Prof. Mariyakutty Varkey is one of the few women of her times who tried to conquer unchartered territories and make a place for herself in the industry. An engineer and MBA, she has around 22 years of experience working in the IT industry, including Keltron. A Kerala government initiative, Keltron was one of the flagship IT industries in India and offered her an opportunity to work with Germany on a software development project. Prof. Varkey has carried her vast experience to academia and, since 2006, has been an invaluable member of the faculty team at SCMS Cochin School of Business.
Prof. Varkey started her journey with the institute as a Professor in Operations and Systems department , and today she also functions as the HOD of the department. She talks about her journey from the industry to academia, saying, “I was enamoured by the idea of working in the industry, especially on the factory level. Later on, I moved to software and had several exciting opportunities along the way. I joined Suntech Business Solutions, and helped set up their software testing company in Cochin. It was then that I felt I wasn’t able to spend time with my son, who was growing up. Therefore, I decided to take a break and get into academics.”
For someone who thrived on the day to day challenges of the industry, it wasn’t an easy choice; however, it is clear that Prof. Varkey has grown into it and started to embrace the responsibilities. Going back to the first days at SCMS Cochin, she remembers being a bit nervous: “I wasn’t sure I would be able to teach at all. But it takes time and the best thing about SCMS Cochin is that you are able to contribute. Here your industry experience is valued and you are able to change the syllabus by adding latest content. Given our industry experience, we also know what to expect from junior colleagues and together we fine tune the syllabus to give students an advantage.”
And the results are there for all to see, as students from the institute have managed to get placements in top rung companies. Today, the faculty team has a strong mix of individuals with solid industry experience and they try to give students as much valuable industry exposure as possible. However, Prof. Varkey is quick to point out the many things that today’s students should work on to make their place in the industry. “For starters, they need to upgrade themselves constantly because the technology changes fast”, she says. “The IT industry is also a lot about teamwork and your individual brilliance might not account for much. Your flexibility as a professional, however, surely will”.
Prof. Varkey suggests different focus groups, forums, magazines and the Internet as ways for students to continually update their skill sets and increase their industry knowledge. She also highlights the changing industry scenario, saying, “In the 90s in IT, cost was the major factor and that’s why there was a lot of outsourcing. But today, it’s all about providing value to the customer and cost is not the only concern.” As a result of these changes, quality plays a crucial role and SCMS tries to impart that to students by focussing on practical applications, project management and live exposure that prepares them for the transition ahead.
According to Prof. Mariakutty, there are definitely several opportunities for MBAs in the IT industry that do not require programming and coding: “You can become a Business Analyst where you are, in a sense, a liaison between the customer and project manager. The marketing of IT or other hardware products is also another option besides quality testers”. Prof. Varkey is also optimistic about the scope for growth as young professionals can become project managers in 5-8 years, based on their performance. Therefore, she advises students to identify their goals and to keep their focus in order to reach places with their hard work.