Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Lemonade Maker: Shagufta's Success Story

The ability to persist against all odds is a trait that we often take for granted. For those who don’t, success is guaranteed, no matter in what form, shape or speed it comes. One such person is Shagufta, who recently completed her course in Basic IT from Agrasar Center for Employability in Saharanpur, the vocational training center started by the Edulever team.

For Shagufta, the future used to be an indeterminate entity. She had no firm ambition. What she possessed in huge quantities, however, was the will to rise from failure. This virtue was exhibited in two particular incidents in her life.

The first example takes us to her high school years. Shagufta passed her matriculation examination in the third division, a score that wouldn’t have helped her a lot in any future endeavour. Instead of letting that shake her, she dived into her secondary education, this time with more confidence, diligence and confidence. Her energetic efforts paid off; she went on to score 73.1% in two subjects in the higher secondary examination, as well as continued to produce impressive results in her BA from Munna Lal College. What’s more, Shagufta was teaching at AGF School, Saharanpur, for two years before completing her graduation in 2007.

The second example carries us forward to life post-marriage. Shagufta married Mr Nafees Khan in 2008 then joined the family business as a receptionist. Due to irreconcilable differences, she and her husband moved out in 2010 to start life anew. Nafees opened a shoe shop, but as business started to suffer, Shagufta decided she could help out. But this time, she opted to sharpen her knowledge of computer functions and basic IT.

There is a popular saying which goes: when life gives you lemon, make lemonade. This is the choice Shagufta made more than once in twenty-five years. She did not let poor examination scores sway her optimistic outlook towards life; she did not let herself be fettered to the homebound role of the traditional Indian life. Instead, she based her judgments on pragmatism and the ability to always take the initiative.

Her positivity has helped her become the strong woman she is. Now, she doesn’t have to depend on family for her job, or sit at home while her spouse brings home the money. She has received a variety of job offers, and finally chosen to work at MTS, the mobile operator giant. She will soon be joining her office when her husband returns from his business trip.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Realizing the Engineer's Dream...

I would like to talk about a matter that has been pestering me for quite a few years now and I know there are lots of others out there who care about this too, but have not been speaking for some reason or the other. I have been thinking about this issue since the time I was a part of this system and passed out from a private engineering college, I put pen to paper today as an article in a news daily acts as the feather on the heap. I have been seeing few articles doing rounds across media since the past few days, which highlights the various statistics proving how fresh engineers passing out today are incapable of solving certain types of mathematical problems or lacking certain personality traits of employability.

I feel sad to see any such derogatory remarks being made by big corporate honchos and have always been advocating the need for enlightening engineering students about the world that awaits them outside college gates. The problem lies in the void that has been created between the industry and academia. Worse is the fact that this void is getting bigger by the day!

It is easy for corporate to declare fresh pass-outs unemployable, but they have to realize that in doing this they are actually mocking themselves, for having been the haven for numerous fresh engineers and may be harming the overall intent of the education system in India. I am not exaggerating but the fact that such remarks mar the students in many ways. They were least informed or trained on the traits that are expected from them at the end of the course, most of which cannot be developed overnight! Ultimately the students are benchmarked on a scale that is absolutely new to them and they seldom know the highest value against which they are ranked.

Companies have been recruiting fresh engineers and have taken them through their self designed pragmatic training programs that sharpen certain skills needed by the companies for operational staff. This is the time when few actually care about their career progression and just go with the flow into joining a majority of the crowd that thinks “Google knows everything that I don’t know” and “I can google it all”. There has been enough discussion around their business model when Mr. Bhagat had responded to Mr. Murthy’s comment about the quality of engineers passing out from the country’s premier engineering college. In these training programs, the fresh recruits un-learn a huge chunk of what they learnt at college and adapt to the new environment that is very demanding and competitive. It’s a well known fact that those ‘few’ who are not so quick to have adapted to the new environment or picked up skills, for the sole reason of being from a totally different branch of engineering or not being able to cope up with the speed at which new things are thrown at them, are asked to leave the organization with immediate effect. We all have witnessed corporate who claim to be amongst top 5 IT companies in India, subjecting their college recruits to surprise tests at local computer institutes and their test results being used as basis to cut down on the number of college recruits. I am sure all of us never get to know the numbers of such not-so-fortunate engineers who for once made everybody proud and are later faced by distress. Their numbers are never made public but are not incalculable. Do colleges take this fact into account while organizing campus placement drives?

The point to ponder here is that as a community, the industry and academia, have we ever thought about the potential solution to this fundamental problem that keeps popping up and worsening year on year. Both sections are equally responsible in shaping the quality of engineers that pass out every year.

I firmly believe that every engineer can be the next Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. and Sam Walton of Wal-Mart provided they are given ample thinking space and guidance at the decision points during the course of their study and while looking out for internships and jobs  and follow their dreams rather than settling for compromises! Conceptual innovators are not Martians, but have a distinct flair of using their art to express ideas and emotions and usually do not lead their life pursuing a single objective. I believe innovation is a fine blend of technology and art and the education system on the whole should promote such cross-pollination of ideas across subjects and fields of study. The country’s engineers can be made into passionate technology evangelists and innovators of disruptive technologies, when they get to live in a culture that fosters innovation!

The thoughts and views expressed in the above post are not meant to target any individual, college, university or company. I have tried to be touch upon a common problem that is faced by thousands of engineering students. Please feel free to send me your feedback and comments. This post is also available on my blog.
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Samrat is an engineer and a friend of Edulever. He has a strong belief and interest in Social Media. The views expressed in this post are his own, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Edulever.