We must have seen number of candidates who despite excellent academic records and technical knowledge fail to get the perfect job. The main reasons for this is lack of soft and interpersonal skills. To understand what are the skills that are missing in candidates in electronics design industry, how can academia improve this and about the hiring trends Ankita KS from EFY Group had an interaction with Libby Gribben, Vice President Global HR, Xilinx and Siddharth Rele, Sr. Director Engineering, Xilinx India. Excerpts follow…
Q: What are the hiring trends and the technology skill sets that are in demand in the electronics design industry today?
The hiring trends with respect to technologies we see in the electronics design industry today are artificial intelligence (AI), database, data analytics, vision, machine learning, shift from domain to applications. The knowledge and exposure of open source is also becoming one of the requirements. We also see a demand for more diversified experience professionals than specialised or domain experts.
The key technology skill sets in demand in the industry today also include machine learning, algorithm development, vision analytics, storage, security, high speed systems design, high speed networking.
Q: What is the trend in the hiring process you see in the electronics design industry today?
Hiring requires focus on multiple fronts. Traditional approaches such as job portals, walk-ins, campus placements continue to be important ways to hire in the industry. Given the fast-evolving nature of the work as well as trends in social networking, existing employees in the company continue to be source of hiring by way of referral. The work culture, cutting edge technologies and general policies are critical for employees to feel like they are at home and to want to refer their friends and acquaintances.
Q: How would you advise an aspirant on the right steps to follow while applying for a job in the electronics design sector?
One word for any new job aspirant would be “curiosity”. The world and job markets are changing at a rapid pace. People are no longer doing the same job that were considered premium five or ten years ago. Automation is moving up at a rapid pace too and every job is replaced with higher value in a short period of time. Having the necessary flexibility and adapting to change is going to be critical for getting hired and moving up in the organization.
To be a successful designer or software developer, one needs to have deep technical knowledge of their area. This technical knowledge can be in the area of digital design, analog, firmware development and tool development. In addition to that, it’s also critical to have a good understanding of business aspects for the area they are in. Good interpersonal and teaming skills are no longer optional and are important for everyone irrespective of their role in the organization.
Q: IoT is considered an amalgamation of electronics, datacom and IT. Out of these three–which one is going to be the main achilles heel for the IOT sector, in terms of the ready availability of good talent pool?
One of the key factors for success of IoT would be the usability of various devices. While electronics and data-communication are important, if we don’t have the right applications and user interfaces for IoT technologies, they will not succeed. A device can serve multiple functions and once infrastructure is laid, data-communication challenge would also be served. But the usage of IoT devices would be quite varied requiring a customisation for usage in various applications and hence requiring IT expertise in addition to application domain knowledge. This would be hard to acquire in the market.
Q: What steps can academic institutions take to bridge the industry-academia gap for the electronics design sector?
Academia can play a pivotal role in shaping the future of technology and overall industry. While industries have to focus on profits and revenues, academia needs to focus on both long-range solutions as well as developing skilled workers for the new age. Academia cannot produce the right skill-sets for the industry unless there is a strong partnership between industry-academia. There is a need for sustained partnership in the form of more labs, internships, subsidised tools/boards.
Industry and Academia should also look at forging a longer-term contract/partnership for solving the difficult problems that the world will see in some time (Eg. Autonomous driving for a country like India, sustainable and renewal energies, clean and smart cities, improved health care). The current industry-academia relationship can be termed as too tactical and is focussed on one internship/one project rather than looking at longer ranger partnership. Indian institutions have traditionally focussed on producing graduates (Bachelor’s) and entry level skills in the market. With trend moving towards more products and deeper knowledge, there is a need for academia to focus more on research-oriented education and increase the PhD enrolment.
Q: Is ‘quality talent’ a challenge that embedded and IoT players are going to face in India?
“Quality talent” is a subjective term. While we get some bright students, the percentage of ready-employable talent in the industry is quite low. Most engineers must be re-educated as per need in the job and that can take away valuable time and resources from the companies. While a lot of employees focus on their work, they don’t pay as much attention to the softer skills such as verbal and written Communication. They lack exposure to the corporate culture.
Q: What would be your advice to professionals working in electronics, IT sector or even pure semiconductor and eyeing a role in the IoT space? Should they prepare themselves for making a switch? How?
The key advice would be “Be Adaptable”. What you do today is going to be obsolete in the near future. Keeping learning new technologies, try to see what’s going on in the industry. Look for trends in adjacent industries and see if they can be applied to your industry and your area of work.
Q: What would be your advice to the academia–how should they reinvent their curriculum to create techies suitable for the IOT industry?
Build more research and industrial laboratories, invite the industries to participate in research and mentoring programs, develop internships, scholastic trainee models with the companies.
Q: Are you hiring or planning to hire talent for your IoT and semiconductor business at your company? If yes, can you share estimated numbers to be hired within the next 2 years?
Yes, we plan to hire overall 500 new employees.
Q: If yes, what are the type of roles for which you’re planning to hire? Can you share a brief idea about what these roles entail?
We plan to hire complex algorithm developers, large software architecture developers, system software and firmware developers, DevOps as well as Chip design these roles to contribute to AI/ML technology solutions, as well as building an infrastructure for large set of applications through data-centre and compute capabilities.
Q: Any key technology skill sets that you’re seeking amongst the would-be hires at your company?
Complex datastructures, algorithm development skills, systems architecture understanding, agile coding, adapting to the newer technologies are the key technology skills we are seeking.
Q: Do you have a formal Internship programme to train freshers for the industry? If yes, can you share how’s it designed to actually make them industry-ready?
Yes, we do have two types of formal internship program.
Summer Internship is a 4 weeks program, as part of this program we rotate students with different project teams and business groups with an objective to provide a glimpse of corporate culture and Project Team experience.
Six months internship program, that we normally offer to students who are in the final semester. We assigned them to projects team for deeper learning on technologies and to get experience of working with a project team. They get an experience of working on live projects and they get deeper understanding of Technologies.
Q: Can any student apply for your internship programme? If yes, how? If not, how do you select your interns?
We hire interns only through our preferred list of colleges. We work through the college placement cell to hire interns. Process is similar like we hire fresh college grades.
Q: Do you hire only from top Tier 1 college, or even Tier 2 and Tier 3 college is fine?
We mostly hire from tier 1 and 2 colleges.
Q: Over your decades of years of experience in the Industry, what are the key mistakes that you have seen made by the candidates?
Candidate normally prepares well for technical interview, but they often miss some small but important criterias like gathering information about the company they are interviewing for. They don’t pay attention on job description and most of the time its due to last minute interview preparation.