Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lack of opportunities leads to brain drain in technology sector

Pakistan faces a dearth of big information technology companies, prompting many dejected IT professionals with reasonable experience to think about leaving the country for a better opportunity which can match their qualifications and experience.

As soon as an IT professional attains experience of eight to ten years, he feels consumed by the need of finding a high-paying job which smaller IT companies cannot afford.

Dr Arshad Ali, DG School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, National University of Science and Technology (NUST), a top public sector university, agrees with this bitter reality.
“It is true that IT professionals face hurdles to their career growth after getting 8 to 10 years’ experience,” he said, adding the reason is an absence of big IT firms in the country which can adequately pay the experienced professionals and provide them with opportunities for further growth.

“Dearth of big IT firms is a problem which is somewhat linked with a lack of research opportunities,” he added.

“Obviously, when you do not have big companies which can pay enough, the experienced IT professionals have no choice but to leave the country and find lucrative jobs in other countries,” he said.

Few IT companies do research work in Pakistan. And those which actually do, their activity is usually not futuristic instead a majority of them undertake low-tech software development work. “Research is limited only to individuals and that need to be institutionalised,” Ali said.

On the academic front, very few universities in Pakistan are conducting specialised research, he said, adding some of the faculty members at NUST are doing research work for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, Caltech, Centre for European Nuclear Research, Geneva and others. In — United States, he said, IT companies grant scholarships to their employees who have an average experience of 8 to 10 years to get further education and conduct research. This helps develop their capacity to do research and pursue a long career in the relevant field of work.

President Pakistan Software Houses Association (Pasha), Jehan Ara, agrees that after some years of experience IT professionals usually say goodbye to the country and this is a strong perception in the country.

She stressed that Pakistan desperately needs more companies that can hire and provide required opportunities for experienced IT professionals.

“Every country goes through a cycle in which smaller companies grow little by little and then turn into bigger and stronger concerns,” she said. “Every country welcomes this and this is how companies will also grow in Pakistan.”

For those who seek a longer career in the IT sector, opportunities for specialisation do exist in Pakistan where a professional can stay associated with the industry for a long time.

A lot of IT professionals in search of managerial positions leave technical jobs. However, a plethora of managerial positions are also available in the IT sector where these professionals can pursue a longer career without abandoning their area of expertise, she said.

Muhammad Salman, an IT professional working in an IT firm in Karachi, said many of the professionals including him aspires for a long career in Pakistan but end up in some foreign country.

”Another IT professional, who has over 15 years of experience, partly agrees with the perception that senior IT professionals leave Pakistan owing to a less attractive local market.

“Though there is a dearth of research in IT firms and universities, it does not mean that all professionals leave the country because of this reason. But yes about one-fourth of them do move out of the country owing to the absence of big companies,” he maintained.

China, India and the Philippines are examples in Asia where you can find a lot of companies doing good business and research. Particularly in the last 20 years, a number of IT firms have set up their businesses in these countries and are doing respectable research, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune,

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