Siva Sivakumar
Co-founder, CEO & CTO
NiMBLE WiRELESS

Mr. Siva, give us an idea of your early career, and what were the key influences that have helped starting up Nimble Wireless?

Never hire an engineer who does not have a passion for engineering and sound in fundamentals or basics.

I started my career at C-DoT (Center for Development of Telematics) which is a telecom product R&D company where innovation, freedom and employee talent were valued more than seniority and bureaucratic rules. So the idea of running a product company (as against a services company) was planted in my mind back in those early days. After C-DoT, I left for the US for my masters program and worked for Qualcomm, a leader in CDMA wireless technology where I helped develop the early CDMA cell phone and other new wireless products. Qualcomm is an extremely employee driven company and values employee freedom and an uncanny ability to spot talent wherever they are. In fact I only worked for 2 companies in my 15 year career before venturing out on my own to start Nimble Wireless.

Key values such as creating a true product that solves a customer problem, respecting employee freedom and recognizing talent were shaped during my professional experience at these 2 companies. In that way I feel blessed for getting an opportunity to work in these 2 great companies - One in India and one in USA.

What would you say are the obvious business challenges going forward, and what are HR's priorities especially while recruiting fresh talents?

Our education system particularly at the secondary school and college level is absolutely broken. We are teaching/coaching rather than educating children and students. There is a lot of difference between teaching, coaching and educating. Education will allow each student/child to recognize his unique talent and contribute to society. Teaching/coaching will only help them earn a livelihood and that too only in the short run. Unless we fix our education system, the output of our schools/colleges will not be able to meet the demands of the industry. I have seen many engineering graduates and some of them from very premier institutions that have no idea of some of the very basic engineering and mathematics concepts or fundamentals.

Do you see a difference or change in attitudes towards careers especially in this generation?

Yes. The trend is more towards how to make money without putting in the right efforts. It starts at the college level when they decide to "purchase" their project work instead of putting in the right effort to do something on their own.

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What do you feel is the gap between industry and the academia?

The gap between industry and the academia is like the difference between day and night. So glaring that many "Doctorates/Professors" of our colleges have no clue about what is going on in the industry. This is not their fault, because, they never worked in an industry or visited an industry in their field of engineering in their lifetime. Education system legislation should be such that "those who preach must have practiced what they preach". Else what is the point?

What are you looking for in a candidate at the time of recruitment?

To me basic attitudes like honesty, commitment and strong fundamentals are much important. Engineering graduates think that they can get by an interview by using buzz words and terminology from latest technology areas, but I will never hire an engineer who does not have a passion for engineering and sound in fundamentals/basics.

What is your take on social media and opportunities in social media?

Opportunities are always there in all areas if one puts his/her mind to it. It is wrong to point certain sectors as hot in opportunity. Engineering was a hot sector a decade ago.. now look at the pathetic quality of our engineering students. Why? B'cos everyone jumped on the engineering degree bandwagon.

What do you think should be the steps taken by the colleges to motivate and develop leaders?

Leadership is something you teach by leading. Colleges should learn to lead by example first. They cannot teach advanced engineering concepts unless they are contributing to basic engineering research and technology. Unless they do that, there is no way most of our colleges today can teach leadership.

What will be your suggestions to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur but doesn't know where to start?

First, you do not start a business just b'cos you like to start a business. You have to identify a problem that the society at large is facing, come up with a solution that the customer is willing to pay for, and then you become an entrepreneur by means of providing that solution to the problem at hand. So first step to becoming an entrepreneur is to pay attention to what is going on around you and see if you can solve any problem in a way that makes business sense.

What has been your challenge of hiring and retaining a candidate?

Challenge in hiring is, there are too many engineering graduates with too little basic knowledge and skills. In retaining them we have not faced a problem that much for me to comment on. Most of our employees have been with us for more than 3-4 years and our company's age is only 6. We provide good work and more importantly we provide an atmosphere where each employee is treated as family and their work recognized and talent utilized in one way or the other.