Technology leader’s role is certainly instrumental in transforming the change with the help of relevant digital technologies
This is an exclusive interview conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Parveen Sharma, Global Head – IT and Change Delivery at Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF)
How did you plan your career path to be a successful technology leader?
There is no “magical yellow brick road” or “well-planned journey” theory when I reflect on my professional journey over the past two and a half decades. While I can say that there were carefully planned job changes, I also had to deal with many unexpected turns.
From my first job till today, I have followed the below mentioned principles to move ahead:
- Gain as many diverse experiences as possible early in your career: Try to explore as many diverse experiences as possible early in your professional career. I had started my career as a DBA, then moved into technical delivery, project management, solutioning, and consulting. I learned to handle different types of situations and work with a diverse set of stakeholders by gaining valuable experiences and working with as many people as possible across multiple geographies.
- Develop a business-solving perspective: Being a technologist, it’s always an easy option to approach every situation with a “technical mindset,” i.e., which technology or product can be adopted considering its capabilities. Instead of that, it’s important to first decode the problem or situation with a business mindset and then accordingly use technology as an “enabler” to solve the business problem or situation.
- Look for ways to adapt: Over the last two decades, technology has changed at a massive pace. I have always looked at this constant change as an opportunity to learn new skills and develop the ability to adapt to new situations.
- Constant focus on developing soft skills is needed for positive leadership, motivating employees, communicating effectively, and managing multiple engagements.
What challenges you faced in your career path and how did you overcome them?
- Transition from a student to a professional: Many would vouch that the corporate world is very different from the student world in universities. The transition from “class world” to “real world” education was quite tough and challenging. It’s important to remember during this time that change takes time, and one needs to be patient. Also, this is the ideal time to find your purpose in the long run by exploring the multiple options and finding out what works well.
- How to acquire domain knowledge after a job switch? While switching jobs from one domain to another or working with clients from various industry domains, it can be a challenge to figure out how to learn everything you need to know to be successful. It takes time to learn about the business and industry, but you often need to know the fundamentals to succeed in a new organization. When working in the new setup, I always give priority to understanding the business processes. This has helped me get inducted into the new environment and determine how to build or customise technology solutions that are fit for purpose.
- Challenges around the adoption of digital solutions: over the last two decades, the role of technology has evolved from a back-end support function to that of a business enabler by increasing efficiency, solving business process-related pain points, and creating superior customer experiences. Having said that, many business leaders think that new technology will get adopted in the organisation on its own and don’t give due consideration to the human side of change. The solution is to make technology empowering by putting people first, as digital solutions are much more than adding more technology. A people-first approach speeds up adoption for employees, customers, and other relevant stakeholders.
What are the challenges faced by technology leaders today while implementing digital technologies?
The modern workplace has become digital, and it will only become more digital-centric in the years to come. A technology leader’s role is certainly instrumental in transforming this change with the help of relevant digital technologies. In my view, the challenges of digital transformation are not always directly related to technology; they also include people-centric issues, organisational structures, and other non-tech factors.
Here are the relevant challenges that I have experienced during my professional journey:
- To successfully implement new solutions or products, resistance to change and organisational culture alignment are required.
- Buy-in for IT investments as many executives don’t always understand the “business value” of new technology.
- Management of Cyber Risks as a Result of Never Before Seen Security Threats
- The IT skill gaps
How can technology leaders overcome the challenges faced?
To overcome these challenges, it’s important for the IT leaders to “act as business leaders” and establish good working partnerships with other executives to overcome the challenges related to change and business buy-in.
- Align digital transformation initiatives with business outcomes
- Accordingly, identify and assess which specific problems would affect the business.
- Chart out a comprehensive plan to address those problems,
- Assemble a cross-functional team of high performers and motivated resources to form a change adoption team,
- Focus on the retention of existing talent by providing continuous learning opportunities as well as allowing employees to work on stimulating assignments that enhance job satisfaction.
- Work closely with risk management professionals to design plans focused on business continuity and organisational resilience so that cyber-related risks are mitigated with a holistic approach.
Any best practices, industry trends, or advice you’d give to fellow technology leaders to help them succeed professionally?
The advice I would like to suggest to fellow technology leaders for their successful professional journeys is to:
- Be reliable; do what you say you will do when you say you will do it.
- Willingness to learn: True professionals are always open to learning more and advancing their skill set.
- Network with peers by attending industry conferences and relevant events.
- Find a good mentor or guide to discuss the career trajectory and ups and downs in the professional journey.
- Focus on personal well-being and work-life balance to avoid burnout.
- Live life happy and always trust your instincts.
Also read: Learn relevant tech skills and gain experience
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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