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Flutters of slowdown have not yet been felt internally

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DQI Bureau
New Update

Rani Desai, who recently joined Geometric as the global head of HR, has

charted some key plans to build a global DNA for this leading engineering design

services company. Prior to taking on this role, Rani was heading the HR

functions at Mahindra Engineering Services. In an exclusive interview with

Dataquest, Rani talks about her immediate plans, challenges in the wake of the

present economic scenario and her views on the IT job market. Excerpts

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How does it feel to take on a new role especially during such volatile

times?



I have joined Geometric because of certain inherent strengths that the

company has in its practices, policies, corporate governance and ethics. The

company has always been the frontrunner as far as the technical competencies are

concerned and have provided young engineers the opportunity to work on core

engineering projects through our strategic partnerships with leading software

OEMs around the world.

I have joined at a time when the entire industry is going through some

challenging times and there are a lot of uncertainties that lie ahead. For an HR

professional it is very interesting to work in a situation when a company is

doing very well and also when the company is facing certain challenges

externally. Right now we are facing certain challenges on the HR front, but I am

still relatively new to the company and am adopting a fresh approach to mitigate

them. One of the greatest strengths of the company is that we have immense

capacity to absorb the external environment and its impact. What is also

commendable is the level of professional commitment that is visible among the

senior management of the company. The flutters of slowdown have not yet been

felt internally, may be because we are not directly impacted by what is

happening out there in the industry. Nevertheless, we are taking a cautious

stand and have become stringent in the intake of employees and are emphasising

more on quality than the numbers.

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What areas are you looking to ramp up within Geometric?



I see the external environment as an opportunity for Geometric. This is a

time when we need to consolidate our strengths further and come together. We

have always had an edge in the talent and technical intensive area and are

looking at building it further. In that direction, we have already started some

key initiatives such as mapping the technical competencies of the individuals.

This mapping exercise has been broken down into a very granular level for each

of our practices and we are presently carrying out the assessment process.

Having identified the gaps in the skill sets, we are working on filling them

through a lot of emphasis on training. We already have in place a 360-degree

training and work-force development model named PLMI which is very unique in the

industry. PLMI helps us map the skill sets of our work-force and build specific

training programs to hone their skills and fill the niche areas of expertise

required for ongoing projects. This training process is another key strength

that we need to build on.

On the recruitment front, we recently introduced psychometric testing at the

managerial level. We also have plans to go in for e-recruitment procedures. If

you look at the overall HR practices and the value chain within the organization

they are already at a very mature level.

What is the one big people challenge within Geometric? How do you plan to

tackle it?



Today, Geometric has a strength of 3,000 employee across 10 global delivery

locations in the US, France, Romania, India, and China. Our work-force has

witnessed a sudden spurt of growth as we have grown through acquisitions while

adding certain key strengths to the portfolio. We need to continue the process

of integration, both on the structural and people front. And HR has a key role

to play in reaching out to these employees and integrate them into our

multi-cultural work-force. The one challenge that I plan to work on is to give

Geometric a global identity or DNA. We are already engaging with employees

across all geographies to map their talent needs and chart out a career path for

each of them. A Geometrician whether in Europe or in India should follow the

same core values and be given the same opportunities. Hence, we have coined the

phrase internally Be local, yet be global.

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How has the global slowdown affected the IT industry as a whole? And how

is Geometric coping with it?



I think that the IT industry is still in a wait and watch mode. The

employees as well as the employers are treading cautiously to see what will

happen next. Some companies who have been directly impacted have taken a

knee-jerk step by retrenching the employees. However, we are somewhere seeing a

change in their attitude and a display of humanity as they are giving employees

the option to join back after a period of 3-5 years. This at least shows an

attempt to be more humane even in such distressing times. Most companies have

adopted a low tolerance attitude and have become stricter with low performers.

Also, while some may not retrench the work-force, they have been very slow in

filling up vacancies and are trying their best to optimise the workforce.

According to me the key decisions will be taken and the real impact will be

felt only over the next 2-3 quarters. The market situation has not yet affected

Geometric because we have still not entered the league of the large IT players

and do not deal with the financial services sector at all.

What are the major training gaps that exist in the industry?



There is a serious lack of required technical competencies to suit the

business of the organization. This is one of the biggest challenges that the

entire IT industry has been facing. Unfortunately, the engineering colleges

provided by the government are not adequate; some of them are sub-standard and

lack basic infrastructure and faculty. Nevertheless, we have been working with

some of the premier institutes such as VJTI, MIT, Thadumal, IIT, etc to bridge

this gap. Industry-academia partnerships will help only to a certain extent as

we can only suggest changes to the university syllabus and cannot create new

teaching modules altogether. Companies will have to focus on internal training

to solve this problem at least for the next few years.

How are you dealing with the middle management crisis?



This is again an industry-wide problem. Typically, the lower cadres are

filled up with campus recruits and some lateral hires. There is a huge lack of

people that fall under the 5-9 year experience bracket within the managerial

cadre. To solve this issue a lot companies are already taking efforts to give

the required training to promote employees internally rather than explore

lateral hires for this bracket. At Geometric, we have a large number of

employees who have been with us for 8-14 years and are holding key positions

within the middle management level, driving key projects. However, as our

business keeps growing, we might also start facing similar issues and may have

to explore lateral hiring in addition to our efforts to promote talent

internally.

Priya Kekre



priyak@cybermedia.co.in

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