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Ramesh T
Ramesh T

Ramesh T

Senior/Advisory Project Manager

IBM

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Current job profile
I am a Senior/Advisory Project Manager in the Global Business Solution Center, a division focused on developing reusable and IP protected assets for IBM.
I'm currently managing the IBM IP Asset development program for the Travel & Transportation industry.
Leadership qualities
For a person to be an successful leader, she/he has to have the ability to inspire confidence and trust in the teams that they lead. Leadership exists at all levels, not just at the helm of the organization.  I think a leader should be:
1. Able to identify the right people for the right roles - by right people I mean people with the right skill sets, attitude and aptitude
2. Able to see the larger picture on what is expected from her/his team and where it fits into the larger organization goals; be able to articulate the same to the team and break it down into smaller pieces that the team can comprehend;
3. Able to establish a climate of open communication within the teams; voices of dissent should be heard and evaluated for their merit before taking a stand; she/he should be able to know when to lead from the front and when to take a step back and let others lead as well
4. Able to take tough decisions in times of adversity, but convey the same to the teams in a neutral/matter-of-fact manner; try to balance the business and employee interests to the best possible extent, without hurting the business too much
5. Able to 'absorb the shocks' both from the senior management and the team and not buckle under pressure; a leader should be resilient
6. Able to resolve conflicts effectively, without being biased;
7. Last but not the least, should be able to "walk the talk" and not just render shallow sermons on integrity, trust and responsibility; she/he should demonstrate those qualities under all circumstances, both official and personal
The last point is particularly important as it is the essential quality for a leader to inspire confidence in her/his teams.
Ensuring growth
Leadership development and growth is a continuous process of learning.  Since we are in an industry that is in a constant state of evolution, it is important to stay constantly updated on the challenges and  the ever changing customer expectations.  This in turn helps me to alter my style of functioning as a leader.  Each situation that we come across at the work place will have a lesson in the guise of experience.  It is important to have an open mind to see these situations from a neutral stand point and understand how we could have handled/acted better.  Apart from the customer, I also make it a point to understand the competition - what are their strengths, weaknesses, strategies, etc., so I can be better prepared. One more important aspect is to enhance one's network in the industry.  In many cases, extremely useful information can be obtained from the most unexpected sources.
I also keep myself updated on all the geo-political developments across the globe, as they have a major impact on the future of the IT services industry.  For example, the pre-poll rhetoric in the US Presidential election can have a significant impact on the markets and therefore the economy, investor sentiment, etc., that will impact the industry. The Eurozone economy also has a significant impact on customer behaviour in that geography.  A few weak economies (Greece, Spain, etc) that need huge bailouts can adversely impact the growth in strong economies like Germany.
My advice
The first and foremost point that an aspiring leader should understand is:  Leadership is about responsibility and accountability; not just authority.  I have stated some of the essential qualities that a leader must possess in my response to an earlier question. In addition to those, an aspiring leader should have a realistic approach to the situations that she/he comes across. Most of the situations that we come across in life will have varying shades of grey and it becomes very difficult to see them in black & white. Leadership is precisely about handling such situations with minimal ambiguity.  This is easier said than done, but can be cultivated over a period of time. That means, leadership is also about continuous learning.  Learning refers to both "unlearning the old and learning the new".  As the old adage goes, a leader should be ready to 'expect the unexpected'.
Leadership is about forging diverse teams together and get them functioning seamlessly.  It is almost like conducting an orchestra - a successful one will result in a great masterpiece and an unsuccessful one will result in cacophony.  And to be able to do that, a leader has to have sufficient cultural awareness and sensitivities. 
Doing things right
Connecting the right dots comes by practice. In the initial days, there might be quite a few mistakes, but it is very important to ensure that we learn from those mistakes and even more important not to repeat the mistakes.  Since each situation is unique, it is essential to draw parallels to earlier situations and anticipate the possible outcomes.  Once that is done, we can choose our response/course of action.  This may sound like a lot of theory, but it has worked for me.  The key is to ensure that we keep practicing this approach so that it almost becomes second nature to us. In some cases, it may not be possible to draw parallels to a situation.  Then, it is best to go by 'gut feel' - I'm blessed with that especially when it comes to people, as most of the times, my judgement about an individual is right.
