Sudha KV: A Transformation of Innovation
Sudha KV is an innovator and technology leader, that has helped her company to become more creative and productive, while also supporting initiatives to increase diversity. She’s had a fascinating career and continues to operate on the frontiers of technology as the VP of Server Systems Management at Dell. In this interview, she discusses her professional path, her relationship to technology, and some of the interesting projects that she has been a part of.
Can you tell us about your current role with Dell and some of the responsibilities that come with that position?
[Sudha] I am the VP of the Server Systems Management organization @ Dell. The systems management products help customers manage the lifecycle of the servers in terms of deployment, management and monitoring them. My primary responsibilities are ensuring excellence in deliverables, supporting innovation and incubation of new product ideas, customer focus and continuously upgrading the organizational capability.
Is there a success or a problem that you have overcome in this role that you are proud of?
[Sudha] The one success that I am extremely proud of in my organization is the transformation in our approach to Innovation. As a product engineering group, we have always been on the forefront of new product ideas/features that delight our customers and wanted to get counted as major contributors to the Patent portfolio of Dell. We formed an Innovation Focus Group and adopted a systematic approach using techniques such as Triz, workshops to collaboratively explore new ideas as well as have a technologist lead a virtual team of engineers on exploring and filing patents. This resulted in a 3X increase in our patent count. Engineers are now getting into newer areas like Analytics, AI, ML/DL, and Blockchain.
How did you choose this career path? Did you have any moments or people of particular inspiration along the way?
[Sudha] As a child I was always fascinated by electronic gadgets and that lead me to an undergraduate degree in Electronics. During college, I developed a keen interest in programming and found that a restless person like me could stay focused and not budge till I could compile, run and get the results that I wanted. Even though they were very few software jobs 30 years ago in India, I was fortunate to have landed into such assignments right from the start of my career. I am happy to say that all the managers that I have had in my career, right from the beginning, have given me excellent support and encouraged me on my career path.
At Dell, you started with the Enterprise Validation group and then moved to the Systems Management product development group. What was that transition like? How was your new position different?
[Sudha] In my jobs in Dell as well as in Lucent, I started with Validation and moved on to development. When you are part of validation, you are the custodian of the Customer experience and work towards finding issues before the customer finds them. Given that you see a lot of defects, delays in delivery etc one tends to come with an attitude of “I am going to Fix things”, without completely appreciating the challenges of the other side. Fortunately, I had been a developer for several years and that helped to understand and support the development team without losing the perspectives that I got from my validation experience. While I focused on automation and process innovations during my validation stint, here I had to add focus on product innovation as well as working closely with Marketing on the roadmaps and strategy. In hindsight, I would not qualify the transition as challenging but as something that made me a well-rounded engineering leader.
Can you talk about your work on diversity and inclusion at Dell?
[Sudha] At Dell, we consider D&I a Business imperative and not just a Social one. So there is a lot of focus on D & I activities and we have an Employee Resource Group called “Women In Action” to work on these. Personally, I can talk about a couple of initiatives that I am proud to be associated with.
- Dell Bootstrap program: A couple of years ago when I was exploring what opportunities do women who have taken a break have in the Indian IT industry to get back to work, I found that companies did run boot camps, conduct special hiring sessions etc. But the challenge was that boot camps were for short duration and women who had taken a couple of years break did need a hands-on refresher / reskilling to be successful in the job interviews. So we started a bootstrap program which took such women on 6-month temp assignments, training them on the job and getting them to work on our regular projects. We would mentor them to take up suitable full-time jobs within dell and if they had the option to continue for a year on this program. This has been highly successful as quite a few of these women have found jobs within dell and we benefit from having a bench strength of diversity
- Girl student outreach program: This was something we started 3 years ago to help girl students doing engineering courses to hone their practical skills and get a better chance in cracking job interviews. The idea started when we saw during our campus hiring that generally the girl students had high academic scores but did not get involved as much on hands-on projects and hence could not be very effective during job interviews. We started with two colleges of 6 students each, chose students who weren’t the cream of class and have expanded to semi-urban places. The results have been excellent and by word of mouth, this program is very popular. In fact, the Anita Borg Institute asked my team to conduct a session to the faculty of engineering colleges based on our experience to make the students’ Industry ready.
Is there an emerging technology or a trend that’s on the horizon that you are particularly excited about?
[Sudha] With the pervasiveness of the Internet of Things, I am pretty excited about Edge computing. I think the decentralization that comes with it is something that customers would love but at the same time, the challenges of security make it an interesting area for us to delve into.
Do you have any advice for engineers that are looking to level up their careers and achieve the kind of success you have?
[Sudha] My advice is to Keep yourself updated on Technology, do not get constrained by your job description, have a solution mindset and don’t forget to have fun while doing all these!
Originally published at www.womenwhocode.com.