Driving The Numbers

By Samir Makwana Published Date
01 - Mar - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Mar - 2007
Driving The Numbers

A career in the broad area of database can betechnically challenging, intellectually taxing, and financially rewarding

Any business is dependant on data to a large extent, and data is one of the most valuable assets of any organisation. IT and ITES are used extensively across various industry verticals, and in this info-centric age, data very obviously drives business.

Although databases are managed and maintained in most industry verticals, this is mostly so is in Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI), Telecom, Manufacturing, and E-governance. The first three sectors are growing very fast. Databases in these sectors have become complex, and serve small, medium, and large businesses.

Businesses going online, and real-time transactions, have now increased the requirements for a robust and reliable database infrastructure. A number of different applications and packages such as ERP (Enterprise Resources Planning) and CRM (Customer Resources Management) result in complex databases.

Data has to be managed and maintained well since it plays a crucial role in decision-making. There is a need for a skilled workforce that can manage, maintain, process, and secure databases for the smooth flow of business activities.

Under databases, which is a very broad area, opportunities lie in areas such as software development, administration, management, and the designing of databases. One can jumpstart a career by working in any of these and more to explore broader horizons. The major sectors are banking and financial, manufacturing, telecommunication, education, and retail.

"Database professionals are hot commodities in the IT industry. The service sector needs skills. Many MNCs are outsourcing their IT infrastructure to India. Also, back-end database professionals are an integral and critical part of the IT infrastructure," says Vadiraja Bhatt, Senior Software Architect, ASE-SPEED group, Sybase India.

Scope Of Options
The major areas within databases and allied areas are explained below.

Database Software Development: The profile of the individual here remains the same as in other areas of software development. Good programming, debugging, problem-solving and analytical skills are expected.

Database Administration: The activities here include planning, testing, installing, diagnosing, and maintaining of information in the form of databases in an organisation or any other institutional body. Primary tasks here involve managing databases, developing reports, optimising the computer systems used for storing databases, diagnosing, performance optimisation, regular backups, database optimisation over mainframes, and ensuring database efficiency.

The people one works with are the management, IT professionals, end-users, system analysts, and technical support.

In any strategic decision relating to purchase of systems or equipment, or applying solutions, advice from these professionals is needed.

Certifications are important tools to show the prowess in the field by any person who holds them and gives recognition to stand out in the crowd"
Davey Brooks,Managing Partner - Professional Services,for South-East Asia/India, Teradata - A division of NCR Corp.

Data Security: Preparing data security plans, selection of appropriate tools, deployment of security tools, regular data backups, and selection of appropriate media for data is the responsibility of those in this segment.

Database Designers: Data helps in decision-making for business activities; for that, the system needs to be efficiently designed. A lot of data is accessed online in real-time, for, say, retailing. Data structures are to be designed such that there is no flaw at any end, and the structure has to be flexible enough to incorporate expansion.

Solution Architects: Those employed in this area interact with clients and derive solutions for their businesses. For example, in the case of the banking industry, solutions for real-time banking issues, data mobilisation and safety would be provided by the solution architects. They gather the client's requirements, derive appropriate solutions, document the solutions employed, and ensure solution integrity.

Data Warehousing, Business Intelligence, and Data Mining: See box Specialisations.

Entry Into The Field
The industry seeks candidates with a fairly good academic record. Candidates should be from the IT or engineering backgrounds. According to industry guidelines, graduates (BCA/B.E./B.Tech.) and post graduates (MCA/M.E./M.Tech.) in the field of computer science or computer engineering remain the most sought-after. In certain cases, students of mathematics are preferred.

During the academic tenure of pursuing an IT or engineering degree, subjects relating to database management systems, data structures, and database design need to be studied. A selection of subjects that covers DBMS packages and programming languages has to be made by both IT and engineering students.

"Formal education is fairly important and essential; also, cases of non-IT people who enter and become successful are very rare. Technical education strengthens the basic fundamentals about the job," says Seema Ambastha, Director-Sales Consulting (Database Technologies), Oracle India Ltd, who offer solutions for businesses-databases, middleware, business intelligence, business applications, and collaboration.

One's institution must be recognised by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). The AICTE is a statutory body that co-ordinates development of the technical education system across the country. It becomes an individual's responsibility to check for the recognition of the educational institutes with the AICTE before applying for admission. Also, the electives being offered should be confirmed beforehand.

"Certifications are positively recommended. Today, business clients appreciate people with certifications. Be it on the technical side or the business side, they get recognised for their abilities and stand out from the crowd. For those into business intelligence, business/commercial knowledge is necessary at any level of the hierarchy," says Sanjay Deshmukh, Business Development Director-India/SAARC, Business Objects, who specialise in business intelligence services.

India has a number of global DBMS software vendors who offer education and training for their software packages. The major ones are Oracle, IBM, Sybase, and Microsoft. The courses offered are from the entrant level to the specialist level, with specially-designed modules for each level. These professional certifications add value to your résumé.

For non-IT people, options are available in the allied fields of databases such as data mining and business intelligence. A post-graduate degree equivalent to Master of Business, or a commercial background with specialisation in a domain such as finance, or a Chartered Accountant degree, are required for analytical functions for positions such as Financial analyst and budgeting.

