Hope, SCIP and Work

The SCIP [Second Career Internship Program] is a very imaginative initiative by Tatas. We interviewed Mr. Satish Pradhan, Group Head of HR to understand not just ‘why’ of this initiative but also ‘how’. The SCIP was crafted and launched very imaginatively, and its popularity seems to be growing. Mr. Pradhan thought of launching an initiative to help women professionals re-launch their careers while listening to speeches at a seminar on Gender Equality. The speakers there elaborated difficulties women professionals face after they take a break often to raise a family. A ‘Focus Group’ was formed to identify key issues to be addressed which would make the initiative successful. Three issues emerged: Obsolescence, [b] the feeling that my profession has moved forward and there is quite a bit of catching up to do and [c] the workplace itself has changed. Technology has invaded workplace and it is constantly getting up-graded. The speed of change is so high that coping is not easy at all.

For women who wish to commence second career in the corporate world it was always hop in and hop out. Now they have a hope; and it is Hope, SCIP and Work!

1. Congratulations for this imaginative initiative. Tell us all about SCIP. What factors led to the launch of SCIP? When was it launched?

Tata SCIP is an initiative for women professionals with qualifications in Management/Accountancy/ Law or Engineering, who have a minimum of 4 years of experience & have taken a career break of less than 8 years. The objective of this initiave is to tap the leaking talent pipeline of high potential performers & facilitate their re-entry into the corporate world. The participants were offered attractive project stipends to work on live business projects [Rs. 400,000 initially] with 500 hours of flexi-office engagement spread over 6 months.

The thought behind launching such a program is that many women who have exceptional educational backgrounds and are doing well professionally decide to take a break due to personal or family obligations. After a few years they consider getting back to their career, but often have apprehensions and doubts as a result of being away for a period of time. SCIP aims to make this transition to the workplace a smooth and positive experience. In doing so SCIP ensures that corporates do not lose out on their talent as well as rich and varied experience.

With this objective in mind, Tata SCIP was launched on International Womens` day in March 2008 & the second program was initiated in July 2009.

2. What was the response to your advertisement? What was the process followed for selection? How many were placed under SCIP?

There was a very enthusiastic response for the pioneer SCIP batch. A total of 2000+ applications were received out of which 100 were shortlisted for interviews and 35 were finally offered live Business Projects in various Tata Group Companies such as Tata Capital, TCS, IHCL, Tata Teleservices etc in Mumbai & Pune.

The second SCIP got an overwhelming response of 5000+ applications in the first 15 days itself. Fortyone applicants were finally offered projects in Companies like Tata Power, Tata Tea, Titan etc in Bangalore and Mumbai.

The selection process was very exhaustive and included short-listing on the basis of CVs, giving due importance to academic excellence and previous employment experience. Tele-interviews followed by a personal interview led to the final selection. The applicants then underwent a comprehensive 4 day Induction Program at Tata Management Training Centre in Pune. This induction got them updated with the current Global business scenario and provided insights into the Group’s various businesses. They interacted with senior Tata leaders and other industry professionals.

3. What is the response of the SCIP participants now? Has productivity taken a back seat? How did you assess effectiveness of this program?

An initiative like this needs certain key elements to make it work. Projects that utilize the women professionals’ potential to the maximum and give them satisfaction of having made a significant contribution, logistical issues such as flexibility in terms of timings, work from home options make or break such initiatives. [Ms Sangeeta Navalkar, a SCIP participant from the first batch and who was in the room when Mr. Pradhan interrupted the interview to emphasise that the projects were ‘live’ and important to the respective organisations and that really increased the confidence. See also Rise of Fleximoms] The SCIP participants had the advantage of both these elements which helped them maintain their work-life balance which was very important to them. They were very enthusiastic about taking their careers forward. The second batch of SCIP will be completing their projects soon & there are multiple options open to them.

The Tata Group companies who participated in this initiative have had a positive experience as these SCIP participants, some of whom were gold medalists from premium institutes, bring their diverse experience to the table & make significant contributions. Productivity has not taken a back seat in most cases as the flexi work option is customized for every person according to the project requirements and key deliverables.

The effectiveness of this program can be garnered by the fact that a large percentage of participants have successfully completed their projects and are now a part of the productive workforce. Some have been absorbed by Group Companies on a full time or flexi-time basis whereas others have made a career in other companies. Some of them have turned entrepreneurs; a few are working for NGOs & also teaching at various Institutes.