Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Career Hotline
Adding to your skills
Pervin Malhotra

Q Unlike most of my classmates, I just love maths. I have a genuine knack for understanding and solving complicated math problems. Please tell me how I can develop my skills further?

ó Lakhvinder Jaiswal

A The ability to enjoy mathematics is a gift not everyone is endowed with. For starters, I suggest you participate in the 16th Mathematics Training & Talent Search (MTTS) Programme funded by the National Board for Higher Mathematics.

The mechanics of this three-tier programme are as follows:

The O-level is for second year B.Sc / B.Stat /B.Tech students who have Mathematics as one of their subjects. Exceptionally good first year B.Sc students can also apply.

Level I is for final year UG students with the above mentioned qualifications. Meritorious second year students can also apply.

To participate in Level II you need to be in first year PG (MSc / MStat / MTech etc) with Math as one of the subjects. Meritorious final year students can also apply.

The main aim of the programme is to train students to work independently, gain perspective and confidence in learning/understanding mathematics. The faculty is drawn from reputed teachers of leading institutions in the country.

Each course is taught by a single expert for better interaction (over 4 weeks). Teachers identify the difficulties of individual students, which is one of the unique features of this programme. Reading material is also provided.

The programme also provides a platform for students with varied backgrounds to come together and interact with peers and experts in the field. This serves two purposes: i) you come to know where you stand academically and what you have to do to bring out your full potential and ii) you get to establish a rapport with other participants and teachers which will help you shape your career in mathematics. Itís an opportunity to see for yourself how you compare with other students.

The emphasis is on pure mathematics which includes subjects such as algebra, analysis, geometry, number theory and topology.

Unless you are really keen and ready to work very hard, please donít apply for the programme. But if you are seriously interested in pursuing higher mathematics, this programme will be immensely valuable to you. The medium of instruction is English.

Details: MTTS, D/o Maths & Stats, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad. Website: /

Application Deadline: February 23, 2008

Managing time

Q Into my second semester at a top B-school, I have zero enthusiasm and motivation to study.... just under two weeks to go for my exams but canít seem to wait for the term to get over. I canít manage my time judiciously. I need help.

ó Teena Garewal

A Time management is the best thing any B-school could teach a student. Here, as in life, you canít read everything, you canít do everything, you canít learn everything. The trick lies in prioritising the essentials.

To assign the same priority to each task is to wind up with 40 tasks all tied for first call on your time!

Re. motivation: that's a tough ó and lifelong call. Immediate and short-term motivation can usually be generated by the upcoming challenges, e.g. exams, project submissions, etc. What you have to do is "visualize" the positive outcomes of such short-term events - a higher grade, self-confidence for the next sem, building towards final placement of choice, the joy of overcoming an impending challenge, etc. If you can vividly and strongly visualize such positive outcomes, that will create the necessary episodic motivation ó for the end-term exams, etc. So, that's probably the answer for what you need right now.

Enduring, long-term motivation is another kettle of fish altogether. One must understand that "motivation" does not exist in vacuum. It arises from strongly delineated long-term vision and goals. Motivation is the result of these ó not an independent entity that can be summoned at will. So, the answer to enduring motivation lies in visualizing your long term dreams (or "mission" in the parlance of business strategy) as clearly and as steadfastly as possible.

Sounds easy, right? Wrong! It's one of the more difficult things in life. Take heart, for long-term motivation is a struggle for everyone; that doesn't mean it has to be abandoned; far from it. In fact, it has to be worked on and continuously.

Meanwhile, get that short-term buzz going!

Mutual benefit

Q I have been working as an insurance agent for the last couple of years. I would now like to become a mutual fund agent as well. Are there any courses
which would help or books I could read
on the subject?

ó Jiten Chawla

A With the capital market riding on the back of a booming Indian economy, mutual funds have emerged as an important financial intermediary for the investing public. Although assets of the 30-odd Indian funds have jumped skywards, investors need to understand how a mutual fund works and the increasingly diverse and complex investment options created by a large number of MFs.

The agent or distributor assumes the role of a financial advisor and is the key channel for bringing mutual funds to a large number of investors all over the country. The Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) which sets the industry standards for all funds operating in India has a certification process ó the AMFI Mutual Fund Test.

This certification has been made mandatory by SEBI for anyone engaged in selling mutual funds ó agents as well as those employed in distribution companies and banks.

Upon clearing the test, you can apply for your AMFI registration number which will certify you as an AMFI Registered Mutual Fund Advisor (ARMFA).

The Test can be taken by anyone (regardless of age or qualification) who wishes to test his knowledge of the complexities of how mutual funds function internally and externally.

The automated multiple-choice online test requires no prior knowledge of computers. Papers are set for each candidate separately and assessed online. After you have the AMFI Basic Module, you can look at the AMFI Advisors Module.

The AMFI MF Test is also offered as a separate module of the National Stock Exchangeís (NSE) Certification in Financial Markets (NCFM) along with other subjects such as derivative trading, capital markets etc.

AMFI has prepared the necessary study material to help you prepare for the Test. The Workbook can be obtained from the AMFI office in Mumbai. For details log on to:

You could also contact your nearest NSE Centre (there are seven of them) to register for the online test for a fee of Rs. 500/-. There is no restriction on the number of attempts Log on to for details.

Opportunity calling

Q I will be completing my B.Tech this year. I am not interested in a field job because of poor health. Can you please tell me something about tech support jobs in BPOs?

ó Gauri Madan

A Technical support, which plays a very crucial role in technology companies, has now metamorphosed into a veritable high-end job, particularly in the outsourced mode. Today, tech support engineers are recognised and respected worldwide for their skills.

The entire tech support process is geared towards building a relationship while providing a solution. But solving the problem is only half the job; explaining the solution to the customer is the bigger challenge. The work is often compounded by time-critical service demands.

Since the work involves interacting with customers all the time, a host of soft skills, primarily linked with interpersonal communication are needed. Although an even temperament will help you interact with customers of varying dispositions, articulation and knowledge are essential. A flair for crisis management and negotiation is a valuable asset for a tech support professional. And so is lateral and analytical thinking and a creative approach to problem solving.

In terms of tech knowledge, the skill-sets called for range from MS and Unix technologies to knowledge of different operating systems, Internet technologies and in-depth knowledge of at least one database technology, ODBC technologies plus extensive and detailed product domain-specific knowledge and familiarity with related domains ó in short, the entire nine yards in systems architecture, algorithms and applications. Alternatively, MCSE/ MCSD/CCNA certifications also figure in many ads. Of course the tech support organisation you join will put you through its own intensive training programme to familiarize you with for their specific product range.

Globally, the tech industry is increasingly looking at outsourcing a major part of its high-end support function. With its large pool of tech savvy IT professionals, India has a unique advantage of cornering a major chunk of business in this BPO sector.

As a fresh IT engineer, tech support would be a good starting point.

Ayurveda avenues

Q Are degree-holders in dentistry or in ayurveda / unani medicine eligible for taking the Combined Medical Services Exam?

ó Maya Rastogi

A No. Only those who have an MBBS Degree or are studying in the final year of MBBS course are eligible for taking the CMS Exam conducted by the UPSC.

Production process

Q Is someone with a degree in Production /Chemical Engineering eligible to appear for the Engineering Service Exam conducted by the UPSC?

ó Nikhil Batra

A A candidate possessing a degree in Engineering in any discipline is eligible for taking the Engineering Service Exam conducted by UPSC.

The writer is a noted career consultant

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