Tag Archives: trust

Sanjiv Prabhakaran: Culture, Contribution, and Leadership



Sanjiv Prabhakaran is a senior executive and entrepreneur with over 30 years of software development management and technical architecture experience in mobile and web applications for a wide variety of applications and industries.  In early 2002, he founded Bytes, Inc. to provide low cost and rapid software outsourcing and project management services. Sanjiv talks about so many things in this episode, ranging from transitioning from coder to leader, leading cross-cultural teams, managing internal politics, and making a difference in the world.  You won’t want to miss this episode.

Highlights:

Q: What do you do as CEO of Bytes and how did you get there?

“I wear multiple hats, but my primary role is developing the business.  I spent a lot of my time in the Bay Area before 2000.  I worked at 3-4 companies.  I wrote code and climbed up the ladder and managed small teams developing systems for clients.  It was fun in those days.”

“There came a time when I was looking to go further and be independent.  In 2000, I found a nice opportunity here in San Diego and that’s how we came down.  This was as a VP of Engineering and R&D for a small software company dealing with real estate.  That’s how I happened to lead a team of 20-30 engineers to make cool stuff.”

Q: What was the transition like from being a coder to managing teams?

“That was fun!  As a coder you’re working with a team, listening to your bosses, and obviously providing input based on your experience.  You always had a fixed goal and knew what you were trying to accomplish.  But when you’re getting into more responsible roles, the thing that you run across is team culture.  How do you integrate—especially when you have teams from different regions and different countries—and have a cohesive culture at the end?  I had teams from the US and India and there were cultural differences…  Understanding the cultural differences takes time.”

“It was a fun experience.  It helped me grow into a role where I started realizing how to be patient with people, how to understand differences in how people communicate, and how to to build a team spirit.”  To hear how Sanjiv manages cultural differences between the US and India, handles internal politics among leaders, builds trust in the leadership team, and leads his teams to improve efficiency for their customers, listen to the episode.

Q: I see that you help physically challenged individuals with job opportunities within Bytes and other companies.  How do you do that?

“Yes, this was an interesting project that started few years ago. A family friend in India mentioned this young 20-year old kid that had an unfortunate train accident and hit his head and became a quadriplegic with no movement below his neck. He was bed-ridden but full of joy and motivation to live a full life! He found a way to use his voice as a powerful tool to command his computer into doing all kinds of tasks. He was able to use his voice to control the files and keyboard so he could type out documents and do various web development tasks on the computer. He had a couple clients in the UK and USA for whom he did basic tasks of updating web pages and creating shopping cart sites on eBay, etc.”

“I then visited him on one of my India trips and was able to see how he manipulated the computer via his voice. It was just mind-boggling to see how his injuries had no impact on his mind and heart. So, I hired him to do some of my web and Excel tasks. He later created a tutoring class in his home to help young kids that wanted to learn about computers and web programming.”

To hear other ways Sanjiv contributes to society and to get ideas of how you can contribute, listen to the episode.

Words of Wisdom:

Sometimes a nod is a shake and a shake is a nod.

I had to learn patience to lead a team.

Having trust between team members is crucial.

The earlier you do something about a bad fit the better.

Volunteer work is about bringing your skills to help the organization grow and spread the word.

Each person has to find the synergy between a philanthropy organization and their goals and passion.

Contact Sanjiv Prabhakaran:

Website: Bytesinc.com

Email: sanjiv@bytesinc.com

Phone: 888-988-bytes

Direct: 619-933-3366


Sean Ferrel: Growing a People-Oriented Company



Sean Ferrel founded Managed Solution in 2002.  They provide consultative IT services for small-to-medium and enterprise clients. Sean tells his story of literally growing the company from his living room to a flourishing downtown San Diego enterprise. Hint: it starts with, “I was going to be a lawyer…” Within 3 years, the company was recognized as one of San Diego’s 40 fastest growing companies, awarded one of the 40 companies with owners under 40 years old and recognized as the 27th fastest growing IT company in Southern California. His secret sauce? Keeping it people first.

