The main problem faced by many engineers who aspire to build a career in the embedded industry is the lack of knowledge on what to do, how to prepare and where to look for jobs. With 30 plus years of experience in both the embedded Industry and in academia, Hemant Kamat, CTO, Shalaka Connected Devices and Guest Lecturer, BITS Pilani speaks to Ankita KS from EFY Group on the embedded industry recruitment trends, skillsets required in the IoT world, hiring process and the Shalaka’s internship program. Excerpts follow…
Q: What are the hiring trends with respect to technologies that you see in the Embedded systems industry today?
Employers today are looking at new talent in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) as deployed on Gateways and Edge Routers. They are also looking at multi-core programmers especially with skills in C++.
Q: What is the key technology skill sets that are in demand in the industry today?
The main skillsets in demand are as follows,
- Programming skills in C and C++.
- Deep understanding of AI and Machine Learning.
- Deep knowledge of ARM-based MPU and ARM Cortex-based MCU and SoC.
- Domain knowledge in Automotive, Medical Instrumentation, and Industrial Automation vis-a-vis Industrie 4.0.
Q: What are the embedded industry recruitment trends and hiring process you see today?
There are two main embedded industry recruitment trends. One is, the embedded industry has been generally hiring off campus. As the number of Engineers hired is much less than the IT industry, the hiring is generally through Jobs sites, Headhunters and Recruitment firms. Secondly, the Industry if, at all, hires freshers they are trained internally on the various embedded systems hardware and programming languages, as well as standards before the resources, are deployed.
Q: How would you advise an aspirant on the right steps to follow while applying for a job in the embedded sector?
The aspirant apart from the university education in Embedded Systems, needs to prepare through a finishing school before going for a career search. Embedded Engineers apart from knowledge of Electronics and Microprocessors and Microcontrollers also need an understanding of electromagnetics, sensors and transducers, Electromagnetic and Radio Interference (EMI/RFI), Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) and PCB design.
Q: IoT is considered an amalgamation of electronics, datacom and IT. Out of these three–which one is going to be the main Achilles heel for the IoT sector, in terms of the ready availability of good talent pool?
Electronics is the main pain point for the IoT sector. Traditionally, India has exposure to IT and Datacom to some extent. But there are many misgivings about the field of Electronics.
Q: Is ‘quality talent’ a challenge that embedded and IoT players are going to face in India?
Yes. There is a lack of understanding of fundamental theories and concepts in Electronics amongst the students coming out of many Universities. Lack of hands-on skills is conspicuous.
Q: What would be your advice to professionals working in electronics, IT sector or even pure embedded sector and eyeing a role in the IoT space? Should they prepare themselves for making a switch? How?
IoT is an amalgamation of technologies, there is no specific re-skilling required for either Embedded Systems Engineers or IT Engineers. They only need to understand the cross over paths and how integration needs to be done when data flows in either direction.
Q: What would be your advice to the academia–how should they reinvent their curriculum to create techies suitable for the embedded and IoT industry?
I would advise the Academia not to revamp the Embedded Systems curricula to meet industry requirement or the embedded industry recruitment trends. But, rather, ensure a strong foundation for the students coming to the industry. With my experience of 13 years in Academics, I am aware that there is so much knowledge to impart to students in so less time. If the Academia focuses on so-called leading-edge technologies, as is happening now, the students will lose on fundamentals and basic concepts which is dangerous for their career. The building will not stand or cope with disruptions if the foundation is not strong. Teaching the students “how to fish” is more important than “feeding them with fish every day”
Q: What steps can academic institutions take to bridge the industry-academia gap for the IoT sector?
Long duration internship programs are the way to go. This internship should be between Pre-final and Final year or AFTER the final year before the degree is awarded; like the Medical Education. An internship of a minimum of 3 to 6 months would be worthwhile. Anything less than that would spin the commercial business of selling Internship Certificates!!
The internship has an advantage that Industry can groom the candidate per their line of business and processes. The acquaintance of the Intern with the potential future employer could be beneficial to both.
