2022

Entering and staying resilient in an innovating industry: Women tech leaders on opportunities in AI, ML sector

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have seen immense growth in the last decade, and women tech leaders say the sector has a lot for women if they seize the opportunity.

It is critical that girls receive the education they deserve and are aware of the opportunities available in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

That is the goal of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, observed on February 11, which strives to highlight and educate people about the importance of women in science, not only as beneficiaries but also as change agents, especially in light of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development goals.

Previously, women were not sure about career growth in the STEM industries for myriad reasons – family support, work-life balance, and most importantly, the confidence to lead and achieve professional success. Now, this situation is changing, thanks to more and more companies evolving to provide flexible working conditions, introducing supportive and career-defining policies and initiatives, and building a cultural foundation where every employee can bring their whole self to work.

People Matters spoke to women tech leaders in the industry about the opportunities that exist for women in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) which has seen immense growth in the last decade.

Evolving AI & ML Space

Significant technological advances and innovation over the past decade have undoubtedly changed the way people live, work, and interact with each other. However, a lot more than just technology has evolved over the last two years due to the pandemic.

The pandemic era has forced organisations to move into an innovation mindset and have disrupted long-lasting, tested, and preferred business models for most organisations, while increasing the technology adoption rate by almost 5X.

One of the technologies that has gained popularity in recent years and seems to have profound future implications is AI.

“Today, most organisations generate consumer benefits and business value by leveraging 70 to 80% AI-led operations and creating AI-infused products and applications. Businesses are now reimagining their operations via a human-AI collaboration,” says Saraswati Kadel, Associate Director, CSS Corp Innovation Labs.

“The AI space has seen immense growth in the last decade – which is also the span of my career in the industry. When I first began, AI was just a research field surrounded by buzz from academia and select quarters of industry. I was always intrigued by AI and experiencing its growth and implementation across domains has been exhilarating,” adds Shraddha Surana, global data community lead, lead data scientist at Thoughtworks.

She says that today, AI concepts are extensively accessible via online courses that increase awareness and build the emerging tech’s global community.

“Take for instance, the boom in Artificial Neural Networks (or Deep Learning). Factors contributing to AI’s explosion include an increase in compute power, technological development, open-source contributions and an awareness of AI’s impact on social and economic life,” she adds.

What women in tech contribute to the sector?

Industry leaders say the tech industry is fast-paced and women have definitely brought empathy and diverse thought to the work culture, where there is a form of realism in how they view and work with other people.

“In my career, I have had the opportunity to witness women around me grow to be extraordinarily confident, improving their craft, and having a deep understanding of business. I’ve seen them take bold steps, and get out of their comfort zone, network with peers, and experiment to deliver awesome results for customers, without the fear of being wrong,” says Radhika Kannan, staff technical program manager, Intuit AI.

“Intuit is leading by example with internal communities (TechWomen@Intuit  and Intuit Women Network) and tech programmes focused on apprenticeship, mentorship and coaching, resources and tools for continuous learning, returnship, and through initiatives aimed at increasing the number of girls interested in technology at an early age, making sure female representation continues to grow within the industry,” she adds.

Opportunities in AI and ML in the next 5-10 years

In today’s world, AI and ML capabilities are in high demand across industries. From robots cleaning the house, serving at restaurants, chatbots, to self-driving cars, these applications of artificial intelligence can be seen in our day-to-day lives, and they are only set to increase.

These emerging technologies have also opened up doors to ample AI career opportunities.

“We are already witnessing an increased demand for data engineers, research scientists, AI engineers, AI data analysts, Business Intelligence developers and so on,” says Kadel of CSS Corp.

A major AI-area of interest has been Machine Learning (ML), thanks to its success in various fields.

Surana expects to see more focus and development in the areas of AI that help address the limitations of ML and Deep Learning – along the lines of explainability, robustness, and small data.

“We are seeing some traction with few-shot learning and meta learning. There is also a growing focus on data governance that emphasises on the identification of biases in models – especially those that will drastically impact people. This makes areas like reasoning and explainability that much more important in the near future,” she adds.

Kannan believes the next decade will see more opportunities for machine learning engineers, cloud architects, business intelligence developers, and data engineers.  “At Intuit, we are on the lookout for top talent, with capabilities in artificial intelligence/machine learning, data science, cloud, open source, and natural language understanding (NLU),” she adds.

