Posts Tagged 'career management'

Learnings On The Job…Taking Home A Career

This is my 100th post, hurrah!!! Please feel free to rate the post and leave comments, if the posts interest you :).

Looking back at the 21/2 years that I spent in the strategic marketing role, I tried to think of what I took away from the experience and here are some thoughts…

1. Joining a “startup” group within a large company is not same as joining a “startup” – Remember, it is still a large company. (Note: Subsidiaries and some “startup” groups might be exceptions, but, hardly!). A startup within or outside a large organization is always hard work, there is always reputation to prove and establish with customers inside or outside. The thing to know is, in return for the security of the large group and the subsequent de-risking, the upside is never yours to share (which is fair, by the way). Having said that, the chaos, the adrenaline rush of making things work is definitely there for those who love that.

2. Always evaluate what you are learning vs where you want to go – Map your short and mid-term career path. These should be available in your organization and there should be a reasonable process in place to get there. If not, you are at the wrong place, to begin with. This was such a glaring fact in my case, with the market not being in India. For more details read my previous post here.

3. Look at the size and location of the market that the group will address as an opportunity – the favorable order should be starting with a local, large market going down to a remote, small market. Unless you want to eventually convert the remote location into your local residence. In which case, it might be ok to make that sacrifice of night-outs and family time.

4. Stay focussed, learn a “few” things well – Focussing and learning to do a “few” things very well can be much more fruitful than attempting to learn many things at the same time. You can experiment a bit and figure out a couple of things that interest you, but after a few of months it is always better to focus. More so in our group’s case, where the temptation to get into too many things was always there. Truth being told, it is always easier to sell depth vs diversity whether you are looking for a new job or talking to the VC about a startup. (Aside: If you have both to some extent, great! But, I’m referring to a choice, if you have to make one. Also, some will not know what they like most upfront, which is ok. Knowing that you are diversifying for the sake of finding what to focus is a “good” focus in itself. But, most importantly, be honest to yourself.)

These are just a few generic ones that I can think of, right now. I shall keep posting more thoughts as they come along. As they say, sometimes a contrast serves the purpose of a “light” better than the visibility the most powerful light can render.

Shifting Gears From Semiconductors to Education

I recently made a career shift from Semiconductors to Education and I’ve been asked why I made such a radical shift in Industry. For those who want a quick answer – I wanted to do something related to India and something that would be meaningful to me in some way. (Now, I’m not saying that semiconductors do not make an impact, they are at the heart of the digital revolution we are seeing today and will continue to remain so, for some time to come). For those with a patient ear, please read on, I promise not to dissapoint you.

I’ve been working in a strategic marketing role in the semiconductor Industry, located out of India. My short bio – I’ve a bachelors in Electronics Engineering and worked as a Systems Engineer for a couple of years before pursuing an MBA from ISB, Hyderabad. The strategic marketing role was my first job out of MBA school (You can read more about me here). Now, come to think of it, it is a weird place to locate a strategic marketing group for the semiconductor industry. For those who are new to this party – semiconductor market in India is very small in comparison to many other sunshine sectors like healthcare, media, education, financial services and so on…as well as, in comparison to other larger semiconductor markets worldwide – China, US, Europe, Taiwan, Japan and Korea (and the order has a reason to it…go figure!)

There are some parts of the semiconductor ecosystem that are very robust in India, thanks to the outsourcing wave. Those include design (both captive units and services organizations), applications and even R&D (to some extent) but there are large chunks missing – which include the customers, manufacturers and in turn, strong distribution networks and sales and marketing organizations. Those working in the design, R&D and applications in the semiconductor industry aspiring to move on to marketing roles in the same industry post an MBA in India, I have dissapointing news for you. Those roles are very few and lack the growth opportunities that you would dream of, when you go to an MBA school. I get quite a few calls every month from people working in this industry wanting to make the vertical shift and I never cease to get amazed by the sheer kind of talent that this industry attracts in India. So, if you are in one of these categories or an aspirant, consider yourself warned and feel free to reach out to me for more industry dope & specific options…

