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``Soft skills will clinch the job deal''

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WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: S. Venkatesh, Sr. vice-president, NIIT, at The Hindu Education Plus Career Fair 2006 in Chennai on June 4. Photo: V. Ganesan
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: S. Venkatesh, Sr. vice-president, NIIT, at The Hindu Education Plus Career Fair 2006 in Chennai on June 4. Photo: V. Ganesan

NIIT senior vice-president S. Venkatesh was delightfully candid during an interactive session with students at The Hindu Education Plus Career Fair held recently.When a student asked him if extra courses outside of college were important, Mr. Venkatesh said, "If I were telling my daughter, I would ask her to hang on. Settle down in college, especially in the first year; make new friends and decide later if you want to take extra courses."He explained that it was important for engineering and technology students to understand whether their strengths lay in software, systems, IT enabled services or in newer fields such as multimedia and bioinformatics."Even a Biology student can be successful in an IT-related field. The key is to specialise in a subject of your choice and let IT invade into it," Mr. Venkatesh said. Bioinformatics and genetic engineering are sunrise research industries with plenty of potential, he added.He urged students to use the years in college to develop "self-learning capability and time management skills" that were essential habits for career growth.

Booming industry

According to reports from the National Association of Software and Service Companies, the IT industry had grown 32 per cent in the last fiscal (domestic 25 per cent and exports 33 per cent) and the projected growth for this year is 28 per cent (domestic 30 per cent and exports 28 per cent).As of March 2006, the workforce was one million. This is expected to grow to five million by 2010, Mr. Venkatesh said."The ratio of fresher versus lateral entry employees is 70:30 per cent in top IT companies," he said. The IT expert predicted good prospects for Chennai candidates, quoting industry pundits, who felt that the city had a relatively low cost of living, a talent pool with strong people skills and a trouble-free business environment.

Crucial skills

When students wanted to know if soft skills or tech skills were better, Mr. Venkatesh gave a lucid example. Tech skills were like the first 300 metres of a relay race whereas soft skills were similar to the final 100. "Soft skills could be the deciding factor whether you get a job or not," he quipped.As for the query whether a B.E. in IT was equal to an M.Sc in IT, Mr. Venkatesh explained, "Personally, I would say B.E. because it enhances analytical skills better." Irrespective of the course or branch that a student chose, what mattered in the end was the ability to demonstrate skills, he noted. For instance, a student may know C++ but it was crucial to be able to write effective programmes.Parents cannot solely decide what their wards should do. Students must ask themselves "What do I want to be?" and then work out a plan, were Mr. Venkatesh's words of advice to students.KANNAL ACHUTHAN


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