However, with the adoption of new tech, issues related to privacy and data transparency continue to be a challenge.

Shephali Sharma, associate vice president – IT transformation services, and CRM, Birlasoft says to mitigate any ethical complications and risks related to this, the role of an ethics leader for new-age technologies will be in demand, with increased ethical business practices being sacrosanct.

How to stay resilient in a fast-paced tech industry?

In today’s digital world, new technologies and business use-cases are being developed all the time, and businesses are looking for ways to incorporate emerging technologies into their operations.

Kadel says to stay resilient, it is imperative to have an adaptive and flexible attitude, both at the personal level and at the professional level.

“Businesses were forced to move to a work from home model overnight. I am happy to share that CSS Corp was one of the first IT services companies to move to a 100% WFH model. While the organisation was supportive, I have also had to make adjustments to my day-to-day schedule. Over time, I have worked out the most appropriate work model that balances out my personal and professional commitments,” she says.

To keep pace with such fast-paced development, what has worked for Surana of Thoughtworks is nurturing strong core fundamentals and deep diving into the fundamentals of new algorithms. “Once the fundamentals are clear, I find any new algorithm much easier to grasp, understand and use,” she says.

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NGO launches drive to sponsor lab tests for transgender people

CHENNAI: Every six months,  Siddharth Bharati has to get blood and hormone tests, an abdomen scan, chest X-ray and done to monitor the effects of the hormones he is taking. The 28-year-old man of trans experience, who began taking hormone therapy seven years ago, says the regular lab visits take a toll on his emotional health as well as wallet.

“I have undergone a breast removal surgery, look like a cis man and have beard. But I have not had a hysterectomy so the abdomen scan will show that I have a uterus. Often, the lab staff ask me uncomfortable questions and treat me differently. I was scared to walk into labs,” says Siddharth. “And the tests are also expensive.”

Many transgender people go through similar experiences. That’s why SAATHII , an NGO, in collaboration with CSS Corp, is sponsoring lab tests for transmasculine, transfeminine, and intersex people. The package includes CBC, lipid and hormone profiles, liver and kidney function tests as well as ECG, abdomen scan and chest x-ray for people who need them. The initiative aims to cover at least 100 community members.

“Trans and intersex people who are on or want to take hormone therapy have to get these lab tests done regularly. But many of them cannot afford it so they skip it and often continue with the initial prescription given by the endocrinologist, which can have an adverse impact on their health,” says Fred Rogers, project consultant with SAATHII.

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Women tech leaders may help organisations achieve better business results: Industry tech experts

As organisations recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion in talent management, many are increasing their efforts to support and empower women to succeed in the workplace. There are positive changes taking place within the tech industry, as more women are taking on roles within it. Women bring with them diverse perspectives, unique problem-solving techniques, attention to detail, and a multi-faceted approach to any project.

Despite several measures aimed at expanding women’s involvement in the tech workforce, India’s ratio of women in tech management and CXO positions remains low. However, as India Inc. recognises the value of women tech leaders in decision-making, the tendency appears to be shifting.

There are positive changes taking place within the tech industry, as more women are taking on roles within it. Women bring with them diverse perspectives, unique problem-solving techniques, attention to detail, and a multi-faceted approach to any project.

As organisations recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion in talent management, many are increasing their efforts to support and empower women to succeed in the workplace.

Organisations encouraging more women in technology

Vanya Seth, Head of Technology, Thoughtworks, said that at Thoughtworks, they run a STEP program that seeks to work with students from Tier 2 and 3 cities. STEP is a twenty-four month-long intensive entry-level programme that follows a unique “work while you study” methodology that offers the chance to learn theory and apply it at work.

To ensure that more women are part of the technical community, Thoughtworks runs a couple of initiatives:
Thoughtworks runs Vapasi – a certified and free technical training program designed for women who are on a career break and are keen to get back to tech. The program is tailored to both Quality Analysts (QA) and Developers (Dev).

  • Thoughtworks N.O.W is a forum for curious women from all walks of life, who want to be a part of an inclusive and active network of learning and sharing knowledge.#TalkTechToHer is a campaign aimed at encouraging women technologists with more than 6 years of experience (when women usually leave the workforce) to stay a part of the technology industry.
  • Udeti: It is a part of Thoughtworks’ #TalkTechToHer campaign. Udeti is a collection of inspiring stories about Thought Workers who happen to be women.

