Blog: The fall and rise of polyvalent: Are you one of them?

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The fall and rise of polyvalent: Are you one of them?

From to go-to man for everybody, Ryan plummeted down the corporate hierarchy. Will he rise again?
The fall and rise of polyvalent: Are you one of them?

No!  They are not apes trying to take over the earth, neither are they mutants, avengers or universal soldiers. But they are slowly taking over the IT industry. Are you one of them? 

Ryan could develop applications, test, fix bugs, maintain it and customize it. But he is considered a jack of all trades and master of none. He ended up either, being rejected for having spread his skills too thin, or was offered a role in a specific part of the application lifecycle. 

He is always a second preference. His pay lesser than his counterparts, and his career slower. He always was under the threat of losing his employment at the drop of a hat. If there was a threat to the economy, his head was the first to face the axe. He was always the bagman. Whatever, he did to establish his credibility failed. 

But life was not always like this for Ryan. He was a hero and people picked him like hot cakes a few years ago. He was the go-to man for everything. His life was filled with exciting opportunities and he could pick and choose the most exciting one for him. 

So what changed and how did he fall from his pedestal to the sidelines? There was no single event that changed this overnight. Things like Y2K episode, the dot-com bubble, the not so recent yet fresh in memory recession all changed the eco-system. The world around him changed. He failed to notice it. He failed to acknowledge it, and do something about it. Over a few years, He found himself on the sidelines and a new breed began ruling the world. 

This new breed built structures that solidified their position in the pecking order – the specialist. 

In the new economy, Ryan was required to be a specialist. He was expected to be good at a specific part of the array of roles. Client services, account management, project management, delivery, and development. Ryan always felt he did not fit into any of them completely. He could never call himself a specialist. He could do all of it and was confident that he was good at it. But the world did not need a jack of all trades. He was doing this for a while and is too difficult for him to turn into a specialist now. 

He saw the world around him in a different way. Being what he is, was only this way that he could understand the customer's problem statement or goal, and develop a solution for it. He always felt, that because of so many stages and the sheer number of people a business problem passed through, it was always lost in translation and no real solution came of it.

But over the years, the customers did not see an impending problem to this new structure. Core specialists failed to see the connecting dots. They failed to recognize the larger picture and were siloed in their specifics. This did not go well with them. To the extent, that the final developer, did not know why or for whom was the application being developed. The client turned impatient about this and dug deeper. That is when they realized, the specialists did not have an understanding of the problem or the ability articulate the solution.

The resurgence of polyvalent

Over the years, the winds seem to change. Clients now prefer talking to the end developer directly. They expect the last foot soldier to have a full understanding of the problem statement or business requirement, understand the domain, and have the conversation skills to articulate the solution in a simple and effective manner. Most important of all they are expected to have the technical skills to solve it. 

Now Ryan is back in business. Right from the team leader, to the delivery head are lined up behind him. His ability to program in multiple languages, understand the domain and have the softer skills have an intelligent conversation with the client, and manage his project on timelines are back in demand. The specialists now morphed into advisors and consultants to provide specific inputs to him when required. 

The Nasscom, 2017-18 outlook predicts a bright future for these polyvalents. Over 350,000 of them now inhabit the corporate world. This number is expected to rise to over 1.5 million in the next few years. They are making the digital space their new home. Growing from 4% to about 20% in the last two years.

Nasscom report

Their skills are hard to find and the demand for this breed is way higher than what the world can supply right now.

Organizations are once again re-drafting their structures to place Ryan’s breed at the frontline of their business model. He will once again be the focus of work. 

Like life, your career too will come a full circle. Your ability to adapt will determine your survival and success. If you are a young and aspiring professional setting out to make a mark in the IT workforce, you need to relook at your priorities. Look around and experience winds of change. It is easy to follow the crowd and expect organizations to hire and train and employ in the same manner they were doing for the past few years. But they are changing. 

Hiring through campus is now 1/4th of what it used to be 5 years ago. New hiring models like hack-a-thons and “Y Combinators” are taking the forefront. 

Talent Marketplace as a model is fast replacing traditional models. If you need to understand “Talent Market Place” read my previous blogs below

1. Critical to revamp the talent supply model to ensure predictability

2. IT companies should have a relook at their talent supply model

One of my mentors once said, “Never lose your eye on the goal post, no matter how fast you run. Keep changing your path to stay connected with the goal.” 

Let me know what you think and what should organizations do to create awareness around this? What help do you need to make it work for you? 

Topics: #Career, Skilling, Leadership, Strategic HR

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