WTH is IIT?

Last night was Corcoran Lock’s first IIT night! If you know anything about IIT then you will appreciate that we had a pretty eclectic bunch turn up – and with lots of beer on the table we had a pretty good night too.

The best description I have heard of IIT is that it is the “ivy league” of Indian universities. It is an elite technology university, it’s very tough to get in and the technologists it churns out tend to be very good as well. As the Indian’s say “you fight to get in your whole life, and then they fight to get you”! Today there are 15 colleges, each one is about the size of a normal university in England, but for a long time there were 5 core universities: Kharagpur (the oldest), Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kanpur. I think IIT-BHU (based at Varanasi) came next and so there was some banter last night with the guys from the original 5 universities saying that IIT-BHU guys are “wannabes”.

As with any institution they actually have quite a few sayings and terms specific to them. I heard some new ones last night but the best one I know refers to NIIT, which I believe is some kind of training college in India; “The difference between IIT and NIIT is the difference between heaven and hell.”

To get in to IIT to have to pass an entry test call a JEE (nothing to do with me!) and your score is called an AIR*, or All-India-Ranking as your score used to rank you against all of the other entrants in the country that year! Its quite interesting asking IIT guys what their AIR is… I’ve met numbers 47 and 13 so far.

I have worked with quite a few Java developers from IIT, both as candidates and clients, and I can personally attest that they are good performers at interview stage! Strangely though despite IIT guys being found in some pretty senior positions in the London financial markets (we had a CTO, a “head of” and number of senior dev managers at top financial institutions there last night), I consistently find that not many people have heard of IIT – which is nice for me because I get to tell them about it, but strange that not more people know about it. When you tell them that it was an IIT alumni who helped write the Java programming language they start to listen!

In the end the evening went on well into the night and it was good company with lots of good jokes. This is one of the things that I love about my job – and London – is that I get a little insight into a culture that comes from the otherside of the planet with out ever leaving the square mile.

* They must really like their TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms)

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