Something Special

Building Specialized Skills…

Much has been written about recent top-level churn and executive exit at Wipro, Infosys, Mindtree and so on. One way of looking at them is as symptoms rather than the disease itself..

The disease probably is the storm clouds brewing on the horizon for Indian IT service providers. Vineet Nayar had an interesting piece on China as emerging threat – This was preceded by the Nasdaq listing of a Chinese IT services firm. While structural deficiencies exist among Chinese providers, these are being firmly addressed right now – and the days are not far when effects will be visible.

Interestingly, apart from the Chinese dragon, increasing off-shore and blended capabilities of MNC IT providers such as EDS, CSC, Cap Gemini, Atos Origin and of course, IBM and Accenture, point to a world of increasing competition, reduced sales ability, diminishing margins and more value to be provided to more demanding clients. Throw into this mix a rising Cognizant and protectionism, and you have all the elements for a perfect storm.

Not surprisingly, some Indian IT promoters are bailing out. Stock sales by founder-promoters and exits (such as Raju allegedly diverting money to land or Patni selling out) are indicative of a not-so-rosy future being seen by those who know more.

For senior professionals, a fast life has suddenly skidded into stagnation, on the back of a just-concluded recession. Which means the excitement of growth and an infinite universe has given way to politics, infighting and games among colleagues – given the increasing realization that the world is indeed finite. Not difficult to understand why there is churn at the top. As battle lines get drawn among groups, members get thrashed around on these waves – for every senior-most person who exits, there are aligned juniors who are suddenly clueless about their future.

While this goes on at the macro level, how does it affect individuals? As an IT professional or software engineer, what can you do to protect yourself in this muddy future? You now have to compete with eager youngsters pouring out of colleges across the world, and faceless professionals seeking equality in a flat world.

Often, you will get attracted by superficial steps to save yourself: keeping a boss happy, keeping a client happy, somehow delivering a project albeit with patches, hiding a problem you know of, and so on. You forget that all this is transient – your organization, your team, your client, your project, your manager – all are maya, illusion, transient.

The one thing that cannot be taken away from you is you. Who you are, what you can do. Focus on yourself and the rest will flow. Some suggestions are below.

First, usually nothing beats competence.
Fundamental talent, ability, skills, competence, capability, approach, attitude are timeless. They always carry value. Every bug is an opportunity to get better. Every hour is an opportunity to learn more. Every colleague is an opportunity to understand better. Every project is an opportunity to go deeper. Every question is an opportunity to widen knowledge. How many opportunities do you waste every day?

Be great at what you do. Style never goes out of fashion. Competence never goes out of demand.

Second, nothing beats specialized competence.
If the world could have commodity skills supplied by junior and an all-nations workforce, who stands out? What can you do that others cannot? The answer is specialization. Specialization along any of multiple parameters – domain or industry specialization, platform specialization, tool specialization, product specialization, technology specialization, etc.

Be not a tester. Be a healthcare tester, a Mac tester, a GUI tester, a performance tester, a Selenium tester, a Content Management System tester, and so on.

Be not a developer. Be not even a Java developer. Be a Java Struts/Hibernate developer, a Java newspaper-systems developer, a Java Web 2.0 developer, a Java JBoss MVC developer, a Java media developer, and so on. Maybe even more specialized.

Competence is ability. Specialization is expertise. Combine both and you are unbeatable.

Third, sit back, relax and enjoy the experience. This industry is here to stay, and if you know how to make your own career unbeatable – specialization makes you special – it is going to be non-stop fun 🙂

Author – Chinmoy Panda

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