"There are exceptions in every field. Students from non-IT backgrounds can indeed enter this arena. For such profiles, good commercial or business knowledge is necessary for dealing with clients and organisations from different verticals," says Davey Brooks, managing partner-professional services, South-East Asia/India, Teradata (a division of NCR Corporation), which offers enterprise data warehousing and analytical solutions.

The basic skills required of a data professional would be expertise over any one area of database technology. The usual soft skills such as the ability to work in a team are also required. For the consultancy and business solutions functions, skills such as inter-personal and intra-personal skills are essential.

Testing Times
While hiring candidates, organisations look for three criteria-education, experience, and professional credentials. For those just starting off, fundamentals relating to database management systems and general aptitude are tested. At the time of hiring, aptitude tests that check the aspirant's fundamentals and basics relating to DBMS are conducted. Organisations consider the project(s) opted for during the academic tenure. Across industry verticals, organisations into development of DBMS software necessarily scrutinise academic records, projects undertaken, and DBMS fundamentals.
Training sessions assume that freshers have hands-on experience with DBMS applications and platforms. However, software vendors and software development organisations have training modules designed according to the experience and interest of the employees.

"Training at our organisation is carried out for fresh folks for their optimum performance and upgradation of skills. We have different training modules such as class-based, Web-based, and on-the-job kind of training," informs Brooks. The duration of the training period is usually between two and ten weeks, depending upon the nature of the training module.

"We at Oracle have special training modules designed for three levels-Fundamental, Advanced, and Specialist. All are short-term, intensively-designed modules for those who want to have in-depth knowledge and hands-on skills with DBMS products," says Ambastha.

Designation And Remuneration
The designations awarded depend on the performance and capabilities of the employee. They differ across organisations and industries. The fields branch out into technical and business-oriented profiles at the middle level, where one can decide upon an area of expertise.

Entry Level: In programming, be it a small application or utility or a big ERP or database package, the majority of the designations remain the same throughout the industry.

For database management, software programming and development, administration, designing and solutions, consulting and business solutions of DBMS software, the growth path is similar to that of in other professions.

At this level, most tasks require core-to-field kind of activities like programming, coding, deployment of and working with database applications, end-user support, data backup, and more. Posts awarded in programming would be associate software engineer, software engineer, etc. These people will be part of a project team, but handle specific modules independently.

For database administration, the designations awarded would be technical support, technical expert/specialist, solution architect, designer, and so on. Similarly, for a consulting domain like data warehousing, business intelligence and data mining, one can be a consultant (technical or business), research assistant, assistant analyst, and such.

At this level, the average time taken to reach one position up would be a minimum of one to two years. The average monthly salary a fresher can expect is between Rs 20,000 to Rs 40,000.

Middle Level: As one moves higher, the area of expertise branches out into technical or business-related; one has to choose. Database professionals at these levels would be in charge of the testing and validation of functions such as design, solutions, data backup, security, etc. They lead a team of juniors.

The majority of individuals at the middle level lead single or multiple projects, resolve technical issues, scope out the functionality of databases, estimate resources, derive solutions to technical and business issues relating to databases, and so forth.

Designations awarded to those in software development, database administration, solutions, design, and architecture would be senior software engineer/developer, project lead, senior data architect, senior solution architect, and such. For consultants in data warehousing, business intelligence, and data mining, the designations would be senior consultant, consulting head, head architect (solutions), and so on.

The time taken to advance to the next level is three to five years, and pay scales are Rs 45,000 to Rs 80,000 per month.

The appraisal and promotions are procured by individuals as per their ability based on their assessment of work performance and contribution to a project"
Seema Ambastha ,Director - Sales Consulting (Database Technologies), Oracle India Pvt. Ltd.

Senior Level: Here, the individual would be responsible for and lead all the teams below him. He/she would lead a product group-or group of solutions-to deliver cutting-edge solutions in accordance with the demands of clients from different industry verticals. These professionals take all strategic decisions relating to projects to be undertaken or those already running. Designations awarded in development, database designing, solution architecting, and administration of databases would be director of engineering, vice president (database technologies), or country head/manager (database package).

Consultants are designated the domain consultant, principal consultant, president/vice president (consulting), and so forth. The average time take to get here is more than six or eight years in a particular domain. Remuneration starts from Rs 85,000 per month, with the upper limit decided by the organisation.

Summing It Up
According to Gartner, the global DBMS market will generate $13.2 billion (Rs 61,400 crore) by 2009, and the DBMS software market has a compound annual growth rate of 10.3 per cent, bringing the market to $1.3 billion (Rs 6,000 crore) in new license revenue by 2009. One can sum up from the figures that there is immense scope in databases as a career option.

In India, many multinationals are bringing in their operational centres such as country offices, research labs, and such. And there will always be a dearth of qualified and skilled database professionals.

We've said the scope is immense, that the remuneration is attractive, and we've indicated the field is challenging. So what does a career in databases sound like?

Samir MakwanaSamir Makwana