entry in IT?
often debate whether the industry needs “barriers to entry” for people
wanting to practice software engineering or programming. MOHAN BABU
writes that creating regulations to restrict entry into IT professions may
be easier said than done
A few weeks
ago I wrote about the need for Indian IT organisations and bodies to lobby
globally, to be recognised as leaders in the field. In the article, I had
talked about the need for these institutions to get together and
unobtrusively lobby nationally and internationally. There is another aspect
of the software industry, especially with regards to the regulation of
professionals entering the field, that requires some thought by the
powers-that-be. Because of the slowdown in the IT industry in the West, a
few magazines and trade publications have been pondering over the question:
Is it time for IT professionals to establish “barriers to entry”? This set
me thinking about “barriers to entry” for Indian IT professionals.
the main barrier to entry is getting the right career break, even for those
with excellent educational qualifications. Herein lies the problem, a kind
of chicken-and-egg situation. Young professionals, even those with excellent
academic backgrounds, find it hard to get their foot in the door. However,
employers are always looking for the “right” kind of IT talent all the time.
Indians in IT
suddenly find themselves at the crossroads in an industry that is not
sufficiently mature to be self-regulatory, at the same time vibrant enough
to attract talented folks. What does one mean by barriers-to-entry that I
talked about earlier? Take the example of professions like medicine, law,
finance or even teaching. In order to be considered a “professional” in such
fields (and to be allowed to practice such vocations), an individual needs
to complete courses leading to awarding of a degree or diploma; and even
after that, clear requirements from local, state or quasi-governments
bodies. A CPA (or CA) is generally expected to have a degree in accounting
or finance and also clear exams conducted by accounting and regulatory
bodies. Similarly, a lawyer has to acquire a degree in law along with
meeting other professional requirements before being allowed to practice.
Even engineers, architects and pilots have such requirements from
professional bodies that govern their entry and code-of-conduct. Some IT
veterans are starting to wonder if we need such “barriers to entry” for
people wanting to practice software engineering or programming.
regulations to restrict entry into IT profession may be easier said than
done. Take for instance, this recent advertisement for an EAI Integration
Analyst: “Works at the highest technical level as member of system
development team with primary responsibilities for all phases of
development. Experience in developing and implementing enterprise-wide
integration strategy and architecture plans using Siebel and/or JD Edwards.
Experience with one or more industry leading EAI solutions (MQ Series, Cross
Worlds, Tibco, Vitria and Webmethods). Knowledge and experience using Siebel
workflow and/or business services. Four-five years experience in DDL and
Oracle Forms and Report module generation experience. Four-five years
experience in developing applications using a system development
methodology.” The advertisement talks about the technologies and experience
and nothing else. No requirements for a degree, certification, professional
credentials, etc, are mentioned.
the reader will immediately argue that standards do exist in the IT
industry. Database administration is a case in point. Successful DBAs
generally have certifications from vendors like IBM or Oracle, along with
years of experience. Similarly, vendors like Sun and Microsoft provide their
own certification programmes that professionals can clear to distance
themselves from the pack. However, the question still remains. What is to
prevent someone who has rote knowledge of Java from taking and clearing a
Java certification exam and marketing himself as a “guru” even though he
doesn’t have a degree or any experience whatsoever? None. And this is where
some professional bodies may be able to step in and regulate the “entry”
into our profession.
“unregulated” profession that software resembles is that of management. A
person can go to a business school, rise up the ranks or start his own
venture in order to become a “manager”. Professional qualifications like a
management degree (MBAs) do help, but they are not a pre-requisite for
people gunning for a management career. Barriers to entry in the field of
management are low and Dilbert’s principle ensures that a person is only
promoted to his/her level of “incompetence”.
Some in the
IT industry are skeptical of any move to regulate professionals. If the
industry seems to be functioning as it is, where is the need to add an extra
layer of bureaucracy, they ask. This argument does hold strength in a good
market when there are huge requirements but very few people to take up the
jobs. However in a slowing market (like now), we need a different line of
thinking. IT professionals either working for companies or out of jobs need
a way to prove their credentials to prospective employers and differentiate
themselves from the pack. Employers too need a fool-proof way to
authenticate the qualifications and credentials of candidates.
time for Indian IT industry bodies such as NASSCOM and/or CSI to step up and
take on the role of providing a bridge between candidates and employers,
making for a win-win proposition for jobseekers and IT companies. Talented
IT professionals will not only benefit from such a system but also be able
to prove their credentials effortlessly. Time to think outside the box!