By collaborating with other departments, understanding the business context, developing a technology roadmap, considering the total cost of ownership, and fostering a culture of innovation, technology leaders can set themselves up for success in their careers
This is an exclusive interview conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Aniruddha Mehta, Head of Information Technology / CIO at Prince Pipes and Fittings
How did you plan your career path to be a successful technology leader?
You cannot plan your journey to be a successful technology leader. Because when you work for different organizations, leadership is not just about your technical know-how but also about how you leverage the best of technology for the environment you are working in. Personally, I do not choose or pick organizations; I choose or pick roles that appeal to me, and they are in no way linked to the domain or technology. My definition of a successful technology leader is the one who makes a complete organisation think about and accept technology and also becomes a bridge between the various verticals in the organisation.
The answer would be a combination of the following:
- Gain a strong foundation in computer science and technology: This could involve earning a degree in a related field, such as computer science, or learning as much as you can through online courses, books, and other resources. Being a production engineer, it was difficult to get a grasp on the IT jargon, but these days technology is a basic subject like math.
- Develop your leadership skills: In addition to technical expertise, technology leaders also need to be able to inspire, motivate, and manage teams of people. Consider taking courses or participating in leadership development programmes to build your skills in this area. What I discovered is that leadership is not just for the top tier; it is for everyone, and the sooner you accept and mature, the more you will become a great professional.
- Network and build relationships: Building a strong network of connections in the tech industry can be incredibly valuable, as it can open doors to new opportunities and help you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments. Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and make an effort to build relationships with other professionals in your field. You may leave organisations, but a new organisation doesn’t mean you forget the people you worked with; the world is a small place, and you need to be cognizant of the fact that you will need everyone.
- Be proactive and take on new challenges: Technology is constantly evolving, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and be willing to take on new challenges. Consider seeking out new projects and opportunities to learn and grow, and don’t be afraid to take on roles that stretch your capabilities. You cannot have a closed, non-flexible approach that says, “This is what I want to do or this is how it is done.” Be ready to try and fail with a new approach.
- Stay curious and keep learning: The tech industry moves quickly, and it’s important to stay current and continue learning throughout your career. Make a habit of staying up-to-date on the latest technologies and trends and never stop learning and growing. “Change before the change, changes itself,” I always say in technology.
What challenges you faced in your career path and how did you overcome them?
There have been multiple challenges, and I still face a lot of them on a regular basis. To me, if you do not face challenges, that means you are not moving and are stuck. Some general challenges that every individual faces but believes are unique to him or her, and which I have also faced, are as follows:
One challenge that IT professionals might face is staying up-to-date with the constantly evolving field of technology. This can be overwhelming as new tools, languages, and frameworks are constantly being introduced and older ones are deprecated. To stay current, IT professionals can engage in continuous learning by taking online courses, attending conferences, and experimenting with new technologies on their own time. I have had challenges, specifically when I changed domains. Having the business knowledge was very difficult, and I had to move at a very fast pace to make sure I implemented the right technology.
Another challenge that IT professionals might face is finding the right balance between the demands of their work and their personal lives. It can be easy to get caught up in the demands of a project and work long hours, which can lead to burnout. To avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance, IT professionals can make an effort to set boundaries, take breaks, and prioritise their time. Every time you are implementing a project, time management takes a toll on your balance. One thing I personally regret is that I lost track of my health when I continued working with bad schedules.
A third challenge that IT professionals might face is working effectively with clients or team members who have different backgrounds, personalities, or communication styles. To overcome this challenge, IT professionals can try to be empathetic, communicate clearly, and work to find common ground and understanding with others. You cannot know everything with so many technologies, and as a leader, time does not allow you to take learning, so you must rely on consultants and your teams to make decisions based on their knowledge, which becomes difficult if you do not ask the right questions.
Could you please tell us about any cyberattacks or security incidents that your current organisation has faced and how you dealt with them?
Yes, we definitely had our share of cyber-attaches, but fortunately, we came out fine. Further, if a company says they have never had a cyber-attach, there are two things to this statement.
- They are lying.
- They have had an attack but are not aware of it.
I’ll share a generic but basic approach for the same.
There are many different types of cybersecurity incidents that organisations may face, including malware attacks, phishing scams, data breaches, and network intrusions. The specific approach to preventing and responding to these incidents will depend on the nature of the threat and the resources and capabilities of the organization.
