IT industry

Is Today’s Higher Education Meeting IT Industry Requirements – Chat With Mr. Phani Arega

The 21st Century is the age of massive digitization. Areas being computerized, as well as the extent of computerization in each area, are increasing day by day. In this era of internet and open-source technologies, new technologies are being invented continually and are disrupting the way things are done both from the end-users perspective and IT professional’s perspective.

With these disruptions and fast-expanding IT industry, there is a need for skilled/re-skilled workforce for several IT areas, be it for newer technologies like Blockchain, IOT, Machine Learning, Big Data, or older technologies.

Eduvoice Understanding The Needs And Bridging The Gap!!

To have a better understanding of these recent technologies, we at Eduvoice invite corporate leaders of this field and try to get their insights about this domain and what all skills a fresher should possess in his/her arsenal to fetch a job for themselves. The purpose behind this is to create a bridge between the Industrial sector and the Educational sector.

Let’s Get To Know Mr. Phani Arega

We had the humbling opportunity of interviewing Mr. Phani Arega, who is an Inspiring Leader and Senior Techno Managerial Executive with over 25 years of Software Industry experience across the USA and India, across MNCs and startups.

He is a subject matter expert in blockchain, databases and Big Data. He is a technical editor of books, author of magazine articles, blogger, and speaker in these areas. Mr. Arega has filed 2 patents and at present, he is Senior Vice President, responsible for Engineering at Zebi Data (www.zebi.io).

IT industry

Zebi is a 5-year-old company specializing in blockchain and Big Data solutions to corporates and governments. Phani has worked with Oracle, Quest Software, TCS in the past.

He was kind enough to share his journey with us. Mr. Arega joined IIT Madras in 1990; back when there were only 5 IITs in India. He said that the semester system and peer environment in IIT were a good source of learning for him. He graduated in 1994 (in the pre-MNC era for the Indian IT industry).

He joined Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), where he had the necessity as well as an opportunity to learn a lot in the software field. In that pre-internet era, the method of learning was through books and hands-on exercises and peer discussions. In the year 2000, he resigned from TCS and moved to Silicon Valley and joined a start-up there.

Working with diverse peers (Americans, Russians, Israelis, Chinese, Indians) was also a good learning experience for him, as work cultures and strengths differed across them. He returned to India in 2004 to stay with his family. Phani then joined the Oracle Corporation and worked there till 2015.

In 2015, he joined Zebi Data that specializes in areas of Blockchain and BigData. He joined Zebi as the second employee and built the Engineering team there from scratch. Working on these bleeding edge technologies was a different ball game as most times it isn’t possible to hire folks with strong skills and experience in the technology.

“I believe that on-job learning is the way to go while working with recent technologies.“

When asked for his opinion on the relevancy of things learned in higher education to the actual Industry, He went on to explain that there are 2 aspects of it:

Firstly, learning that occurs during school, college is not just about technical subject knowledge. Besides that, generic knowledge in mathematics, English applies to any profession. Soft skills like working in a team, planning and organizing, competitive spirit, dealing with peer-pressure, understanding the dignity of labor, games, extracurricular skills in arts, oratory, etc. are also taught.

IT industry

This aspect of learning is relevant and implicitly helps during the job in the industry. He gave an example of how a student that attended school full time and stayed in a hostel is likely to be more street-smart compared to a student who is home tutored completely.

Mr. Arega informed us about the second aspect, which is technical knowledge in specific subjects. Here, the relevance of the things taught in higher education to what is applied in the industry varies across different domains. For instance in subjects like Structural Engineering, Mathematics, Physics, Literature, Metallurgy, Anatomy it could be on a higher side, whereas in subjects like software, Electronics the relevance would be on lesser.

A Word About Higher Education From TheIndustry

When Mr. Arega was asked about whether the higher education curriculum needs an upgrade, he answered that in several subjects curriculum needs continual updates because the technology landscape and industry keep changing in those areas.

A one-time revision is not sufficient. The Education system should be agile to incorporate new technologies into the curriculum quickly without a high time lag. The system should also weed out no-longer relevant subjects from the curriculum regularly.

Secondly, the mode of teaching and evaluation methods also need to be updated. For scalability, agility, and social distancing reasons (in the Covid19 era) online mode of teaching should increase.

Phani believes that the weightage of information-seeking questions in written exams should be reduced as it only tests the amount of knowledge crammed in by students. Instead of this, the emphasis should be on how well the student applies his knowledge to address a situation/problem, leverages his creativity, etc.

There should also be a high emphasis on practical assignments and long duration research projects where their knowledge is put to practice. They reinforce the conceptual understanding as well as make a person aware of related pitfalls.

Mr. Arega added that there should be an adequate focus on the development of Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Quotient (EQ) besides technical knowledge and Intelligence Quotient (IQ).

Also, Universities should take up more research projects for industry. This also gives additional funding to the University besides giving industrial exposure to the students.

He highlighted that one’s expectation from school and higher education curriculum should be reasonable. It is unrealistic to expect that 3 to 6 years of higher education during a person’s late teens provides all the learning needed for the rest of the person’s life.

We should reconcile to the fact that continuous on-job learning is a must. Sometimes even unlearning (of outdated methods, paradigms) is needed. We should expect school and higher education to only provide a foundation that enables future learning.

For an IT Professional, learning is not a one-time destination. It is a continual journey.

He said that there should also be a mindset change on the timing of higher education. Higher education needn’t necessarily be done in between one’s undergrad completion and one’s first full-time job.

The higher education after several years of work experience should be encouraged both by academia and industry as that is more fruitful with a high degree of relevance between what is learned in the curriculum and what is needed next on the job.

academic year

It’s because, at that stage, one would join programs relevant to their present/next job and at that level of awareness, besides learning a technology one can also see beyond the technology and understand how the technology brings business values.

Such education could be a degree/diploma program OR a long research project. It could be a full-time affair during a sabbatical OR a part-time affair.

What Are Things The Supply Chain And Big Data Field Are Looking For In A College PassOut?

We then asked Mr. Arega about the skill set that a fresher should possess to function effectively and efficiently in the domain of Big Data. To this, he replied that the student needs to possess strong analytical and problem-solving skills (aptitude), programming skills, and soft skills like communication skills, Emotional quotient, and dedication.

Area-specific skills like supply chain domain business knowledge or skills in one or more of Big Data technologies like NoSQL databases, Hadoop, Spark are secondary and are nice to have; because it is believed that once a candidate is strong in the important skills mentioned above, he/she can be trained with low investment on these area-specific skills.

Phani says that it is difficult to test dedication during the hiring process, while strong analytical and problem-solving skills can be tested through written tests while hiring. One can evaluate the above mentioned from students’ academic scores and questioning candidates in his core subjects to find conceptual clarity.

Mr. Arega’s Say On Eduvoice And It’s Initiative.

Mr. Arega appreciated Eduvoice and its initiative. He informed us that such third-party entities that provide objective feedback without any conflict of interest are a good thing for the Educational system and nation

Credits:

Moderated By: Jayesh Pawar
Arranged By: Piyush Mohanty

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