Highlights:

Q: How did you come to found Managed Solution?

“When I got out of school, I realized what I loved was people.  If I applied my people skills, I could take into any business, but what did I do in college?  I really got into the tech thing.  Tech was really interesting at that time, around 2002, and I started Managed Solution.  To be honest, I hadn’t done anything else.  We started with the idea of let’s find great people.  I was looking for three things: (1) soft skills, (2) accountability, and (3) technical skills.  And we started hiring.  I printed business cards in my dorm room.  I hired my best friends, who lived on my couch, and family members.  Then we realized we had to get serious.”

Q: How did you decide you needed to get the people skills in early on as a priority?

“I’ve always believed if you do the right thing in life, the money will come.  That means acting with integrity, being accountable, and teamwork.  Whether it’s in sales or in engineering, we want everyone to find themselves accountable to customers.”

“We follow the concept of RACI—responsible, accountable, contributor, integrator.  It’s a term we use in business to say, who’s accountable for this customer we’re dealing with?  Or who’s a contributor for a project for this customer?  You find the person who is responsible for the customer receives the credit and that makes them happier.  That’s what gets them driven to do better in our business.”

Q: How do you find people who have these skills?

“The first thing we do is look internally.  We look at recruiting like sales.  We need to attract good people.  Most of our people come from recommendations from people we know.”

Q: What do you do to train people?

“There’s a lot of burnout for engineers, if you’re doing the same thing for a long time.  We give them a lot of opportunities to train, to earn different certs and vary what they do.”

Listen to the episode to learn more about what Sean does to develop his people and himself to be and even stronger leader.

Words of Wisdom:

“Our success is driven by our people.”

“In so many ways, running a business is like running a family.  You have to nurture, grow, and enable people to do great things.”

“Employees get better on the tech stuff because they feel empowered.”

“When people feel you’re going to take care of them when in need, that’s the best gift ever and that’s what creates culture.”

Contact Sean Ferrel:

Company website: managedsolution.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sean-ferrel-6427a45/

Or stop by anytime!


Vidya Dinamani: Connecting with Product Managers



Joanie interviews Vidya Dinamani, founder of Product Rebels.  Vidya uses her impressive experience in product management to teach others how to do it.  She calls herself a fully qualified nerd, having started her career coding, with a physics degree in her pocket.  Vidya is quite articulate and has really nailed how developers and product managers can work together successfully.  She doesn’t go with the canned messages, but rather has her own that will no doubt resonate with you.

Highlights:

Q: What kinds of nerds do you work with?

“I have been very lucky to work with some really awesome nerds, some really smart people. I worked at Intuit for ten years. Intuit attracts great people—engineers, designers, researchers, product managers.  There really isn’t a dud among them. At Mitchell, I worked with product design teams.  I’ve worked with and coached hundreds of product managers.  We always extend to working with engineers as well.  You can’t have one without the other; it’s symbiotic.”

Q: What do you mean by product management and design being like a marriage?

“Think about it.  You spend more time together than you probably do with your spouse.  It’s like a marriage whether you like it or not.  When I think about a great relationship, a great marriage, I think about having someone on your side, someone who’s got your back.”

Q: What kind of challenges tend to arise in this relationship from the product management perspective?

“A product manager is the representative of the customer at the table.  People who are good product managers take that very seriously.  They take the solutions to make sure they really work for the customer.  When you get deep into your customer’s shoes and see the solutions, you jump into the ‘how.’”

“We’re all problem solvers, as nerds.  This is why we do what we do. We often throw solutions at problems.  That gets us into trouble when we don’t step back.  You’ve got to think about a problem in a way that whether you and your elegant product existed or not, the customer still has the problem.  That’s really hard to do.”

Q: How do you help customers understand they may not know what their problem is?

