Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Malaysia Software Business and IT Talent

I had not write for quite a while, not because nothing special is happening around me, but it’s just too much of them until I’m not quite sure what to talk about. Perhaps it’s a bad idea to jumble everything out in one post, as it would be too lengthy and might be lost at times. So, I’ll try my best to keep it lean and mean. BTW, my loyal readers (haha) ask me why I haven’t blog for quite a while, so here it is.

I said quite a while ago that business partnership is light marriage, and I think it is still true. And I just exited a marriage, haha. The good thing is, I am pretty open minded about it, though I had been married for a year by now. Isn’t all the time and effort wasted, I ask myself? Somehow I don’t think so, as I did learn something from it, and it sort of give me a better and fresher perspective, or at least a slight better idea on how to survive in the software business world. Life is not all about winning and success, although it would be ideal. A loser once said, failing is the mother of all success, so I kind agree with the loser.

I think the software business world is transforming quite rapidly in Malaysia for the past few years, and the barrier of entry for self-funded small startup had been raised. Why is it so? It’s because of the MSC is screwing our homegrown IT industry and giving funds and opportunities for MNC to suck our local resources dry. I was told MSC initial strategy is to help the local players, but they are too small and grow too slowly, thus it doesn’t look good on MSC's book. Then they decide to do some creative accounting and invite some global players, not only giving them tax break but to give them money as well so that they could suck on our local talents. Suddenly the industry had exponential growth, everyone is working in MNC using our own tax dollar and everyone is happy, except local ICT players. It had been harder to get local talents to fuel the business, and the cost of employment had gone up rapidly which the quality goes the other way.

I think more local talents are working for MNC nowadays, which could be a good thing due to the expected “Knowledge Transfer” effect which don’t usually happens very often. But I am worry for some fresh graduates who went to some initial high pay but dead end job, such as call centre and product support. Yes, you get RM 3000 or more as starting salary, which is absolutely very tempting. After a few years, you try to look for other job which pay higher than RM 3000, then you would found yourself in a dead end. You have no experience (taking call for years is not an experience to brag about), and taking another call centre job won’t get you higher salary or a better career. If you do product support, your career and experience restarted to ground zero when the product dies (or dying), which happens very often. Each product had an average life span of 5 years, and it’s a universal law each product will go down one day and being replaced by something else. If you choose a career such as a programmer (or Network Engineer or System Analyst), you might get paid a lesser starting salary, but at least you have a future as you gain skill and experience. You would be building upon a good foundation block, and could continue building upon it to get a better future.

My advice for the fellow fresh IT graduates of Malaysia out there:
  • Programming is the most secure IT job out there in the market at the moment. Demand is always high, and supply is always low. It’s not an easy job, that’s why so many people choose not to do it. It requires passion, skill, patient and quite a lot of hard time.
  • Don’t choose a job which could be outsourced to other country, such as a call centre job. Read the book “The World is Flat”. Someone is willing to take a quarter of your salary and work twice as long.
  • Don’t depends your career on a product, or at least make sure the product had future (which I think is risky as well). Remember: when the product dies (either RIP or sales slowdown), you go down with it together.
  • MNC could be quite merciless during cut cost exercise and retrenchment, so don’t ever feel too comfortable. Company loyalty (both way) is a thing of the past. Learning opportunity is always there, but be prepared for some surprises as well.
  • Don’t be too specialized. Learn a few more skills, including soft skills. Even though you are a technical person, do learn a little bit about sales, marketing, business, management, communication and etc. Even though you are a Java master, do know a bit about .NET, PHP or C++.
  • When you are a rookie, be patient and learn, think about money later (which will eventually come when you are really good). Humility is very important, and you could only afford to be arrogant when you are damn good. Don't be demanding or arrogant without something to support that.
Time had changed. I felt old now. God bless everything.


Elaine Chung said...

Well-said..Mind provoking input. I do agree that eventhough you're leading the salary scale now, but 10 years down the road u'll be a lagger if the career has its own life span.

Anonymous said...