So, is there a chance we might be catching a market at its nascent stage of development? After all, you can look at the glass as half-empty or half-full, right? This is a question one of the aspirants asked me, while I was explaining my above analysis to him. Here’s my answer. Well, semiconductors is a mature B2B market. For it to grow in India, the customers – the electronic design and manufacturers – should be a large industry, which has not happened so far. And, with the overcapacity in electronics and semiconductor manufacturing in other APAC regions, the likelihood of a large electronics design & manufacturing base out of India seems bleak. (This is not to say that Indians are not innovative or brilliant at electronics design. In my own previous job as well as in the startup circule, I’ve seen quite a few brilliant designers and I also come across brilliant product ideas on a regular basis from students and professionals alike). But, there is a vicious cycle in action here, unless someone manufactures their creativity and makes a big success of it, the ecosystem will not kick in and unless the ecosystem kicks in, the “big success” will always be yet to come (and I’m not even talking about Govt. sops here). Of course, there are always cheap manufacturing houses available in China, but how many people have access to it at their tinkering and bootstrap stages? That brings me back to my point about the need for “tinkering shops” and more so, in electronics business for innovation and ecosystem growth in India.

Over the past few months, I had to make up my mind to continue in my cushy job (knowing that it had nothing to do with India and was not meaningful enough for me)  or take some risk and do something directly relevant to the Indian market. I’ve been interested in the education sector for sometime and finally, I’ve decided to take the plunge . I’m joining a startup, Ariem Technologies, based in Bangalore as their Director for Marketing and Business Development. It is a new journey for me and I’m really excited about this role. You can expect to hear more about my interest in the education sector (some of it you can read here), my learnings on my previous job (thanks KK for asking this question) the company, role and their solution in the next few weeks…

missing career front end – part 4 (companies)

This is 4th in the series of the missing career front end that I have been blogging about.previously here. In this series, I want to cover what I think could be the benefits from the point of view of corporates in supporting this cause and how they could help.

I want to start with what could be missing, then go over what they can do and last, cover the obvious, how they can benefit.

It Looks Like a Black Hole

Most corporates face this and startups face this as they grow larger. Employees are unclear of where they are headed (it is mostly up to the immediate management to cover this ground, but gets missed in the light of immediate deliverables) and hence, employees get disgruntled and leave.

HR conducts exit polls and digs into the responses and comes up with the conclusion that the people leave their managers, not necessarily the companies. Now, though this might be true, but they have no guarantee of a changed management style or a better company culture – so why do employees really leave? Now, I’m not an expert but my understanding is that though the reasons can vary from anything ranging from loss of interest to a bad manager, the basic underlying premise is unmet expectations. All employees come with their own mental model of what they think a company is like/should be, how they should be treated, what they want to work on and where they want to go. Now, to a varying degree this might be ranging from perception to reality, some people may have these clearer in their head than others, for who this might be more at a sub conscious level.

This is not my problem

Most companies think that it is the problem of the new joinee to figure out the culture and adjust to it. It is true, however, this can be re-aligned in many ways to ensure that you get the right kind of people in the first place and reduce the dissonance and exit process load, wasted training and re-training costs, at a later stage.

A company can create messages (hopefully less engineered and closer to reality – because the agenda is to get the right people in, with the right expectation and not project yourself as being “THE BEST”) about its culture, people, work environment, expectations and even challenges (if they want to be open about it) and put it out in social media in different formats, which can get picked up by people looking out for this information and hopefully help reduce the pressure on application screening process and even, exit process!

Achieving 0% attrition

Although this might seem like a dream, some amount of attrition related to higher studies and competition poaching happens all the time and is healthy, in my opinion. The employee gets enriched and is more valuable to organizations in the process – though I’m digressing on my point here. So, coming back, interested, enlightened and informed employees (who at least know what they are getting into, if not interested in it…) are an asset to a company and less likely to spread dissatisfaction at a team level or leave…

Any HR-readers/company CEO’s out there – please comment…

missing career front end – part 3 (colleges/universities)

This is 3rd in the series of career management issues and in this series I want to cover the angle of the colleges and universities.

Why colleges and universities specifically? In the higher education spectrum they bring the students as close to the job market as one can, but do they really? Is the curriculum adapted based on the kind of skills required in the industry? Are the teachers equipped with the knowledge of the job roles in the industry and what will be required of these students once they go out of the institute?

Traditionally, colleges and universities are considered to be learning portals of just-in-case resources and hence, bits and pieces of knowledge of all kinds gets imparted to the students based on the choice of their field. What happens, in effect is that the student comes out confused and unaware of the reality of the job market whereas, the expected effect should have been their interest in specific areas within the entire domain to explore and work in. How will that happen if they have no idea of what is out there? And, what disservice the career and placement agencies renders to the students! Slot the companies and make available a relatively undifferentiated, uninformed pool of students in front of them to select.

