Start and grow your Career within the Sri Lankan IT industry in “The Correct Way”

It's that time of year, all the final year undergraduates are eagerly waiting for the most important day of their undergrad life, “The career fair”. Even though this time most probably it will be all virtual, Excitement will remain the same. If you have done your work, you will end up in more than one job offer. heck, if you are a superstar, companies will come chasing you !!!

I still remember facing Big Day 7 years ago. It was exciting and overwhelming. Everybody wants to sign you up immediately and pressuring while different companies offering different packages and perks.

The IT industry in Sri Lanka still faces a shortage of “Talented” employees. University career fairs are major opportunities for them to grab the best new entrants to the workforce and this makes every such event a cold war and a dog fight between companies. So from a fresh graduate’s point of view, this is a good thing. Or is it so? Let's break down the situation

Mental state

As an Undergrad who is preparing for the big day, it's important to fully understand your mentality and how it may affect your decision making so that you can do a sanity check when necessary

  • Most probably this will be your first real salary and the job ( except your internship ) and depending on your background it will be a huge deal not only for you but for your parents and family as well. This is the social and financial pressure you are facing. Naturally, you will bias your decisions towards financial benefit due to this. Companies do understand this very well and they will put more emphasis on this when they are recruiting.
  • Culturally we are programmed to pursue higher positions, work for big companies, get more recognition in society. This affects you when you are choosing a company and may force you to go with that big and reputed name rather than little known companies. Even your parents may step in to pressure you into working for a certain organization due to this.
  • Up to this point, you have been dedicating your life to education and you worked hard from Grade 1 to this point. You thought it will be over once you finish your A/Ls but then came the university. So now you want a break, earn some money, relax, travel and buy nice things. Basically, you need to Enjoy life. This will bias your decision making to favor workplaces with less workload.

Above are only a few common mental factors but certainly, there will be more and unique factors within each and every one of you. It's good to sit back and do your own reasoning beforehand to understand the situation before you face the big day.

Your plans for the first 3 -5 years

Take a break and imagine what you want to be after 5 years. it is important to understand your strengths and weaknesses and plan a career path you want to take. This is something sometimes you can't do yourself so seek the help of a good mentor who is genuine and can understand your situation and give genuine advice if possible.

As a fresh graduate, there are few paths you can take within the first 5 years

  1. Pursue Higher studies
  2. Build up a career in the cooperate sector
  3. Start something on your own
  4. Switch the field and do something entirely different
  5. Migrate and settle in another country

Consider above as your ultimate destination. There are different paths you can take to reach your goal

ex- If your goal is to pursue higher studies, you can work for a company for a certain period and then start your higher studies or start pursuing it straightaway.

It's totally fine to have a change of plans later on, but it's always better to have a “Plan A” in your head before you start. Laying up a plan at this stage will help you to achieve your goals faster than trying different things and settle for one later on which generally waste some valuable time.

What you do in first 5 years after you graduate will eventually decide what you become in your life. These early years are the ones you have less commitments and energy to focus. So taking maximum out of this period will give you life long benefits.

Don't get me wrong, you don't have to keep your head down and work your A** off during this time. But taking it too easy will end up you regretting it later on.

Do your homework

Before the arrival of the Big day, you need to do some homework. let's go through them one by one

  • Decide what you want to do !!!

Especially if you decide to pursue higher studies, the best thing is to discuss with one of the members of the academic staff about your options. Research Assistant or Probationary Lecturer positions are available with universities that you to get a reasonable income while allowing you to do some research work.
Also if you are planning to migrate or work overseas, it's better to discuss with someday with relevant expedience about the technologies and skills you need to master while you are working here.
( please refer to Dont’s section for further discussion on joining a company with the clear intention of leaving after a certain period )

  • Update your resume

A good resume is not the fanciest or nice looking one. It's the one easy to read and well written. ( make sure your resume looks good and still readable when printed in black and white )

  • Update your LinkedIn profile and online presence.

This is nothing new. you should know how important to maintain a good online presence especially when you are trying to land a job in the IT field. If a person googles your name, the first page should return relevant results. Believe me, everybody does this as the very first thing when they see your CV.

  • Prepare for the interviews and questions

No matter how much of a genius you are, if you cant convince the panel during an interview, you won't be getting any job offer. So preparing for interviews is a must. ( Even I learned this the hard way ) . take some time and prepare to face your interview. Brush up your technology basics and try a few online tools to get familiar with the interview technical questions. Also, it's important to be prepared for side questions as well.

