Shanmugam Nagarajan, Co-Founder & Chief People Officer, 7.ai in an interview to Dataquest talks about the state of ICT skills, his company’s HR sourcing strategy and ways and means of fostering skill development in the ICT space. Excerpts:
As a CEO and people leader, what are your key priorities you have set for your organization in terms of having the best of skills and your expectations from the institutions?
Given the kind of new technologies we work with at 7.ai – Artificial Intelligence, Big Data & Predictive Analytics, Natural Language Understanding – our hiring strategy leans more towards lateral hiring. In terms of campus hires, we look at hiring top talent from technology institutions in tier II cities. We find that students from there have the fire in the belly to learn. Quite frankly, they are excited by the opportunity to work alongside some of the brightest minds in these specialized domains who are solving some really complex problems. As an organization, we have believed in creating growth opportunities for the talented young people and our talent acquisition strategy is aligned to that philosophy.
On the talent in tier 2 cities?
Well in tier 2 cities, I think some of the institutions such as PSG Tech, Sastra, PESIT, Kamraj College of Engineering have done remarkably well in terms of evolving with the changing times. They have maintained a close connection with the industry and have ensured that their students are attuned to the changing technology landscape. Other institutions should also work closely with the industry to understand the changing talent profiles and make suitable changes in their course content. While there have been a large number of engineering colleges that were established only the best institutions have thrived and the others have fallen by the wayside because they have been delivering a substandard quality of education. Our national and state-level governing bodies for technical education should also drive constant updates to curriculum and push for industry-academia collaboration to ensure that our academic training is relevant and rigorous.
Focus on ‘Soft Skills’
Last but not the least; we would urge institutions and students both to focus on improving soft skills. Students should be encouraged to take ownership in this area to improve their skillset. Remember, jobs are not local anymore – students are competing with the global talent pool and it’s imperative that they imbibe characteristics of a ‘global citizen’ – business communication skills, cultural sensitivity, empathy and knowledge of global economic & political trends. In addition to sound domain knowledge, these attributes will help them make their mark in this local job market that’s global.