How running your college workshop can fetch you a better job

You may have heard about graduates not being ready for industry, industry not having investments into finishing schools, about the rapid growth of disconnected/under-equipped/unregulated finishing schools throwing still unusable talent, industry accrediting academia with no standard method among other problems of disconnect between education system and industry.

In my opinion this is an issue at personal level that collective systems or their coordination cannot solve. In other words we are turning a universal problem into a global problem and throwing costly resources at it including student time, tax money to solve. Approach to such universal problem solving begins at student level.

Here is a back story of an unused workshop at IITM. It used to be a workshop heavily funded with staff supplies since inception, that was post second world war with developed countries funding or setting up labs in IITs (IITM has a lot of lab equipment from Germany, while Kgp most was from Russia, Kanpur was US equipment). I was probably one of the last set of students to touch an old German particle classifier that was almost defunct till we decided to do something with it. Actually number of students using the workshop steadily declined as industry needs, student interests, technology shifted over years, leading to under used infrastructure with no useful outcomes. Now one fine day (actually over a year) this workshop was converted to a student run lab, with much lesser resources than before but with complete freedom to do what interests students. Fast forward 2 years this lab establishes itself as national champion in robotics, new materials, among other accolades.

Now as a student it makes a perfect place to find your own version of ‘cool’,  follow on what’s interesting to the student, instead of working on lab experiments that industry does not need anyway.

If I were a recruiter and I get a student who can clearly explain his 2 failures while really doing something in such workshops, and not a shiny bright power point slide with all adjectives pre-loaded, he is on board…


Innovator Traits

Innovation is a skill, competency, unrelated mostly to IQ or creativity. In fact if an organization is serious about developing a full fledged competency map around innovation, I thought it might be well worth to spell out some skills that I have seen commonly across, and Clayton Christensen’s framework comes handy…

  • Associating: Skill to combine and force fit seemingly different objects/ideas/concepts across domains
  • Networking: Skill to relate and work with people for a problem/idea
  • Questioning: Skill to doubt and question status quo, just being plain curious
  • Experimenting: Skill to stretch existing boundaries with new unaccomplished trials
  • Observing: Skill to spot patterns and anomalies

There is always this evolutionary potential given any web plot to define layers of maturity on all skills. Usually there are  2 ways to look at this as well,

  1. The Scale, is the skill set of individual resulting in minor improvement, major improvement, new line of business, etc. Most people today are happy with incremental or disruptive, but I am more comfortable with a gradual scale.
  2. The Depth, is the skill allowing us to design better experiments, identify trends earlier than competition, build differentiated organizational capabilities and the like.
Questions/Indicators for each skill and its levels is easy to build across any hierarchy of role/responsibilities that you may have in your organization. More importantly the will to make the change is what counts.