Telecom network is seeing an increasing evolution, thus generating the need for upskilling of telecom professionals. Sanjay Kaul, Head, Asia Pacific & Japan, Service Provider Business, Cisco shared his thoughts about this evolving trend.
Voice & Data: As India gears up for 5G, broadband for all, IoT, and a host of new telecom business and technology models, what are the key competencies that telecom professionals should possess?
Sanjay Kaul: The telecom network has become a critical infrastructure in itself, enabling many essential features of today’s society such as digital payment/financial networks, smart cities etc., in fact, today, the telecom network will evolve to network platforms that are well equipped to create digital value plays for industry verticles, and, as a result, drive need monetisation for 5G investment. In turn, it will bring digitisation and value connected to it to enterprises. To execute on this enormous opportunity, the industry requires a diverse set of skills in cloud, AI/machine learning, analytics/data scientists, security experts, etc., that are required for the upkeep of the deployment, management and maintenance.
Today, AI and ML are being used to predict faults in the network. Also, the market is disrupted by emerging technologies (sensors, IoT, crypto-currency, blockchain and robotics) and professionals in the telecom sector should be equipped with skills to survive in a world of automation. The telecom/ICT sector needs to be prepared and apply more focus on training in cyber security, IoT, machine-to-machine networking, and cloud services, among other skill sets.
Such competencies were earlier confined only to the IT sector, but now, since telecom operators are re-engineering networks to be smarter and more efficient, proficiencies in the areas of IoT, AI, ML and blockchain are in high demand in the telecom sector.
Voice & Data: What role can a company like yours play in building the right telecom talent pool for India?
Sanjay Kaul: The digital skills gap is widening and the cost to our economy is escalating. The education system alone cannot be expected to keep up with the increasing skills gap. We, as technology industry leaders and future employers, must partner with the government, SPs and education institutions to address the opportunity now so that we can ensure India cements its place as a digital leader.
That is why we run, support and fund several initiatives to help train people in digital skills. Through our networking academy, we have trained over 100,000 students so far in digital skills this year alone. Most of the people who complete our courses have a better job prospect or education opportunity as a direct result, and we are incredibly proud of that. However, the ambition of our programs goes further. By 2020, we are committing to help improve the digital skills of over 250,000 students in India. On top, we are skilling up our massive partner network with certification in IP, automation, DC/cloud and security.
Voice & Data: What are the significant challenges that you see today when you want to hire professionals that can build nextgen telecom networks, products and services?
Sanjay Kaul: The critical challenge for hiring in the telecom sector is the volatility within the industry itself. Due to the recent upheaval in the industry, new entrants are hesitant to take up roles in what they assume is an unpredictable industry. However, since the business model of the sector has changed from simple telephony to a data-driven mobile usage model, this presents vast opportunities for current as well as future employees of the sector.
The telecom sector is driving India’s digital transformation and offers a coveted opportunity to help this transition. I believe that technologies like 5G and WiFi 6 will be the true enablers in the fourth industrial revolution.
Voice & Data: What would your advice to the educational institutes who lay the foundation for aspiring telecom professionals?
Sanjay Kaul: India now has the second largest telecom network in the world and the needs of the telecom industry continue to evolve with the onslaught of emerging mobile technologies rapidly. As the telecom industry continues to grow, new job roles are being created to cater to new goals. It is imperative that educational institutions offer courses that integrate emerging technologies, which are relevant and in sync with these industry needs.
The academia and the industry should join hands for skill development. A partnership between them would create a smooth path to bridge the skill gap. Institutions should prepare students on skills such as building and maintaining a robust IT infrastructure, project management, AI/ML, cyber security, data science and analytics.
Voice & Data: What role and support from the Government will help the industry and the academia to speed up quality and scalable telecom talent pool?
Sanjay Kaul: As the telecom industry continues to stabilise, there will be a need to re-strategise talent acquisition efforts to focus on creating new roles, generating more jobs and getting more investment into the sector in the process, as is the aim of the Government projects as well. The recognition of telecom services and infrastructure as “an essential public utility,” will aid the proliferation of such services, facilitate low-cost financing, increased hiring and ultimately lead to a digitally empowered India. Lastly, I believe every player in the industry must devote a certain portion of the investment to skill development to ensure we create a sustainable advantage for India and live up to the dream of true digital India.