Q2-Edition 11-Lead Story-View from the top-Interview with Sharada Rao-final (1)
“I like to get things done!”
Silicon Valley pioneer, Stanford graduate, Reiki healer, author, super mom—Sharada Rao,
Delivery Director, BMC wears many hats. But does this multi-faceted Microsoft leader have
an Achilles’ heel? “My biggest weakness is that I don’t rest too much. I like to be active, get
things done!” she tells us.
As Sharada Rao takes over as Delivery Director, BMC, she is a Microsoft leader with a
mission. She says, “I want to make good in landing our vision of a sustainable Devices
and Services strategy that would enable us to create a competitive edge, and sustain our
position as indisputable leaders, in terms of our customer experience and market share.”
In this interview, Sharada shares her evolution as an industry leader, and her vision for
Microsoft’s Devices and Services strategy.
Could you tell us about your professional journey before you joined Microsoft?
I have worked in the IT industry for over two decades. During this time, I have been a
part of the entire Silicon Valley journey and the Internet revolution. My earliest work has
been in visionary global corporations such as General Motors, Merck, United
Technologies, JnJ, and GSK. I also led visionary enterprise-wide projects worldwide, and
was part of evangelistic business models that shaped the outsourcing industry. I have
headed large System Integration projects in the manufacturing, life sciences, retail, and
banking sectors—while working with Wipro, Satyam, and CSC. One key role I am truly
proud of is of the CIO of Health Management Research Institute, the 104 paramedic
services that serve healthcare into rural India across multiple villages, managed by
Prior to joining Microsoft, I was Vertical Head for the ‘Rest of World’ business segment
at CSC with some key global customers such as Chevron, Emirates, Reliance Industries,
McDonalds, JP Morgan Chase to name a few. At Microsoft, I am Delivery Director for the
Business Mission Critical (BMC) unit in MSGD.
What are some of the things that you look forward to doing as part of your new
role at Microsoft?
The BMC unit participates in some of the world’s most exciting and critical IT initiatives,
such as ObamaCare, Ministry of Singapore Provident Fund, and NYPD. Leading this
business unit allows me to engage in creative
and flexible business models, disruptive
innovation, and real-time research. Besides
this, Microsoft’s SMAC (Social Media, Mobility,
Analytics, Cloud) and Devices and Services
strategy also fall under BMC.
BMC helps customers embark on an
enterprise-wide transformational journey of
modernization. These large, high-value, global
projects are implemented through our
Platform Modernization practice. Microsoft’s SharePoint services offer a robust platform
to create and deliver industry specific solutions in diverse areas such as energy, core
banking, retail, and aviation.
How is MSGD aligning itself to Microsoft’s transformation as a devices and
Microsoft reoriented itself as a devices and services company more than a year ago,
resulting in multiple overt, yet unobtrusive changes in BMC’s business model. This
includes delivery methodologies, a pyramid skill set, solutions in our portfolio catalog,
and proactive sales efforts.
To meet the SMAC vision and our eight key priorities, we
expect to drive innovation, build pricing models, gear up
readiness, hire in alignment, and build internal
competencies and COEs.
Social media and mobility will require innovative thought
leadership, with quick and easy POCs. Analytics is also on
the increase in the Middle East and LATAM geographies,
with mission critical work in progress. We will also
proactively design the ‘cloud journey’ into every large
project that we deliver. Finally, Azure is a key part of our
core practice next gen apps.
Plenty of futuristic work is now possible through a variety of service models—these
include Modernization as a Service, PaaS, Security as a Service, and Data as a Service.
What are the developments that your team can look forward to over the next
They can expect to see cross-practice solutioning and cross skilling of talent, even as we
offer services across the enterprise. We will also increase our involvement in areas like
big data, Azure, and mobile technology. My leadership team has begun to build
aggressive go-to-market solutions that will take our cutting-edge portfolio to our top
We are now at the inception of one of the most crucial neo practices towards federated
work, which I am really excited about.
How would you describe your working style?
