Computers are now an integral aspect of our lives. Their applications are vast and varied, ranging from space exploration to banking, from communication to food processing. They have assumed strategic importance in business and are an indispensable feature of offices and homes.
Computers can process and analyse a complex set of data, store them and make them available when necessary. Computers are of several kinds and for different purposes. Large main-frame computers have been used for defence, airline networks, scientific and financial establishments. Smaller personal and micro computers are installed in offices, banks, newspaper offices and retail outlets, as also local area networks and wide area networks connecting computers within geographical areas. Their scope too, has expanded. From the original ‘numbers crunching’ function, computers measure, assess and monitor facts, figures, progress and procedures. They are devices that process information, and now also convey it through electronic communication systems such as the Internet and the world wide web. Therefore, computers are now covered by the wider term, Information Technology or IT, describing a convergence of office automation, telecommunications and computing, and the technology continues to develop.
Like the rest of the world, India has been swept into the information revolution. The first computer was installed in Calcutta in 1956. But the industry really took off at the end of the seventies. By the eighties, it was booming. The years 1978-89 saw nearly a tenfold increase in the number of hardware engineer-entrepreneurs, or vendors. The 1990s brought an increase in the requirement for software specialists. The government’s ambitious plans for this sector’s development, together with a sharp price decline, have contributed to the industry’s phenomenal growth rate of 50 per cent per annum, with some successful companies doubling their turnover each year.
The Indian computer industry has found outlets for its products at home as well as abroad. In 1989-90, hardware and software exports together totaled Rs 400 crore. Our current export growth rate is at an all time high, which is almost 90 percent higher now. Indian software experts today are rated among the best in the world, and are very much in demand abroad, not just in the US, but in Canada, Germany and Japan as well.
Now, with the start of the new millennium, NASSCOM, the national Association of Software and Service companies, projects a conservatively estimated demand of approximately 10,00,000 trained computer professionals within the next few years. The present availability of skilled qualified people meets only 5 per cent of this requirement, leaving a large gap to be filled by those with ambition and aptitude and the willingness to work hard in a dynamic field.
Computers present a range of career opportunities for those with the right qualifications. Virtually any job today requires some computer handing skills. The growing versatility of the personal computer, and the ever-expanding reach of the Internet have opened a wide variety of new career options for those with an interest in and aptitude for computers.
Though this chapter is relevant mainly to those concerned with the engineering, manufacture, maintenance and operation of computers-it touches on a few other areas where a variety of disciplines can be combined with computer skills to widen the field of opportunity.
Women tend to do very well in the information industry. There are very few constraints here, and opportunities are available for work within and outside the home A large number of female computer professionals work at all levels of skill and seniority. Many women hold top executive positions in the industry, and in some organizations they contribute almost 50 per cent of the total employee strength.
As this is a very young industry, the average age of computer professionals-including vendors-is considerably lower than in most other sectors. The professional environment, though achievement oriented, is on formal. Work is challenging, and excellence is well and quickly rewarded. While in other disciplines it takes between 12 and 15 years to reach an executive position, a qualified computer professional requires a maximum of seven years to get to the top of the ladder.