Tech that: city-based firm programmes a gender bender for IT industry

TalentSprint is attempting to create a talent pool of women engg. students for IT product companies

At a time when gender imbalance in technology sector is becoming a concern globally, with women engineers not even accounting for 10% of the work force in top-notch technology companies, Hyderabad-based TalentSprint has set out to change the skewed figures.

With its innovative programme, TalentSprint WE, over 100 women engineering students in their third and fourth years have embarked on a unique one-year experiential programme on the company’s campus here.

Defying odds

A majority of these talented and motivated young women are from underprivileged and disadvantaged sections who by their sheer merit and aptitude made it into the prestigious programme supported by Google in a nationwide competitive selection.

“We want to create a culture where young women engineers who are talented are selected early to give their talent a direction and to turn them into world-class technology professionals,” explains Santanu Paul, MD and CEO, TalentSprint.

His earlier success with WISE (Women in Software Engineering), a boot camp style programme to train women students based on experiential and self-learning from lesser known engineering colleges in two Telugu States to compete with students from IITs, IIMs and IIITs, had impressed Google top executives who agreed to scale up the programme across the country.

Skewed figures

The IT services companies always had 25 to 30% of women in the workforce. But when it comes to IT product companies, their women engineering workforce is less than 10%. “The best technology companies have been looking in vain for world class technology professionals to increase the diversity at work place. The challenge is to find the best talent and match it with requirement of top technology companies,” he says.

Explaining the mode of selection, Mr. Paul says there is no co-relation between the programming ability of an individual and her academic pedigree. It has been shown that students from ordinary families and colleges can become better programmers in their careers than those from elite colleges.

Eye on goal

“Our target is to produce 600 such women engineers in the next three years — 100 engineers this year, 200 in the second and 300 engineers in the third year; then every year, 300 such professionals. We got 7,000 applications for the first 100 seats and after multi-staged selection process, 109 students were selected from 64 colleges, 30 universities and about 20 cities and towns in the country. Half of them come from families where they are the first women graduates in the family and 80% come from families whose annual income is less than ₹6 lakh,” he adds.

For those who made it to the one-year training programme in a special methodology, botcamps, online learning and mentoring is free, paid by Google along with a stipend of ₹ 1 lakh for the year. The students will be here for one month, go back to their colleges and train online and will be supported by 40 mentors working with Google from around the world. They come back for one month final bootcamp next June at TalentSprint.

At the end of the programme, the trained women engineers will be interviewed by Google and its partners. “We believe these 100 will be absorbed by companies around the world. The top 100 students hail from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh though the applications came from across 29 states,” he says.

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