  • Do background research on the technology trends and market demand

The software and IT industry are evolving very fast. Technologies, tools, and frameworks gain popularity and disappear within a few years. Therefore you have to have a good understanding of current trends on popular technologies and job demand for technologies. It’s better to work in an area where there is future growth rather than work with technologies that may become obsolete within a couple of years. Regardless of what you working with, it’s your responsibility to constantly keep an eye out for upcoming technology and industry trends and adapt. Also trending and demanding technologies defer differ from one region to another.

  • Do background research on Companies you like to join

All the companies will come prepared with some background checks on all candidates. It’s better for you to do the same on companies before you apply and face interview. Especially you have to look at the following aspects when you are doing a background search on a company

  • Technology stack
  • The market segment they are operating on
  • Company ownership, Management, and HR practices
  • Working culture
  • Salary scales, employee benefits, and increment structure

The easiest way to get up-to-date information is to talk with a few seniors working in the company. You have to be careful talking and getting information because the information will be biased towards their personal opinion and experiences. So better to get more than one review and from different levels within the company hierarchy

  • Study bit about Salary composition and employee benefits

“Package” is a common term used by companies for total compensation you get as an Employee. There are many components to it as well as some dirty tricks being played by certain companies when informing this. Therefore it's always good to be educated on this aspect and go to the interview with the knowledge to ask correct questions to get clarifications.

Following are the main components of your Total Package

  • Basic Salary

As the name suggests, this is the base of your salary. If you work within the parameters, the company will be bound to pay this every month. Also in most companies bonuses, increments and some other benefits will be calculated as a percentage of the basic salary. In general, a higher basic salary is good for the employee.

  • Fixed Allowances

These are the fixed addons to your salary. Usually, companies use these to lower your basic salary and maintain a higher total pay for each month.

  • Variable Allowances

These allowances can be vary based on different criteria ( your performance, company’s financial situation, etc. ) and paid at different intervals.

  • Bonuses

Usually paid periodically based on the performance of the employee and the company’s financial situation.

  • Medical Insurance and other benefits

These are the other perks you get as an employee and usually, you will be eligible after you become a permanent employee after your probation period.

  • EPF / ETF Contributions

According to the EPF Act, an employee is required to contribute a minimum of 8% and the employer a minimum of 12% of the total salary of the employee monthly. ( as of 12th November 2020 )

Read more — http://www.epf.lk/whatisepf.php

The ETF contribution percentage is 3%. Every employer has to pay their ETF contributions monthly on behalf of their employees. ( as of 12th November 2020 )

Read more — http://www.etfb.lk/sub_pgs/hom_faq_employer.html

Ex — If Employees Total payment is 100000/=

ETF Contribution: 3000/=

EPF Contribution: 12000/= ( out of total 20 000/= )

The company will pay additional 15000/= on top of your salary for these contributions and you will be eligible for 92000/= ( subject to further deductibles ) after deducting your contribution for EPF.

Also, note that both EPF and ETF contributions are calculated for Total fixed pay including Fixed allowances. ( not only for basic salary )

  • Income Tax

Based on the applicable tax laws, you have to pay your taxes. Honestly, tax policies defer from time to time, and better to refer the following website of the Inland Revenue Department for up to date information

http://www.ird.gov.lk/en/sitepages/default.aspx

On the Big day

Most important thing is to relaxed and face the interviews with confidence. Also, make sure you schedule your interviews with enough gaps in between for you to reset your mind and mood before facing the next.

Also if running late or there is a possibility to be late, inform the company beforehand so that they can adjust accordingly. being punctual is part of the first impression you make.

And don't forget to keep your phone charged and pay attention to the calls ( when you are not in the middle of an interview, make sure you turn off or put it in the flight mode before you start the interview )

At the end of every interview, there will be some time for you to ask questions from the company representatives. Use this time wisely to get any clarifications you need.

Choosing the best option for you

This is where I cant give you advice, simply you have to pick what's best for you. I can guide you on a few factors to consider to make an informed decision

  • Company culture and whether you can fit in

I put this above all is because you will spend significant time with the company in the coming years. So when you choose your workplace, it should provide you with an environment where you can be comfortable. Joining a place with a toxic culture only to get a better financial package will result in you losing your inner piece and end up in a bad mental health situation. So choosing a place you are comfortable with is a must in my opinion. If you have done your background work, you will have enough data to evaluate and compare companies in this aspect.

  • Domain and Exposure

Software and IT companies operate in different domains. Therefore picking a company that operates in a domain you are passionate about will help you to become successful with less effort. Also if you are looking for a long-term commitment with the company, it's best to evaluate the long-term sustainability of the domain before choosing it. Sometimes it's really hard to change your domain at a later stage of your career.

