NFTDC recognises itself as is a Knowledge Creation and Knowledge Integration organization. Individuals develop from Knowledge Level I (one domain academic proficiency) to multi domain knowledge integration experts (Level II & III) and eventually leadership (Level 4), gaining both in qualifications and qualities as they progress from Knowledge Level I to IV.
Knowledge Level I : Project Associates & Project Engineers
Engineers (B.Tech/M.Tech/MS/M.Des) in all disciplines and science graduates who have done M.Tech or MS subsequent to MSc are inducted and given training in research first as Project Associates and as Senior Project Associates. M.Tech or M.Des graduates and B.Tech with minimum 2 years of experience are considered directly for Senior Project Associateship. Periodically campus interviews are conducted in IITs and NITs and few leading institutions to consider engineers of all disciplines and taken as Project Engineers after completion of MTech.
At this Knowledge Level I, the core competence in one domain specialization and its application to solving of scientific and technical problems is expected to be accomplished by the individual. In addition, the qualifications of the individual are enhanced in terms of skill set and experience in handling a variety of high technology process and testing equipments. Analytical and problem solving skills are fine tuned in a period of about 5 years. A person learns to handle more than one task at a time. Ability to define problem, see the project as whole and related one’s own task to final project deliverable will become sharper. Individuals are also encouraged to go for higher education (PhD).
Knowledge Level II : Sr Engineer/ Sr Scientist ; Principal Engineer/ Principal Scientist
Graduating to and working in Knowledge Level II entails the development of individual in one or two more knowledge domain as demanded by projects and sharpening of analytical and problem solving skills to a much higher degree. Furthermore, interaction with other institutions and user agencies to solve problems gets attention. As the individual is expected to have significant application and problem solving skills, he or she should be able to set up laboratories in his or her domain knowledge. Most importantly, the officer has direct responsibility for a deliverable and many such deliverables accrue over a period of time. Project Management Skills should be very well developed at this level. Resource generation responsibilities begin in this level. The growth of the individual in this level toward knowledge integration may take about ten years. Towards the end of this period, the individual would have solved many scientific and technical problems in an end-to-end paradigm set up technology centres contributed in terms of resource generation. The officer at this level would easily handle multiple projects, guide juniors in projects, would have picked up knowledge domain expertise in areas other than his/her own starting domain.
Knowledge Level III : Sr Principal Engineer/Sr Principal Scientist; Deputy Project Director
In Knowledge Level III, the individual becomes a Knowledge Integration Expert which calls for significant skills in terms of both technical as well as managerial content. Ability to take a complex problem, differentiate in to micro domains, find solution path, implement the solution is a must in this level. In addition to becoming an expert in his or her own field, project management skills, knowledge integration skills to solve a bigger problem and multi-disciplinary optimization skills and networking skills are developed in this level. Here a person handles multiple tasks, develops a multi-disciplinary team from scratch if required and also becomes responsible for resource generation to a significant degree and or setting up of technology enabling facilities. Fin & Accts, Relationships Management, Marketing abilities and skills to take a bird’s view as well as worm’s view (zoom in and out or in handle breadth and depth) and critical path management come sharply in to focus in this level.
Knowledge Level IV: Project Director; Associate Director; Director
Knowledge Level IV is leadership and here one grows to the level of envisioning, energizing and enabling others and the system to achieve the vision for the organization. The individual, while entering this phase, would already have been known for his or her achievements, in terms of scientific, technical and managerial abilities. In addition, finance, business development and HRD skills in the individuals would also be of the high order. The individual should be able to handle complexity and variety. The leader eventually enhances the five assets of the organization, viz., knowledge assets (core competence of the organization), financial assets, physical assets, human resource assets and the brand asset.
The development of such growth in knowledge levels at NFTDC is projected in Figure below:
The varied requirements projected call for attracting people with a variety of backgrounds and specialisations. This is actively pursued on several fronts. The leaders interact with major universities and institutes to attract fresh graduates and postgraduates. Advertisements are sent out on newspapers and web portals for lateral entry. In addition, on-line application for positions at NFTDC is an option kept open at the NFTDC web site throughout the year.
Career in Research & Knowledge Levels In Knowledge Entities
Career in research requires a unique combination of qualifications and qualities. Such a career cannot be viewed as a job or a sequence of jobs but a state of mind and way of professional life. It is a profession in which intangibles are valued at par with tangibles and sometimes even more than the tangibles.
Qualifications comprise of not just higher level of academic proficiency, but also encompass a host of other skill sets. These skill sets include exposure to scientific methods, both empirical and theoretical, ability to learn new areas, work experience in lab/industry/academia, higher level engineering graphics and design related skills, analytical and problem solving skills to a higher degree than professions that have more repetitive character in work.
Qualities in an individual are equally important, and many a time is more important. Qualities that are required in an individual who wants to pursue a career in knowledge entities are (a) scientific temper, (b) professional integrity, c) moral responsibility, (d) sharing knowledge, (e) interpersonal skills and ability to work in an interdisciplinary team, (f) ability to align one’s research interest with that of the organization’s goals and grow in a symbiotic manner.
Scientific Temper is an attitude and temperament that puts emphasis on (i) enquiry, (ii) ability to look in depth as well as in breadth, (iii) ability to appreciate finer details of scientific know-why and technical know-how and (iv) an open mind to learn new vistas and methods.
Professional integrity is important in every profession, but more so in a research career, as peer review and international benchmark are the hallmarks in scientific and technical endeavours. Unlike many other avocations, in R & D, work output is subjected to critical review way beyond work period itself and one’s work will be revisited many times by others and successors. Plagiarism and theft of other’s scientific and technical work are unpardonable and irreparable in scientific systems.
