Today with technology being at everyone’s fingertips, everyone has an opinion on technology, but the challenge is in bringing that technology into the enterprise and creating an impact with that. This is where the CIO’s role comes in very strongly
This is an exclusive interview conducted by Santosh Vaswani, Content Writer & Editor at CIO News with Kopal Sarin Raj, VP IT and India CIO at Wabtec Corporation, on her Professional Journey
When asked how she planned her career path to be a successful VP IT and India CIO at Wabtec Corporation, Kopal said technology is something I have always been passionate about. I was intrigued by the enumerable problems that technology could solve in different areas of an organization. Fortunately for me in my career span, I have seen the producer and consumer sides of technology, I have had multiple changes in my job responsibilities from designing and writing software to manage IT in Greenfield sites. From setting up data centres and LAN/WAN from scratch to ERP, CRM, MES, business MIS for functions, Engineering IT systems to managing operations across the globe for multiple applications, ensuring tools to enhance compliance and cyber-security. I have not said no to taking up anything new for me that came my way. I believe it has been this variety that has helped me land up in this role.
When asked about challenges she faced in her career path and how she overcame them, she said, the biggest challenge was in ensuring the variety and getting the opportunity to lead something I have never done before and building the trust and credibility that I can deliver an outcome. I consciously worked on ensuring my stakeholders felt confident and comfortable working with me. I put myself in their shows and understood the nuances of their work. I learned about their goals and objectives. This resulted in my seniors trusting me with additional and new problems to solve and also, for me to be able to guide better on problem-solving.
The next I would say getting alignment on objectives to drive change. This is not clear always upfront and needs an iterative process. Sometimes stakeholders are impatient and demand quick solutions which do not last long. Ensuring collaborative discussions and positive outcomes is important. Conflicts are good because they ensure a well-rounded discussion during problem-solving. But one has to creatively manage them keeping the higher objective always in sight.
When asked about challenges other technology leaders and fellow CIOs face in a similar industry while implementing digital technologies and how could they overcome the challenges, she said, first is having the right talent in the organization that understands the nuances of bringing in new technology. From governance to security to identity management everything needs to be thought through. Then finding the solution partner with the right prior experience because there is a technology or a product eco-system where they come and pitch about a product that can do wonders for an organisation, but unless you have a good solution implementation partner the technology can fail. This is where the experience of other peers helps. We try to be in touch with each other to understand and get a good reference on the experience that one would have had or contractually make sure what is put in as the scope of the project so that you do not miss out on a certain thing. One could get stuck in a project which has a long tail end because either the right contract is not put together or you did not understand the licensing space properly, and so you have ended up with additional costs.
When asked about best practices/industry trends/advice she would suggest to fellow technology leaders for their successful professional journeys, she said, As CIO one must be aware and abreast of what is happening in the organization. Contextualize the digitization for different stakeholders to get their buy-in. Show relevant examples from their area of work like operations, procurement HR, etc. Think of the governance, training, and long-term support related to any solution rollout as well. Today technology is at everyone’s fingertips but implementing it to bring real impact to the organization is where CIO’s expertise and experience helps. Establishing the credibility to resolve and deliver on large cross-functional initiatives goes a long way. Enlist the support of peers, experts to do that. Talk about the success of the projects that have been delivered to build your trust and credibility within the organisation and talk about the solutions that have been delivered in another industry, peer reference industry, so that you come across as an expert in that area.
When asked what could CIOs or technology leaders do to make their organisation, endpoints, and employees digitally secured, she said, we have been working with best-in-class tools and are focused on ensuring that our endpoints are secured especially when we pivoted to remote working. We have brought in tools for User lifecycle management, Identity security management, Cloud-native endpoint security software to quickly detect malicious behaviour and help prevent malicious files from attacking our organization The tools and controls help to block suspicious activity, raise operational alerts, have the logs and trails available. We have improved the operational rigour of working with application teams to ensure secure code practices.
Currently, we are also working on improving the employee experience with augmented reality (AR), training new people, and giving them a virtual tour of the office, shop floor, and even field engineering fixes that may be required. We are working on other exciting areas of technology.
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