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Raghu Punnamraju

Raghu Punnamraju

Director - Software Engineeirng
Ensuring Growth
Times have changed, I strongly believe the relationship between learning and working is not linear anymore, rather it is a cyclical relationship of “learn --> work --> learn -->work-->learn” and the cycle goes on. For an aspiring leader to continuously and incrementally realize the desired additional responsibility set, the leader must master this cyclical process of identifying the knowledge gap, attaining the knowledge levels, converting the knowledge into experience by applying it to organizational benefit and targeting the next knowledge gap to fill. Academic institutions still rank high in effectiveness of education attainment channels but there are also other avenues like on-the-job training, reading technology and management literature that help us grow. One of the modern trends is also the social network participation and contribution. I attempt to apply these techniques to the best I can. I have completed two masters degrees, an MS and an MBA, while I was working. The knowledge I gained and its application to work had helped me contribute at a higher value to the organization. Obviously time is a scarce commodity and I propose that thefamous "work-life balance" phrase should be changed to "Work-Learn-Life" balance to callout the significance of learning. I know it is easier said than done and I am sure I can do much more than what I am doing right now. To overcome the available time scarcity, I willshare a key trick I often use. I listen to the management literature through audio books while I travel. I also attempt to block 4 hours a week to keep myself abreast of the latest technology trends. Additionally, I participate in our clinical technology conferences and recently had an opportunity to present on the impact of cloud technologies in the clinical technology domain. All of these activities help me not fall behind, if not lead.
Current Job description
I am currently working atPerceptive Informatics - a PAREXEL company, as Engineering Director - Software R&D. We are a technology organization specialized in clinical software products and services. I lead two key missions in Perceptive - one is to establish, grow and sustain technical capabilities in Hyderabad in alignment with organizational objectives, while the other mission is to lead a global engineering team in developing CTMS (Clinical Trial Management System) products aligned to market needs. Some of our key technical capabilities include IBM WebSphere, Java/J2EE, JQuery Framework, Oracle, Informatica, Microsoft .NET technology stack, SQL Server, QTP, TIBCO, Tivoli, etc. Almost 100 percentof our team members are part of scrum teams, as we are a highly agile software development organization and we are proud of it.
Handling Grievances
Human Resourcesdepartment always plays a key role here and I always rely on them. It is very essential that HR has a well-crafted grievance policy that is rolled out across the organization. A leader must consistently give the message that it is absolutely safe to speak up and constantly assure privacy and safety for grievance escalations. I avoid jumping to conclusions without getting the facts and reviewing all sides of the potential grievance. But once the investigation is complete,culprits must be punished and there are no exceptions. Several times hard decisions are to be made keeping the organizational values in focus but at the end of the organizational values most be honored.
Managing personal and professional life
I wish I avoided all the mistakes I made! There is no silver bullet here, as a leader, often you have to make decisions based on limited facts and several assumptions. You are forced to take some calculated risks while making these decisions. Performing the Probability and Impact analysis of the risk could be the starting point.Executing appropriate risk handling approaches like risk mitigation or risk avoidance helps avoid key mistakes to a large extent. Other management frameworks like stakeholder analysis, balance scorecards and change management approaches also help insure all the dimensions are analyzed. You might be a good leader but you may not be an expert at everything and the biggest mistake would be NOT to take advantage of available relevant experience. But no matter how careful you are, mistakes do happen and my only suggestion is to be transparent, accept the mistake and commit to learn and improve.
Leadership qualities
While there are several traits that a leader must possess, to me two key skills stand out – “Effective Execution”and “Establishing Succession Capabilities.” In my opinion these are very critical for Indian future leaders. Effective Execution: Many great visions have fallen flat because of the lack of execution and Indian IT organizations are no strangers to this experience. You might be leading an organization, business unit or a small unit, but as a leader, you must get results delivered. Once the vision is created and strategy is devised, blind execution is not ideal either. Execution, coupled with constant assessment of the strategic alignment and adapting the tactical means based on the degree of deviation from the target is what I call "effective execution." This effective execution makes the true leader stand out. A more popular term to this concept could be "Agile Execution" and one must master it. Succession Capabilities: At the end of the day, it is the people piece of the puzzle that delivers the results. Creating opportunities for the team members to showcase their capabilities, allowing them to grow beyond their responsibilities and aligning their motivated growth desires to organizational benefits are some of the true leader characteristics in my opinion. I often believe in the Golfing Leader philosophy – where the leader can happily golf as he or she created a system and succession with the abilityto execute the business independent of his or her presence at every organizational situation. That doesn’t mean that I golf every day, but it does give a true sense of accomplishment, at least to me, that a vision has become reality. By the way, I have a very mediocre swing. I always end up either slicing or pulling when I golf and I have a long way to go to perfect it.
