Taking up from where I left off last week. Based upon the analysis it appears that the dramatic growth in the IT Services industry in India is the primary force in shaping the Indian techie. The Indian techie is a bright person who did well in college, but even after a few years in the industry, is low on technical depth. Before he can really sink his teeth into something, he is pulled into project management. Not because Indians or Indian companies don’t care about technical depth, but because if they have to meet demand and grow, they have no choice. And to paraphrase Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street – Growth is good.
A study in contrasts is that other techie – the American techie. The first thing that is different about him is where he works (or she, I will use he for shorthand). The largest proportion of techies in the US work in software companies like Oracle and Microsoft. Then corporate IT, followed closely by IT Services. In India IT Services is the dominant force in the market for tech jobs. Software companies, typically, offshore development centers of US software majors, are a distant second. Corporate IT for Indian corporates barely registers on the radar.
The way a software organization is managed differs greatly between a software company and an IT Services company. The software company encourages its developers to be technically deep and develop domain knowledge. They will typically not move around from one area to another. In an IT Services company the ‘consultant’ must be flexible and be able to pick up a new technology, new domain quickly so that he can be made billable on the next project.
And so the American techie is typically narrow and deep – both on technology and domain. The Indian techie is high on ‘learnability’ but a generalist, who is sometimes afraid to do too many projects in one area, in case he gets ‘typecast’.
But even before they start working, there are basic differences between the American techie and the Indian techie. If there was a common GRE (or GATE) administered to all Indian and American techies before they started working, I am pretty sure that the mean score of all Indian techies would be higher that that of American techies. The many reasons you might hear for this a) education b) brains wired differently or c) food, are all wrong. I attribute this to a simple fact. An IT job in India is pretty much the best job you can get after your undergrad. Effectively, it is pulling students from the top quartile of the normal distribution of college grads. In the US, the top quartile of the normal distribution (which looks pretty much the same, I can assure you) has many other choices. Yes, some of them will go work for Google, but there are other lucrative and respected professions – law, medicine, high finance – all of which pay much more than a tech job.
There is a third important reason why the American techie is so different – growth, or in his case, the lack of it. The Indian tech industry is growing at 40%. If you net out job loss due to offshoring from the job creation due to growth in IT spends, I don’t believe there is much growth in the US tech industry. Using a spreadsheet similar to the one that I used for my earlier analysis, I came to some conclusions that are pretty close to what casual observation tells you.
The spreadsheet is here. I couldn’t embed a Zoho sheet because I had to use some more complex formulas. But here are the results.
1. Indian scenario – If you hold your span of control at 7, to support a growth rate of 40% you need to start promoting to first line project management at 4 years of experience.
2. American scenario – If you hold your span of control at 7, to support a growth rate of 10%, you can’t promote to first line project management before 12 years!
This of course assumes no attrition in both industries which is possibly close to being true for the Indian scenario (remember, here attrition is not company attrition), but is certainly not true in the US. Which is a good thing. If people didn’t leave the tech industry in the US, there’d be stagnation at every level.
Again, just to be clear, this is about broad trends across the industry. Firms and individuals will make their own choices, sometimes against the grain of what’s happening to them. More power to them. That’s how you break away from the pack.