Vineet Nayar: Most American grads are ‘unemployable’

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First off, I have nothing but respect for one of India’s most successful people in the world. In fact, I’ve made another blog post about the success of Mr Nayar. However, I strongly disagree with what Mr Nayar claims here.

…The official wanted to know why HCL, a $2.5 billion (revenue) company with more than 3,000 people across 21 offices in 15 states, wasn’t hiring more people in his state. Vineet’s short answer: because most American college grads are “unemployable.” (In fairness to HCL, the company recently announced plans to open a delivery center in another state, North Carolina, and invest $3.2 million and hire more than 500 employees there over the next five years under a Job Development Investment Grant.)

Many American grads looking to enter the tech field are preoccupied with getting rich, Vineet said. They’re far less inclined than students from developing countries like India, China, Brazil, South Africa, and Ireland to spend their time learning the “boring” details of tech process, methodology, and tools–ITIL, Six Sigma, and the like.

And Indians and Chinese and Brazilians are NOT? The entire reason why a good majority of Indian grads are even approaching software houses is because they offer the best pay for their knowledge and services. And that too for fairly low end work that is usually present in them.

And even worse is the fact that he classifies that “ITIL, Six Sigma, etc,” as boring. In this case, about 90% of the Indians in these software houses have NO frickin’ clue on how to write good code. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that. For ITIL and Six Sigma, they are not aware of basic quality processes and follow them on a rote model if instructed in written points pasted across bulletin boards.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that American grads are better than Indian grads. We have some of the most technically gifted people on the planet, however, much like how we cannot generalize how Indian IT workers are software coolies, we cannot say that American grads are unemployable? If American grads did not have the skills, how come most of the world is running on Windows or the Mac, or Google became such a powerhouse or facebook and twitter and tumblr are taking over the world?

As a result, Vineet said, most Americans are just too expensive to train–despite the Indian IT industry’s reputation for having the most exhaustive boot camps in the world. To some extent, he said, students from other highly developed countries fall into the same rut.

In an interview following his presentation, Vineet said HCL and other employers need to have a greater influence on the tech curricula of U.S. colleges and universities, to make them more real-world and rigorous. For the most part, he said, those institutions haven’t been receptive to such industry partnerships.

Holy crap a moley. Why would they want to tarnish American institution reputation? The Indian institutes save for those IITs and those BITs etc have the awesome reputation of churning out mindless coding zombies who don’t ask a question, but can churn out code at mindnumbingly fast rates (of course with poor quality: bugs are the way maintenance guys make money) and can pore through oodles of freakshow documentation. And why don’t they first try and work with Indian institutions to make THEM real world capable first. How many Indian grads truly understand what’s happening in the world today? Are they aware of coding quality standards, processes, project management, algo analysis and design, compiler theory, languages, PERL, Python Ruby? How many of them really work on true projects and come up with awesome stuff during their college days?

I will concede a point to Mr Nayar though, yes, the Americans are over all more expensive and for an Indian IT powerhouse that relies on low-cost model to win contracts, it doesn’t make sense to hire an American grad and pay them through the nose.

Again, I am not claiming that every American grad is better than the Indian grad, but first look inside and change the things before pointing fingers. This all seems like a very impromptu reaction to why they are not hiring American grads in HCL?

More broadly, Vineet echoed the concerns expressed by other CEOs, including SAS Institute’s Jim Goodnight and Cisco’s John Chambers, about the failure of the U.S. education system to prepare the country’s next-generation tech workforce (a subject Goodnight and others will dive into at the InformationWeek 500 Conference, Sept. 13 to 15).

Seems like an also-ran case. What Jim Goodnight and John Chambers were referring to was a problem that is facing not only America, but India as well and relates to the overall poor situation in technical education. Good God man, you should’ve at least made the point clear.

Beyond the need to bolster competencies in math, the hard sciences, and basic problem solving, U.S. schools at all levels must place a greater emphasis on global history, foreign languages, and other subjects that prepare students for jobs and life outside this country. How many grads of U.S. colleges are ready or even willing to work abroad? Vineet asked rhetorically. “We need to define the American dream to be more global in nature,” he said.

Again, please look at the Indian state of education before shouting at some other country’s education system. What the heck do we do better that we can claim such things. If anyone has been following the global news and Obama’s speeches, they can state what Mr Nayar has said. So he hasn’t really said anything so precocious that everyone needs to react.

To tie it all together, let me reiterate that I am not claiming the American education system or the American graduates are superior to home grown “techie geniuses.” All I am saying is that Mr Nayar should have at least referred to the Indian education system and considered before lambasting the American education system. Furthermore, he should also make genuine efforts from HCL and all other tech companies side to truly make the Indian education system world class.

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19 thoughts on “Vineet Nayar: Most American grads are ‘unemployable’

  1. Hiranya

    I think this quote has been taken out of context… the same article is being dissected by most IT bloggers. As a former journalist it is only fair to hear all aspects. I googled Vineet and found his blog giving the bigger picture of the whole issue… chk it out: http://vineet.hclblogs.com/

    • Priya bhavani

      Really, This fellow Vineet does not deserve all the praise that is being heaped on him. What’s with him commenting on the employability of American graduates, when his people dont know what kind of candidates their offices need? Managers in HCL (Vineet is no exception, I presume) are Stupid, scycophant and have absolutely no ethics!

