IT sector

Infosys wants you to know there’s only one way to keep your job in tech

Navin Budhiraja, the head of architecture and technology, speaks to Quartz about changes in the IT sector.

In the tug of war between India’s IT employees and employers, workers are at a loss.

The landscape of the sector is changing rapidly. Visa pressures in the US and in other countries have compelled Indian companies to ramp up local hiring abroad, putting Indian professionals out of the running for roles they would have easily bagged before.

Additionally, the move away from cookie-cutter software jobs, and towards specific hi-tech services in areas like artificial intelligence and machine learning means that IT companies are no longer looking to increase their headcounts. Instead, they want to foster a smaller, more niche talent pool.

In response, Indian IT professionals are seeking out other places of opportunity or scrambling to unionise, but these are short-term fixes. There’s only one sure-shot way to ride out the continuous waves: re-skill.

At Infosys, the country’s second-largest homegrown IT behemoth, the focus is on teaching employees to adapt quickly to changing times. Quartz spoke with Navin Budhiraja, the head of architecture and technology at the company, about what’s going on in the new age of learning in IT.

(The conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.)

What changes must the tech workforce undergo to keep up with the industry?
The pace of change is very different from how things have been in the past. It is becoming incumbent for everybody to create this workforce, as Vishal [Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka] calls it, “full of innovators”. This cannot be just a chosen few in the company. It has to be kind of grassroots because everybody is getting impacted... It needs to happen in all parts of the company. People who work with customers, people who work in operations, and so on and so forth.

How important is it to train your employees in specific upcoming fields like artificial intelligence and machine learning?
If you focus too much on specific technologies, you kind of lose sight of what you’re really trying to achieve here. The focus for us at Infosys is evolving from learning specific technology skills to learning to learn. Whatever you learn today is likely to change and evolve very quickly over time.

We used to teach (the students) Java or .NET or whatever it might be. (But) one of the very early things we started doing a couple of years ago is to teach them three languages at a time… It’s not about just teaching the particular skill. It’s really about how these things work, how you apply them to a particular case.

How do you simulate these real-world applications?
It’s important to see how you apply the concept you have learnt to a real use case. How do you deal with failures? We have [developed] 20 very compelling use cases and real programmes, and we take that as a starting point for somebody to learn a [computing] language. We bring experts who can actually answer questions... Inside the classrooms, we actually get them to collaborate and do team projects early on because that’s how it will be.

Has hiring for the new centre in Indiana posed any challenges?
We have not had a problem hiring the people. Our focus is to make sure that these people have the right ability to learn, right amount of passion, and they come with a certain set of skills (so) that they do a good job.

Back in India, is there truth to reports about the quality of engineers being poor?
There has been recent talk that they may not be ready for the kinds of jobs that they’re expected to do. But in some sense... these reports miss the point. Some of the measurements they were doing were specific to skill sets or technology, like the programming language. My feeling is even if they have succeeded in doing very well on the specific assessment, I don’t think it will tell you whether the person or set of people are able to do the job you expect them to do.

Measurements going forward should test how good a person is at finding a problem and learning the skill set they need to solve that problem.

How important is it to hire from top tier institutes like the IITs and MITs of the world?
We have always hired from the breadth. It’s possible that we get a spectrum of people on some basic skills. Most of them, I still feel, need to come in and really need to understand how they use the skills and solve problems. That’s why there’s this big focus on training and education.

What’s extremely important is that you really understand your end user. In the past, there was more focus on the tech aspects, [like] what features should be there, and maybe not as much on how you deliver that or how it is experienced by the end user. The second aspect is that if you look at areas like AI and machine learning, it’s really important that you understand the domain, what parts of the data are needed to solve the problem. Let’s say you want to solve a problem in medicine or around insurance. What is really needed is to start with what the problem is, what the end user’s challenge is. We are even bringing in people from these different areas, people from non-STEM fields as well, to bring perspectives [and] end-user empathy.

How real is the threat of automation making some tech jobs obsolete?
Automation replacing or taking away many of the jobs that exist today, that is a reality. One has to assume that [the repetitive] jobs over time will be automated. We tend to focus on [what] we only know about things that exist today. What is clear is that we have to focus on jobs that don’t exist today.

Let me give you an example. We all thought [choosing to work in] farming was something that went away 50 to 100 years ago. But we have seen a big resurgence. There’s a lot of work going on using tech; how do you do things like vertical farming? One would not have imagined even five years ago that these are the jobs our kids want to do.

There may be some short term-disruption [because of automation] but the focus needs to be on how you use tech, on how you improve on what exists, and, more importantly, to find things that don’t exist yet.

This article first appeared on Quartz.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.