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Vijayaraman Subramanian

Vijayaraman Subramanian is Senior Delivery Head (SDH) - Network and Technology (N&T) at Verizon Data Services India. Based out of Hyderabad, Vijay is responsible for VDS India’s Network &Technology IT (N&T IT) portfolio .Vijay has been with the organization for close to 14 years and plays a significant role in driving IT solutions for Verizon’s Network and Technology needs at VDS India, serving Verizon’s global enterprise, wholesale networks and domestic Consumer networks in the US.

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The Next Gen Tech Workers: Are Workplaces Ready for Them?

Traditional workplaces have to change their ways to accommodate these new breed of developers and allow them experiment, fail fast and drive value for business.

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Workforce

At a NASSCOM product conclave held in Bengaluru last year, I had the opportunity to interact with a group of start-ups led by millennials.

A chance interaction with a pair of youngsters, still at college, manning a booth, opened floodgates of introspection for me. Just about 2 minutes into the demo, explaining their product on a large screen, they encountered a glitch. The guy asked me to wait for a couple of minutes while he fixed it, as his business partner continued to explain the salient features of their product- a home memory creator:

An algorithm that automatically put together family photos and created a digital album with music, description and graphics, making it look like a family movie. Although the concept was not novel, what surprised me was that these youngsters in their late teens already had a venture going.

Meanwhile, the guy logged into a public cloud service (AWS) from his MacBook, removed the new modifications he had made to his script in the morning and replaced it with an older file, bounced the process and came back to tell me that we could now continue with the demo. It took him no more than 3 minutes to get it working again. While I spent the next ten minutes watching the demo, they explained how they created this “product” in three weeks, what started over a cup of coffee outside their college campus. “Two weeks,” said the girl, correcting the boy. “Two weeks to build and one week to fix bugs”. And in 4 weeks they were up and running using their “add-on” credit card to spin up a domain name and a public cloud instance to host their service.

While I don’t know how their venture developed, I learnt a few things that day:

  • The new age is unencumbered with the thinking of the past. It doesn’t take them as long as what it did a decade ago to create a website and host a service, thanks to the emergence of public cloud.
  • Learning scripting languages like Python is easier and practical than the generational languages like C/C++ or even Java.
  • The abundance of open-source and tools makes it even simpler for the youngsters of today to stand up a product/solution that otherwise would take months, if not, years. .
  • They source help from the global community of developers that help solve their issues, including optimizing the use of memory and storage on public cloud, all on Facebook communities, developer blogs and WhatsApp groups, as claimed by the girl,
  •  “Emails to tech gurus are the last thing we would bank on”, claims the guy.
  • But the most important thing and one that made a lasting impression on me was how their lack of exposure to the old ways and hands-on experience with more agile processes helped them give shape to their vision.

So, my epiphany from what started as a casual coffee chat was that the cloud-native, mobile –aware generation has nothing that tethers them to the days of waiting for a desktop with certain specs of memory and processor speed.

A traditional project management group would have approached this product/project very differently. From firming up the plan to, putting together a team, working the logistics of hardware/software and most importantly putting together a timeline which would include buffer for any slippages. Here was a millennial duo having a product out in 4 weeks, and were iterating real time to fix and make sure the experience remained seamless. The novelty of their approach lay in “ship first, fix later”- a new paradigm in the web space, that’s fast catching up, especially among the startups.

While there are pros and cons to the ways the new-breed of developers operate, there are lessons for all in the corporate world. Firstly, they were full-stack developers, and then they were both working in agile mode, building stories into code and deploying at will.

One could argue that their product was not being leveraged by a large community of users. But neither are our dev. or test environments.  They were in a truly DevOps mode, developing, testing and maintaining their product.  And they were completely plugged into the open developer community which is a force in itself. Leveraging these skills for corporations will go a long way in redefining the workforce of future.  

So, what will create this ecosystem in a corporation? Most important is to unlearn our experience. While experiences lay the strong foundation for self- development, it also can blind us to the possibilities of unexplored realms of learning. Experiences, at times, give us the myopic view that failure is the end of the road or moving fast can be catastrophic.

The fast-pace IT environment is adjusting well to iteration and bug-fixing on the fly. Traditional workplaces have to change their ways to accommodate these new breed of developers and allow them experiment, fail fast and drive value for business. In today’s world, code is commodity and there is no reason to put a price on it.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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