You might think, how would the colleges/universities benefit from a career front end service? Or rather, what are they missing? To begin with, information on what is available out there in a given job market – not just in terms of job roles, but skills required, career progression path, higher education opportunities etc. if made available to the students is definitely good information to have for the students. Now, how good would it be if it were to come from the alum base of the same college/university for the current batch of students?

How about colleges knowing what kind of output they are actually producing? They spend so much time and effort selecting the incoming batch but there is no accountability once the students go out. How successful are the students who go out of a given college/university? How many of them feel confident enough to seek careers in their field of study? How many of them did higher studies and benefited from it? How many of them changed careers within a few years? How many of them are doing nothing related to what they learned at the college? What are the major streams that the bunch of them are going into? What kind of skills do they think are mission critical and need to be nurtured back in college?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have this data available when you go to join an institute? Wouldn’t it be good to have more than just placement statistics to look at, for the incoming students? Now, from the college point of view, wouldn’t it be nice to know the effectiveness of their program delivery and work on it continuously and improve? How about creating/altering program offerings based on collected data, industry/alum feedback? I know some colleges and universities do this on a small scale, but how about making this a mission – developing metrics that can take out the other factors that could influence what a person does with his education and refining it over time to create a reliable data set which points to the effectiveness of a college/university in a person’s life?

Please feel free to pour in comments, suggestions…

Right people, wrong advice

I have often wondered when we seek advice, especially on careers from people around us, how right people end up giving us wrong advice. It is not intentionally wrong, it sounds right to them, it sounds logical given what they know They just don’t know very much, that’s all…

Two instances in my life, I have received advice of this sort, the first one was around college selection and the other one was around branch selection in Engineering. If you had a choice between a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering in a tier 2 college vs. a chemical or mechanical engineering degree in a tier 1 college, which one would you chose? Data shows that alma mater matters more than the degree you have in today’s environment. I was advised otherwise.

Another such instance happened when I had to choice between different branches in the same college. Previously I said what degree you chose doesn’t matter as long as it is from the better college. Now, what if you had to chose branches within the same college – obviously you would choose based on the ranking within the branches, right? I say, wrong, although it might help in the short run, in my opinion, one must choose the degree based on the ecosystem where you want to work, based on the job market and if you already know that is, based on what you like to do…this is a decision for a life-time and helps reduce chaos and dissatisfaction if you don’t follow the herd here. Again, I was given the “follow the herd” advice. I wish I had known….

missing career front end – part 2 (job seekers)

Talking about the next set of issues currently in job seeking.

Now I know which job I want do and have a shortlist of companies that I want to work for, but what kind of career progression can I expect from the job role in a company? What about cross-functional roles, will I be able to gain exposure at more than what I start doing or will I be pigeon-holed? What is this company culture like, will I really like it there? What if I get bored on the job after a few years or want to do something different, what are my exit options? What have other people in this space done a few years after starting out in this role?

When do people think about higher studies in this career path? What kind of higher degrees are they getting? Does it really help them grow in the career path faster?

Do the campus company presentations cover the ground in so much detail – that is just a preview to the investment that you need to make with your career choice, just like the cover page of a mutual fund, it is up to you to dig deeper, go further and look for the answers you need before you take the plunge.

Where do you seek this information currently? Is there a good website which helps you get the career insights from people who have gone ahead in the career paths of your choice? What about the emerging career paths, where do you find information about these? Do share your opinion, I’m all ears….

missing career front end – part 1 (job seekers)

I spent a long time, after I started working, thinking about what to type into the search box at Naukri, Monster, HotJobs (take your pick!) and when I finally typed it into the box, I realized that I didn’t match the requirements (My aspirations differed from my experience).

In short, I have realized that the two pieces (of the many out there!) that are kind of missing in the job search platform are a) what is out there not just right now, but historically or in the near past in my industry/field of interest ? b) what is it that I can be good at and enjoy doing? or to turn it on its head and ask a) what is it that I love doing? b) what is out there that exactly or kind of comes close to what I love for me?

The latter part of the question goes something like this, now if I kind of know what I want to do and it is entirely different from what I did previously – how do I go about enabling that transition? And as most people are thinking, I’m willing to take the risk, I’m willing to put in the money, how do I know what is out there, whether I will really like it, will I fit in, what are the returns I can expect, is it worth giving up what I have now (however bad that maybe!), are there others who have gone this way and done this before?

All this and more…needs solutions. Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this and what you think can be done…

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