According to S&P Global Managing Director Mujeeb Zahur, technology is driving economic growth and shaping work modalities.
The shortage of qualified IT graduates and experts in Pakistan has created a gap between supply and demand, he said. Although S&P Global has been fortunate to have a strong pool of applicants and a low turnover rate, it recognizes the importance of addressing this issue.
With more than 10 years at the data company, Mujeeb currently leads S&P Global operations in Pakistan, the Philippines, and Argentina. Through close collaboration with leaders in Data/Content, News & Research, Technology, Client Support, Sales, and Account Management, he is responsible for executing organizational strategy at the three sites.
Mujeeb serves on the executive committee of the US-Pakistan Women Council, a US State Department initiative aimed at empowering women and developing entrepreneurs.
Mujeeb previously headed a US-based BPO firm’s Islamabad operation before joining S&P Global’s predecessor organization, SNL Financial.
Below is an excerpt of his interview with our journalists:
Tell us a little about yourself and your organization?
I have had an outstanding 11 years with S&P Global. I am overseeing the company’s operations in Pakistan, the Philippines and Argentina, aiming to energize markets of the future by providing top-of-the-line data, analytics and intelligence. S&P Global is renowned for its comprehensive selection of services paired together with independent ratings, benchmarking, analytics and data that are distributed to different capital and commodity markets all over the world. We cater to a broad clientele ranging from asset managers, banks, broker-dealers, hedge funds and other financial institutions as well as governments, regulators and other bodies.
Additionally, I serve on the executive committee of the U.S.-Pakistan Women Council, an initiative of the U.S. State Department to empower women in the workplace and develop entrepreneurs in Pakistan.
How do you see rising demand for human resources (HR) in the local as well as global IT industry?
Technology is pushing economic expansion and influencing the modalities of work, and this trend will only strengthen. As data gains, higher value and design in technology becomes a core competitive edge, the driving force for qualified IT professionals with specialized knowledge will remain. Pakistan has a lack of certified IT students and professionals causing an imbalance between the request and offer; however, at S&P Global, we are grateful to have a robust set of applicants and a lower-than-normal attrition rate; yet, we understand how significant it is to tackle this issue.
We have therefore joined forces with universities to cultivate the IT industry’s leading talent. Our close collaboration with educational institutions allows us to spot and foster those individuals who will shape the future of the sector. This partnership is extremely important for the IT industry’s steady development as well as that of the wider economy. Boot camps providing specialized training in certain fields have also become a globally-adopted practice; they aim to produce employable workers after only four to six months of instruction and are now also in use across Pakistan.
In today’s IT industry, what specific skills are in demand?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is revolutionizing the working environment and introducing new trends which are impacting the professional landscape. In the IT sector, expertise in machine learning, analytics, IoT, software and hardware development, blockchain technology, data sciences, cloud computing and cybersecurity is sought-after. At S&P Global and other tech organizations, we observe the demand for Salesforce Developers, Full Stack developers and Cloud engineers.
Furthermore, IT professionals need strong communication, project management, analytical, and critical thinking skills to be able to adapt and innovate.
How can organizations, universities, and the government promote long-term IT education in Pakistan?
For IT graduates to thrive in the industry and progress professionally, a collaboration between the corporate sector, higher education institutions and the government is essential. Curriculum development should be done in partnership with industry so that students are gaining relevant knowledge, while research projects should focus on actual problems from the industry for students to get real experience. Additionally, internships and apprenticeships should be ongoing, and mentoring by international experts could provide invaluable advice.
It is also important for the government to promote industry-academia collaboration and implement policies that promote the growth of the IT industry. Universities could be ranked based on placements and entrepreneurs, or boot camps could be funded to provide quick and effective employability training. All stakeholders can work together to help IT graduates succeed in their careers and develop the IT ecosystem sustainably.
To help our colleagues up-skill themselves and take on more complex assignments and new roles within S&P Global, we offer a program called EssentialTech.
Through career fairs, open houses, and recruitment drives, we actively engage universities and provide students with opportunities for growth and mentorship. We run a mentorship program for women where employment and STEM skills are a key focus and will complete 20,000 mentorships by the end of 2023.
How do you see IT and IT-enabled industries as an effective area to reduce the unemployment rate in Pakistan and export ICT services?
A country like Pakistan must prioritize the development of its IT sector to remain competitive and build a sustainable future, because technology and digital literacy cannot be overstated. The country can improve its connectivity with the global economy by strengthening its technological and digital capabilities, creating more job opportunities.
The Philippines has around 300 captive offices, and India has around 1300, all leveraging the tech talent there. Pakistan has less than ten. We have an opportunity to create jobs, get FDI, and increase exports.
What are the opportunities in your organization for capacity building and career growth?
As a result of S&P Global’s ‘People First’ strategy and a relentless focus on creating a high-performing culture that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive, we are able to attract top talent in all markets where we operate.
The advantages of joining us are multifaceted, starting with global opportunities and a flexible work structure. Opportunities for skill development feature heavily; we invest in Linked Learning, tuition reimbursement programs, tech certification sponsorships and leadership development programs. We are passionate about our People First approach, market competitive compensation and benefits, plus the option of hybrid or flexible working – all the elements which make us a great option for top talent.
How different is your organization as the employer of choice, to provide a dream job to IT professionals?
S&P Global’s ‘People First’ culture, striving for excellence, and relentless effort to provide skill enhancement opportunities to its team members make it a top choice for best-in-class talent across the globe. Throughout their career development journey, members are provided with ongoing support and encouraged to speak to their people leaders regularly about their career development.
The company supplies its employees with a variety of fiscal and non-fiscal advantages, such as Recharge (unrestricted leave), parental, adoption and maternity leaves. Internal mobility is heavily encouraged, with substantial investment in designing career paths to help people transition into positions within the company. This has seen that 40% of S&P Global’s positions are filled internally by members looking to expand their horizons within the organisation. Demonstrating the value they place on their personnel and recognizing that they are the major factor in their success, the commitment to people development and assistance is deeply rooted in S&P Global’s ethos.
How does your company contribute to the development of the local and global IT industry?
S&P Global is the 3rd biggest exporter of IT in the country and a pivotal employer of highly-skilled technology specialists. We are dedicated to working closely with universities, educational institutions and public sectors, to create a meaningful influence on our local community. To enhance the learning experience for graduates, we frequently offer trainings and practical business challenges so that they can gain hands-on experience. Thanks to our expertise in leveraging technologies for data gathering, research and analysis, we are considered as a leader across the globe when it comes to delivering top-quality solutions to our clients.
What are the best ways for professionals and students to upgrade their skills in order to meet the increasing demand of the IT industry?
It is essential for students to keep their resumes current and build up a strong portfolio that demonstrates their abilities and successes. To accomplish this, they should gain certifications and diplomas from respected online institutions, which can then be presented on their resumes. Research and writing should also be prioritized, with emphasis placed on submitting papers to highly regarded publications and journals. In specialized and professional learning, soft skills must not be overlooked. To develop workable solutions for the increasing demand for user-friendly technology and design in the modern world it is critical to unite technical expertise with creative thinking.
What is your advice for IT students in particular and other students in general for pursuing a career in the IT industry?
New entrants and students must build agility as a skill set by bordering on three main tangents. This allows them to develop expertise in multiple areas and gives them diverse exposure. Their skill set needs to be continually honed. Technology changes rapidly, so one degree does not suffice. Research needs to be continuous, and familiarity with tools like Salesforce, the cloud, data visualization tools (Power BI, Tableau), etc. is crucial.