Another factor is the exposure you get, it's important to get good exposure during the early stage of your carrier. It will help you to level up fast as well as build up the carrier. Personally, I would choose a job with good exposure with less salary than one with a high salary but less exposure as my first job. When you build up your skillset and exposure, you can easily get a job with a good salary later on but not vice versa.

  • Technology stack and your skillset

Choosing a company with to date technology stack will benefit you to build up skills which can be easily transformed into any current line of work. if you start with an old technology stack, you will have to work hard to keep you up to date. Also, another factor is to see how fast a company will adapt and evolve.

It's good to explore a few avenues early in your career. Choosing a company that allows such will help you to understand your niche. At a certain point, you will be specializing in an area or two. So it's good to explore and choose your own specialization rather than become a specialist just because you have been assigned to that area.

  • Growth Opportunities

Choose a company that gives you opportunities at the correct pace. Promotions should come when you are ready and at the correct time. Getting promoted too early and too late can damage your career equally.

  • Financial Compensation

As I mentioned before, have a closer look at the “Package” and compare it with each other. You need to factor in the salary together with all the other factors. Basically, you need to weigh in all the above factors I have mention here and come up with your own formula to take the final decision.

As far as salary goes, It should be in an acceptable range for the job market and position you are applying for. Also, consider how companies go with Increments. That's one thing most people miss. Higher starting salary but small increments will be bad in long run rather than moderate starting salary with good increments each year.

Don’t Do this !!!

There are a few things you should not do in order to avoid tarnishing your Universities’ reputation as well as your own.

  • Don’t get into heated arguments with your interviewers or company representatives

It's ok to politely and professionally put out your disagreement but getting emotional or aggressive is only going to harm you. If you feel something is not right, the best thing is to smile and walk away.

  • Don’t lie about your plans on higher education or migration to land a job

Especially if you have plans to leave the company within two years, It's best to tell it during your interview. If you are willing to work for more than one year, most companies will be willing to hire you. It's always a two-way avenue, you are getting paid and you have to add value to the company. Landing a job and leaving after a few months for selfish reasons will add a huge black mark against your name. Also, it can damage the reputation of your institute causing a lot of others having to face repercussions of your selfish act.

  • Don’t accept another offer without turning down the one you already accepted

Again, this is a selfish act causing one of your batchmates to lose an opportunity. If you find a better offer than what you have accepted, talk with the previous company and politely decline the offer before you accept the next one.
It's totally fine to go for a better offer but it's not ethical to hold on to others once you have made up your mind.

After Landing the Job

Congratulations !! you survived the career fair and now you have landed the job. There are few early-stage mistakes most fresh graduates do which they regret later on. I am listing the most common ones below so that you can avoid them

  • Be humble

You can be an island 1st or Batch top, yet on your first day, you are the newest employee of the company. So be humble. Also, blend with everybody in the company and set aside your University / School / Race / Religion hats outside. You need to build up your people skills to be successful

  • Start building up your Network

You landed your first Job from the career fair. But from this point onwards everything will be based on the connections you make within the industry. So networking is a must for a long and successful career. Start with your company and then go beyond the company.

  • Don't get too comfortable

This goes in line with what I said in the mental state section above. Naturally, you want to get rid of everything and enjoy it. Yeah go and enjoy but don't get too hung up on just enjoying. These early years are the ones you have fewer commitments and energy to focus on. So taking maximum out of this period will give you life long benefits.

  • Find a good mentor

Having a genuine mentor to discuss and get advice is a priceless thing early in your career. Better to build up a relationship with a person who got good industry experience and exposure ( emphasis on Both !! )

  • Focus on self-development and being up to date

As I said earlier, the industry is evolving fast. your company and the work you do may not evolve in the same phase and that's totally fine because there are business decisions. But that's not an excuse for you to be outdated. Allocate some time to read and try things out and be updated. That will benefit you to stand out from the crowd.

  • Build up your Financial Literacy and take control of your finances

This may be your first real job and the point where you become financially independent. It's important to have a good understanding of your finances to be successful in your life. To build up financial discipline, you can start using a personal budget sheet or app to track your incomes/bank balances and expenses. This will help you to understand your capacity and limit so that when taking a loan or other credit facility, you can be within sustainable limits.

Some may say credit cards/loans etc. are bad but that's because most people don't have the financial literacy to understand how the system works. Do a bit of reading on things like Bank loans, Credit cards, and investment accounts to gather knowledge rather than relying on word of mouth from others.

Hope this will help you be prepared and start your career in the correct way !!! Good luck and may the force be with you !!!

If you are looking at advice on the internships —

https://medium.com/@akiladarshana/internship-for-cse-undergrads-myths-common-mistakes-and-my-experience-3b1e9d77faa3

Software Architect, Computer Science Researcher , Photographer and A curious guy willing to learn about anything