The education and research journey


I still vividly remember one of the classes I taught in 1995 at our Mangalore Development Center. It was a small rented building and we had a batch of 30 new trainees. At that time, all of us used to teach programming basics and database management to all our new employees. Teaching was integral to our jobs because we wanted to create an environment where everyone was expected to participate in the education process and build long-lasting bonds with our employees. Those trainees still remember the classes I taught. Today, many of them are part of the senior management at Infosys.

Since the beginning, we had recognized the significance of education in the growth of an individual, a company and that of a nation. We believed that to create a learning organization, our employees must constantly learn and grow professionally through various phases of their development and life. While our formal education department, what is now known as Education & Research (E&R), was not created until 1991, the underlying foundation was always present.

As we grew, there was a need to scale and address predictability. Thus, we started our Education & Research (E&R) department, a function charged with the responsibility to educate and train our employees with a highly competent, full-time faculty. Meanwhile, the economic reforms gave a fresh impetus to the IT industry and was growing so rapidly that availability of talent was a serious concern. The number of engineering graduates who specialized in computer science was insufficient.

While we were scaling up, we realized that it was imperative to build our own education department as a core competency rather than outsource the training to third-party vendors.

With the adoption of global quality standards in the early Nineties, education and training, like all other key organizational processes, was integrated with our quality function. Having a dedicated department for education meant that we could aim at the standardization of our training programs.

Over the years, an incredible amount of material has been created and this has become the main pillar of our successful training programs. Our approach to education was always innovative — we identified several gaps in the prevailing education system and created our own processes by experimenting with various learning methodologies. Our educators were associated with real-life projects and this helped them in designing courses that were comprehensive, inter-connected and relevant.

Initially, our approach to learning was distributed. Every Development Center had its own team and employees, and trainees had to move often across locations to complete their training. We decided that creating a centralized and strategic infrastructure would address our growth. With this intent, the Infosys Global Education Centre (GEC), Mysore, was established. The GEC is the largest corporate education center in the world. It is a symbol of not just our commitment to education and lifelong learning but also of our journey as an organization — from a batch of 30 trainees whom I taught in 1995, to a facility that currently hosts over 14,000 trainees.

The GEC catapulted the growth of our E&R capabilities many times over. Spread over 337 acres, the GEC is one of the largest classical buildings in independent India. We currently employ over 300 faculty members to provide standardized, comprehensive education and training at the GEC.

While we added new services to our business portfolio, we transitioned from being a technology solutions company to a business solutions company. New services such as consulting, package implementation, systems integration, infrastructure management, independent validation and business process management necessitated the creation of an equipped workforce. Our training programs have been dynamic to take these new challenges in their stride and rapidly create new training streams.

Apart from entry-level training, we have always believed that lifelong learning is crucial to build a sustainable and competitive advantage. Our continuous learning programs are in line with the needs of our clients and the emergence of new technologies, and are based on the role competencies being performed at a business vertical along four dimensions – technology, client business domain, processes, and behavioral skills.

From a humble learning organization to a pioneer in the field of industry-academia partnerships, it has been a journey where we have learnt as much as we have taught.

We have also linked the learning and performance management processes and our certification programs assess the knowledge of an individual with relevance to a specific role. We have successfully conducted an incredible 2,00,000 assessments in the last year alone.

We introduced knowledge management into our work culture before it became a popular term. We had a system called the Body of Knowledge (BoK), which consisted of a folder that was placed on the company librarian's desk. Individuals or teams would share their problem-solving experience as a report and file it into this folder for everyone to access.

Following the rapid growth in the Nineties, we realized we had to expand its scale, considering our geographic spread, technological flux and functional specialization. It was at this time that our E&R department began developing Knowledge Management (KM) as a strategic initiative.

The Infosys KM solution has grown to meet our changing needs. We developed additional features around the KM solution to support collaboration, namely, the KM portal – a central repository for content; People Knowledge Map – a directory service for locating experts; Knowledge Exchange – a set of online discussion forums; and KMail – an auto-response generator and workflow engine for answering questions. Together, these have enabled us to leverage organizational knowledge in a systematic manner.

It is beyond doubt that education influences the development and growth of a country's economy. Over the last 30 years, the Indian IT industry has grown to become the largest employer in the country's organized private sector. While India has produced a large number of engineering and science graduates, the varying quality of education is a cause for concern. At Infosys, education has always been a fundamental principle, extending beyond the growth of our organization.

As a major stakeholder in the global aspirations of the Indian IT industry, we were concerned with this issue and we decided to create a program that could help narrow this gap. This vision led to the creation of the Campus Connect Program, a unique industry-academia interaction that seeks to reach upstream with the education system and align the capabilities and outcomes of the educational institutions with the needs of the IT industry. Today, Campus Connect is proud to be associated with almost 530 engineering institutions and has successfully trained over 1,20,000 students.

The scope of education, research and training cannot be confined within the walls of a corporate organization. Learning begins at the level of the individual, and scales the levels of team, organization and country, before finally making a global impact. At Infosys, we recognize that the superstructure of a globally competitive and sustainable business transformation can only be built upon a strong base of learning and education.

From a humble learning organization to a pioneer in the field of industry-academia partnerships, it has been a journey where we have learnt as much as we have taught. I feel proud when I see the Infosys education and research wagon filling up with new and eager learners every year. Empowered by learning, these young Infoscions will create value for our clients, shareholders, their fellow Infoscions, and the society at large.