In an interview with BW Businessworld, the Vice President of Product Management, ManageEngine, talks about how they train young talent for a year and make them industry ready.

How did you end up in this profession? I joined this company in January 1997 after finishing college in 1997 and doing my internship in 1997. I used to joke that I never wrote a resume in my life. There were several people trying to do something in this company. You don’t have a garage in India so I arrived on the terrace of the building. I worked at this company. Why have you been working at the same company for 25 and 26 years? That is the typical question. The reason people switch companies is either because they are bored of what they are doing or they want to try something different. I had the freedom to try things I wanted. I was a programming person. In the last 25 years, I’ve jumped on to roles that had nothing to do with the previous one. It was actually like jumping multiple companies for me. When I was a developer, I took a lot of interest in writing the manuals that the products would come up with, because we are one of the earliest product companies in India. I jumped from there to customer support after having a passion for writing. It is very fascinating. For three years, I did customer support full time. I’ve been involved in product management. I started with the company and am responsible for the results that I produced. Nobody asked me about anything. I know I’m getting results. That was what kept me going.

What do you think about technology talent in India?

Rajesh Ganesan: We have a lot of talent, right? because talent again, is very loaded. It’s not like a binary thing you are talking about, there is a scale. There are many startups where I have friends who are founders and CEOs. They ask me how they to find talent that will contribute from day one? That, in my belief, is not how you should approach talent. We’re not going to just assume this is something you can take off the shelf, or bring it from wherever you want, it’s not going to work that way at all. Talent is always something you have to nurture, like they talk about talent, temperament, attitude, and all of that. If you’re going to want only to look for talent, that’s not the right way. We are also a company who will never complain about lack of talent, because we truly believe we have it to create, nurture, and build talent. That has always been the case with my company. Because I know when I came into this company as a fresher, I did not bring anything that I contributed from day one. All the things that I learnt, I did along the way, you just create that environment where people keep things simple.People who are happy to play open things and one needs to let go of things that don’t work and be able to move on. And in my belief, this is the best way.The other thing is learning skill development. Talent Development is always contextual. I remember my earlier years in college, I studied papers like data structures, computer networks. I remember asking my professors- “Can you open the computer and show me where there is a stack?” Where are those layers of networking that they are talking about and whether they were able to show in a way I could understand?” It’s only when we started working in this company and had the freedom to explore, did I understand. Your classroom education is often not contextual. Just like reading something and reproducing. So, the context in terms of how you work with your team, how do you understand your customer’s problem, how do you understand and how can you monetize the solution that you’ve built, all goes back to creating talent and it does not exist in a vacuum.  So, we believe in creating a nurturing talent rather than expecting it to arrive from day one.  So, our job description is simple. If you’re up for it, you can learn this domain. And if you can contribute, just come over.Moreover, we don’t assess and decide based on one interview. We have this concept called incubation in our company where we let people work for four weeks to six weeks. And the other thing that I do personally, and our managers do is look at all the conversations that these people are part of, just because someone is working on incubation, they are not left alone. They are part of the team. And the entire team looks at what they are doing, how they are conversing with the team, how they are collaborating. So, it is not again, like one manager deciding this person should be in the team or not, the whole team will know.

Everybody is talking about how to become more digitized, what are the loopholes that we are facing? If we do better in this area, can you tell us about the loopholes? How can we progress better as a nation?

Again, this goes back to the way I understand the question. We don’t want to have loopholes, or we want to have minimum loopholes, right? That has to be an approach. But I should apologize, because I have a completely different take.  We have to accept and embrace the fact that loopholes really exist. There cannot be a perfect system, you don’t set out to build a perfect system. There are many examples that I can quote. There are people set out to build that perfect system, it could be like going to the moon, or it could be like building computer networks.There are stories like there was a protocol called X.25. Do you know what TCP IP protocol? TCP IP and X.25 started at the same time. Now X.25 said that it will build the perfect Internet Protocol.  Have you heard of them? Have you heard about X.25 because they set out to build the perfect one, they never came to anybody. TCP took the approach of – we will do one day at a time; get better as we progress. So that was the approach and that should be the same approach, we India as a country should also take. Get access to technology, and as many people as possible. I am very privileged when it comes to technology because I’ve had education and I’ve had access to technology. One of the things I see is, I should have this resolution where I go and help people with some access to technology. This is how we can actually create a nation, a country where all the people have access to technology and not by focusing on fixing loopholes.Different people have different needs, they will use it in their own way & that will show you the new problems to be solved. Today from your WhatsApp, we can sort of look at the products you can order, we did not imagine this one year ago. Facebook or WhatsApp would have envisioned it 2 -3 years ago. This is how technology works, right? You have to let it evolve with its limitations with its loopholes and the objective should be to increase the adoption or to fix loopholes for existing users because I think once you do that, it just gets addressed automatically. It’s a contra answer, but this is it.  