My advice
In addition to the key points I mentioned in the previous questions, there are two criticalmodern themes that are emerging for today's India leadership - "Be Externally Strategic" and "Think Global." While majority of the India leadership still focuses internally on operational efficiency and meeting delivery SLAs (Service Level Agreements), there is an increasing trend to be more externally strategic as in enabling the end customer realize their desired benefits. Also, as the cost of Indian IT Service increases, thanks to the chunkier salary costs year-on-year, India is reinventing itself to add higher value to the end customer through “Externally facing Strategic Thinking”. Additionally, several of the captive organizations are empowering Indian leaders to lead global teams, which demands the leaders to “Think Global.”This includes the understanding of wider markets, ability to lead and manage across the cultures, growing distributed core competencies in a structured approach. In summary, I believe to lead the modern pack, one must be on top of these two needs.
Important career decisions
It filters down to two key moves - joining GE Healthcare partnership and joining PAREXEL India. In 2007, I joined Intermountain Healthcare and GE Healthcare to be part of their Global engineering team. I had the opportunity to learn the GE delivery culture in developing the next generation healthcare information system. It gave me an opportunity to learn so many different key aspects of Enterprise software development like quality, program management, agile execution, leadershipand the list goes on. The second biggest move is relocating to India after 13 years in US, looking for greater leadership opportunities and joining PAREXEL India. PAREXEL is a true global organization providing exciting career paths for its employees, while working towards a greater humane cause of helping find new drugs faster. Our technology group is playing a key role in decreasing the time-to-market of these drugs and I am excited about the opportunities that I have been provided with so far. While GE Healthcare taught me the global execution, PAREXEL offered me global leadership.
Influenced by
To start with, it is both of my parents. As a State Bank of India employee, by example, my dad taught me to be passionate about work and also how hardwork would always yield results. My mother taught me holistic thinking and political correctness. When it comes to my career, the one that influenced me the most was my ex-boss Sonia Bernard McCall. Watching her, I learnt how a true leader always creates opportunities for his or her team members, guides and encourages them towards future success. You might find this amusing but, outside of my work and immediate family, it is Angelina Jolie that influenced me big time. Keeping her glamorous career aside, I admire her charitable contributions and how she became the goodwill ambassador.
My views on India Technical development
It is an interesting conundrum and there probably are several pieces completing this puzzle. Majority of the Indian IT giants are still service-oriented and their innovation is around service differentiation and financial margin improvements. It is the brand of these top IT giants that is attracting the talent out of the top colleges. This young talent’s career choice selection is still influenced strongly by the parents and by the societal conformance need, where entrepreneurship is culturally believed by several to be of lower status. The thought process will eventually change and we should see more innovation sprouting but it might take a few generations. There are a few big organizations like Amazon, Google, who encourage product innovation through their culture. However, I sense the need for the service-heavy organizations to also start focusing on product innovation soon as they reposition their capabilities to their customer base. Otherwise, that industry will not be luring anymore with the price wars. Another key piece is the learning mechanism or style itself. Except for the top technology and management institutes, the othersprimarily focus on concept teaching as opposed to concept application teaching, which is very essential to problem solving or new product innovation. Top institutes should continue to be the role models in encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation. It will take time but the new product innovation ball started rolling and should gather mass over the next decade or so with some positive reinforcement.
Family background
I can’t believe it is already 12 years since I married my beautiful wife Sirisha. I must admit that without her support, I would not be able to implement my "Work-Learn-Life" balance effectively. I owe my continuous career success to her sacrifices to hold the home fort strong. She complements my aggressive style perfectly and completes me. She is an engineer by education and a Microsoft .NET programmer by profession, though currently taking a break to focus on the kids. We have two very naughty twin boys Pavan Krishna and SaratSanjiv. Oh boy, they are quite a handful. They are 6 year old and are currently studying grade 1. You often find our family enjoying a movie as we are big movie geeks. Any additional time I might find I try to whip up a comedy skit or attempt writing a few telugu poems.
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