      My close relative was working with a multinational manufacturing company in a very good role. He had been with the company for more than a decade, and had excellent career prospects there. Although he had no background in software development, HCL wooed him a huge pay packet and promises of complete training in a software package designed for the manufacturing sector for which they were expecting an order. (This was sometime in Nov, when recession had already started) My husband joined, there was no training and no project (The project got delayed due to the recession) and six months down the line, he was forced to resign saying that he had no software development skills, and hence it would be difficult to fit him elsewhere!

      The gall of these people! Why recruit when you have no clear idea of what you want?? Do you have any idea at all how much of anxiety and pain you have caused to families of employees who have been laid off?

      And to top it all, This fellow Vineet goes around claiming there’s been no layoffs in HCL!

      This company stinks, and Nayar is an even bigger stinker who has no right to go about commenting on anybody’s employability till he takes a good hard look at his own ethics!

  2. pallavi

    The education investments we make in youths of today across the world including India is not in step with business needs and thus creating the challenge of employability. The real debate is how to fix this challenge rather than getting into country specific coments.

    I googled and reached Vineet Nayar’s blogpost on this subject http://vineet.hclblogs.com/ .

  3. themattreid

    Agreed, I think Vineet needs to look much closer at Indian education. 90% of techs that I have worked with in India have been fine with following mindless processes but fail at the most basic complex problem solving and creativity. And the code I’ve seen from those places, horrorshow; I’d hate to have to maintain those apps.

    • At the same time, you’ve got to admit that mediocrity is found everywhere. It’s just that you really cannot generalize countries or institutions based on that. I am not saying that Indians are mindless zombies. (although it may have come out that way). There are amazing guys who churn out brilliant code.

  4. Jeb

    Having worked in a shop that progressively outsourced to India, here’s my experience. We Americans were made responsible for project management, while we were supposed to spec out tasks for the Indian counterparts. By the time we spec’d out the programs/reports/changes to the degree where we’d get something back we could use without exhaustive modification or correction, we were better off writing it ourselves and keeping it mum from management. Very frustrating. High turnover at the Indian company, poor language skills and slam-it-in coding techniques with no thought of the big picture. That’s what I had to deal with. I don’t think the Indians I worked with were “unemployable” or stupid; I think the culture there is geared toward high-output, quick-turnaround without the same regard to quality or ease of maintenance.

    • By the time we spec’d out the programs/reports/changes to the degree where we’d get something back we could use without exhaustive modification or correction, we were better off writing it ourselves and keeping it mum from management. Very frustrating. High turnover at the Indian company, poor language skills and slam-it-in coding techniques with no thought of the big picture.

      I can relate to that.

      At the same time, as I am going through the thread and posting, it’s wrong to generalize us Indians as well. We are definitely good at creative thinking. We provide innovative solutions and most definitely have good language skills. I am a proud Indian myself.

  5. Vindaloo

    “If American grads did not have the skills, how come most of the world is running on Windows or the Mac, or Google became such a powerhouse or facebook and twitter and tumblr are taking over the world?”

    Come on. That’s like saying “If America has an obesity problem then how come Lance Armstrong exists?”

    • Alan

      “If American grads did not have the skills, how come most of the world is running on Windows or the Mac, or Google became such a powerhouse or facebook and twitter and tumblr are taking over the world?”

      Come on. That’s like saying “If America has an obesity problem then how come Lance Armstrong exists?”

      ==>Not so. It’s more like saying If America has a problem with MARATHON ATHLETES then how come Lance Armstrong exists?

      The athletes are a welcome contrast to America’s obesity problem for sure, but you have to use a comparable correct analogy. The USA school system today is for sure sorely handicapped, but there are still some shining techs..

  6. SteveBrooklineMA

    No self-respecting CS department at a college or university in the US is going to teach students how to use commercial products such as SAS or .net framework. Broad concepts are taught instead. One would have to go to an IT trade school, not a university, to get that kind of training.

    If the situation is different in India, then perhaps this is what Mr. Nayar means.

    • Hi Steve,

      I agree with you that CS departments would never have a technology oriented course development. Mr Nayar fails to understand that. And it’s no different in a good majority of the Indian colleges.

      The methods of teaching, the rigor and the analysis involved, coupled with the expertise of the teacher themselves make a huge difference. However, the students who are really interested in learning computer science do come out with amazing knowledge.

      Thanks for your comment.

  7. aamaadmi

    Buddy Guruji,

    Why dont you take a hike before being writing something which is far from truth..read about IIT and see what even foreign scholars say about it.

    Guys like you who start ridiculing India and the aspects of it the moment they take their flight out need a bit of more education rather.

    For the record, I am not IITian but I am proud that IIT is showing way to world how technology is harnessed for mankind and not just lured by greedy and instincts of MS and Co.

    You better settle in America..India is better off without people like you.

    Best
    The common Man

  8. EXE

    Some of the posters who are defending Vineet are from HCL’s PR department. Vineet Nayar has never studied in an US university. He is totally ignorant about American Education system. He is nothing buy an ego centric CEO who uses his marketing department to self promote himself!!

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