Building A Career In The IoT-Led World
With the booming success of IoT, how can you build a bright career in this field? What are the job roles available here? What skill-sets will help you make your mark? How far can veterans contribute in this field? The answers are all here.
Covid-19 has left the IoT field in shambles as the world has seen massive changes in the way the industry now works. Those organisations who adopted the technology long before the pandemic have seen a rise in their profits, while those that did not adopt have either closed down or, unfortunately, have had to bear the brunt of losses. This shows that for an organisation’s survival and growth IoT has became a strategic necessity.
With IoT invading every industry and organisation, the solutions being delivered by solution providers are also creating new job opportunities. With no dearth of opportunities in this field and the relevance to both tech and business realms, a demand for highly skilled IoT professionals seems to be on the rise. “I think it is crucial to understand that IoT is not one technology but a domain or a concept that brings multiple technologies under its umbrella to make something happen at the end of the day,” says Vinay Solanki, GM & Head of Digital Solutions, Napino Auto & Electronics.
During past couple of decades India has emerged as a hotspot for the software industry manned by budding engineers. Through IoT they are now expected to provide solutions to the customers’ core issues. IoT is an interface between the customers and the analytics/insights and not just an interface connecting electronic appliances to the Internet to monitor them.
Many job roles have transitioned from software to the IoT industry where every skill-set is equally important and lucrative. Solanki goes on to add, “I think it is a very good takeaway that, apart from learning programming languages or looking at cloud services, if you are building your career right now, and you come from a background which is not computer science, then it’s not bad news for you.”
Here are some areas and roles the budding engineers can look at to build their careers.
Hardware and embedded systems. While most IoT solutions require software, hardware also plays a vital part. Building reliable hardware has become imperative for the overall IoT industry. With the government’s focus on making India a manufacturing hub, a ton of jobs may be expected to flow in.
Solution architect. It is a very critical role, as a system integrator needs to have thorough knowledge of all aspects starting from hardware to connectivity. It also requires knowledge of applications to the cloud platform in which a specific IoT application would be posted in.
This role is indispensable as in the case of networking and telecom sectors, since connectivity is a vital aspect of an IoT solution. With wide range of options for connectivity such as Wi-Fi, LoRa, Bluetooth, etc, the authority of choosing the best option lies in this role.
Product manager. This role involves managing all parts of a project till it reaches the customer’s hands. In the case of manufacturing, where a company is involved in making smart consumer devices, a competent IoT product manager should understand the hardware and have it programmed as per requirement. His responsibilities include managing the product after deployment along with the content security policies (CSP) to make sure the product is working the way it should. He also needs to coordinate with R&D department and other teams within the organisation to make sure that the right solution is provided through the existing electronics of their product to make it work seamlessly.
Legal advisor. Conformance to numerous legal and regulatory requirements is most important for any IoT product or solution. Constant change in data storage rules of different countries makes it even more necessary to have a legal team that cross-checks all the related laws and requirements before a product is placed in the market.
IoT enabler. As the name suggests, an IoT enabler ensures delivery of time-bound end-to-end solution as per requirement. Sunil David, Regional Director of IoT, AT&T, says, “It is a very critical role because many times you find projects stuck in the product cycle as they need somebody who is an IoT champion within the organisation who can work inside the organisation.”
Lifecycle manager. He manages the solution once it is implemented and makes sure that the solution keeps working well for the customer.
Security officer. Customers are usually afraid of the threats of their IoT system’s data being leaked to malicious parties. These threats pose a major need for the data to be properly secured as it may contain sensitive information about the user. According to David, “With a huge shortage in India for cybersecurity professionals, individuals with a career in hardware or software security are most needed.”
Data scientists. With complexity in dealing with huge volumes of ever-flowing data, the need for data scientists cannot be overestimated for an organisation. Their role is primarily to prepare meaningful and useful data from the huge volume of data being generated.
Gaps in the industry and skill-sets to develop
Lakshmi Mittra, VP & Head, Clover Academy, says, “The diversity in the field of IoT eliminates the need for an individual to be from a specific background.” For roles such as system integrator, solution architect, or IoT provider, candidates need to have the skill-set of dealing with sales and businesses as well, not just the technical aspect, because that is where the pain point of the customer lies. No doubt technical skills are what drive the IoT innovation and development, but in today’s era of different domains in an organisation intertwining and collaborating, having a wide range of soft skills is just as important, if not more.
Given how IoT solves the day-to-day problems of its customers and aims to make life easier, having a flair for innovative thinking and creative abilities to look at the challenges and come up with the right solution is also essential. Additionally, having a curious mindset that searches for problems and solutions in everyday life is what sets them apart. The next gap to bridge would be the soft skills and need for creativity. “I have seen that people who know how to design innovative mechanical products at the right design parameters, cost and consideration, especially complicated ones like wearables, are mostly in demand because it is a very important skill to have,” adds Solanki.
