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The Indian Software Professional Abroad

We all know that many Indians abroad have made it big. Names like Sabeer Bhatia of Hotmail and Gururaj Deshpande of Sycamore Networks are familiar to almost everyone. And it is equally well known that almost every reputed software organisation in the USA has its fair share of Indians. So what makes the Indian techie abroad tick?

We asked an expert in the IT field, Mr. Pankaj Ved, Senior Director - HR, CBSI, why the Indian IT professional abroad was more likely to make the headlines than his counterpart in India. Here are excerpts from a freewheeling interview with Mr. Ved.

What is it that makes the IT professional in the USA different from a similarly qualified professional in say, India?

In today's world, the people who really make it big are those who not only have the training and talent, but those who have the ability to take risks. A technologically strong computer professional will not really be able to move to a higher plane without the ability to take risks, coupled with good people skills.

Many Indians are unwilling to take those risks. It is likely that they are more concerned about job security and a regular pay packet. Whatever the reasons for this mindset, it does not make for a true success story!

What are the qualities required for a software professional to make it in the US?

Good technical skills are, of course, essential. But being a good techie alone will not get a candidate a job. There are likely to be 10 other people with the same qualifications who have applied for the same job! There is an increasing focus on people skills.

I have come across a number of candidates who are very knowledgeable technically but fail in terms of selling them selves to us as suitable candidates.

Candidates must be able to convince the employer that they can handle any likely situation. Ideal candidates must be able to prove to the employer that they are able to not only fill the present job but also can grow in the job, and will be able to handle future responsibilities that may be very different from the job at hand.

To give you an example, when the Y2K panic died down, there were a number of software professionals in the US who faced the possibility of losing their jobs. Some of them managed to find other jobs, while the others had to return home.

Qualities like the ability and willingness to learn and acclimatise a to a new work culture need to be projected.

Do you think Indians will continue to stand a chance in the job market for the next few years?

Indians are in demand in the West not only for their undoubtedly high technical skills but also for their fluency and command over English. This is likely to change drastically as more Chinese and other East Asians are catching on and training their professionals to be fluent in English.

Fluency and technical soundness are not the only requirements of potential employers. The ability to `think beyond the box' is what is prized. It is the creative individual who is most likely to succeed and stay in the job.

Ability to deliver beyond the job is another key factor.

Given all these factors, it is heartening to note that Indian software professionals are still in demand by multinational and US software organisations.


What are the jobs that are likely to be hot in the software industry?

To my mind, the hot jobs of the future will be those that require a certain degree of creativity. Graphic designers, Web designers and the like will probably be most in demand. Of course, e-commerce will remain a hot career option.

What are the factors that handicap Indian software professionals abroad, especially in the US?

Indians are talented and quick learners. However, it is unfortunate that most Indians are highly insular. It is very rare to see an Indian leave his/her cultural inhibitions behind, and socialise with people other than their own countrymen.

If a person is not able to adapt to a different culture, it will be very difficult for that person to be comfortable in the workplace. Creative thinking could be constrained.

I have noticed that if there are two or more Indians in an organisation, they talk in any language but English! They make no effort to make friends other than other Indians, and tend to feel uncomfortable in a crowd of Americans.

My advice to the young software professional bound for the US is this: Travel, meet different people, be open-minded. This is the time for you to make new friends, to explore a new land. Adapt to the culture in the US while maintaining your unique identity. Be adventurous.

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