The Digital Era Skill Demands

By Sairam Bollapragada

Many companies – product manufacturers, product vendors, sales, marketing, technical design entities, information technology service providers were so far marred by the lull(recession) before the storm (the Digital wave). The advent of the new areas in the connected world, has swept all by the feet and the ride on this tiger demands new skills across the value chains of technology and conventional manufacturing outfits, as well as new working styles and cultural norms. There is accepted acute shortage of skills.

IT fraternity has so far got habituated to the “…been there, done all, know all” feeling and the new wave is compelling the folks to change that mind set with a new learning curve. The sooner the folks get out of the traditional mindset, the sooner they can insure their careers.

The brighter side of the story is that the skills needed to design, make, sell, and service smart, connected products are in high demand but short supply.  There is a sudden urgency for finding the right talents and in the wake of market flooded with startups, the pay packs for these technology geeks and mavericks have skyrocketed.  The learning is found to be fast shifting from Mechanical Engineering to Software Engineering, from pure software coding to stepping into real-time product testing, from product repairs to getting used to SLAs for availability, and working with varied partners.

Along with crazy talent demand, the learning curve has gone berserk too.

Folks in the shop floor may soon have to hire experts in applications engineering, user interface development, and systems integration. The list does not end there – the need for data scientist across all the verticals who can blend technical and business data to lend the capability to create, build, and run analytics for predictive analysis and upfront fitment to market demands as well as creating those action plan blueprints, will be inevitable.

However, the demands stated are fine, but the bigger challenge is how informed and ready are the manufactures for these changes – especially in growing economies. This is more so in the case of traditional and conventional manufacturing entities where technologies and product manufacturing are treated totally disparately.

Some are taking rapid steps to move closer to technology abundant cities. By 2020, the manufacturers will need to establish collaborative learning between academics, product innovation and technology.  New hiring models like internship programs (international at that), infusing technological staff at their factories for product advancement and innovation with technology, and incubating labs to continuously bake their next products will be order of the day.

Build-your-future-staff and Internships: The internships should create a scope for these companies to bring together a blend of talent from technology, engineering and business to build collaborative platforms to build newer models, conceptualize disruptively innovative ideas, and drive the “build-your-future” culture. Imagine a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, an information sciences engineer(data analyst) and( lead by) a production engineer – all brainstorming to create a new concept in companies like a Schneider or a GE or GM. The brilliant lot of the ideas will flow into the IoT/Smart lab for PoCs and incubation and to production after successful trails. The crux will be matching the speed of thought and working between these team members.

Compensation and incentives: Manufacturers will also need new approaches to attracting, motivating and retaining talent. With the acute shortage of skills, the talented folks will call the shots. It is said that against the 45000 jobs being created out of 1b$, the industry will now see around 15000 jobs per billion. People with high skills and continuous learning capabilities will take better jobs. Going forward, as per NASSCOM, the selection process during intake will now be based on ability to learn rather than just knowledge. The $130 billion industry, which employs 3.2 million people, will add another 1.2 to 2 million. Investments in training will actually go up, even as training extends to almost a year from three to six months at present on projects in engineering. Companies and universities will collaborate like never before to improve quality of talent.

Perks like job flexibility, concierge services, sabbaticals, and free time to work on side projects of personal interest are the norm in high-tech firms employing the type of talent manufacturing companies will increasingly require.

Where do we go from here?

The existing IT companies living out of annuity business face a larger survival threat. The folks who are looking at AD/AMS kind of activities and sticking on to it are also in the red zone from capability standpoint. Migration to newer skills and capabilities is inevitable. For non-IT folks who have for some strange reasons created “I don’t need IT” mindset would be challenged to deliberate and discuss next ideas with IT engineers. If you cannot engage in such discussions, strong indicator is that your survival itself is at risk.

These synergies between two camps is what is going to drive the digital wave – higher the team-knowledge, higher the tide!! In next part we will discuss on the new learning eco systems where we will focus on how organizations need to embrace the change through steeper learning curves.

For all those, who are sitting back thinking what next to do, the prompt is get on to the learning curve fast. Get onto it now!!

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