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Q2-Edition 11-Lead Story-View from the top-Interview with Sharada Rao-final (1)

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Q2-Edition 11-Lead Story-View from the top-Interview with Sharada Rao-final (1)

  1. 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
  2. 2. services that serve healthcare into rural India across multiple villages, managed by Piramal Group. 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 services company? 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.
  3. 3. 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 year? 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 customers. 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.
  4. 4. 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- To-Lead. 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.
  5. 5. 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. Divine Showers 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 happen. My Stanford MBA. My stin My Stanford MBA.
  6. 6. 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 counseling. I also practice Carnatic vocal music, and spend an hour on this every weekend. I plan to complete my music degree exam in about 10 months. 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.

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