04 July 2016 Business Life Lessons

'Companies Hiring Engineers Are Obliged To Enable Constant Learning'

Mallika Srinivasan, Chairman and CEO, Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd.
'Companies Hiring Engineers Are Obliged To Enable Constant Learning'
  • Strategy is great, plans are lovely. What matters is execution.
  • Diploma engineers are as talented as degree holders.
  • People want high performance ­products, not breakdowns.

***

A very significant portion of our workforce are engineers, maybe even 70 per cent, so in all our functions, whether R&D, manufacturing or IT—in fact, other than finance, everywhere else—there are engineers. One important thing I have learned is to not distinguish between diploma engineers and those with degrees. Both are very important to the work we do. I think a lot of people don’t give enough credit to dip­loma holders in engineering, who I have found are excellent.

When we hire, we look at all eng­ineering institutions as we try to find the right fit for us. Engineering is not a generic degree. Almost all are specialists in their field. Some are IT eng­ineers, others are electrical engineers, mechanical engineers; then there are engineers in production, R&D, agriculture and so on. At the entry point, we find there is a gap bet­ween what has been taught and what we expect. That gap needs to be bridged, so we invest in that initial stage, in their training. Ideally, from industry’s point of view, we wouldn’t like to do this. We would like all employees to be ready when they arrive. Accordingly, we are quite careful about the engineering colleges whose students would suit our req­uirement. Each institute is different, you see, so we hire accordingly and we go to a lot of engineering colleges when looking for the right people.

In dealing with engineers, the important thing is to know that they are very smart people—very smart and very analytical. I think there is an obligation on the part of companies that hire engineers to provide an environment of continuous learning. A good reason for this, no doubt, is because of how quickly technology is bec­oming obsolete. In recent times, the internet is changing our product offering rapidly. For exa­mple, unmanned vehicles are on the scene and driverless technology is being developed. A technology is new today but it often drives innovation. This matters tremendously to us, so it is critical for our engineers to keep pace. These innovations aff­ect us. At the same time, the boundaries between different engineering and technical fields are blurring. To adopt technologies fast, you need the right environment for your engineers, whether in R&D or in managing customer relations, or client servicing.

To run an engineering ­business is no different from running any other kind of business. I have been doing this for 35 years. It has never been a challenge that I am not an engineer by training.

The biggest lesson I have learned is that you can have great strategy, draw up the best plans, but what people really want from an engineering company is perfection. They want precision, quality and they certainly want your product to last long rel­iably. In the engineering field, there cannot be compromise with this.

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