Q: Are you hiring or planning to hire talent for your IoT and embedded business? If yes, can you share estimated numbers to be hired within the next 2 years?
Yes, we plan to hire talent for IoT and Embedded business. Our conservative target is to hire about 25 to 30 resources given the current market conditions
Q: If yes, what are the type of roles for which you’re planning to hire? Can you share a brief idea about what these roles entail?
We will hire for core Embedded Hardware Designers, Embedded Software Developers, Hardware Testing Specialists, Embedded Software Developers, and Cloud Programmers/Customisation Specialists and middle-level Team Leaders/Managers
The roles entail the stakeholders to develop embedded products in various domains based on a myriad of Microcontrollers using a plethora of sensors and communication interfaces and protocols. The paradigm of IoT and Industrial IoT is exciting and here to stay because of Industry 4.0 and mostly recession-proof!
Q: Any key technology skill sets that you’re seeking amongst the would-be hires?
Strong understanding of Analog and Digital Electronics, Electromagnetics, C/C++ and Python programming skills, Microprocessors and Microcontrollers
Q: Do you have a formal Internship program to train freshers for the industry? If yes, can you share how’s it designed to actually make them industry-ready?
Shalaka Connected Devices is a Design House. We service clients as well as develop in-house products. However, we are also aware that relation with Academics is essential for the Industry to sustain and survive. Our top Management Executives are on the Board of Study and Advisory Bodies of numerous Engineering Colleges and Private Universities in Maharashtra and Karnataka. We provide insights to the Academia about the industry requirements and the path it is taking which helps them in academic teaching as well as grooming the industry.
Yes, we have a formal Training and Internship Program at Shalaka Connected Devices. The Training Program is modular and progressively builds the expertise and skill sets in a fresher. We start with the Fundamentals of Embedded Systems, Communication Interfaces and Protocols and finally Real-time Systems. Custom programs for groups are available where we train on specific Microprocessors and/or Microcontrollers from various semiconductor manufacturers. The Batch size is limited to EIGHT.
After the training program, the trainee may opt for the Internship Program wherein we deploy the Intern with our Project teams and assign the Intern a part of the live project under the supervision of the Team Leader. The Intern is treated just like a fresh Employee and subjected to the same rigors as a hired Employee!
Q: Can any student apply for your internship program? If yes, how? If not, how do you select your interns?
Yes, a student can apply for Training or Internship program by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The student needs to attach the resume and a short Statement of Purpose detailing areas of interest
Q: Any unique hiring practice followed at Shalaka Connected Devices–to get the right candidates?
We prefer to hire through our Training and Internship program so that we are familiar with the temperament of the candidate as well as the knowledge and skills. The candidate is also aware of the company’s culture. This makes it a win-win situation for both.
Q: Over your decades of years of experience in the Industry, what are the key mistakes that you have seen made by the candidates? What would your advice be to them?
- Defocused learning: Students are confused about what they want to do and where they want to go. The reason, largely, is parental and peer pressure. Students should be counseled in a rational manner and then left to themselves to make decisions.
- Lack of Engineering Discipline: Students are very casual when it comes to designing their Resume, approaching a future Employer, attending Interviews and about the Work Culture in Offices. Engineering is not about learning technologies. It is also about Professional Discipline. This means a disciplined lifestyle, logical thinking, and methodical working.
- Salary is the main focus: While life nowadays is all about earning money and spending money and nothing is wrong about it; the focus in University and in early days of career should be to learn and update, understand the expectation of the industry and fall in line with the industry requirements. The rest will fall in place eventually. Worrying about salary hikes and jumping jobs in the early part of career has a detrimental impact on the long-term career which many are not aware initially. By the time effects become visible, they would have reached a point of no return.
Q: What is your leadership style in terms of managing your people? Any mantras that you have developed/follow to lead your team?
I, personally, believe in mentoring, training people and then leaving them to complete the assigned tasks with full passion, dedication, and integrity. However, I have realized that this cannot be an applied blanket to all. There are a few who require micromanagement, probably, because that’s how they have been brought up and groomed as children!
For more articles on embedded industry recruitment trends and general hiring trends, click here.