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Biztech Sep 5, 2012

The Teacher Behind The Business Technologist

By Shipra Malhotra

It is true that most of what we accomplish in life is because of our teachers; some whom we encounter in their formal role in school and college, and others that we encounter informally in our day-to-day life such as parents, friends, supervisors, subordinates, or maybe even a complete stranger.

It’s time to remember and honor all those people who taught us the life lessons that make us who we are and take us where we go in our lives - right from someone who made learning a fun and wonderful experience in school, laying the foundation of our career to anyone from whom we learnt those qualities that define our being or left an influence somewhere that today marks our personality.

On the occasion of Teachers’ Day, leading Indian CIOs give us a peek into their personal life, and give us a first hand account of that influencer and inspirer - the ‘teacher’, the lessons learnt and their applicability for them today. These are the students that have gone on to become the gears driving many a big companies. And, now you know who those influencers are that somewhere down the line are determining the actions and decisions of these leaders at the helm of Business Technology initiatives in their organisations.

Daya Prakash: CIO, LG India

No age for learning: I’ve come across different personalities in my life, whom I’ve learnt different lessons from, and who have impacted me both personally and professionally. Prominent among these is my father, who while growing up among hardships learnt how to deal with these from childhood itself. A self made man, he not only educated himself but also supported his family financially from a very young age. From him I’ve learnt the grit to endure the ups and downs in life without giving up. And, the most important the lesson that I owe to him is that whatever we learn and at whatever age, there is a need to further disseminating it to whoever needs it and can get benefited by it.

The other three people that I would like to give a special mention to are from the world of academia. I’ve been fortunate to work with Dr. AP Mathur, former Vice Chancellor of Agra University, from whom I’ve learnt the simple fundamentals of life. Its quite humbling to see a person of his stature to be more like a student than a teacher considering his willingness to always learn from anyone. The key lesson that my interactions with him have taught me is being open to learning from others – not only to what they have to teach us but also from their actions and reactions to situations in life, both positive and negative. While actions with positive results will teach us what do right and how to do it, the actions with negative results will teach us what not to do, and the areas of improvement.

While studying for my masters in Computer Management in the mid 1990s, i was highly influenced by my professor who taught the subject of System analysis. Such was her vision that at a time when the concept of globalisation was yet to become the norm, she prepped her students for global competition. Her understanding was that if we want to make a career in IT we need to do well not just in the Indian market but also rise above global competition. Another key contribution of hers is to introduce me to the understanding of IT - business alignment, again at a time when the concept was unheard of. According to her, as IT people we will be doing a lot of coding but ultimately what will help us move the next step will be an understanding of system analysis. I can now relate all the talk of IT and business alignment to her advice.

A recent influence has been Dr. Kak, Vice Chancellor of Mahamaya Technical University. I’ve got an opportunity to work closely with him as part of Nasscom’s National Regional Chapter. Being a part of the group for Academia – Industry relationship, I’ve had many interactions with Dr. Kak, who has been working relentlessly towards bridging the academia – industry gap and help improve the employability of today’s engineering graduates, and also working towards creating an entrepreneurial spirit among students to not only employ themselves but also generate employment opportunities for others. I find his thoughts and his work at the grassroots level truly inspiring.

Hilal Khan: Head - Corporate IT, Honda Motor India

Understanding your customer: I sincerely believe that a teacher can be anyone who influences us and our thought process, and need not necessarily be just teachers from our school and college. In that sense, I owe significant influence in my professional life to Mr. Raman Kumar Sharma, one of my former supervisors that I used to report into earlier. We know and understand and know many things in life, but then there comes a time or a person in one’s life who truly brings out the significance and depth of that. And, I would attribute that point or person in my life to him. My working with him has enriched me with new outlook towards things. While I always knew it is important to understand your customer (both internally and externally, horizontally and vertically) and speak their language, he helped me in not only truly understanding its significance but also going a step further to understand ‘what next’, pre-empt what the customer might be thinking, his/her questions and being adequately prepared to answer them, and with facts.

Gain higher acceptability and visibility within the organisation, improving my ability to sell my ideas, and convince have been some of the direct output of learning this crucial lesson from him. While I’m no longer working with him, I still consider him to a guide and mentor both professionally and personally.

DD Mishra: Head IT Governance & Outsourcing, Vodafone India

Building the foundation: During my college days, I used to anxiously wait for my HOD’s class. System dynamics and modeling became my favorite subject owing to my professor, who taught it with a lot of passion and dedication, while also being an authority on the subject.

The strong foundation he built helped me understand the concept and learn how to simulate real world situations, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experiments and models. With the interest his teachings illicit system dynamics and modeling became part of my thought processes. Today, whenever a business problem comes my mind runs on different tracks, and a causal loop diagram comes to my mind. I try to simulate the situation to generate a much realistic view from any chaotic situation. I am indebted to the learning which has given me decent results most of the times.

The first encounter of all this learning in the real world happened when I went to NTPC for my last semester project, where I was given the project of distributing grid load between different plants to optimise the cost of gas consumption. Immediately my learning in numerical methods came to my mind and I started having fun with the challenge. While doing so I also discovered that the real world’s issues are not complex, but looking something beyond three co-ordinates will make things very complex. Philosophically, I do not take many co-ordinates for my real world predictions on a situation. And, this important lesson flowed in from the early learning imparted by my professor combined with the practical exposures at work.

Apart from the knowledge of IT concepts, I learnt passion, dedication and a ‘can do’ attitude. My HOD’s leadership to stand against all odds to make things happen inspires me till date and I have tried my best to embed it into my value system.

Milind Borate: Co-Founder & CTO, Druva

Ability to take crucial decisions: Having left school and college years ago, it’s difficult for us CIOs and CTOs to remember all the teachers and what they taught. But, somehow, there are always a few teachers who would have left a lifetime of memory and learning. I think my teachers made me more resilient and disciplined. This really helped me in taking some of the most crucial decisions in the past, and overcoming challenges of day to day life.

Francis Rajan: VP-ICT, BIAL

The enthusiasm for innovation: As an individual we all thrive to succeed, but what we often do not care for is the value we are adding to the society. My teachers not only gave me all the required knowledge but also injected that required enthusiasm for innovation. I try and use the same principle to motivate my team. Today it is required of the CIO to draw out the future roadmap and the vision so that all team members have the buy-in, and are enthused to realise the vision as a team. This is a quality that I owe to my teachers.

Radhakrishna T.: Head- IT Security, ING Vysya Bank

Sharing what you have: Knowledge is of more worth when it is shared with others. That is the mantra I learnt from my teachers. In my organisation and at various other forums, I try to share as much technical/non-technical knowledge as I can. In our vertical, sharing information matters a lot as one enterprise cannot deal with all the emerging security threats, and solve them accordingly. Hence, sharing information is very crucial.

(With inputs from Robin Chatterjee and Sharon D’Souza)

by Shipra Malhotra

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