How do you look back at your professional journey traversed thus far? Please share some of the enriching experiences that you have come across.
I look back at my professional journey with great pride, joy, and contentment. I have had the opportunity of over 30 years to work in and travel to different parts of the world, work with people from a variety of cultures, with bosses - some terrific and some terrible. The most rewarding experiences have always been the ones where you have got into uncharted territory and took a leap of faith – whether by you or someone else.
At the very beginning of my career, as a fresh management graduate in my first job, the MD placed his faith in me to get a tricky problem resolved. That did wonders for my confidence and set the tone for how I saw myself. I remember my stint in the UAE when we picked up a very large order with a lot of installation involved across multiple cities. There was a debate about whether we should decline the order because people had left the company en masse and I was a rookie. Once again, someone made a leap of faith and we went ahead and completed an incredibly challenging project.
How has working across industries made your professional journey more interesting?
Working across industries has made me more adaptable and resilient. I have had to sometimes learn, and at times, unlearn to adapt to each new industry I have worked in. I have had the opportunity to work in very diverse industries, starting with auto parts manufacturing, followed by retail and distribution, a stint as an entrepreneur in manufacturing and of course IT. This, combined with the fact that some of these experiences have been in other countries, and therefore, meant handling different cultures and work styles, has particularly made it fun and interesting. The priorities and scale in each were different as were the challenges.
What was the reason for the transition from hardcore business to HR? How do you think the two converge?
Having been a part of the sales, pre-sales and partner organization at Dimension Data India since the past six-plus years, I have had a ringside view of the disruptive transformation going on in the industry, that could not have been envisaged a few years ago. Cloud, social media, IoT are leading to a digitally enabled world like never before, and, the pace of this change is nothing short of incredible. Organizations are gearing up, and, in a number of cases struggling to keep pace with this change, and, tap into the immense potential that this offers. Getting organizations ready for this growth by enabling, nurturing and empowering talent has never been more important. The opportunity that presented itself to me was to draw upon my years of experience, understanding, and running the business, to see the trends coming our way to anticipate the talent needs and help transform the people in the organization to be ready to ride the growth wave.
Coming from a hardcore business background, what do you bring to the table and how do you think this gives you an edge over your peers from other organizations?
I honestly do not think of it as an edge over someone else. What I bring to the table is a perspective that is different from someone who has had a career in HR. My work as the head of alliances gave me an understanding of how some of the world’s leading IT companies work and their people practices. All of these form critical inputs to assessing the talent needs of an organization, it's level of preparedness and filling any gaps.
Having been long associated with the IT sector, what is your understanding of the business, and, how big a role does HR play in this sector?
I have been in the IT sector since 2001. More than half of my professional career has been in IT, of which 4 years were spent managing a technology business in the US. Almost all this time has been spent in SI organizations. In the last six years at Dimension Data India, I have managed a broad portfolio across multiple technology domains like digital infrastructure, cybersecurity, hybrid cloud, and digital workplaces. Therefore, I can safely say that I have a good understanding of the IT business, and, more than ever, as organizations prioritize more and more on services today, HR becomes the most important cog in the wheel. Services is about people and their capabilities. HR plays a pivotal role in enabling people to meet business challenges and in keeping them motivated. It is an industry in which the demographic profile has changed radically and continues to do so every day. I see HR as the glue that keeps these people together.
Who have been your figures of inspiration during the professional journey? What are some of the values and ideologies with regards to which you think, leaders should definitely walk the talk to win stakeholder confidence?
If I were to write a business/leadership book today, it would be on Trust and the title would be “The Currency of Trust.” Currency is something that is used as a medium of exchange. Something that has value. Having spent my entire career in sales, I have come to realize that people buy from people they connect with, they trust. Evoking trust is a complex thing. It takes a lot of effort to build, but very little to break.
“Best HR practices are built on a futuristic vision.” What are your views on the same and how have you practiced this during your stint with various organizations?
Best HR practices are built by finding a way to balance the current aspirations of employees with what we believe will be needed to keep pace with the organizational vision and strategy for the future.
As part of the Dimension Data India family, what will be your focus for 2019? What organizational goals have been set by you?
We have a fairly large field-based workforce that is rendering key services to our clients. It is a key priority for me to make sure that we establish and foster a sense of belonging among these employees. To do that, we need to not just “reach” them, but also “touch” them in a purposeful way. The company has developed an initiative called “Our People First” centered around three key pillars called Growth, Development, and Engagement. As a function, we want to be an equal stakeholder in actively shaping business outcomes and the future of every employee.
How do you see the HR industry changing in 2019 and what do you think is fuelling that change?
Over these last few months that I have been on the job, I have been noticing the incredible amount of technology infusion into the function. I am seeing a lot of terrific new products, frameworks, and ideas to solve HR problems – both old as well as new- that use innovative technology and novel approaches. I expect this to gather further steam. I think what will be key in this age of massive digital disruption will be to find new, interesting, and innovative ways to keep your workforce engaged and motivated. The old order changeth yielding place to new is an old adage – this is now going to be truer in human aspects than ever before.
Are we leading towards a sustainability-driven economy?
Top leaders must develop a ‘teachable’ point of view on business ideas and values, and they must have a personal vision that can be codified
We are surely living in paradoxical times. Even as observers bemoan the lack of upright and charismatic political leaders, the corporate sector continues to produce visionary leaders who are inspiring their organizations to greater heights all the time.