Speaking about the initiatives, Rachel Scheel, Senior Vice President of Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Criteo, said that her organisation is focusing on targeting hiring programs that will naturally attract more females into technology careers. Recently, the company launched a career Returnship Program which aimed to attract women talent who had left their careers for family and parenting responsibilities.

Scheel further said, this program provides a tailored hiring process, and six-month supportive onboarding with flexible working options, focusing on making that re-entry more appealing. This program itself will hopefully encourage many women back to the workforce, providing a great pipeline for future leaders – as many of these women have left at the midpoint of their careers.

“We are working with schools and colleges that primarily support women and women from underprivileged backgrounds. We will be creating intern and early careers programs to attract young talent graduating in a technology course,” Scheel added.

On her part, Sindhu Gangadharan, SVP & MD, SAP Labs India; Head, SAP User Enablement, said, “The company has targeted intervention amongst women youth towards building employable and future IT skills and workforce readiness.”

Gangadharan further said, while building the enabling ecosystem for young women is to equip them with advanced career training in topics viz., data science, cloud computing, AI, Machine Learning and programming languages; provide them mentorship on how to build a career with the IT industry and prepare them for future skills.

While emphasising on the initiatives, Sumedha Pal Parmer, Country HR Leader – Honeywell India, stated, “At Honeywell, we believe that Diversity and Inclusion facilitates a level playing field. Moreover, it creates an ecosystem where ideas, creativity and work are valued irrespective of gender. Our Honeywell Reconnect program ensures that women are seamlessly integrated within the system upon their return from maternity leave.”

According to Gayatri Mohanakrishnan, AVP, CSS Corp, “We are committed to promoting diversity and equality at CSS Corp. We have the Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) to encourage and promote diversity in the workplace by inspiring, motivating, and empowering women and supporting them in pursuing growth and learning in their careers and life.”

“Additionally, through our WIN Charter, we aim to establish mentorship programs and events for women employees at all levels to share learnings and create a supportive environment to overcome challenges and provide guidance for individual and collective growth,” Mohanakrishnan added.

This is how women in tech are growing and organisations are trying their best to provide facilities and guidance to increase women in tech more.

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CSS Corp Bolsters Costa Rican Operations With 300 More Staff

Outsourced CX vendor CSS Corp will add 300 more employees to its operations in Costa Rica, where it runs two delivery centers.

The Dallas-based company hosted a job fair in the Costa Rican city of Heredia in the second week of September. All the new hires would report to duty in October.

The recruitment program will take CSS Corp’s total headcount in the Central American country to more than 2,000, as the BPO already employs over 1,600 people there.

“The new workers will join the company’s 1,650 employees who provide multilingual consumer and business support in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and Italian to global customers,” stated the BPO provider.

CSS expanded to Costa Rica in August 2013 with a contact center in Heredia. Four years later, it launched another delivery center in Cartago, a small town about 12 kilometers east of the capital, San Jose.

While multilingual tech support is the major service it provides from Costa Rica, its recent hunt for gamers indicates that the company is also using the Costa Rican facilities to support gaming consumers in the United States.

CSS was founded in 1996 in India’s southern city of Chennai. Today it employs over 11,500 people across 20 global locations, including Colombia and China.

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With more patents and products, women in tech shine

If you think women don’t belong to the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, think again.

While women have traditionally been underrepresented in the STEM [Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] field, their contribution to research and development at leading companies is increasing significantly, according to many executives interviewed by DH on International Women’s Day.

The proof is in the pudding: The number of women in tech is rising and so are the patents filed by them and their inventions that won a patent.

Volvo Group India said women accounted for 38 per cent of the patents filed in 2021, versus 10 per cent in the year-ago period. German software firm SAP said about 630 patents were filed between FY16 and FY21 where at least one of the co-innovators was from its Indian arm. Uber said women now account for 42.2 per cent of its workforce, out of which 23.2 per cent are engaged in technology.

“Multiple organisations have introduced flexible working policies, anti-harassment policies, women mentorship programmes, and leadership support to establish an equitable workforce culture,” said Punitha Anthony, Senior Director–HR at technology services provider CSS Corp India.

