Chanux Bros interviewed Eisenhower Fellow and Serial Entrepreneur Dulith Herath recently about the path that IT graduates who want to go into self-entrepreneurship should take.

Here is their exchange:

Chanux Bros:

Now, after learning IT, the main ideas, concerns in our graduates’ minds are “Am I going to do a job?  How am I going to find a job?” And also, having graduated in IT, “Can I begin my own company without working for anyone else? Or form a business or sorts?”  Entrepreneurism has come to new heights in Sri Lanka.  We thought that the best business leader to talk about this would be you, Dulith!

Dulith:

Ha, Ha.  There were about 15 questions in there for me to answer!

Chanux Bros:

But of course!

Dulith:

Okay, if we were to look at the topic authentically, chiefly, I can tell you my observations of young graduates and how they have traveled this path (to entrepreneurship).

I have seen students who passed their GCE Ordinary level exams with distinctions and, without going on for their Advanced Levels, use those stellar results to gain a foothold in IT employment directly and excel.

Then there is another group who don’t have all distinctions in their O’ Levels but they excelled in their secondary Advanced Level studies and exams.  With these excellent A’Level results they will approach and interview in the IT industry.  I have seen both these paths as equally valid at candidate interviews.

If I see that the O’Level results are great, and that they have the passion, I don’t go to search for A’Level results.  This is not my personal opinion. I am speaking from the recruiter perspective.  Then there is another set where the O’Levels are not that strong but they have excellent A’Levels; they interview with the IT division and come to work with us.  Most often, we expect a person going on to IT to have come from one of these two paths.

There is more than enough demand.  In fact, right now, I am looking for six Java developers, I cannot find them.  I have even offered higher salaries according to the caliber and skill sets I am searching for in the individual but we cannot find them.  So, the demand is there!

Lastly, …even before the interview, now just a short while ago, I had a young graduate asking me “About how much can I make?”  What I say is for your first job, don’t even think about salary.  Even if it is for

Rs 15,000 (a month) join the company.  After joining, during the first 6 months showcase your work and talents to your employer.  Then, almost immediately, you are in demand at your company.  A company cannot retain you without appropriately compensating you.  Till now I have an IT employee who began at Rs 25,000 and within one and a half years, their salary grew to Rs 150,000.  That is just within one and a half years mind you because his skills were impossible to ignore.  He was not someone we could retain by just increasing his salary by Rs 5,000.  Actually, these kinds of opportunities exist mainly in the IT industry because there is rapid growth (within the industry).

From the IT entrepreneurs I know personally, they have a good foundation in their education, and have worked professionally for at least a year.  We know a few who have not worked professionally and have taken their degree and jumped to entrepreneurship.  In fact, there are a few who did not even finish their degree and began their self-entrepreneurship.  Then there are the silent entrepreneurs that we do not see.  We only see 2 to 3 merchant front-men for them.  If we leave that segment alone, I think if you work professionally for at least a year, do the industry experience and then, slowly, transition into self-entrepreneurship.  That is my personal advice.  That is what even I did.  I worked at Microsoft, … I worked at Dell, …Each day I worked till 5:00 pm and then rushed home and worked on my project, my self-enterprise.  That is the way I slowly, and surely, transferred to entrepreneurship.

Chanux Bros

In concluding, we would like some advice.  Mr. Dulith, why is it that without taking a job you chose to be an entrepreneur?  Then if you would mention a couple of other entrepreneurs nationally or internationally as other examples?

Dulith:

I didn’t become an entrepreneur without doing a job.  I worked for two and a half years.  From that I gained a lot of knowledge.  Like I said earlier, at 5:00 pm sharp, I went home and worked on my company.  That is how I slowly transitioned to entrepreneurship.

Internationally, any entrepreneur, it can be Steve Jobs, even Bills Gates, for the most part they were employed previously.  Only after working in the industry did they slowly transition to becoming entrepreneurs.

End of Interview.

Translation by: Kumari K. Karandawala