I am an intentional leader. I plan my day thoughtfully, with great precision and am
rigorously disciplined in the follow up to closure for my work-related responsibilities. I
usually structure my day to full use—email writing between 6:30 am and 8 am, making
breakfast in the break into 9 am, getting to work and into meetings between 9.30 am
and to 6 pm, signing out between 630 pm and 9 pm for family time, while calls continue
until 11 pm.
I like to spend time with my family every evening— we watch “The Big Bang Theory” and
“Two and a Half Men” regularly and always eat dinner together. I hate letting work-
related meetings or dinners interfere with my time with my family.
You’ve led large teams in the course of your career—what are the top three
characteristics you believe every leader should possess?
Leadership is a Way-of-Living. It is a first crucial step in an
evolutionary path of every individual, with a varied mix of
key positive characteristics that actually reside in a person
as enablers that roll up into the single consolidated Ability-
It translates into clarity of thought that enables decision
making, setting extremely transparent expectations,
building strong relationships, nurturing respect, and
ensuring collaboration that converges into Leadership
Excellence and Customer Delight. You have to be a
committed, results-oriented, balanced, and secure individual. Once that is in place,
delegation, collaboration, and teaming will follow.
1. While Integrity is a professional pre-requisite, it is even more important in a
leader. One needs to live the role of a Leader in terms of setting an example
through a good personal and work ethic.
2. Comfort with Ambiguity is something else that is increasingly a core ask from
leaders given the highly dynamic, in-flux, risk oriented economies of the world we
work in. A leader has to be emotionally very tough, ever willing to face risk in
every form; and has to absolutely have the laser vision to look through the grey
each and every day in order to sustain as an individual that makes success
happen in such a climate.
3. Balance One needs the objectivity to look at things from a neutral perspective
and assess divergent requirements from within the team. Every decision should
be equitable, unbiased, and create a ‘win-win’ situation for all the stakeholders
involved. The leader is only a channel, and must subsume to the demands of
leadership throughout the day. Also a Balance in you serves to help fulfill your
directs to develop and grow to their fullest potential.
What motivates you as a person,
and as a leader?
Competence, intelligence, balance,
commitment, and a loyal work
ethic motivate me. The Microsoft
values of ‘passion’ and ‘big
challenges’ resonate within me. As
a person, genuine and authentic
people with minimal fuss and
emotional baggage motivate me.
People who care about other non-
IT dreams, outside their work
agenda, inspire me.
Your first book, Divine Showers, is about spirituality and philosophy. Tell us more
about the experience of penning down your debut book.
My first book just happened. I wrote it for a friend, and we completed the entire journey
on the book in just about 24 days. It delves into esoteric concepts in spirituality and
alternative healing, and we made a cognitive attempt to weave it into an interesting
narrative while chronicling the life of a great saint who lived in the Godavari district until
his early death, at the age of 49 years.
I am also currently working on my second book. It is a biography of Veturi Prabhakara
Sastry garu, a great 19th
century poet and historian.
How do you spend your time when you’re not working?
I am a simple person outside work. A wife, a mother, and a daughter in turns.
The book offers an insight into the Master CVV movement—named after Canchupati Venkatrao
Vencasami Rao—and its method of yoga, and is currently available on Pothi.com as a eBook.
Accomplishments that I am proud of!
My children. They are achievers in their own
right—confident and balanced individuals. This is a
huge win for me. My most significant journey is to
live up to their image of a ‘good mom’ and to allow
them to find their own path.
My career. My body of work has been very diverse
and has culminated in a crucial leadership role
within a leading global corporation like Microsoft. It
has been tremendous fun to emerge as an industry
leader within India Inc. I am thrilled that I made it
My Stanford MBA.
My Stanford MBA.
I am a Reiki Healer, so Saturdays are consumed by patients who come in for healing.
About a quarter of the month is spent on
Touch Reiki, emotional healing, and
I also practice Carnatic vocal music, and
spend an hour on this every weekend. I plan
to complete my music degree exam in about
Besides that, I clean my home aggressively,
cook, garden and almost maniacally find a
new ‘look’ for my house, whenever I can make the time!
On a lighter note
Personal motto in life: Keep it Simple, Stupid!
Favorite holiday destination: Guntur. My parental home
Little known fact: Saturday afternoons I nap, it’s a religion
You can read Sharada’s musings on her blog ReachSharu here.