The executives interviewed by DH said they were optimistic about more women joining the workforce, especially due to the recent initiatives at their firms.

That said, there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to tackling issues ranging from unconscious bias to pay parity.

For instance, an unconscious bias might stop someone from calling a woman by her name in a group conversation while constantly calling out her male peer’s name, pointed out Vanya Seth, head of technology at Thoughtworks, a tech consultancy firm.  “This kind of behaviour can make people feel invisible. Yet, most passionate technologists who are women are showing up to work with the same grit every day.”

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How Tech Service Providers Can Rediscover Themselves Through Rebranding

It’s been over two years since the pandemic. Two years of disruption. Two years of brands having to pivot and realign their strategies, and two years of near-constant change.

The pandemic forced brands, especially tech businesses, to deliver their services with a digital-first approach. If previously, they had relied on in-person experiences to drive impact, they now had to digitalize all those experiences. The result was that tech service providers did not just have to rediscover themselves; they had to rapidly reimagine themselves.

Simplify, Declutter, Demystify and Rebrand: Brand Trends for 2022

In this shifting landscape, some brands have armed themselves with four tools:

  • Simplification
  • Decluttering
  • Demystification
  • Rebranding

This year, brands have shown a marked shift toward simplification. Some brands have even gone as far as to ‘debrand’ themselves. The most famous example may be Facebook changing to Meta last year. A shorter brand name? Yes, why not? It’s simpler, and brands are thriving on simplicity these days. Autodesk, in September last year, said that it was ‘reimagining’ its brand with a ‘strong, simple logo.’ And the same year, TransferWise shortened its name to Wise, signifying through the simpler name that it now offered a more complex suite of services than just money transfers.

Decluttering is another trend that brands are utilizing to reinvent themselves. What does decluttering have to do with branding? Ask Pringles, which changed its logo by removing the hair on its mascot! In the brand’s words, that change was done keeping simplicity in mind.

And in keeping with the ‘simplify’ trend, brands are also seeking clearer messaging, moving away from obfuscating jargon to more subtle messaging. Aggressive campaigns are passe. Empathetic campaigns are in.

All of this means that many of the pre-pandemic ways of branding have now ceased to hold relevance. So, what better way for brands to become relevant again than through rebranding? Brands that have been nimble and agile, and adapted to changing customer expectations faster, are well-positioned to be the brands of the future.

Finding your whys

Brands may want to rebrand themselves for many reasons, as with NIIT Technologies, which rebranded itself as Coforge after its acquisition by Barings. Sometimes, it could be as simple as a merger. Other times, because they needed to connect with customers better. But usually, brands that choose to overhaul their entire personality do so for strategic reasons.

In CSS Corp’s case, we found that after 26 years, the brand had evolved from its initial beginnings as a service provider to a strategic value partner. The brand is known in the industry for its disruptive digital solutions and insights-driven services approach. Our services portfolio has expanded and shifted over the last two decades. But our brand identity and perception hadn’t kept pace with its transformation to a digital-first brand.

Going deeper, we found that our existing brand identity did not reflect who we were and the pillars that had driven this transformation. We wanted our brand to be known as a catalyst for cultural transformation. Was our brand ready to evolve? We found that the answer was an overwhelming “Yes!”

No matter the reasons behind the rebranding, knowing the answers to the ‘why’ will establish the future direction of the brand at a more fundamental level.

Rebranding as a process and continuing journey

Rebranding isn’t for everyone, though. It’s more than a new logo. It’s more than a brand refresh. It’s giving a brand the chance to start afresh. Utilized well, it’s a tool for positive change. It should be leveraged as an opportunity to infuse fresh thinking into the mindsets of all employees. It is an avenue to realize that while your problems may not disappear overnight, we will at least employ new means and energy to deal with them. Realigning the organizational aspirations with a new rallying cry can go a long way to expedite the transformation.

When we made rebranding a process of rediscovering ourselves as a brand, our new identity became clearer. It led to CSS Corp becoming Movate, a combination of ‘Momentum’ and ‘Innovate’. There are two key themes behind the company’s new positioning – Accelerate and Innovate. ‘Accelerate’ represents the company’s philosophy of helping clients achieve great outcomes with speed and stay ahead of the time curve. ‘Innovate’ represents its passion for solving complex challenges through the simplest and most creative solutions. And together, they form our new tagline, which is ‘Accelerate. Innovate. Movate.’

