We had the opportunity to sit with the newest member of the leadership team and learn more about his journey from software developer to CRO, purpose-driven disruptive technology, values-based leadership, and the role DEI plays in the teams he builds.
You began your career as a software developer and now you are leading a global revenue organization. Can you tell us about your journey from development to sales?
It wasn’t a planned roadmap at all! But it has been a journey of discovery, curiosity, and luck, driven by the feeling that comes from seeing a happy customer. After high school in India in the 80s, I was fortunate to attend college in the U.S. on a computer science scholarship. There, I decided to take on extra-curricular campus programming work solving the issue of tedious manual processes for the staff. Their positive feedback was my first experience with the rush of making customers happy.
That trend – using technology to make people’s lives easier and learning the impact – continued across several roles until an aptitude test pointed to sales as the next step in my career. I made the leap and was given a difficult territory along with, fortunately, a talented team to call on for support. Through mentorship and learning, I would eventually lead a large US region and, because of another passion of mine – building a strong collaborative culture – I’ve had the privilege of working alongside some of the best salespeople in the industry.
Why did you choose to join Ceridian as the next step in your career?
When the opportunity to participate in the incredible global growth story at Ceridian presented itself, I was intrigued, excited and humbled. I saw a company with a vision and a clear mission to make people’s lives better, a fierce global team with world-class knowledge, and a loyal customer base. They can help companies navigate the changing workforce and tackle complexities of things like global compliance, better than anyone. Plus, they have a dedication to customer success that aligns with my world view.
All that said, what most appealed to me was their commitment to disruptive technology that has a purpose. In the middle of 2020, they launched Dayforce Wallet, which enables on-demand pay at the end of a shift or day. As the world evolves to support fractional employment and remote work, this is a game-changer. Not only did Ceridian address a growing need in the gig economy, but they are addressing a problem for millions of people who are living paycheck to paycheck. This is disruptive technology that has meaningful human impact.
My career stages were always cyclical in nature – learn, build, orchestrate and lead. It is a privilege to start at Ceridian back as the eager learner.
Workplaces you’ve led have been recognized as best places to work. What leadership principles are important to you in creating a great work environment?
I’m a big fan of Professor Harry Kraemer, former Baxter CEO, who teaches about values-based leadership founded on four principles that I try to follow: Self-reflection, balanced perspective, humility, and confidence, meaning being aware of your strengths and your weaknesses.
I’m simplifying them, of course, but his essential point is you can learn to be a leader even if you feel you’re not a natural born one. Most important, though, is remembering that a leader isn’t someone with teams reporting to them. It’s about being a thought leader and an inspiration to others, irrespective of your role, appreciating the unique value of each person and treating everyone with respect.
You have been quite involved with diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. How does that factor into the way you lead or the teams you build?
I think it ties into what I just shared about values-based leadership. If that approach is embraced by the entire organization, it creates a sustainable environment for DEI to thrive. I also think DEI is an essential part of a ‘best workplace’ and critical for a company’s success.
I always tell colleagues: Start with inclusive behavior. If people feel safe to speak up, that creates a culture of respect and equity. As a leader, you must provide a platform for everyone to have a voice. Once that is established, the natural tendency is to bring in diverse perspectives, which come from having diverse people in your team based on any number of characteristics or abilities including race, gender, sexual orientation, neuro, religious, and political views.
None of this happens overnight. I’m a staunch believer that DEI awareness, establishing processes, and goals and incentives to attract diverse employees are important. Just as critical, however, is creating an equitable and inclusive environment for people to be successful.