).

 I have categorized them in 3 buckets:

  1. Counseling/guidance services – These are the sites which offer career counseling and guidance. They typically include training, psychometric tests, some articles, etc.
  2. Career Information Aggregators – These are the sites which have a large list of courses and universities and other study opportunities. They typically have a subsection about career counseling etc, but their main focus is information aggregation.
  3. Job site adjuncts – These are the career center sub-sites of major job sites. Continue reading

Thoughts from my India Visit – Education System

As I may have mentioned in my previous post, I spent a month in India recently (August, 2008) before coming to Shanghai to join Microsoft here. In this post, I will comment on the education system and related aspects that I observed. In the next post, I will talk about my observations on working professionals and how careers are moving (or not).

I got a chance to spend some time in each of 3 different types of cities, which I believe covers a large spectrum of India. I spent couple of weeks in NCR area (National Capital Region, Delhi and adjoining area) which is a Tier 1 city with all the glitter and pace of a big city. I then spent a week in a steel township in North India (called Bokaro Steel City), where studying hard is the only thing students know about success, which has produced a large number of engineering and medical students and boasts of some great schools of the region. This exposed me to some students and their struggles to make it to the top. I then also got a chance to visit a village town in North India where education (and then moving out) seems to be the only way of prosperity for most of the new generation, where other means of livelihood are extremely limited.

Continue reading