We also unveiled our new vibrant logo that represents our organization’s vision and what we stand for. The logo has three key elements: an inverted hourglass representing agility and speed, a hidden infinity symbol that signifies infinite potential and opportunity that the company brings to the table and the X Factor underlining the multiplier effect of the company.

From our experience, we found that, for rebranding to be a seamless process, we needed to quickly bring everybody on board with our brand’s new aspirations. This included being clear about our new messaging and ensuring that our employees understood the new positioning well.

Rejuvenating a much-loved brand is not easy. But as in the case of Evernote’s or Dunkin Donuts’ rebranding, you can always look at the past as inspiration for the future. You don’t want to lose all that valuable heritage – so make that the essence of what your brand has always been while adding or subtracting new elements. This ensures that the brand continues to resonate with customers. That’s something that we also felt was critical: CSS Corp has a long, proud history, and we wanted to showcase that history of excellence with our new vision of being agile and innovative. You don’t want your new identity to confuse existing customers: it should only make your value proposition clearer.

The pandemic may be receding from our horizon, but its disruptive impact is here to stay. And whether a brand is a tech startup or a legacy brand, the reality surrounding us now is more demanding than it was a couple of years ago. Adapting to this new reality could help a brand rediscover its mojo…or bury it.

 

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How Indian CIOs are staying ahead of changing demand for skills

Technology adoption is accelerating across industries, and newer technologies are always emerging, so how can CIOs keep track of the necessary skills and ensure staff are up to speed? the same grit every day.”

With competition for skilled IT workers getting tighter, it’s more important than ever for enterprises to be sure they’re spending on recruiting and retaining the right talent.

IT executives see talent shortage as the most significant adoption barrier to 64% of emerging technologies, ahead of implementation cost (29%) or security risk (7%), according to a September 2021 Gartner survey.

Identifying which emerging technologies will prove most useful is a challenge, though. The pace of technology has evolved so rapidly over the last few years, multiplied by the pandemic, that it’s hard to keep track — and what’s most in demand today may be obsolete tomorrow. With the accelerated pace of technology adoption, how are CIOs to identify the skillsets they need in their team?

CIO.com India asked IT leaders from different industries about the strategies they use to forecast which skills they will need.

For Giridhar Yasa, chief technology officer at Indian online financing company Lendingkart, it starts with reading. “We follow industry developments quite closely and do our own research. This happens through reports like those published by the Reserve Bank of India, industry consulting majors, and technology papers among others,” he told CIO.com.

Rohit Kaila, vice president of Walmart Global Tech India, develops IT systems for the US supermarket chain. He identifies current skill needs by evaluating his IT inventory. “There might be 10 or 20 or 100 systems out there. What are the key technologies in those systems? That is what drives the people that I’m going to hire.”

What skills are needed?

Let’s take a look at where the reasoning of some of these CIOs leads them.

CSS Corp’s Marri says the technical skills that will continue to drive the IT industry are AI, analytics, ML, open-source, languages such as Python, full-stack development, and niche areas such as augmented reality and virtual reality.

The IT leader at the renewable energy company says there will be most demand for data scientists who can translate data into more meaningful business language, cybersecurity experts, cloud architects and business analysts who can bridge between the business and the technology team.

Intuits’ Saxena highlights the steadily increasing jobs in cloud computing as enterprises in India and globally are moving workloads and applications from traditional data centres to the cloud. The most in-demand and highest-paying talents in this group, he says, are experience with AWS, AI/ML, cloud-native technologies such as Kubernetes and containers, open telemetry, Kafka, GraphQL, and React. “Developers are in massive demand, thanks to rising demand for software and apps as the globe gets more digitally linked. Knowledge of Python, Java, R, and natural language processing tops the list of the in-demanded skills… Other than these, we’re also on the lookout for top talent skilled in big data; data scientists; development managers; product managers, and designers.”

Cisco’s Patil says it’s all about ‘superskilling’ as we go deeper into the digital-first world: “Organizations should implement a culture of continuous learning and upskill existing teams on critical IT skills such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, devops, AI/machine learning, data analytics, blockchain, and software/mobile development.”