To prevent cybersecurity incidents, organisations should implement a range of technical and non-technical measures. Some specific steps that organisations might take include:
- Implementing firewalls and antivirus software to protect against malware and other malicious software
- Enforcing strong password policies and using two-factor authentication to protect against unauthorised access
- Encrypting sensitive data to protect it in the event of a data breach
- Educating employees on how to identify and avoid phishing scams and other social engineering tactics
- Regularly patching and updating systems to fix known vulnerabilities
- Conducting regular security assessments to identify and address any potential vulnerabilities
If a cybersecurity incident does occur, it’s important for organisations to have a plan in place for how to respond. This might include:
- Identifying the source of the incident and the extent of the damage
- Containing the incident to prevent it from spreading or worsening
- Restoring any affected systems and data
- Communicating with relevant stakeholders, such as customers or regulators, about the incident
- Reviewing the organization’s security measures and procedures to identify any weaknesses that may have contributed to the incident and taking steps to address them.
Effective cybersecurity requires a combination of prevention and response measures. It’s important for organisations to stay vigilant and continuously review and update their security measures to stay ahead of potential threats.
How did your organisation gear up in terms of technology during the COVID era?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on organisations around the world, and one of the major challenges has been the need to rapidly shift to remote work and digital operations. This has often required organizations to make significant investments in technology to enable remote work and collaboration.
For example, many organisations have provided laptops, tablets, and other devices to employees so they can work remotely. This may have also required the organization to provide additional support and training to help employees get comfortable with new technology and tools.
In addition to hardware, organisations have also had to invest in software solutions to enable remote work and collaboration. This might include virtual meeting and collaboration tools, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, as well as cloud-based storage and productivity tools, such as Google Drive and Microsoft 365.
Security and VPN solutions have also been important investments for many organisations to protect remote employees and secure remote access to corporate networks. This might include solutions such as two-factor authentication, firewalls, and antivirus software.
In addition to the technology investments, organizations have also had to adapt to new ways of working, such as developing new processes and policies for remote work, implementing new security measures, and managing the logistics of distributing and supporting technology for remote workers.
Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges for organizations, and adapting to new technologies and ways of working has been a critical part of addressing those challenges.
We also had our share of trial and error in terms of technology, but a major decision was which technology to retire after COVID, which was a task in terms of commercials as well as change management.
What technology solutions and innovations do you plan to implement in the post-COVID era?
Considering we are in a manufacturing setup, the following is what we have planned for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): The IIoT refers to the use of connected sensors and devices in the manufacturing industry to collect and analyse data. This can enable organisations to optimise production processes, improve quality control, and reduce downtime.
Robotics and automation: The use of robotics and automation in manufacturing has the potential to increase efficiency, reduce the need for manual labor, and improve the accuracy and consistency of processes.
3D printing: 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has the potential to revolutionise the way that products are designed and manufactured. It allows organisations to produce customised products on demand, reducing the need for large-scale production runs and inventory.
Data analytics and machine learning: The use of data analytics and machine learning in manufacturing can enable organizations to analyze large amounts of data and identify patterns and trends that can inform decision-making and improve efficiency.
Cloud computing: The adoption of cloud computing in the manufacturing industry can allow organisations to access computing resources and data storage on an as-needed basis, reducing the need for on-premises infrastructure. We are already on the cloud, but we are now looking at optimising the cloud approach and also working on Edge.
Overall, these and other technology trends have the potential to transform the manufacturing industry in the post-COVID era, enabling organisations to be more agile, efficient, and responsive to changing customer needs in the coming years.
What are the challenges faced by technology leaders today in a similar industry while implementing digital technologies?
There are a number of challenges that technology leaders in an owner-driven manufacturing industry might face when implementing digital technologies. Some of these challenges could include:
Resistance to change: Implementing new technologies often requires changes to existing processes and ways of working, which can be met with resistance from employees who are accustomed to the status quo. Technology leaders may need to work to overcome this resistance and communicate the benefits of the new technologies to gain buy-in from employees.
Limited budget and resources: Implementing new technologies can be expensive, and small or owner-driven manufacturing organisations may not have the budget or resources to invest in new technologies. Technology leaders may need to work with limited resources and prioritise their investments to get the most value.