One of the most important skill-sets an aspiring candidate needs to possess is good communication skills. IoT is a domain that thrives on team effort. There are way too many aspects in this game for a single player to master, and it is imperative to have the right team from a product standpoint, putting the complete situation together so that the product is good. Good interpersonal skills are necessary because it requires collaboration and communication. Communication skills can be termed as another gap that has to be bridged.
“I think someone who can articulate and communicate well is very important. Even if is at the junior level, people need to build other skill-sets in the industry and not just be technology experts. I think what can take you farther and help you climb up the ladder of career faster is that if you are also good in soft skills,” adds Mittra.
Building your career as a fresher
Our education system lags far behind in imparting students with industry-related skills and knowledge. So, interested candidates need to start training themselves through internships, workshops, and courses as it is futile to depend on the system. Students and freshers from such an environment are often worried about how to make it big in the IoT space. Students of Tier 2 or Tier 3 cities are especially confused about how they could gain an edge over their peers from elite institutes.
David notes, “One of the gaps that I see often in such candidates is the lack of industry touch in comparison to the candidates from metro cities. They really don’t know the practical aspects of what they are doing, or how they are going to shape their career.”
Hence, expanding their area of interest and having knowledge of the business aspect of the product or solution is very important. This aspect is something that young professionals tend to ignore as they strive to use their technical expertise alone.
“Apart from the technical skills, I think it is important to have the willingness to learn. The whole attitude is so important,” David adds. To take on higher challenges of the domain for any student or fresher, learning and upskilling needs should be the highest priority. For instance, becoming a better coder, learning the marketing aspects of IoT, or familiarising yourself with cloud services like AWS or Microsoft Azure is now easier with the help of the Internet.
Aspiring candidates must make full use of this opportunity. Dhaval Chhedha, VP, Engineering, Masai School, says, “Practical learning is something that you have to develop from within because it’s not going to happen. I don’t expect our educational system to change anytime soon, so students have to take up projects on their own.”
Solanki advises, “Go beyond the four walls of your house to attend events that speak of innovation. Remember the 3 C’s: Co-create, Co-invent, and Collaborate. IoT is such a field where no one company or team can build everything. Instances to work with competitors may arise as well. In early career stages, think of how you can collaborate with someone in your college to create a product together because you won’t be good at everything.”
For a senior professional
This exciting domain is not just limited to new talent, veterans and experienced professionals are needed as well in taking the industry forward. However, the switch from one industry to another, which is so dynamic and constantly evolving, may seem daunting.
Experience is the father of wisdom and, in that matter, someone with varied but still deep experience in one domain is an asset for any company. For instance, an individual who is very strong in sales, or in building partnerships, or managing a team of solution architects, needs to also have basic knowledge of how the other teams function. “With everything converging so fast, building depth in a couple of areas but breadth in many areas and having a T-shaped career is important. A person cannot just be a sales guy, but needs to also have a little knowledge concerning data security,” says Solanki.
While the aspiration of senior professionals to enter a new company by leading a particular team might be valid, David notes that it is important to have emphatic leadership. He goes on to say, “If you want to lead the team, you have to empathize with the hard working folks who are on the team. This reverse mentoring is very important.”
The lens through which the young professionals look at the world is one bright side of interaction between both senior and young professionals. It helps broaden horizons and understand what is going inside the minds of younger folks. As per Mittra, the ability to put together and run a team is needed in senior folks as it helps build the right team and make them work on the solution together.
Chhedha says, senior professionals or leaders should be able to hire people who are smarter than themselves as that would not only make their task easier but also help in finding better solutions. However, he also adds, “The important thing in a leader is to know and understand what is happening around them and going past them. If not, things would start crumbling very fast and the leader would be taken for a ride.”
Crossing a certain threshold in one’s career does not mean that one should stop learning or assume having all the knowledge required to excel. Learning has to be a lifelong process since it will especially help someone trying to enter a new industry or domain. After 5-10 years of experience, it usually gets difficult to break the ice and get back to learning. Given that IoT can be deployed across pretty much any industry, aspiring professionals need not be confined to IT or telecom because there are enough and more opportunities in other industries also.
In conclusion, Solanki adds, “For those building their profile in this field, it is important that you understand the domain very well, and you also understand it is no longer required to work only in sunrise or so-called attractive industries. With the need of more digital people, I think there is no end to making your mark in this industry.”
This article based on the panel discussion titled ‘Career Guidance – What are the Latest IoT Jobs and How to Prepare For Them?’ held during June edition of Tech World Congress 2021 has been prepared by Siddha Dhar, a business journalist at EFY.