Saturday, July 19, 2008

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Boy, isn't this a year full of ironies!

What triggered the above reaction is an innocent looking email from a job recruiter, to my newly graduated, college educated son with an MIS degree. In addition to the usual boilerplate, the email mentioned that the employer was a "large Indian corporation" and the chosen candidates were going to be sent to an "8 week intensive training camp in Bangalore, India, before they would be posted to their jobs in various US locations."

Come again?

Wasn't this supposed to be backwards? Like recruiters in Mumbai or Bangalore calling up fresh grads, and selling them a junket to Europe or the US before they got posted to their jobs in India? Whatever happened to the "World Class University System" that cranks out graduates with desirable degrees and enviable skills? Apparently, this company does not think a fresh US graduate from the most prestigious state university is good enough for their entry level job.

So, here I sit, having gone through several years of fighting the public K-12 system. I should have known that the pig will eventually make its way through the python some day. Just to be sure, I had my son go have a chat with a friend who is a software pro, just to see what kind of training he received as an MIS (management information systems) degree holder. His assessment was that the training was bare minimum needed in today's job environment, and he will need a lot of remedial training to make himself an attractive candidate in today's job market.

OK, now it started to make sense. A college diploma is just a necessary evil to get one's foot in the door, but not a guarantee to obtain even an entry level job. I guess the Indian companies have realized this and have their own internal training programs to make up for the deficiencies. I recalled that during the rise of the Japanese auto industry, they too had the same philosophy. All growth came organically (without acquisitions), and all new hires were hired as trainees. The best ones got the plum entry level assignments in the most prestigious divisions.

My opinion is that the Japanese and Indian companies take a longer term view of their business, building a solid technical foundation first, which then allowed them to build solid, high quality products. The US corporations are notoriously short sighted, relying on on-the-job training most of the time. Because the Wall Street ensures that the short sightedness remains as a permanent feature of the US corporation, their decisions come back to haunt them decades later. When Intel lays off 20,000 workers to go from 100,000+ employees to 80,000 employees, Wall Street cheers. At the same time, companies like Infosys in Bangalore quietly hire 10,000 more employees to go from 90,000 to over 100,000 this year. And they have plans to continue to grow organically, well into the future, while companies like Intel will be under pressure to reduce their workforce.

This is in stark contrast to what was happening just 30 years ago, when all the technology jobs were being created in the US, and a fresh graduate from an Indian university had to fly halfway around the world to find a good graduate school, and maybe employment.

So, I guess what goes around, comes around.



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