As you can see, while the core forecasting methods (looking at the constants, at the business environment, at customer needs) can lead CIOs to different, yet equally valid, conclusions about the skills their enterprise needs, there are still some overlaps. Short-term competition for candidates with these skills will continue to drive up costs, making it all the more important that CIOs look at the business, analytical and soft skills that will remain relevant when the current technology fads have passed.

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World Mental Health Day 2022: How India Inc is prioritizing their employees mental wellness

The pandemic propelled many organizations to recognize that mental well-being is critical to their employees overall well-being. As these needs evolve and re-define the future of work, its imperative that companies continue to focus on helping their people adapt and thrive in a disruptive environment – one in which mental resilience and self-care will take center-stage.

On World Mental Health Day, we asked the technology leaders on how companies should invest in their people’s holistic well-being, what do employees seek from their employers in a post-pandemic world and how are organizations creating and executing their mental wellness policies in more innovative ways.

Anish Philip, Chief People Officer at Movate (formerly CSS Corp)

“Technology at workplace and corporate culture are intertwined, and their impact on employee mental health and wellbeing continues to evolve. We are a digital technology and customer experience services company, and we understand the value EX and CX hold in today’s new normal. However, at Movate, pandemic or no pandemic, we have always been mindful of our employees’ mental wellbeing and have provided a healthy work-life experience. We believe in being compassionate and responsive to the needs of our 11K+ Movators and have extended our support to them and their kin dealing with mental health concerns. We follow the philosophy of FRIENTORSHIP – ‘Friendship + Mentorship + Leadership’ creating a pleasant working environment.

Mental health has a profound impact on all areas of everyone’s life and is vital for one’s overall wellbeing. At Movate, we believe in striking the right balance between technology and people and therefore, we follow the Hi-Tech, Hi-Touch approach. I firmly believe that, to address mental health issues like stress and anxiety, technology alone does not help as it cannot replicate the human touch and reassurance. To address these, we have launched several initiatives for the holistic wellbeing of our employees. We have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and various wellness initiatives that help us create effective workplace strategies for healthier, happier employees.

Keeping our people-first approach, powered with human-centered technology, we have around-the-clock (24/7) employee assistance that provides counseling and aid to employees; HR chatbots automate responses to their queries, leading to faster issue resolutions. Besides, we run digital detox/digital quarantine to enable employees to find the right balance amid their hectic schedules and conduct virtual mindfulness sessions for their mental wellbeing. We often advise our employees to stay away from any digital device every once in a while, and allow them to spend quality time with themselves and their loved ones.

 

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Securing data and talent top Indian CIOs’ concerns for FY2023

As India’s new financial year begins, CIOs are now sorting out their priorities and concerns. CIO India talks to IT leaders to understand what they are.

With the accelerated pace of digital transformation, coupled with the unprecedented arrival of the pandemic pushing enterprises towards a hybrid work culture, IT leaders have played a key part in keeping business afloat these last two years. The resulting redefinition of their role is influencing their priorities as they prepare for the 2023 financial year.

One of the biggest changes has been to bring them closer to business units.

“We are on a digital transformation journey that will transform our customer, partner, and employee experience by focusing on inclusion, innovation, operational excellence, and agile methodologies,” says Dharmendra Rangain, CIO for India and neighbouring countries at Cisco Systems.

At engineering and technology services company Cyient, CIO Pallavi Katiyar says that CIOs are closely integrated with business and are more like partners today, making the framework for deciding priorities relatively easier. “We (CIOs) are working very closely with the business to understand their priorities, focus, and requirements. That helps CIOs to identify and work on solutions that need to be enabled for business to meet their objectives.”

CIO’s top concern: cybersecurity

Cybersecurity will continue to be a top priority for Indian CIOs in the year ahead, according to a recent survey of technology executives by Gartner: 64% of Indian CIOs surveyed said they will increase their spending on security-related technologies in 2022, higher than the global average of 57%.

The IT leaders CIO India spoke with told a similar story.

For Cyient’s Katiyar, cybersecurity is the topmost concern: “The threat is real. It’s something that has been keeping me awake for the last couple of years.” She says it’s foolhardy for anyone to assume they are safe even if they have the world’s leading cyber security solutions.

She is currently focusing on improving overall cybersecurity by working very closely with her team. “We ensure that we build cybersecurity and data security into every aspect of the application infrastructure solution that we are delivering,” she says.

