Technology is very vast across the industries, so choose one domain viz. fintech, process manufacturing, digital twin factories etc, focus on the technology for the domain, and build to solve meaningful business or social problems. This is impact led growth in which we get much more satisfaction of having built and solved real world problems.
This is an exclusive interview conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Rohit Kilam, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at CMS Info Systems
How have you planned your career path to be a successful technology leader?
I have been initiated in my career as an EA to Executive Director in the financial services industry. But I used to be curious and explore adjacent areas and figured out that technology was of great interest to me, and then I moved to TCS. Luckily for me, when I moved to TCS it was like a start-up with around 8,700 employees. I was very fortunate that I got the right opportunity at TCS. And learnt whatever I could lay my hands on. That flexibility was given by TCS.
So, I planned my career path after landing at TCS by exploring and learning the basics of technology by being hands-on to get a grip on the way things work. Secondly, I started looking at the diversity of use cases such as e-governance, transportation, international customers, and the largest shipping customers. I happened to get marquee work for IRCTC when it was getting formed and saw a whole new tech category span out in India.
In my current role, we have one of the largest IoT-based rollouts in the banking sector with around 20,000 locations.
What challenges have you faced in your career path and how have you overcome them?
In terms of challenges, one that comes to fore is people and regulatory challenges, which have been hindering technology improvements and projects. For e.g. technology for mobile-rail ticketing was built much before but could not be launched unless a law in parliament was changed.
Similarly, when we started digital lending, we had lot of opposition, due to process and regulations around it and the customer had to meet face-to-face for the KYC and background check for the customer’s ability to pay back, among other things.
Another huge challenge is change management. When I was doing a few e-governance projects there are always diverse opinions and misinformation that it is difficult and no one would be able to learn and do it. For example, automation in banks, when first-time banks came up with core banking, employees had a misunderstanding that they might be laid off from their jobs.
Another challenge is recruiting the right people for the job. Also, the technology leader needs to make sure that the right people have the right mindset and skills to do the job.
What are the challenges other technology leaders face while implementing digital technologies? How can they overcome the challenges?
In the post-COVID era, there are four techno managerial challenges:
- The challenges are on how we handle work-from-home (WFH) / Hybrid work ethos. There has to be a balance, and we have to define how you want to work, which is an important question to be asked in the post-COVID era. There is no right or wrong answer to the question, but organisations will have their own points of view. Some organisations have a completely remote model, some have a completely office model, some have a hybrid model, and some have a 4-day work week, which has proven to be very productive.
- Post covid, another question which needs to be answered by tech leaders is how to handle moonlighting. It is good for skills sharpening only if allowed with trust and transparency.
- Another challenge is to increase digital adoption for various applications used and built across the companies.
There are two parts to technology: enterprise-grade technology and consumer-grade technology. Consumer-grade technologies such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram are very straightforward. No one teaches how to use it. The cost of training on them is bad UX and UI design of these systems.
Enterprise-grade technology is like an ERP system or a procurement system.
Someone has to train you on using it, which is difficult. Ideally, these systems should be so easy to use that the difference between enterprise-grade and consumer-grade technology gets diminished, which in turn will increase adoption.
- Another challenge is engage people who are in “tang ping” (Quite Quitting) mode. To get people engaged, there have to be different creative ways. There has to be a creative work culture which is enthusiastic and positive.
Any best practices, or industry trends, or advice you would like to give to other technology leaders for their successful professional journeys?
The most important thing in technology is to just be curious. People should spend at least 30 to 60 minutes every day learning something new. Secondly, if, as a technology professional, you are poor at communication, then be honest about it.
Technology leaders have to showcase the advantages of what they have built and explain to stakeholders how it will add value to the business.
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