Lack of in-house expertise: Some digital technologies may require specialised skills and knowledge that an organisation does not have in-house. Technology leaders may need to identify and hire new employees with the necessary expertise or seek outside assistance to implement the technologies.
Integration with legacy systems: Older manufacturing organisations may have legacy systems and equipment that are not compatible with new technologies. Technology leaders may need to work to integrate new technologies with these older systems, which can be a complex and time-consuming process.
Security and privacy concerns: Digital technologies can introduce new security and privacy risks, and it’s important for organisations to take steps to protect against these risks. Technology leaders may need to work to ensure that new technologies are implemented in a secure manner and that appropriate measures are in place to protect sensitive data.
Overall, implementing digital technologies in a manufacturing organization can be a complex and challenging process, and technology leaders may need to navigate a range of challenges in order to successfully implement these technologies.
How can technology leaders overcome the challenges they face?
There are several strategies that technology leaders in a manufacturing organization can use to overcome the challenges that they might face when implementing digital technologies:
Communicate the benefits: Technology leaders can work to communicate the benefits of new technologies to employees and stakeholders and address any concerns or fears they may have. This can help build support and buy-in for the new technologies.
Prioritize investments: With limited budgets and resources, it’s important for technology leaders to prioritise their investments in new technologies. This might involve identifying the technologies that will provide the most value to the organisation and focusing on those first.
Hire or seek outside expertise: If an organization lacks in-house expertise in a particular technology, technology leaders may need to hire employees with the necessary skills or seek outside assistance to implement the technology.
Plan for integration with legacy systems: When implementing new technologies, it’s important to consider how they will integrate with existing systems and processes. Technology leaders can work with IT staff and other stakeholders to develop a plan for integrating new technologies with legacy systems.
Focus on security and privacy: Digital technologies can introduce new security and privacy risks, and it’s important for technology leaders to take these risks seriously. They can work with IT staff and security experts to develop a plan for securing new technologies and protecting sensitive data.
Overall, there are many challenges that technology leaders in a manufacturing organization may face when implementing digital technologies, but by developing a well-thought-out plan and addressing these challenges head-on, they can overcome them and successfully implement new technologies.
Any best practices, industry trends, or advice you would give to fellow technology leaders to help them succeed professionally?
I would like to suggest to fellow technology leaders the following to help them on their professional journey:
Collaborate with other departments: Technology leaders should work to build strong relationships with other departments in the organization, such as marketing, sales, and HR. This can help to ensure that technology solutions are aligned with the overall business strategy and meet the needs of all stakeholders.
Understand the business context: Technology leaders should strive to understand the business context in which they are operating, including the industry, the competitive landscape, and the organization’s goals and objectives. This can help inform technology decisions and ensure that technology solutions are aligned with the organization’s overall direction.
Develop a technology roadmap: Technology leaders can work with stakeholders to develop a technology roadmap that outlines the organization’s technology goals and priorities over the short and long term. This can help to ensure that the organization is making informed decisions about technology investments and that technology solutions are aligned with business objectives.
Consider the total cost of ownership: When evaluating new technologies, it’s important for technology leaders to consider the total cost of ownership, including not just the upfront cost but also ongoing maintenance and support costs. This can help ensure that the organisation is making cost-effective technology decisions.
Foster a culture of innovation: Technology leaders should work to foster a culture of innovation within their organisations, encouraging employees to come up with new ideas and take calculated risks. This can help to drive continuous improvement and keep the organisation at the forefront of its industry.
Overall, these are just a few of the many factors that can contribute to a successful professional journey as a technology leader. By collaborating with other departments, understanding the business context, developing a technology roadmap, considering the total cost of ownership, and fostering a culture of innovation, technology leaders can set themselves up for success in their careers.
Any other points that you would like to highlight?
To summarize, being a technology leader in today’s rapidly changing world can be a challenging but rewarding role. There are many factors that contribute to success in this role, including staying up-to-date with the latest technologies, fostering a culture of continuous learning, building strong relationships with stakeholders, embracing change, and focusing on outcomes that matter to the organization. It’s also important for technology leaders to understand the business context in which they are operating, develop a technology roadmap that aligns with the organization’s overall direction, consider the total cost of ownership when evaluating new technologies, and foster a culture of innovation within the organization. By following these best practises and industry trends, technology leaders can set themselves up for success on their professional journey and help their organisations stay at the forefront of their industry.
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