Mehul Shah

Director of Technology (IoT Business Unit) at Cognizant Technology Solutions

Q. For our readers, can you tell us about your job profile and elaborate on the industry you are currently working in?

I am a Director of Technology in the Internet of Things business unit at Cognizant Technology Solutions and am based in the US. I work with our client across various industries like manufacturing, retail, consumer goods, etc. helping them define and develop Internet-of- Things based solutions leveraging the latest of the technologies to address their business problems.

Q. What are the upcoming domains, technologies and skill sets in the industry that are high in demand right now and expect an even further surge in the coming years?

The technology has advanced very rapidly over the last few decades. Organizations across different industries are looking to use the technology not just to run their business efficiently by managing transactions and maintaining various systems of records (like ERP, CRM, etc) but they want to use technologies in the areas of Internet-of- Things and Artificial Intelligence to collect various data related to their business that wasn’t possible before, generate unique insights and use that to transform their business providing different services and experiences to their customers (think Uber, Amazon, Netflix, etc). The underlying technologies that enable this like cloud computing, embedded engineering, communication, big data, data science, machine learning, natural language processing, deep learning, etc are in high demand and will only surge further in the coming years.

Q. How big is the gap between the average quality of engineers in our country and the required level in the industry? What steps can the government and colleges take to reduce this gap?

I graduated out of an engineering college in India more than 20 years back and haven’t worked closely with fresh engineers from colleges there for a long time. So, I am not fully aware but the general perception in the industry is that the average quality of engineers from Indian colleges is not great given the volume / rate at which new engineers are produced. It’s been more about quantity than quality. It is unfair to expect that fresh graduates would match the quality of experienced engineers. But to reduce the learning curves, the academic program in the college should be designed to ensure that the students develop strong fundamentals as well as learn how to apply technology to solve real world problems. I believe the work needs to be done to address the later, and it can be done by introducing more projects-based learning and enforcing internship programs.

Q. How important are soft skills to become successful in any industry? How do you think colleges can prepare students better and improve this aspect (soft skills)? 

The soft skills are extremely important to be successful in the real world. You always interact with your team members, other teams and your users / customers. Hence your interpersonal, communication and presentation skills are as important as your technical skills. It is one skill to come up with a great technical solution and it is another to articulate its value to your team members and to the users.
The colleges can prepare their students better by organizing group projects, mandatory presentations, group discussions etc. so that students learn to work in team environment, communicate ideas and share opinions.

Q. What advice would you like to give to an engineer who is in the first or second year of his/her course?

You have just started your journey. Keep an open mind and make the best use of the opportunity you have to learn new things and make sure you develop strong fundamentals because it is easy to develop new skills if your foundation is strong.
Focus on all-round development and develop other “non-technical” skills by participating in various activities. Don’t think too far ahead about your dream job or MS / MBA degrees. Your interest and aptitude will evolve over a period of time and you will get enough opportunities to pursue any specific goals.