Career Management – A personal story

I have always wanted to be my own boss. In Oct 2000, 4 years after my graduation and 1 year after joining Microsoft in US, I left to start my own company in India. It all seemed perfect: I was a ‘smart’ developer working in a ‘cutting-edge technology’ area, I had a ‘network’, and most importantly, I had the ‘energy and enthusiasm’ of a 27 year old who thinks the world is his playground!

Six months later, the boom turned into bust, and so did our hopes of starting a new company. I found a job as a consultant in my old company and life continued, but it left a scar. I have been reflecting on that little experience over the years and I realize something important: it was a good failure. I didn’t know anything about creating and running a company – building teams, execute on a vague idea to build products, sell an idea or product or service, or handling big successes and failures. This failure provided me a strong motivation to embark on a journey through the corporate world to gain diverse experiences and learn. In my next attempt at entrepreneurship, I wanted to be able to succeed even when riding against the wave. I wanted to make that scar count. Continue reading

Comparing management experiences in US, China, and India

 

I have been working in China for last 18 months or so, with one of the largest software MNC here. During this period, I have (very briefly, 3 months) been an individual contributor and rest of time I have been a people manager. Having been a people manager in India and US in the past, I now have the perspective on managing people in 3 biggest economies of the world! Given this, let me share some comparisons and contrasts across these three countries.

Commonalities

  1. Effective people management requires customization to individual needs – Some individuals require you to be very direct and brutal in communication and feedback, others need you to be softer in your message and be more sensitive to their emotional needs. This variation occurs in all teams in all countries and I couldn’t find any pattern of cultural or geographical preferences; an effective manager needs to be adaptable and have a set of styles to suit individuals reporting to him/her.
  2. Career growth and development is #1 concern for everyone – Most of the concerns and problems I have faced over last 8-9 years across these 3 countries can be traced to concerns and insecurities around where the career is going and whether they control their own career. Sometimes it has required effort to figure the root cause out, and some other times it has been masked by the skills requirements and weaknesses of individuals, but a focus on career topics have helped a large number of 1-1 I have had over this time. Continue reading

Career Path for engineers – Management Track vs. Individual Contributor Track

I read the article “Indian IT firms redefine career path for engineers” on www.livemint.com with interest:

“Indian information technology (IT) service providers such as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Infosys Technologies Ltd and Wipro Ltd are following multinational firms such as International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) in building a technical career path for senior engineers opting out of managerial roles.

This is a shift from their traditional focus on promoting employees for managerial roles as they seek more complex projects from customers that need highly skilled people to execute them.

Now, employees can opt to be a designer or an architect and climb the ladder conceiving or building large projects.”

Having worked in product development companies in India (2000-2006), I can attest to the need to develop strong individual contributor (IC) track of growth; we struggled a lot to get our bright ICs to stay IC and not opt for management career path. Continue reading

Thoughts from my India Visit – Careers

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent a month in India recently (August, 2008) before coming to Shanghai to join Microsoft here. I commented on the education system and related aspects that I observed. In this post, I will talk about my observations on working professionals and how careers are moving (or not). Please keep in mind that my thoughts and observations are based on talking to a few friends and relatives I met during my visits and by absorbing what media had to offer (newspapers and TV channels). While this is not a comprehensive analysis, I tried to be as objective and as broad as possible in my discussions, so hopefully you will get a good flavor.

Things that are still the same as they were couple years back:

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How fast can a career move in India?

Interesting read, this article on rediff. Good examples of how busineess is reacting to the changing changing face of careerist youth in India. The article does note an important point:

Still, there are plenty of tensions between companies and young employees. Many Indian engineers are fascinated with cutting-edge technologies, yet much of the work for clients calls for tried-and-true techniques.

And while young people are eager to get promotions and overseas assignments, there are practical limits to how quickly they can advance. “They have to learn to adjust,” says T.V. Mohandas Pai, director of human resources at Infosys. “It’s almost like growing up.”

Given the fact that most of the IT industry in India is IT services, there isn’t enough for a really hungry professional. Also, growth means promotion for most Indian IT professionals, which can’t (and shouldn’t) happen too fast. Many companies succumb to this pressure from their employee base however and start promoting very young engineers into management roles, often with disasterous consequences for the individual. Product companies provide refreshingly new approach to career planning and management, but they are very few and not really sold well in job market (where brand name still sells).

Career Management in India – guest posts on CubeRules

Cube Rules is a blog where Scott Herrick discusses the perspective of the ‘cubicle warriors’, his blog is aptly named ‘Career Management for Cubicle Warriors‘. Recently, I got a chance to do couple of guest posts there around career management in India (Thanks Scott!). In an attempt to do justice to the topics I chose, I decided to dig deeper into Indian career management situation, why it is the way it is, and it was an interesting journey.

You can read those posts here:

Career Management in India – Part I

Career Management in India – Part II

Do let me know what you think about these perspectives and your own ideas  of how career management as an industry has evolved in India over the years.

How is Employee Talent Management Industry different?

Talent Management is the new buzzword in US companies which are facing shortage of talent: aging population, talent scarcity at top, need to grow internal talent, all contribute to this need. This newly defined industry has 4 components: recruitment management system, learning management system, performance management system, and compensation management system, read this link for more details of this industry: http://www.talentmanagement101.com/.

Natural question comes up: Is this same as Individual career management? In my opinion, answer is no. The reason is that while consumer in an employee talent management industry is a corporation which wishes to track and aggregate talent profiles of employees to solve some talent needs, in case of individual career management, however, it is the individual, and there is no aggregation involved. This means that workflows and use cases (that rely on aggregation) will be very different in these two industries, even though they may start off same skills inventory. This is not to say that they are not similar, and there will be some synergy between these two, but only when both of these are matured. For example, an important question answered by Employee Talent Management softwares is: how to manage and plan succession. This requires access to skills inventory of relevant employees. Aggregation and analysis of entire skills data is an important part of such a feature. However, this doesn’t belong to individual career management industry, where an important question might be: how can I succeed in getting a job that is aligned with the jobs I have been taking so far and strengths I have been displaying.

Welcome to the Mint world!

This blog will attempt to capture my thoughts, views, and readings on defining a new industry for India which focuses on Career management and talent optimization for Individuals. I will call this “Managing Individual Talent (MInT)” industry,  I define MInT (to be efficient, I will call it Mint hereafter) as a new and evolving industry in India which is concerned with the entire lifecycle of an individual as he/she grows moves from Class X to job retirement, and everything in between that relates to the career, education, and optimizing talent. This is a superset of various industries like career counseling, various types of training and placement services, job portals, etc. Mint is becoming more important because of huge gap between supply and demand of capable engineers in IT sector and other growing parts of India economy. This gap can be traced to many reasons:

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