While implementing a digital technology identify the problem you are trying to solve and pick the correct solution
This is an exclusive interview conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Sandeep Kulkarni, VP Engineering & Country Head at Medallia
How did you plan your career path to be a successful technology leader?
Planning for a career path varies as you go through stages of your career. I still remember when I started my career as a systems engineer with Microland (system integrator service), my first job was to cut 175 power cords and change them from US type plugs to Indian type. When I was cutting those power cords, I was telling myself that my immediate goal in life is to reduce non-technical work every day and do more technical work. Over the next few years as I got exposed to more technology, I realised that technology was always changing. I remember in 2000 telling myself that IP and telephony will merge, so don’t just learn one skill; make sure you understand the whole of IP telephony, which very soon changed to not just IP telephony but the entire “presence,” or audio video collaboration. Another similar transition was moving from “deep in one vertical” to “remain deep in one vertical but be aware of horizontal technologies” as cloud computing evolved. If there is one thing I can state that is important to deciding a career path, it’s to keep yourself updated about what’s happening in the market and form your own opinion. There was a time when many companies thought mobile was just a bubble that would burst, but today almost all applications are mobile-enabled. So make sure you know what’s happening in the market and have your own educated opinion. There is nothing wrong with having an incorrect opinion; no one has a crystal ball, but if you have one, march towards it; if you are wrong, learn from it and reroute your path. To me, that’s a sign of someone who has his or her career path mapped out and destiny under control. Remember this: Your career path is in your own hands. You can get an opinion from other leaders you trust about how right or wrong you are, but the drive to decide your career path has to be within yourself.
What challenges you faced in your career path and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges I faced was fatigue, or a sense of giving up. I felt like I would never achieve it, so why even try? Whenever I felt this, I asked myself this question: why did I start in the first place? How badly did I want to achieve it? If I really wanted it badly and had already put in a lot of effort, then I would automatically re-energise myself. Looking for a source of motivation and inspiration within is very important; yes, we can find inspiration outside, but there is a limit to it. When one finds the source of inspiration and motivation within, he or she realises the unlimited potential within and that anything can be achieved. Another big challenge I faced is that as you grow in your career and achieve different milestones, life keeps getting difficult. You always get into the more difficult situations, whether it is managing a technology you have never managed before or managing a difficult team. It’s almost like starting to work out in the gym; when you start, all your muscles get sore and it hurts, but if you keep at it, soon you start loving sore muscles. Treat every challenge as an opportunity, and go with the attitude that you never fail; you either are successful or you learn from it. Life is never easy or simple. You just need to be ready to handle the complexities and challenges.
What are the challenges faced by technology leaders today while implementing digital technologies? How can technology leaders overcome these challenges?
One of the fundamental challenges of implementing a digital technology is identifying the problem we are trying to solve and picking the correct solution. This is the most important step in implementing any digital technology, and most often I have seen organisations fail here. Either a problem is identified correctly but the solution is not given enough consideration to see if it indeed solves the problem, or the problem itself is identified incorrectly. In order to solve this, it’s important to break down the problem into various use cases and, as we review solutions, run those use cases hypothetically to make sure the solution indeed addresses the problem area. Adoption is another significant challenge in implementing digital technologies; we all have a tendency to resist change; people prefer to do things the way things have always been done. To advocate the change and make everyone love the change, it requires a lot of effort and meticulous planning. Constant communication is also a key. As well as stressing over and over again the benefits, what’s also most important is to lay out a clear picture of what’s in it for the consumers. Giving them an idea of what’s in it for them makes it easy to implement digital technologies. The other big challenge is that often there is no single vendor solution that addresses your complex problem, so to deal with a solution that is multivendor, you have to manage the end-user experience along with ensuring the backend integrations between various vendors are working well, and it gets more difficult as you add more features to your service.
CIO News, a proprietary of Mercadeo, produces award-winning content and resources for IT leaders across any industry through print articles and recorded video interviews on topics in the technology sector such as Digital Transformation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Cloud, Robotics, Cyber-security, Data, Analytics, SOC, SASE, among other technology topics