December 21, 2006


Generalizations and assertions galore

Just like I hate to be a news-bot, I also hate to hitch a ride on somebody else's ideas in a blog. Nevertheless, here is another exception.

Rashmi Bansal writes a fine blog on interesting and original ideas. But, many a times, she jumps the line of making observations and makes sweeping generalizations & thoughtless assertions. While commenting on the placement stats of various IITs, she again crosses that line.

To begin with the subject line stinks of jealousy as the colloquially "chandi hona" is used to indicate an undeserving person walking away with more than fair share of something (exam grades, money, job, girlfriend,...). Many a times, I have seen this phrase being used by losers. Makes me wonder why she decided to chose those words to describe IITians landing up with plum jobs.

Then she goes on to describe IITians as "raw material" (her phrase) who undergo the patent-pending process at IIMs to get converted to "finished products"(my phrase), ready to be deliverd to Investment Bank from Manhattan. Earlier the financial/consulting giants used to visit IIMs for recruitment, but now they seem to be happy with "raw material", thus goes her thesis. Wonderful! Are these the new benchmarks of merit and talent? If yes, then should we label the arts/commerce/science/law graduates coming from India's good colleges as mineral-rich ore from mines in Dhanbad?

Oddly enough, “Only second-rate IITians now go to IIMs” is the stinker from an IITian.

Here is an assertion, packaged as common knowledge, blindingly obvious and generally accepted truth.
"Of course, no one from IIT will join an Indian software company today because the 'quality of work' sucks."
Sadly, this is an uninformed lie. So, how do we define Indian software company? One which has office in India and pays in INR; or the one which has parent in India and pays in INR? In my opinion, if I get an offer from a Bangalore/Pune/Hyderabad based software company, it is an Indian company for me.

And which are Tier-I software companies visiting the campuses? Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, Cisco, and more. These companies are generally get top slot in recruitment due to their compensation. Bunch of folks I know, directly and indirectly, working in these companies are happy with work. Almost all of my class-mates are in India. None, no exceptions, of them live with the crib - "quality of work sucks". Because in current job market if a qualified software engineer complains about quality of work that means either of the following. One, money is so freaking good that only a bozo will walk away from it. Or, two, he/she is really clueless and incompetent. Since, only smart IITians were under consideration, only first answer is plausible.

I don't write anything about work, but here is another exception. We have a good number of IIT graduates in our company. If only IITians are considered, we have rejected a few due to quality reasons. On the other hand, bunch of candidates rejected our offer on the grounds varying from "pay me an outrageous salary" to "start-ups are risky business." None of them due to "quality work sucks". In fact I would argue that there are lot of real techie jobs (ones which require skills of programming moderately complex recursion) but not enough quality candidates, including IITians. Even if one is ready to pay an obscene compensation!

And finally, oft-repeated lament on brain-drain.
"So honestly, I sense that IITs themselves are confused about what to do with this ardent courtship of its students by the free market. At the back of their mind lies the question, what about the 'T' in IIT."
The idea that IITians leaving technology industry is a brain drain belongs to Stone Age. Why is an honest, tax-paying IITian working for a financial giant considered less worthy? Will you put
Raghuram Rajan and the likes as testimony of brain-drain? Anyway, it is a topic of another post and not worth debating here.

The "T" needs in "IIT" needs evaluation, but not through the broken prism of placements. That needs to be judged on the basis of quality of research, as Prof Pankaj Jalote argues in an op-ed. IITs and IIMs need to move up from consumers to creators of knowledge.

Frankly, this kind of "controversial" post is similar to "Outlook" publishing sex survey with pictures of nude women - meaningless and cheap attempt to get attention. Watch out as the number of comments hit three-digit number. Only reason to type these few hundred words is to highlight the lapses in argument.

And, yeah Rashmi, I share your concern you expressed recently - "Are these institutes being rendered to glorified placement agencies?"

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