Campus Conversations starts off with a bang!

March 21, 2010 at 11:04 am 13 comments

It was my first visit to the FAST-NUCES main campus in Karachi. I had been to the City campus many times but somehow the trek out to the National Highway had always put  me off. On 17th March I realized that the campus wasn’t really as far as I had thought. It only took Yusuf Jan and myself 45 minutes to get there. So now that the fear of the unknown is behind me, I guess the second and third visits will not be that tough to undertake :).

This was the first in a series of P@SHA-CIO Campus Conversations, the purpose of which is to try and bridge the gap between industry professionals and the faculty and students at the Universities throughout Pakistan – one of the initiatives that will hopefully address the HR and Recruitment problems that everyone complains about.

The panelists from the industry included myself, Yusuf Jan, Head of MIXIT Technologies (and current Chairman of P@SHA), Ashar Zaidi, Country Manager Intel Pakistan;; Rahim Lalani Head of TRG Tech; and Danish Nafay, Deputy Manager SBS at National Foods Limited.

From the academia side, the representatives included Professor Zafar Nasir, Head of Department (CS), Dr. Zubair Sheikh, Director FAST Karachi Campus, Amna Ali, Ravendar Laal, Taha Rafiq and Sohaib Qamar.

I will not go into a blow -by-blow account of what was said, and by whom, because that is all available in the videos that have been uploaded at the CIO Webstudio. However, I just wanted to mention some of the highlights. A more complete coverage with photos is available at http://ciopakistan.com/2010/03/campus-conversations-goes-to-fast/.

The faculty and the students were very welcoming and, as always, it was a pleasure to be amongst bright youngsters who would soon be a part of our industry. The industry representatives started by explaining their domain areas and the kind of work that was done in their organisations. This was important so that the kids would know what kind of work scenario awaited them. Their mantra was that they were all looking for smart, committed, enthusiastic and hardworking young people who wanted to do something in their lives.

Rahim Lalani, head of TRG Tech, insisted that the GPA was one of the things that he considered before interviewing an applicant for a job – his reason was that since they were all smart kids (getting into one of the best tech schools in the country was indicative of that, he said), and they had such good faculty, a low GPA could only mean one thing – that they had been lazy and had not worked hard enough – and he didn’t want lazy people on his team.

The other industry players placed less emphasis on the GPA and more on problem solving skills (which Rahim also looks for), and the ability to learn & imbibe new things and to communicate and work with teams of people.

Yusuf Jan was of the opinion that most of our youngsters spoke better English than was spoken in metropolitan cities like New York so they didn’t have to be hesitant and tentative.

FAST has started language classes because of feedback from industry that kids lacked sufficient communication skills. My take is that it is not only the language, it is the communication area that is weak –  the inability of most youngsters to convey an idea in 30 – 60 seconds in any language! But then how many professionals can do that? :)

Some of the kids felt that there weren’t sufficient internship opportunities provided by industry and hence they lacked the knowledge of the real world workplace. One student asked why industry players expected graduates to be ready and productive as soon as they left university. Why did they not feel that it was their responsibility to train youngsters who joined their organisations for six months?

Danish Nafay of National Foods said that the corporate sector usually did not hire fresh graduates. It was only after youngsters had spent 3 years in a software company that the corporates picked them up.  Mixit and TRG Tech had hired throughout the depression and continued to be on a recruitment drive – but they said they only hire the best, the smartest,  thinking, indquisitive and problem-solving young minds who were high achievers and hard workers.

One thing that struck me was that the youngsters were unsure of what awaited them. Some of them had chosen computer science without actually knowing what careers were available, others didn’t know the technology landscape. Book learning is important but a holistic knowledge of the business and societal problems that technology can solve, is extremely important. This was echoed by one of the kids when he said “I am confused – tell me what I should do”.

Some of these young people were already working on developing applications and products and needed guidance and direction. Others needed career counseling.

One thing was for sure. Industry needed to increase its interaction with these young people. I know some of us speak at universities and go to view and assess final year projects but a more concerted effort is needed to keep the conversation going, and to finding solutions.

The solutions that were offered included:

P@SHA will start an online mentoring network for kids who needed advice on careers or projects
P@SHA will start a P@SHA University Chapter – the first one being at FAST Karachi
P@SHA will also start a series of regular tech talks and business interaction with universities – Mixit Technologies will be sending their team to FAST in April, TRG Tech will do also send a speaker. They have already been doing so. We will now start signing up other CEOs, CTOs and Project Managers from across the country and will ensure that regular sessions are conducted at different universities.