Influenced by
It will be unfair for me to say that a single person has influenced my life so far.  However, I can say that about 3 people have influenced my personal and professional life to a significant extent.  
Professional: 2 people - one of them is my ex-boss from Thomson Corporation (now, Thomson Reuters), Mr.Ramana Reddy.  I learnt a lot from him on how a leader should function.  He is an amazing person, very well accomplished, absolutely down to earth and probably the best manager that one can have.
Another person happens to be my second line manager, Mr.Sharath Sampath in IBM.  He is a towering personality who has earned enormous respect from everyone who has ever worked for him.  He has demonstrated what a leader should be. I can quote several instances to corroborate my statements, but I believe they are beyond the ambit of this discussion.
Personal: my father.  He came from a very humble background (from a village where there was no electricity) and went on to become a very well accomplished teacher who has transformed lives of several individuals. Most of his students from the 60s, 70s and early 80s, have made it big in the world of engineering, medicine and pure science, etc.  They come home even today to meet him and reminisce over the old days. I'd consider myself successful if I can achieve even 10% of what he has accomplished.
Handling grievance
The first and foremost thing I do is to get a complete picture of the grievance and all the facts surrounding it.  In case it involves two individuals, I'll hear both the versions separately, weight the merits of each and then take the next steps.  In case I believe that there are shades of grey in both the statements, I'll bring both the parties to a discussion in my presence and then will resolve the situation.
In case the grievance is related to the organization policies, I'll hear the employee's grievance and then evaluate it for its merit.  In case it is reasonable, I'll check with the appropriate teams - HR, finance, etc - and then see what can be done within the organization guidelines. Based on the outcome, I'll counsel the employee accordingly.
Important career decision
I am a Mechanical Engineer by qualification.  I started my career in the aerospace industry and continued in it for about 4 years.  The most important career decision was to switch to mainstream IT during the year 2000.  Another one was to move on from IBM during 2005, after 8 years of association.  In retrospect, it did help me to grow in my career.
My view on India technology development
This problem has to be tackled on multiple fronts. First and foremost, the 'social mindset' regarding our jobs has to change.  For example, most people in the IT industry have a fixated idea of a "career path"  s/w engineer --> module/team leader --> project manager ---> senior manager... and so on...The focus should be on the content of work rather than the title.  This is perhaps driven by the fact that if one does not have a 'manager' title after a few years, she/he is almost considered useless.  This mindset has to change. I have worked with people who are content with calling themselves software engineer even after 30 years of their career.  And those are the ones who know their products like the back of their palms.
Secondly, the IT industry in India is largely and mostly focused on provided services.  This dilutes the product development capability as most of the talents are utilized in delivering 'value to customers' by maintaining/enhancing their applications. Product development requires dedicated and talented individuals who are very clearly aware of the market needs and how to address them effectively.  
Thirdly, radical/lateral thinking climate should be fostered to enable product development. A good idea needs some time to morph into a product. In many cases, I have seen several good ideas being shot down because the sponsor is not willing to either take the risk and go ahead with the development OR the sponsor is keen on making quick money. Also people who think radically are seen as a 'threat' by several insecure managers.
Fourth - there has to a mindset change with the software engineers themselves.  There is a tendency to have a shallow knowledge on a wide variety of topics, but no focus on the depth.  I have seen very few instances of entry level employees expressing their willingness to develop expertise on a limited set of technologies or even programming languages.  It is all about short term goals that may yield some low hanging fruits, but does not add value in the long run.
I believe these 4 are the most important aspects that are impediments to our not being able to develop into a product developing IT work force.
Family background
I come from a middle class family.  My father - Sri.T.Ashwatha Narayana Rao - is a retired Professor of Physics and Electronics, having taught in The National College, Basavanagudi, Bangalore for more than 4 decades.  My mother - Smt.Geetha - is a home maker and is THE pillar of the family.
I have an elder brother - Mr.Raghunath, employed with SAP India, and a younger brother - Mr.Rajesh, employed with Mann and Hummel, India.
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