Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vineet Nayar says US Tech Grads are Unemployable

In an interesting twist of I-don't-know-what, CEO of Indian IT services vendor HCL Vineet Nayar stated in a speech in New York City in front of 50 customers and partners that the reason his company doesn't employ more people here in the United States (HCL currently has 21 offices in 15 states, employing over 3,000 people) is that US tech grads are "unemployable".

This probably comes as a swift kick in the shorts to anybody who has ever dealt with "overseas" tech support, however Rob Preston of InformationWeek quickly put Nayar's comments in perspective. Preston explains that Nayar was driving at the fact that "...American grads looking to enter the tech field are preoccupied with getting rich..." and are less inclined to "...spend their time learning the 'boring' details of tech process, methodology, and tools...". This results in the American grads being more expensive to train than their Indian, Chinese, Brazilian, South African, or Irish counterparts.

Having never personally experienced education from an Indian perspective, I can't vouch for how true or untrue statements made concerning American versus Indian education are. I have only my personal experience to build from. I can say that my own education did, at times, trade low-level hands-on experience for a higher-level, creative problem-solving approach. Whether this was a good or bad thing is debatable, however I do feel that it does offer some benefits over a brute-force approach.

In my dealings with overseas technical support (HCL included, as they are contracted by my current employer), I've found that the individuals I've worked with, while very knowledgable concerning the product they are employed to support, lack basic problem-solving skills and tend toward trial-and-error when it comes to fixing issues. While this can work in a lot of situations, it's not nearly the cleanest or most efficient way to get the job done. On more than one occasion, it has actually made problems worse, because the technician made changes that he couldn't remember how to undo, changes that made matters worse.

I'm not going to be rough on the Indian folks I've worked with over the years, because, while some of them have been occasionally frustrating, a lot of them are some of the most intelligent, creative IT people I've had the pleasure of working with. And believe me, the same holds true for the American IT staff, both positive and negative. The reality is that the American and Indian IT educational systems aren't perfect, and can learn a lot from each other. It's just a bitter pill to swallow when the criticism is pointed back at you.

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