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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Relevance, Focus and Long-Term Perspective

Sri Manchala
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Sri Manchala
When we think about what makes a successful career in the technology field, we need to understand that it is different from doing a job. A career is much like building a house; brick by brick and a job can be compared to a short stay in a hotel.

What then are the right building blocks for a career in technology? The first requirement of a career in any field is that you must like it and should have fun doing things in that field. That being said, focus, relevance and a long-term perspective are probably the essential elements of a career in technology.

The field of technology is constantly expanding, almost at an exponential rate. In a history spanning millions of years, over 75 percent of mankind’s inventions have come in the last two hundred years. Therefore, it is very easy to get somewhat lost in this ever-expanding field. Essentially, engineers, within a few years should pick one or two niches of technology and grow their expertise in those areas.

Let me give an example. Dr. Amar Bose, an Indian American electrical engineer, innovator and entrepreneur par excellence, went on to start the now legendary Bose Corporation, a name universally recognized for high-technology audio products. Over the last 50 years, Bose Corporation has stayed close to knitting, as they say, remaining focused on the same field and going on to deliver better quality of sound through research in acoustics. No wonder we do not hear of Bose cameras, tennis rackets, toys and so on. Audio products are what they started out with, and audio products are what they produce – and produce them better than almost anyone else. So, focus early, and stay focused.

Relevance – that ought to be the key word in technology advancement, whatever the field. Unfortunately, that precisely is what is missing today. There many enterprising youngsters the world over who are enamored with cool, trendy gadgets with huge market appeal, such as the next big dotcom, or the next sleek iPod, and that’s great. However, taking a problem solving approach will help young technologists develop a more sustainable approach than looking for the next killer application. When you look around in India and the world, there are numerous social, infrastructural, environmental and healthcare problems that need to be solved. Innovation for its own sake is not always productive or help solve these burning problems. Take a field such as technology-driven microfinance. A bright programmer might well write software to run applications in that area, but find few takers for that application today. But there are potentially a billion people out there who might stand to benefit from such an out-of-the box idea. So while this may not be a ‘cool’ product in the i-pod sense, it is impacting millions of lives. Thinking about the relevance of technology and taking a problem solving approach will lead to ideas, products, services that have a major impact and become sustainable in themselves.

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