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How to train today for tomorrow’s IT skills

Simplilearn‘s session on skilling the IT workforce was held on 2 Feb in Bangalore in association with Economic Times. There were L&D leaders, HR practitioners, and company executives in the audience. It started with Alok Goyal, who until recently was senior partner at Helion, a VC firm, making an opening note. He painted a good picture of the future of skills required for IT referring to it modestly as defining the problem rather than solving the problem. Driverless cars are coming sooner than we expected; old human jobs getting replaced by machines are happening at a quicker pace. There is a farm in Japan completely run by robots, which produces quintillions of produce. Intuitive Surgical has robots doing surgery. Re-skilling is a necessity.

Takeaways: General-purpose robots like Baxter can learn by watching humans. Boston Dynamics produces robots to take on human tasks. Briggo has no humans and can deliver personalized coffee at any chain by sharing preferences of you. Emily Howell, a computer program can produce music [Musically inclined, intrepid soul should read Computer Models of Musical Creativity written in 2005]. European Commission’s Human Brain project has a lot of research in regard to understanding brain. Quill could build out narratives from data and charts, which is the bread and butter of so many KPO’s. Just like we no longer need as many horses up until 1950’s, we will not as many humans soon! World Economic Forum’s 2016 Future of Jobs (Warning: 12-page pdf) predicts a loss of 7m jobs by 2020 and an increase of 2m resulting in a net loss of 5m. During previous industrial revolutions, it often took decades to build the training systems and labour market institutions needed to develop major new skill sets on a large scale. Given the upcoming pace and scale of disruption brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution led by convergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology, however, this is simply not be an option. Without targeted action today to manage the near-term transition and build a workforce with futureproof skills, governments will have to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality, and businesses with a shrinking consumer base. IT services companies have reduced hiring in 2015 in response to increased automation – Cognizant hired only 10,200 which is 74.6% less employees in 2015 than previous years, while HCL Technologies hired 3465, which is 71% less compared to 2014.

A panel discussion around how organizations can work towards building talent pools to meet the challenges brought by the changing wave of technology trends was moderated by Vinod Mahanta, Sr. Editor, ET. Nishant Rao (Global COO, Freshdesk, ex-MD Linkedin India) weighed in with his layered approach (5 E’s), first three of which are visible parts and the last two are hidden:

  1. Classical education : Lecture driven either in-class or elearning over web/mobile
  2. Experiential : By doing things, role-playing in a contrived environment or in real-world
  3. Exposure: Different ideas and types of people
  4. Environment : Manager, mentor, buddy program
  5. Ego : Self-driven learning.

Ashutosh Vaidya, Chief Delivery & Operations Officer at Dell Services took a business approach boasting 4-times revenue generated per employee compared with other IT services organizations. He emphasized customer-driven approach to training. While Nishant opined unstructured training to spur creativity, ambiguity (which has made Freshdesk get 70k customers, 1/2B revenue with the efforts of 600 employees, Hariraj Vijayakumar, Global Head, Learning and Development, Cognizant opined about methods with neuroscience underpinnings. Adults learn better, when the training is better; though they feel that they learned more, when taught consecutively, something referred to as massing effect. It’s an evolution for training materials too. CTS took 2 years to get it right. They started with just splitting the original material in contrived chunks. Slowly, the material evolved to be more effective. I have felt that I can connect things better and retain more, when learning over a period of time. The panel then discussed about lateral hiring vs training own personnel. It’s a delicate balance to tread. Alok was of the view that we should get outside professionals at all levels. Whereas the standard practice in several organizations, notably large services companies has been to get a large number of freshers (Unrelated to this concept, Hari mentioned that 20k freshers get inducted into CTS every month).



We (yes, it was an interactive, small group) discussed about failure. Nishant having spent 20 years in the US talked about a societal change needed in India, where excellence is revered, but failure scorned at. There is a need to take constructive feedback sportingly in the company culture. During first 3 months at Mckinsey, Alok got so much feedback about his dress, presence etc, that he thought everything is wrong with himself! There needs to be an emphasis on learning agility among individuals. In the end, Simplilearn’s CEO Krishna Kumar summarized the panel discussion. I will end the post with technological drivers in next decade staring at us.


Economic Times coverage can be seen here.