Her colleague, CTO Rajaneesh R Kini, agrees. “Our priorities for the year are to enhance our cybersecurity architecture using data access patterns to better understand security threats for IT and OT systems.” Kini is working to make the company more agile and build a system that would enable the organization to leverage data to create insights that drive real business value. He is also exploring AI tools with the goal of providing workers with a self-service platform for supporting decision making.

This financial year, Katiyar plans to invest significantly in building cybersecurity capabilities in-house but realises that alone won’t be enough: “It is going to be an impossible task to have the entire knowledge, capability, and skill set in-house, so it’s also important to have the right vendor and partner ecosystem in place to help bridge the gap.”

Cisco’s Rangain says now is the time to make bolder decisions, assume newer responsibilities that will boost customer and employee experience, and guard against evolving cyberattacks. However, Rangain is well aware that the hurdles and gaps for IT leaders will only widen: “From continuously bolstering security architecture to finding and retaining the right talent, the complexities and opportunities are plenty, as we live in a time of innovation and disruption.”

Talent retention
Indian IT firms today are seeing the highest attrition rates — and the resulting demand for skilled IT workers has led to increased payroll costs.

At technology consultancy Thoughtworks, Chief Digital Officer Swapnil Deshpande says that after compliance, cybersecurity, and data privacy, one of his top concerns for the year ahead is being able to respond to changes faster. “With business evolving fast and technology evolving faster, one of my concerns is being able to build an IT department that can match or surpass the current rate of change. Running an operationally efficient organization with the help of data will enable key leaders to use actionable insights and foresight for better decision making.”

Deshpande says that to help solve this issue, talent acquisition and retention will continue to be a priority. He also plans to work towards digital transformation with platforms and data to significantly improve the internal IT effectiveness and productivity, thus helping key business leaders make better decisions to run and grow the company.

Talent development and retention have emerged as key concerns for Kiran Marri, vice president and chief scientist at IT services provider CSS Corp. “My top priorities include enablement and use of technology to empower employees by equipping them with the required skills to solve client problems. My goal is to prepare employees for a technology-based future and help them hone and acquire needed skills now and moving forward.”

Natarajan Radhakrishnan, president and global chief innovation officer at Hinduja Global Solutions, says lack of digitally skilled talent has been a major concern for IT leaders, and hiring talent exclusively from external sources has become extremely difficult. “CIOs encourage employees within the organization to upskill themselves in necessary technologies. This method future-proofs the careers of employees by equipping them with relevant skills. It is also cost-effective for the organization,” he says.

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World Mental Health Day – How tech firms are ensuring employee wellbeing

World Mental Health Day allows organisations as well as individuals to come forward and speak about mental health, how one can look after it, and how important it is to take care of your mental health. We at TechGig thought to make it more endearing by bringing in advice from tech leaders across the IT industry. Let’s see what they have to say about the remarkable day.

When the pandemic hit globally, the most important concern of companies apart from physical health was the mental health of the employees. Every year, World Mental Health Day is celebrated on 10th October globally. The day is celebrated to raise awareness about mental health, its significance, and its importance.

World Mental Health Day allows organisations as well as individuals to come forward and speak about mental health, how one can look after it, and how important it is to take care of your mental health. We at TechGig thought to make it more endearing by bringing in advice from tech leaders across the IT industry. Let’s see what they have to say about the remarkable day.

Lakshmi C, Managing Director – Human Resources Lead, Accenture India, said “Health and wellbeing have emerged as one of the biggest priorities. At Accenture, we encourage our people to embrace their mental well-being with dignity and compassion. We enable this by creating awareness and advocacy to break the stigma around mental health. We also endeavor to create psychologically safe spaces where our people feel comfortable enough to say that ‘I’m not okay’, and reach out for help via the resources and support systems that we offer.”

Harshvendra Soin, Global Chief People Officer, and Head – Marketing, at Tech Mahindra said, “At Tech Mahindra, we believe in ‘Wellness before Business’ and have rolled out several #WellnessFirst initiatives to build a happier, healthier, and more productive workplace culture. We have in place an Employee Assistance Program to provide 24*7 counselling support with expert counsellors and coaches for emotional and mental health concerns; Emotional Wellness Self-Assessment Tools like Emotional Wellness Test for employees to assess their stress levels; AMIGO Program and People Care Manager Program to sensitise managers and build psychological safety at workplace, among others.”

