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Press about Auriga

Nov 18, 2011

Auriga: Hiring Practices at One of Russia’s Top Outsourcing Services Providers

Andrey Pronin, Auriga, General Manager
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Auriga is a software R&D and IT outsourcing services provider incorporated in the U.S. that has been operating development centers in Russia since 1990. Auriga was the first company in the region to focus on satisfying the specific needs of software and hardware high-tech companies as its driving strategy. Being one of 44 companies worldwide that have made both the Global Services 100 and the Global Outsourcing 100 lists every year since 2008, Auriga offers a wide range of services covering all aspects of the entire product engineering area and expertise in a rich set of knowledge areas from embedded systems and OS internals to enterprise information systems and Web applications. Auriga’s client list includes such industry majors and leaders in their segments as IBM, Chrysler, Barclays, Yandex, and many others.

Andrey Pronin, Auriga’s General Manager, took some time recently to address questions about the company’s recruitment process in an exclusive interview with Software Russia. Recruitment practices, the quality of new graduates and the skill sets that outsourcers require have an significant impact on the competitiveness of the Russian outsourcing market, which is known for the extremely accomplished engineering work done by its native talent.

Asked about whether the company prefers to make new hires directly from the pool of recent graduates or from among those already working, Pronin expressed a decided preference for those with at least a measure of useful experience. “Traditionally, we have preferred to take on more experienced employees—no matter whether they come to us from the labor pool or from another company. Currently, no more than ten percent of our engineers have less than a year’s experience. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit people that possess the necessary technical skills, and who also match our corporate culture. So now we are moving towards another model and are looking for more junior staff with brief experience in other companies. In this case, we can not only provide them with the necessary skills but also instill our approach to challenge handling, client interaction and similar matters.”

Technical expertise alone is not enough for most customers, and the reality is the impact of soft skills on a project’s success or failure is underestimated by most vendors. “It is becoming more difficult to find enough enthusiastic people with the appropriate culture to support company growth, so we are switching to starting with less experienced people and developing them rather that finding ready-to-use engineers on the labor market,” said Pronin.

Assessing the quality of recent graduates is an issue that the entire industry faces. With new talent it is often hard to gauge what percentage of graduates are ready to work, and what percentage are wholly unskilled. “The percentage of the qualified ‘freshers’ ready to work is difficult to gauge—our ponderous educational system just can’t keep up with the fast-paced IT industry and the new technologies and trends emerging every few months. If a new graduate did not work while studying at university, and thus did not get the proper kind of experience that way, his or her knowledge is simply too theoretical and too focused on technical details. It is relatively easy to learn certain programming languages and to gain knowledge of a specific operating system or a particular development framework. Throughout a career, a strong engineer can change development platforms numerous times due to the high demand for his services—it is neither overly difficult nor does it take much time to switch between them.

Much more difficult, and more important, is to learn a systematic approach to programming.

It is essential for engineers to be familiar with different development methodologies and to implement them in practice at once—to get a better understanding of hands-on tasks and nuances, for example, such as how to raise and resolve issues in a SCRUM meeting, how to make efficient demonstrations for a client, how to avoid typical mistakes in unit-tests, and why it is better to have unit-tests after all.”

Auriga considers a sense of the development process as one of the most important skills in the modern R&D world. “Usually, the term ‘process’ is interpreted too narrowly, so I need to explain what I mean. On the whole, we are talking about the ability to rapidly obtain relevant new information, to learn new systems, to understand unfamiliar architecture, and to compare multiple platforms in order to choose the best for the project. Obviously, proficiency in these practices comes with time, but the basic foundation should be laid during the initial training. And at the same time, it is not being taught—in fact can’t be taught on paper. The future developer should just work as much as possible, analyzing live project situations and solving pocket-sized tasks using all the methods that have been learned.”

The training of a new employee is an important aspect for many companies. And with training costs a real issue, and the relation of attrition rates to the bottom line, a balance needs to be struck between in-house training that provides a newly hired employee with the basic tools to function within the new environment versus the amount of time and money spent spend to transform a recent graduate with little or no experience into an effective team member.

Some solve this by offering in-company training courses while others rely on the experience new graduates received during work-placement during their studies. At Auriga, “the initial training period, consisting of intensive courses focused on a specific engineering area, and working under the supervision of a formally assigned mentor, takes about three months and costs the company around $4000. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but everyone should understand that the result of these efforts is just a good, junior-level engineer who can already be used in real-life projects, but who still has a long way to go. In addition, it is important to mention that we hire only those graduates with recently gained experience. A prospective employee with a basic theoretical education alone is not usually offered a position. We prefer their slightly more experienced former classmates.”

In addition to the initial training courses offered by the company, English language proficiency is also something that Auriga looks for and then helps its employees develop. “The knowledge of English is much better than it was seven to ten years ago. Many students have the opportunity to practice it during their education in exchange programs, international workshops or just by travelling. Typically an engineer has a sufficient level of technical English in order to read technical texts. But our experience argues for the fact that the project depends mainly upon the ability to communicate and meet the cultural expectations of our western clients. In this case, a basic level of English is obviously not enough, unless a person intends to stay at the junior level for years.”

With all the options that exist for increasing employees’ language skills, Auriga focuses on providing the skills necessary so that an engineer can become a partner with the customer in the development process. “We teach English business communication and correspondence. The company partially subsidizes the cost of training, with the remainder being paid by the employee to encourage motivation. When someone invests their own money—even a small amount—they treat the process more seriously.” Companywide, Auriga enrolls about a quarter of its employees in English training programs. “Unfortunately, it is difficult to educate students to advanced levels in the classroom. But at least their skills improve, they overcome the fear of communicating in a foreign language, and, finally, when they are thrown into a position in the project that requires precise communication, their level increases quickly.”

With the variety of universities and technical institutes that provide an IT education in Russia, numerous choices exist for potential employers and many have their preferred favorites. Auriga, on the other hand, has “no special preferences for any certain university or college. We will not exclude anyone just on the basis of the college the candidate graduated from. Naturally, people with a higher level of education are more likely to be hired due to the skills they demonstrate in an interview. We hardly ever pay attention to the ‘educational institution’ line on a CV. But it happens naturally that the majority of our employees graduate from the technical universities leading in the field of computer sciences, math, physics and engineering in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and southern Russia. It doesn’t make sense to provide a list of those universities—they are already well known.”

In a rapidly developing market, where companies are subject to increasing competitive pressure and a rising level of client demands, the search for innovation capabilities and the best experts continues. Auriga’s leading prominent position on the Russian outsourcing market, its dedication to best practices and commitment to excellence have led to expansion projects for both of its regional Russian development centers with an increase in the size of its engineering teams in Nizhny Novgorod and Rostov-on-Don.

/ Article originally published by software-russia.com /


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