This is a TechGig Exclusive interview with Vasudevan Sundarababu, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at CSS Corp. Through this interview, Sundarababu explains how the CTO role has evolved over the years amid rapid technological disruptions. He also talks about how coding contests and hackathons are helping his company address the talent deficit.
#1. As a tech leader, how has your role changed over the years?
The technology industry is undergoing massive changes. To stay relevant in the industry and meet overreaching consumer expectations, companies need to reimagine their IT and business models. Doing so can help them maintain their competitive advantage in the market and stay ahead of the game. Consequently, the role of the CTO has evolved with changing times. Earlier, the role of the CTO was to procure the right technology and implement projects. But, with the current technological landscape, implementation has become a cakewalk. The CTO’s role has evolved to become vaster, wiser and more intense. Right from being the evangelist of new technologies, we have become the business technology advisors for customers. Our role is to not only understand IT and leverage it in the appropriate contextual manner but also to predict the changes taking place in the industry and evolve accordingly.
Technology has become so pervasive and ubiquitous that the CTO must be in sync with all other business units that are impacted by the technology in the system. From the age-old concept of being a technocrat, the role has changed to become that of a tech visionary with a 360-degree view of the industry. The CTO must keep abreast of new ways of integrating technology contextually in innovative ways in business decisions to drive sales for the organisation. In addition, a CTO now needs to increasingly keep business outcomes in mind while working on their technology initiatives. The end goal is to impart better business agility and enable the organization to pivot quickly as business models rapidly evolve.
#2. According to you, which is the best technological innovations to have come by so far?
We are gradually moving towards a conversational economy, where voice is gaining increased prominence amongst consumers. Businesses are applying conversational AI-based voice platforms in their strategic investment roadmaps to disrupt the customer experience ecosystem, thereby, simplifying and personalizing customer engagements.
Conversational AI is one of the pathbreaking technological innovations to date, that can disrupt the customer experience ecosystem by simplifying and personalizing customer engagements through AI-based voice platforms. Gartner predicts that “Conversational AI-first” will supersede “cloud-first, mobile-first” as the most important, high-level imperative for the next 10 years. With advancements in speech recognition and Natural Language Processing (NLP), conversational AI is making customer engagement much more unified and collaborative.
#3. What are the 5 best programming languages for beginners?
AI is fast penetrating into all spheres of life today. It is everywhere and all around us. From your commute to work, to catching up with friends online, to shopping on the go, we are all using AI every day without even realising it.
According to Mark Cuban, a well-known American businessman and investor, “AI will make the world’s first trillionaire. ‘The first trillionaire is going to be someone who masters Artificial Intelligence and all its derivatives and implements it in ways we never thought of’”.
So, when it comes to AI aspirants, I would suggest the best 5 programming languages would be Python, Java, Lisp, Prolog and C++.
#4. How do you source skill specific talent requirements? Do you think platforms like hackathons or coding contests help strengthen the talent pipeline?
There are a multitude of tools and techniques, which help screen candidates for the primary level and match the right skills to the right talent. Coding contests, such as, code breakers and hackathons conducted through digital platforms are used as preliminary ways for talent acquisition, attracting talent having the required skillsets. We also follow the practice of hiring candidates from premier educational institutes, such as, IITs and IIMs. CSS Corp was also listed by IIT Madras as one of the top recruiters (in terms of job offers) during 2018-19. These techniques are not only used for hiring but also for creating a learning experience for the employees.
Having said that, we at CSS Corp believe in recruiting talent with the right attitude. Skills can be acquired; however, an organisation succeeds because of people that have the right attitude. Gone are the days when one could learn a specific skill and excel in it to achieve success for a lifetime. Now, you need to constantly upgrade yourself with latest skills brought in by the influx of digitization of the market. In today’s dynamic work environment, employees need to continually reinvent themselves. And, at CSS Corp every individual is empowered to and expected to innovate. Afterall, it’s the work environment and culture that helps employees flourish here.
For this purpose, we have built ‘Reimagine’, a digital career progression framework to reorient our service lines and re-align the growth of our employees to meet growing business needs. The “Reimagine” framework for employee re-skilling has been specifically built to fast-track employee initiatives within the organization, related to niche digital technologies including robotic process automation (RPA), AI, analytics, cloud, DevOps and IoT. Additionally, the framework enables collaborative learning and greater personalization through Virtual University, MOOCs, online portals and learning communities. ‘Reimagine’ promotes democratization of learning and fosters a culture of innovation within the organization.
#5. Lastly, a message that you’d like to share with our community of technology enthusiasts.
I would suggest all the coders and tech geeks to consume technology as an enabler to solve business problems. Let us view challenges as business problems and not only technology issues.Afterall, the future holds good for people with multi facet skill sets, so keep learning and keep applying the knowledge in the right situations through innovative methods.