Can you please provide a little introduction about yourself
I work for a privately owned company – JM Huber Corp. Our head quarters are located in Atlanta. I have been with the company for 25 years and am currently CIO of the two divisions of JM Huber Corp – Huber Engineered Materials & CP Kelco.
What has your journey to your position been like? What path have you taken?
I have a B.S in Mechanical Engineering from Pune University in India and a M.S in Mechanical Design from Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai. I cam to the US in 1995 to do my M.S in Manufacturing Engineering. Right after graduating in 1996, I was hired at one of plants at JM Huber to be a liaison between the plant manufacturing teams and corporate IT team on an IT project. That is how I started my career in Technology. After that I worked for 4 years implementing ERP System at Huber Engineered Materials. After that I took roles in multiple functions – 3 years as Finance Controller for Supply Chain, 3 years as a Product Managers for one of the Product lines, 3 years as Finance Director for FP&A function and finally ended up again in IT to manage the Applications as a Vice President, IT.
Has it always been your vision to reach the position you’re at? Was your current role part of your vision to become a tech leader?
Not at all. I have always been interested in learning new things. I am one of the few people who enjoy change and like to push myself out of the comfort zones. I took various roles in my career as they became available because they were challenging and allowed me to learn different skills. This experience of working in various business functions has given an advantage of understanding the needs of my customers.
Have you had a role model or mentor that has helped you on your journey?
Of course. There are always people who help you along the way and your job is to pay it forward. I had a professor in grad school who really helped me when I was broke. He gave me projects and taught me lessons in tenacity. I also have had other mentors at JM Huber who gave me opportunities to work in their functions when I had little to no experience in their functions. They not only gave me an opportunity but also supported me as I was learning the new skills. I’m very grateful for all those mentors and managers without whom I would not be where I am.
How do you see the role of the technology leader evolving over the next 5 years?
The role of the CIO is changing very rapidly. The business leaders are now looking at the technology leaders to provide the leadership in helping the business transition in to the digital economy. As industries are getting disrupted, technologies are advancing at a rapid pace and cyber threats are becoming real, the business leaders want their CIOs to be the trusted business partners who can guide them through this complex technology landscape. In the past, the CIOs either came from IT Infrastructure Or Applications functions. The future technology leaders are going to be generalists.
What skills do you think leaders of the future will need in order to thrive?
I think I have already answered this question above. But to reiterate, I think the future leaders will certainly need technology skills as table stakes but will also need to be savvy in general business management. They will be required to help broad set of functions digitize and it will require a breadth in the business that typically possessed by a General Manager.
How do you keep current with new skills, technologies and personal development?
I attend various IT Conferences where you get to network with your peers and am part of several IT chapters that expose me to the advances in the technology. I would particularly like to mention Vation Ventures that has superb research on up and coming technologies and companies. I also like to read magazines and newspapers like WallStreet Journal and Economist that don’t typically focus on technology but give insights into megatrends in the world. Finally, I also like to listen to some really nice podcasts like Pivot, IT Visionaries and Gartner ThinkCast.
What do you see as the next leap in technology that will impact your business or industry in particular?
For Manufacturing businesses, there are two areas that I believe will be impacted. Manufacturing Industries have traditionally invested heavily in the ERP Systems in the last 20-30 years. ERPs are the core of their operations. I am seeing a decomposition of the ERP Systems. The integrated ERP System ecosystem is transitioning into best of breed cloud solutions. The new cloud solutions are designed by the functional experts and are much more user-friendly than the generic ERP System. As the business users find these solutions easy to use, they are convincing their IT departments to help them migrate to these specialized solutions for their functions and integrate them back to the core ERP. If this trend continues, ERP System will eventually be left with just a Finance core. It will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next 5-8 years.
The other area that is evolving very rapidly is the convergence of IT & OT (Operations Technology). Historically, OT was always outside the realm of traditional IT. However, with the use of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), Artificial Intelligence and the integration of robotic automation systems with the IT Systems, these two worlds are coming together. Also, with the Cyber Security threats to the plant PLCs, the IT functions are now playing a larger role in the OT space than in the past. The companies will have to learn quickly to bring these two groups together to have a successful Industry 4.0 transition.
If you were mentoring a leader of the future, what advice or guidance would you give to help them on their way?
(A) Learn and be good at 1 or 2 relevant technical skills at the beginning of your career. That will give you a foot inside the door.
(B) Once you are working, learn the business. Understand what makes your business successful. It takes time to learn but do not give up
(C) Start honing on listening and communication skills starting now!
Is there anything in particular that you would still like to achieve in your career or what is the next step on your journey?
I would like to build a strong team of next generation of IT leaders at JM Huber.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Interesting question. I would like to eliminate the misinformation in this world. I believe that most of us consume lots of misinformation not knowing. As a result, people are making life decisions based on wrong information. I wish, we could dramatically reduce the misinformation and increase critical thinking for our future generations!