Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tech companies increase PhD hiring for R&D units

Internet giant Yahoo’s recent job notification cries out loud: "Scientists wanted". To meet its requirements in India, the company has even decided to launch a talent hunt with its Yahoo PhD Coop programme in collaboration with major Indian institutes. Yahoo said the programme will allow its employees to work full-time and do research under the guidance of institute faculty on topics of mutual interest.

"We make sure that PhD candidates who join us get to work in labs that are as good as developed countries and are given freedom in developing web products and services for internet users, globally. This programme has a lot of advantages — Yahoos can study full-time, even as they have unrestricted access to the company’s data sets and get stipend competitive with fellowships from the best global universities," said Rajeev Rastogi, Vice President and head of Yahoo Labs, Bangalore. Launched in 2008, the lab is part of Yahoo Labs network that develops innovative technology services and internet products.

Other multinationals like Intel, AMD, Applied Materials, IBM, Bell Labs, Microsoft and Google, among others, are also queing up to hire PhD scholars for their global research units located in India. AMD on its part, has been tapping the engineering colleges – Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata – for the last two years to meet its requirements.

AMD said with an in crease in architectural level work in India, PhDs are in demand. "AMD has doubled the PhD hiring and looking for more. The company usually hires PhDs as interns and grooms them accordingly. In some cases it gives funding to universities for research and faculty or PhD students work on research," said Shiva Gowni, Corporate Vice President (Design Engineering), AMD India.

Rastogi, who has published over 125 research papers, with 40 patents to his name, said: "We already have a Key Scientific Challenge (KSC) programme where the company provides US$ 5,000 unrestricted research seed fund to PhD students. Every year at least two Indian PhD students are selected for KSC, where participation comes from across the globe."

Even computer chip giant Intel is planning to increase the number of PhD recruitments in India from eight last year to a double-digit figure this year. Preethi Madappa, Senior HR of Intel said: "We have even launched a PhD programme for our employees in collaboration with IIT Kanpur. Further, to help retain the talent we hire, we ensure that they are given maximum exposure by allowing PhD candidates to work with Intel’s R&D centres in Israel and the US."

According to the IITs, traditionally, people have been pursuing PhDs to be in academics, but with the technology firms increasingly approaching the IITs and IISc, seeking talent for their R&D functions, more and more PhDs have seen this as an opportunity to earn better and join the corporate sector. "While you are working with companies, not only the motivation level is higher but there are multiple avenues for employment too," said the placement chairperson at one of the IITs.

According to industry experts, with companies paying anywhere between Rs. 600,000-800,000 per annum they are bound to be the preferred destination for many. IITs on the other hand, pay Rs. 300,000 per annum (there are however, benefits which are not monetised). Probably, this is why Applied Materials, service and equipment provider to panel display, semiconductor industry, ensures that when PhDs join them, they do so at a higher salary range and at a higher grade level compared to fresh graduates.

"We do give credit to the fact that they have worked on their thesis over the past two to three years and we do count that as work experience. Also, PhDs are always a targeted set of people that we go after. Our hiring manger identifies certain projects that the candidate will need to work on, projects that need the competency level of a PhD," said Abhay Singh, Director HR, Applied Materials. Applied Materials, which is building the India site as a research centre for the organisation, realised that it needs to begin tapping the higher education talent in India and hire PhDs almost two years ago.

At Bangalore-based Bell Labs, 70 per cent of the staff is PhD. Nurturing its own talent pool, the company also provides research internships to BTech, MS and PhD students regularly and also has a graduate student fellowship programme at IIT Delhi for PhD students.

IBM prefers hiring researchers for computer science and related areas. "PhD recruits who want to work on real-world problems leading to solutions that make a direct and measurable impact are hired by IBM for 12 years now," said Rangarajan VA, recruitment leader, IBM India. IBM runs student internship programmes and PhD Fellowships in India .

Companies like Microsoft allow its researchers to work closely with the academia on various research projects and teach courses at some of the premier research institutions in the country. "Speaking specifically of computer science field, the country currently produces less than 100 PhDs every year, which is just not enough to feed the demand that will be forthcoming from the industry as well as the fast growing education sectors," said Vidya Natampally, Director (Strategy), Microsoft Research India.

At present IITs produce around 1000 PhDs every year against the around 8000–9000 PhDs in engineering and technology scholars annually from the US and China.

Source: Business Standard, June 30, 2011
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