Sankalp Saxena, SVP & Managing Director, India Operations, said, “At Nutanix, we shape our policies to best suit our team members’ well-being. Our Employee Assistance Program and Child Development Support Online Health Engagement Program are examples of how we help our employees. By providing flexible work hours and a hybrid work model, we also encourage our employees to find the right work-life balance. In addition, we offer wellness days on a quarterly basis so our team members can take time off to rejuvenate and recharge.”

Suzanne Kinner, Vice President, Human Resources at Blackhawk Network India, said, “At Blackhawk Network, we believe in the holistic well-being of our people and empower employees to blend health and wellness routines with their work schedules and activities. In our efforts to strengthen organizational trust and foster workforce resiliency, we continue to communicate frequently with our employees and create an environment where they feel comfortable about having open and honest conversations on any matter including topics of mental health.”

Anish Philip, Chief People Officer at Movate (formerly CSS Corp), said, “Technology at the workplace and corporate culture are intertwined, and their impact on employee mental health and wellbeing continues to evolve. At Movate, pandemic or no pandemic, we have always been mindful of our employee’s mental well-being and have provided a healthy work-life experience. We follow the philosophy of FRIENTORSHIP – ‘Friendship + Mentorship + Leadership’ creating a pleasant working environment.”

Pranali Save, Chief Human Resources Officer, Icertis, said, “The pandemic brought about numerous changes in the way businesses operate. This marks a shift from a reactive to a more active focus on employee wellness. At Icertis, we have developed a Four Rings of Responsibility framework that places a stronger emphasis on our employees’ and their families physical and mental well-being ahead of business responsibilities. This helps them to prioritise, in an order of – themselves, their families, community, and business.”

Sqn Ldr Dimple Rawat (Retd), Director – HR, Barco India, “At Barco, we prioritise the safety and well-being of our employees and strive to establish a healthy work culture, where people feel safe and cared for. On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, we plan to organise an interactive, knowledge-sharing session on a digital detox. The session will be an opportunity for employees to share their queries and challenges and enhance their mental well-being over the longer term.”

Rajalakshmi Sivanand, Head of People & Culture, Compass IDC, “At Compass, we approach employee interventions with curated projects like celebrating employee milestones, specialised medical counselling sessions, employee wellness sessions, virtual yoga, along with other initiatives that support and boost overall productivity and performance. These cultural interventions have been introduced in line with our ethos that focuses on building a technology-enabled conducive workplace where dreams are made.”

Agendra Kumar, Managing Director, Esri India, “At Esri India, we have built a people-centric culture, where trust and mutual respect are important pillars. As we prepare to celebrate World Mental Health Day, we have launched an internal campaign, ‘Your Well-Being Mantra’. The pandemic accentuated the need for holistic wellness at the workplace and with this initiative, we aim to promote a culture of open conversations and idea sharing. This, we believe, will help in creating a more collaborative and positive environment for our employees.”

Katarzyna Kern, Global head of HR, ANSR, said, “The pandemic may have ended but the shift to new ways of working is here to stay. To succeed in the post-pandemic work environment, organisations must make work an ‘additive’ to its people’s lives, by providing them with a sense of purpose, belonging, progress, and fulfilment. Employees who are well and happy perform significantly better, and studies show that this leads to a 6x return on wellness investments. When employees are allowed to complete tasks at times that best suit them, it creates more harmony than balance.”

Pankaj Sachdeva, Vice President, Data Science & Analytics, and Managing Director of India Innovation at Pitney Bowes said, “At Pitney Bowes, we believe that employees’ holistic well-being is essential for creating a resilient and motivated workforce. Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which combines both telephonic and face-to-face counselling, is designed to assist individuals in dealing with their personal or professional issues more effectively.”

Anjali Mahajan, Regional Vice President at Amdocs, said, “Supporting mental health in the workplace has become a priority for all employers now. At Amdocs, we are committed to fostering a healthy, respected, and successful work environment and establishing a sense of belonging for all our employees. We offer an Employee Assistance Program in various locations that provide employees with access to affordable and confidential personal support, including mental and emotional support, consulting for personal or work-related problems, and more.”

 

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CSS Corp is now Movate

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