What happened to the company?

The first thing is about managing them as a business that is managing the rest of the company. So, when we incorporated as a company in 1996 or 1997, we didn’t even know our incorporation date. That’s how simple we were to start with. By around 2002, which is like five to six years into the business, we had grown to a few 100 plus 2000 people. We had a big technology infrastructure, because we were a software product company, we needed software to manage the entire infrastructure, which is something I was talking about. When we looked into the market, there was no such software that existed. Even if they existed, they were expensive, bloated and inefficient. As I said, people from Singapore had to fly, even to make a sale. Can you imagine how expensive it would be? So, we said there is an opportunity for disruption here. So, in 2002, what were their technology problems? You had your email system hosted internally inside your office, right?  These were days before even Blackberry came, then came BlackBerry where devices could be taken out. There was a time where I could see my emails only from inside the Office, because I was sitting on a desktop. I did not have access to my email from outside.  But this was an infrastructure that needed management because if my mailbox quota is exceeded, my mails will not land in the inbox. So, you need software to monitor this. That is what ManageEngine does.

People are using a technological infrastructure. How can you help the team deliver technology?

Email to people, management, manage the levels of service are maintained at a very high level, because I am paying Microsoft extensions hundreds &1000s of dollars. Microsoft doesn’t give you tools, we supply the tools. For $10,000 extra, we make sure your investment is protected, delivering the right quality. Now the technology has evolved from exchange server, sitting on premises to BlackBerry then based emails.  Now you don’t have to worry about email. Whatever device you have, they still manage the infrastructure, we have to create email accounts, you have managed accounts, you have to create lakhs of CRM systems. You need to worry about information security, you need to worry about the uptime of your infrastructure. Because if you have 200 salespeople not being able to access CRM systems, it directly reflects your business and you’re losing revenue. This is what ManageEngine does.  For businesses that leverage technology as an enabler, you need to manage the technology infrastructure. ManageEngine provides different software to make sure the service delivery levels are good, to make sure the processes that the deal is completely automated. The workflows are automated, and there is no manual intervention. And also, information security is a very, crucial angle. You may have a company of 2000 people but all it takes is one executive to that one ransomware infected in their laptop for the entire business to go down. You have to be very proactive. So, ManageEngine has the software that as soon as a laptop has a security issue, it will immediately identify and patch the issue. So, this is what ManageEngine does. Look at every component in your technology infrastructure, monitor it, manage it, remediate it. So, this is the business we are in. Things were on premises, things moved to cloud. And we also evolved our product to manage infrastructure that is sitting both on premises and on the cloud.  

Do you have a question about how we dealt with the outbreak?

When we started it was challenging and that is when we even hit upon the idea of “Hub-and-Spoke” offices. Two to three months into the pandemic, I’m sure it must have been very difficult for people to work from home in India because an average family lives in a two-bedroom apartment. That is especially true for young people with young families in cities like Chennai. So, if you had a family, there is no way you could be productive at work from home. I’ve seen children struggle attending classes.So, what we said is we went across the state, wherever there were 15-20 people, we quickly set up an office, all you needed was power and Internet, right? And, and some catering service to build an office. That is exactly how we navigated through this idea. We had many offices, there is the main Chennai offices, & Hub offices and Spoke offices.  We hit upon models, where we put up these offices, where people can actually travel up to 2 – 3 kilometers and be able to work from there.  And also, this is the time our own Remote Endpoint Management software was used, because it was one thing to put all these offices, you also have to comply to various analyzations and comply with one company, you need to produce documentation that we are following all the processes even in that village.  

All the software we built was built during the Pandemic. We hired more than 2000 people and collected their resume, conducted interviews online, onboarded them online, and trained them online. There are people who only met their team after a year of training. They were fresh out of college and joined ManageEngine, they got trained, and they are contributing to the team. We were willing to face these challenges. It goes back to you accepting that you have to create the talent and not expect everything from the people that are joining your team or company. The first year is on the company, I always say that. You can expect contributions back from them from the second year.

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