CIO: Given you're a former CIO, is it easier for Kersi to justify technology investments?
Ashish Chauhan:Kersi and I have known each other for a long time. Both of us have been a part of the same industry for quite some time. We understand the nuances of the financial markets and the levers of business growth. We know how to achieve technological superiority at a low cost. Both of us know how to derive value from a low-cost technology framework. Kersi knows how fast our business moves and how fast the margins are getting squeezed. Our chairman, S. Ramadorai himself, is a technology wizard. He set up TCS. All three of us have worked in technology for practically whole of our lives. We know where the shoe pinches and how to take care of it.
CIO: What career advice do you have for CIOs?
Ashish Chauhan:In today's day and age, career tracks are changing rapidly. There is no single career path that is going to be available in the future. If you stay in a single role for long, your career will stagnate. You have to be ready to accept new challenges. And you have to be humble and nimble. A CIO should not think that because they have breadth in experience in IT, they should remain in IT. You can't afford to think that way. Grab opportunities that come your way. You have to understand the levers of your business and understand what makes the business tick.
CIO: What about for CIOs looking to move to a business role?
Ashish Chauhan:They should start the process by taking steps to reinvent themselves within their business. They should equip themselves with cross-functional expertise, and refresh outdated perspectives that their business peers hold about their role. They need to expose themselves to myriad areas of business. They have to wear the hat of a CEO, sales head, marketing specialist, and finance head. Usually, CIOs have a tendency to think very technology specific. They think like technicians. They should try to add value to themselves everyday. They need to shore up their business and communication skills. They need to break out of their comfort zones and be relevant partners to the business. They need to have a strong understanding of finance. In order to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving technological landscape, CIOs should try to acquire a management degree to boost their prospects of occupying the C suite.
CIO: Has your management philosophy changed over the span of your career?
Ashish Chauhan: Times change. And you also evolve with each role. Each industry has its own ethos and its own success and failures. You need to understand the 'moving' reality. In business, there is no static reality. The stock exchange illustrates this truth. There was a time when floor-based trading used to be the king of stock markets. Floor-based trading was a 400-year technology and quite stable at that. But within a few years of automation coming into play, IT just took over and the floors became redundant.
Even in the NYSE, where the floor still exists, it's only cosmetic. Everything is automated. You might have been a great trader in 1992 but in 1996 you would have found yourself out of place because in four years things changed drastically. Similarly, cricket used to be a game which was run by associations. And once in two or three years, a cricket match would come to a city. It was always sold out because demand exceeded supply. But we created a business that could sell 10 matches in 35 days--three hour matches at that. Every business has its own nuances. And it changes continually.
You have to adapt to the change in reality. You have to be willing to experiment and learn from others. And continue to evolve. A style that makes you successful once may not work for you all the time and in all industries.
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