Asher Zaidi offered his time for a session at the City Campus and Danish Nafay also said that he would run a session.

I think the “conversation ” has started off well. The next one is at NED University on the 27th – and the journey will continue ….

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13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Campus Conversations starts off with a bang! | Tea Break  |  March 21, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    […] This cup of tea was served by: In the Line of Wire […]

    Reply
  • 2. Anum  |  March 21, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    it seems to be an excellent session thtoughout. Wish you all the luck Ma’am!! :)

    Just a little correction: From the academia side, one of the representaives is Amna Ali,not Jamal.

    Reply
  • 3. TARIQUE AFTAB  |  March 22, 2010 at 8:19 am

    It’s a wonderful start. The first step is so strong and appreciated. There is a bright light shinning ahead.

    Reply
  • 4. Ansar Muhammad  |  March 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Wow. Sounds like a great success!!
    I would like to offer my services and be part of the online mentoring network

    Reply
  • 5. Jehan  |  March 22, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks for the correction Anum. Apologies Amna.

    @Tarique thank you. We will certainly keep trying.

    @Ansar, you are on! I will send you a brief form to fill up. GIve me a few days to get myself organized. Have a bit of travel on the cards. We are fortunate that people of your calibre are volunteering.

    Reply
  • 6. Sadia Sikander  |  March 24, 2010 at 11:41 am

    it was a great initiative taken by you people and very productive for the young cream out there which was considered lucky enough to have such session helping them out in this competitive world.

    Being NEDian, i would like to be a part of this wonderful team and my services are always available.

    Reply
  • 7. Qazi Atiq  |  March 24, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    wow good to hear that, count me in for any help or volunteer time you need.

    Reply
  • 8. M. Ali Nasim (Ephlux)  |  March 24, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Great initiative!

    This year we’ve planned for an ‘on-campus internship program’ for our company. Its heartening to hear about ‘Campus Conversations’.

    I think the next logical step is to set up some on-campus incubators where the industry can volunteer resources to provide hands-on-training to the students in their final years.

    Reply
  • 9. Rakesh  |  March 27, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    FAST-NU is my alumni and this conversation that you’ve had should happen regularly and should be entirely institutionalized both on industry and academic institutes’ side.

    GPA does indicate due diligence in academics but I have known examples whereby my peers were brilliant at their niche but did not like the way teachers would teach courses and the topics covered in the courses to begin with, so they would go and do things their own way. They’d learn much more than any other student in the class but score an average grade.

    Keep it up Jehan. More power to you!

    Reply
  • 10. Mohammad Arif  |  March 28, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    At the end of the day, I would rather say “I appreciate this initiative”

    Reply
  • 11. fatima  |  March 31, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    LUMS Computer Science Department Open Day & Admissions

    LUMS School of Science and Engineering’s Computer Science Department is one of the strongest in the country with the best curriculum and research active faculty along with excellent placement after graduation. The School of Science and Engineering gives its graduates an edge over others with its focus on research and the vision to produce scientists who will eventually help the country in its social and economic development.

    The Computer Science department at LUMS offers a choice of MS and PhD Degree in:

    Computer Science
    Computer Engineering

    Apply online at http://www.lums.edu.pk by 9th of April, 2010

    LUMS would like to invite students, parents, faculty of colleges/universities, student counselors, programme coordinators and HR heads to meet our computer science faculty and receive detailed insight about the programmes offered and the strengths of the Department in Islamabad and Karachi on the following dates and venues:

    Date Venue Time Session
    Saturday, April 3rd, 2010 Bahria University, Islamabad 11:00am – 1:00pm
    3:00pm – 5:00pm
    Saturday, April 4th, 2010 Regent Plaza Hotel, Karachi 2:00pm – 4:00pm

    Regards,

    Omair Ahmed Rao
    Marketing Officer
    Resource Development and Alumni Affairs
    Lahore University of Management Sciences
    Tel # 042-5608000 Ext: 4211

    Reply
  • 12. Fari  |  April 11, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    This was grand success! One of the most publicly acclaimed happenings in the auditorium of FAST NUCES.

    Keep up the good work!

    Regards,

    Farrukh Zafar.

    Reply
  • 13. andreyza  |  May 16, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply to my concern.I think your post is very useful and I always waited for updates from your

    Reply

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