The Indian Tech industry is in the throes of a war for talent. In fact, as per online sources, campus salaries at the top IITs in the last year have ranged anywhere from 15 lacs to 2 cr. And, according to Linkedin data, the average attrition rate in the same tech space is in the range of 30% to 50%, with every candidate holding two or more offers. But this side of the equation only covers a small portion of the total engineering talent. For most companies, the solution to this problem is to continue to allocate larger and larger percentages of their budgets to engineer hiring, resulting in a zero sum game for all involved. Butchose to go down a different path. Rather than take bites from the same limited sized pie, it decided to focus on expanding the pie. In January 2021, PhonePe launched the PhonePe University.
Engineering capability is core to PhonePe's DNA. In the last 3 years, PhonePe expanded to 16 new lines of product and currently has over 365+ mn registered users - that is practically every 4th Indian. Powering this juggernaut required best-in-class engineers who could solve complex problems, write model code and define design patterns, work with business and product stakeholders and be able to manage ambiguity through it all seamlessly. Finding ready-made talent who can do it all is technically impossible as some of these were unsolved problems with no pre-existing solutions.
Manmeet Sandhu, Head of HR, explained the thought process around the initiative to us, “Positive disruption is a core PhonePe value. For us, it is very important that we build long term sustainable solutions, whether it be technical solutions for business, or people solutions for technology. The goal is to nurture internal talent through structured exposure and mentorship so that they can take on big hairy problems and invent solutions that can scale with the organization.”
PhonePe University: Growth through continuous learning
The company instituted PhonePe University to build a technology talent powerhouse that accelerates learning and impact for engineers. The vision was to curate a structured learning program that was developed specifically for and catered to the learning needs of its engineering talent.
Under PhonePe University, the company runs specialized learning programs for engineers to get systematic exposure to their most complex systems and technical frameworks, along with the opportunity to experiment, reflect and deliver results.
The university broadly focuses on two modes of operation – project-based and workshop models. Some of the key programs offered under PhonePe University include:
1. On-The-Job Project Model
This program has a mentor-mentee approach that allows engineers to work with a mentor to solve a problem from ideation to go-live. The focus is on equipping engineers to work on complex problems that helps them grow on identified technical capabilities. The engineers get one-on-one mentoring support and skill development for end-to-end execution of projects. With periodic checkpoints and reviews by the engineering leadership team, candidates are also provided with holistic feedback both on technical and behavioral aspects throughout the project journey.
2. Learning Groups - The Workshop Model
For a larger group of participants, the company conducts specialized training for a working group to develop expertise on a technical topic. PhonePe envisioned this program to be an amalgamation of theoretical learning and application-based problem solving facilitated by in-house subject matter experts.
So far, subject matter experts have coached more than 160+ engineers, contributing to more than 10k+ learning hours. Of these, 30% of the participants signing up are repeat registrations and 72% of participants upskilled during these workshops have been with PhonePe for less than 2 years, thereby fulfilling our mission of distributing tribal knowledge in the system.
3. The Engineering Induction
The starting point for engineers at PhonePe is a 6-week intensive induction program for campus graduates (Bootcamp For Campus Freshers), and an induction program for lateral hires (Lateral Induction Program) with technical workshops and stretch assignments via cross-domain projects. Both the programs provide freshers with adequate context on the organization, tech systems and platforms including sessions on computer science fundamentals, design patterns, architecture used at PhonePe, product and business context, leadership sessions, and tech talks.
4. PhonePe Tech Scholar Program
This program aims to provide equal opportunities to women across tier II & III institutes to bring in more diversity in the tech world. Women developers in the final year of their education can apply and shortlisted candidates will go through a rigorous 4–5-month work-integrated learning program powered by Crio.Do. During this online externship program, they improve their foundational skills and work on real-world PhonePe-specific problem statements. This learning opportunity is a great experience for candidates to get exposure to the practical side of things, while also getting acquainted with the PhonePe way of working.
The PhonePe university is an initiative to encourage aspiring and mid-career engineers to chart their career with a long-term view of learning and continuous up-skilling. From solving complex problems to getting continuous feedback and mentorship, it is geared towards helping tech talent learn fast and succeed.