Saturday, January 28, 2017

Infosys, TCS not hiring as many - Is the Computer Science future doomed in India?

As I settled, with my book, in my favorite seat besides the big show window, in the coffee lounge that I frequent, heard someone call from behind, "Sir? Sir?". I turned and looked up. This was the girl from the coffee shop. "Sir, do you have some time? I need some advice". I had seen the girl in the shop for over a year. She had served me many times earlier. Yeah, sure, tell me. "Sir, I need internship in some company in HR department, can you help". That is how the conversation started. She had approached me since she had seen me many time before with books or with someone discussing business, so thought I might be able to help her with her internship. I found out that she had done engineering in electronics from a college near Chandigarh. She was working as an assistant brew master in the coffee shop. She had enrolled in a distance learning MBA in HR, for which she wanted to do internship in some company.

"Sir, this franchisee option would be perfect for you", said this salesman from Franchisee India. He was trying to get me to take franchisee of a brand. In the conversations, I figured that he was an electronics engineer from a University in Jalandhar. A girl he introduced me to, who was working with the brand as their channels manager, was his classmate, also an electronics engineer.

I have seen and met so many engineers, doing anything but engineering, that I am left wondering what did they really do with their 4 years of engineering in the college.

I had an opportunity to go to a few local engineering colleges where I was invited to give talk to the final year students. In the gatherings, all I could see was young faces, obediently sitting and listening.There was no spark, no inquisitive question, no telling of stories, no grand dreams.

The sad part of the story is students enroll into engineering courses to get jobs, not to engineer something great, something cool. Most go thru' the rigmarole of standard courses being taught since last many decades, without much understanding, with the hope that companies will come for campus recruitment, and that they will crack the interviews and get a job. The passion to know, to create, to innovate is sadly missing. Irony is, landing a good Job being the only objective of getting into engineering, makes it harder to get a job!

One thing that I hear these days that amuses me no ends, is that Computer Science is finished. See, Infosys, TCS, Wipros of the world don’t hire as many anymore. Automation is killing the jobs. Don't know if all the computer engineers will get the job or not. Big question mark written all over the face!!

Well, I know the answer, they won’t. Not because computer science is finished, but because they never really started learning or doing true computer science.

What for sure is going to go away is basic, entry level jobs. However, if you see, computer science is only starting now. Now is the most exciting times for computer science, enabled by immense processing power available on tap, extremely cheap all pervasive connectivity, huge amount of data to play with and online help available to learn new tools and techniques. With the availability of immense processing power, and availability of data that can be persisted, because of availability of cheap storage, problems that were considered too complex to be solved, just a few years back, are getting solved now with immense ease. Computers' intelligence is increasing exponentially as computers ingest huge amount of data and learn from it. Even earlier, we knew the theory of making computers learn, but we did not have the processing power nor enough data for computers to learn fast enough. Now, both the conditions have been met.

It is computers that drive cars, it is computers that now interpret your XRays and CT Scans. It is computers that write news stories and movie reviews. It is computers that run the stock markets. Computers, listen, see and respond. Improvements in these areas have happened over last few years, driven by the enablers I mentioned earlier. Remember those days when the computer could not understand the English we spoke, because of our Indian accent, well, all that is history, computers not only understand accents, they respond back in the accent of your choice.

Well, it is not just computer science, where exciting stuff is happening, equally interesting work is being done in almost all fields of engineering. Electrical - renewable energy, fusions, batteries for electric cars and so on. Electronics is all about the devices that are becoming more and more powerful and increasingly small, you don’t have to look further than your smart phone to realize the revolution electronics is bringing. Metallurgy is into finding and creating new materials that can be super conductors, materials that can be used for bendable screens etc. Heard of hyperloop? A near vacuum tube, wherein pods will transport passengers at speeds greater than the airlines. This would be one big Civil engineering marvel. Robotics is an amalgamation of Mechanical, Electrical, Electronics and Computer Science engineering areas. Companies for profit have been floated, to extend the human life to 500 years and ultimately for humans to live as long as they wish. These are not just some research projects, these are for profit ventures, in which people are putting serious money. Advancements in Biotechnology, requires cutting edge research in all areas of engineering, same for nanotechnology. Manufacturing and mechanical engineering going thru' revolution because of 3D printing.

I have barely scratched the surface, there are many more avenues. What is required is deep understanding of the area, going to the edge of the knowledge. Once there, seeking job is last of the problems.