One has to take responsibility for both self assigned (one’s own research interests) and those assigned by the organization and one should strive to take pride as well as moral responsibility for the assignment and not end up passing the buck or keep pointing fingers to others. Individuals who take moral responsibility and accountability seriously learn to fix the problem rather than fixing the blame and they grow quickly. Pointing fingers and finding faults always outside one’s own self and diluting accountability give relief only for a short time but do not contribute to growth. Growth in an individual happens only when that individual takes tasks and responsibilities higher than his/her present capacity and capability and discharges the responsibilities. The individual becomes part of solution rather than the problem and growth automatically follows. It is important for one to complete the assignments before separation from an organisation. In other words, planning for separation entails attention to completion of work and compilation of reports.
Sharing Knowledge: One has to grow in one’s own specialization and also learn to contribute his/her own domain knowledge as part of a bigger interdisciplinary team by appropriate sharing of responsibility and knowledge. It is also one’s professional and moral responsibility to find the gap in knowledge in the junior members of the team and share one’s own expertise to fill the gap. Inability to share the knowledge reflects an insecure personality and such personalities do not generally grow and many a time, they become maladjusted personalities. Here a distinction is made between knowledge that is shared and that which is kept confidential. Intellectual property or information that is governed by any non disclosure agreement is not to be shared outside the organization: they come under professional and moral responsibility of safeguarding of information. Sharing of expertise in a project team, sharing of knowledge to train new members in the team or new members of the organization is an important part of duties and responsibilities.
Interpersonal skills have been accorded higher priority in all professions. Interdisciplinary research puts a premium on interpersonal skills and different knowledge domains are to be integrated to solve a bigger problem. Very high level of expertise in one knowledge domain will not compensate for lack of interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills also form an important part in office decorum and interactions between institutions, organizations, clients and funding agencies. A person with average expertise in knowledge but with excellent interpersonal skills are known to succeed well in many an endeavour, while individuals with high level of talent, skills and proficiency may fail in many organizational systems.
Finally, in a research career one has to balance between one’s own research interests and those assigned by the organization as part of duties and responsibilities. It is an ideal case if both match or if the individual starts afresh and is trained in one or two research areas by the organization itself. In other favourable situations, the individual obtains an opportunity to change fields or work in new areas. However, due to exigencies or in order to fill the gaps created due to various circumstances, individuals may be called upon to handle tasks that will require fast learning or holding responsibility for certain periods. NFTDC system encourages and trains the individuals to handle responsibilities end to end and develops multitasking abilities. This ability is required if one has to do technology development wherein one becomes a expert in one or two fields but has to know how to integrate other fields to solve complex technological problems.
Qualification and Qualities together make up the “potential” of the person. Individuals do not start with high potential on day one. While qualifications which form skill sets can be acquired over a period of time, certain qualities are part of the individual’s personality. One has to discover for one self if at least some of the qualities are present in them. A few positive qualities can be developed if the individual possesses an open mind and realises that these qualities are required for overall growth. Thus the potential can be enhanced over a period of time if there is an intrinsic learning aptitude and positive attitude in the individual.
The “potential” has to be converted into performance in an organizational setting. Performance is the measure of output on many fronts and output has to grow with increase in responsibility of the position the individual occupies in an organization. Typically the tasks and assignments that the scientists and engineers perform in NFTDC constitute a basket of portfolios and the tasks vary with time as the organization has to respond very quickly to changes in the external environment on which it critically depends for its existence, survival and growth.
The tasks and assignments can be summarized as given below:
- Business Development/ Pre Project Activities
- Projects Tasks & Assignments - RGP (Resource Generation Projects)
- Projects Tasks & Assignments – In house Projects
- Setting up of Pilot plants, Enabling Technology Centre, Technology Demonstration Facilities etc.
- Infrastructure Responsibility: Apparatus/ Library / Utilities / LAN / Website etc.
- HRD & Thesis supervision
- Symposium/ Seminars/ Workshop/ Conference
- Training/ Thesis (self)
- 5S/7S, ISO, NABAL Tasks
- Any other (not covered in above categories)
Many a time, individuals with a higher potential fail to perform and become misfits in an organization, while a few with low potential and low performance are seen as dead wood which the organization needs to rid itself of. Every organization has these two extreme ends and individual has to move out of these extreme boxes.
The performance critically depends on one’s motivation
- Self motivated rather than requiring supervision and continuous monitoring,
- Pro active nature (initiative taking attitude as against instruction oriented)
- Ownership attitude towards the tasks and responsibilities (task & result oriented as against apathetic and disinterested).
An individual is selected based on the potentials as described above, but it is performance in the system that determines the growth of both the individual and the organizational system. As the performance grows, it enhances the potential in the person in a symbiotic manner. High potential that eventually develops in the individuals and the consistent high performance seen over a period of time ultimately creates a leader in the person. Successful and effective individuals continuously enhance their potential and performance and they graduate to eventually lead systems and organizations.
The following figure gives a summary of the potential –performance mapping of HR in NFTDC. As illustrated bulk of the officers grow in potential and performance over a period of time in NFTDC. NFTDC system is designed to enable, energise and envision individuals to develop them as well as contribute to the growth of the organization. Many who have served in NFTDC and left for higher studies or higher paying jobs or higher profile organizations (which are the only reasons for exiting this system) testify that NFTDC was the best place they had ever served and also grew in skills, knowledge and managerial and leadership abilities. The system develops the individual in terms of higher education, multiple skills in a short time and above all multi – domain knowledge integration and knowledge management experience which takes the person to Level III and eventually to Level IV in knowledge working which is leadership.
Potential – Performance Mapping of Scientific HR in NFTDC