“A lot of time, asking the customer what they want isn’t the way to do it.  You have to watch the customer in their natural habitat.  You turn these observations into fully formed sentences.  Then the magic of product management happens.  You get “ahas.”  You create hypotheses.  Product managers spend a lot of time testing their hypotheses and then go to the engineers when they’ve figured out the problem. Then they talk through solutions.”

Q: How does trust break down between development and product management?

“It can feel like high-level business speak to say, ‘we’re all on the same team.’  It can feel like something different when you’re trying to get a product out.  The developer is trying to get the best, most elegant solution.  The trust breaks down when they’re being told what to do.  When the trust breaks down, the product manager feels like the only thing to do is to tell them exactly what to do.”

Q: How do you reduce barriers to trust?

“I like decision matrices.  I invite you into my world, but I am the decision-maker.  When it’s my world, I make the decision.  When it’s your world, I can contribute, but the engineer makes the decision.”

To hear more about respecting boundaries, setting roles, and trusting others, and much much more, listen to the episode.

Words of Wisdom:

“Share the pen.”

“You’ve got to be okay with others being wrong and turn it into a learning mindset.”

“You’ve got to be bold to try things you’re going to be surprised with.”

“Ask ‘why’ next time in a meeting.”

Contact Vidya Dinamani:

Website: productrebels.com

Email: vidya@productrebels.com

Twitter: @vdinamani


Slava Khristich: Communicating with Global Teams



Joanie interviews Slava Khristich, CEO of Tateeda. Tateeda provides clients with software development resources in the USA and internationally to extend teams, complete complex projects and solve challenging tasks.  Their model provides, among other things, improved communications between technical and non-technical people.  You can see why he’s a perfect guest for Reinventing Nerds.

Highlights:

Q: What is your background?

“My education is in economics and mechanical engineering. I got to the US in 1991 and I was heavily involved in the biotech field.  I used to work at the Salk Institute, in the research facility, and this is where I got introduced to computers. I started writing small code here and there and learned how computers operated and communicated. I fell in love and have been doing this for twenty years.”

Q: Where are you from originally?

“I am from Ukraine.  I came over with my family during the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

Q: Where do you have offices and what’s the advantage of being international?

“We have resources in San Diego and in Ukraine. Instead of trying to stretch time, we try to shrink time and squeeze in as much productivity as possible in a single day instead of stretching it across multiple days.”

Q: What communication challenges do you run into?

“When you’re dealing with technical people, you’re speaking the same language.  When you’re dealing with business people, there’s a gap in communication and expectations of what the final product should be. We have constant communication daily with the client and with the team. That way we can address any question or any issue that is discovered daily.”

Q: How do you assemble a team of people who have communication skills?

“We tend to hire senior people who have experience.  We have them go through a series of interviews—technical and personality.  We do everything possible to keep our people.  Our turnover is really low.”

Q: What challenges come up with cross-cultural communication?

“Usually it’s a misunderstanding.  When a client gives us too much freedom, we try to do as much work as we think is relative to the problem, and sometimes we think it’s our way but it’s really a different way.  Those are due to cultural differences and experiences.”

Q: How did you decide to be a leader of programmers instead of writing the code yourself?

“I couldn’t scale what I wanted to do and that was my passion.  In being a developer or team lead, I could only work with a little team and one client at a time.  I wanted to introduce it to many, to almost make a movement.  When you outsource something, the outsource professional should be doing it better than you can.  When I hire a lawyer, I want to assume he’s doing a great job.  It’s the same with software.”

For Slava’s best tips on global communication and words of inspiration to entrepreneurs, listen to the episode…

Words of Wisdom:

“Poor communication leads to poor responses, poor performance, and a lot of money wasted.”

“It all comes back to communication.”

“If you cannot trust us, you cannot work with us.”

Contact Slava Khristich:

Website: Tateeda.com

Phone:      619-630-7568