CIO Spotlight: Ramaswamy PV, Virtusa Corporation

What's the best career advice you ever received? “The best advice I’ve ever been given is to take that extra meeting or call to get a deeper understanding of your colleagues and invest in building stronger relationships…”

Headshot of Ramaswamy PV, Executive VP & Global CIO at Virtusa Corporation

Name: Ramaswamy PV

Company: Virtusa Corporation

Job title: Executive Vice President & Global Chief Information Officer

Date started current role: November 2021

Location: Chennai, India

Ramaswamy “Ram P” PV is executive VP and global CIO at Virtusa and has more than 28 years of IT & domain experience specialising in digital transformation. Ram P came from HCL Technologies where he as SVP and head of enterprise application and digital transformation. In his earlier stints, Ram P has led many IT and digital transformation for various global clients across many verticals. He completed his computer education at NIIT University and earned a two master’s degree, one in finance and another in law. Ram P has extensive experience across business domain, IT delivery, pre-sales and the CIO function having worked closely with global c-suite executives across Fortune 500 enterprises. He is a four-time winner of IDG India’s Top 100 CIO awards.

What was your first job? During my college days, I was interested to start up my own line of work, so I launched a soap distribution business and worked with retailers. Needless to say, I learned some hard but very valuable lessons early on that was a primer for where I am today. Then, my first job out of school was at Cochin Refineries Ltd. assisting the management information system team analyse oil refining costs.

Did you always want to work in IT? Not exactly – I found myself in the same position many people find themselves in college, which was that I didn’t have a clear path to where I am today. My initial passion was in finance and mapping out costs, which were interests I picked up at my first job with Cochin Refineries. This was where I learned the utility of floppy disks and how critical it is that data and information needs to be digitised for faster decision making, which shaped and cultivated my career path.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I received my degree in computer science from NIIT University, and some time thereafter, I pursued my post-graduate work. I hold a master’s in law, accountancy and finance from the Institute of Company Secretaries of India and a master’s in accountancy and costing from the Institute of Cost Accountants of India. As I grew my career, I also sought out IT certifications and training programs.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. Although I started my career working on a management information systems team, I realised I needed to gain as much domain knowledge and experience to succeed in IT. Besides my post-graduation work in finance, I quickly moved to domain work and got solid experience in pharma, steel manufacturing, and refineries, which helped me understand the entire project management of a $14 billion integrated steel plant construction. I also gained valuable experience overseeing pharma manufacturing and distribution processes, the end-to-end process of order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, and hire-to-retire. 

When I moved back to IT, these strong foundations helped me quickly grasp the business requirements across different departments and business verticals and accurately deliver on the business expectations under strict and short timelines.  

The knowledge, experience and IT implementation successes led me to interact with client CXOs where most clients demanded that I lead their digital transformation. Close interactions with CXOs were indeed a very humbling experience and taught me the ropes of their vision and leadership. In retrospect this was beginning of learning the leadership functions that would set me up for my current position.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? Digital transformation – digital inside is a critical initiative to ensure all key processes and data are digitised.

Data driven decisions – real-time information and analytics at all levels that are essential to make quick decisions.

Security by Design - a robust and secure environment with high resilience for quick bounce back.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Revenue growth and higher margins are a couple of strategic goals for Virtusa right now. The expectation is to have a data-driven intelligent enterprise with high business agility that can navigate through nimble processes and systems. Virtusa’s workforce is also its greatest asset. We attract, train and empower our workforce to be creative and curious, build fulfilling careers and perform meaningful work.

We’re a people-first organisation and are committed to building and nurturing a diverse and high-performing workforce. Throughout their career, our employees have access to our talent marketplace and skills-based assessment tools, a robust training academy with skill, domain, behavioural and leadership training programs, and a talent framework to accelerate member career progression called Engineering IQ.

To better support our customers and partners, I’m closely working with our teams to develop next-gen, real-time self-service analytics, as well as hyper-automation for all key processes and cloud-native solutions. There’s more cause for automation, especially as companies look to improve operational efficiency, reduce or avoid costs, and bring best-in-class solutions. As CIO, it’s my role and function to empower and invest in our employees, enhance the culture within while also transforming the way we work to better respond to market-altering occurrences that impact our customers and partners.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? It’s not a one-size-fits-all role. As CIO for Virtusa, digital engineering is in my DNA. Each day, I’m tasked with helping clients engage with new technology paradigms and creatively build solutions that move them to the forefront of their industry. At any time, my responsibilities could expand or condense as the digital landscape is in a constant state of change. Additional responsibilities could include driving digital, cybersecurity or metaverse business revenue, as well as educating and upskilling talent through executive training and internal operations like a tech lab.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Virtusa is always driving digital transformation – the car never stops. My primary focus as CIO is operational efficiency and enriching the user experience, and then extending that to the customer experience.

I think we are compelled to use digital technology to reshape revenue streams and are often hurried to make purchasing decisions without first asking, “What value am I getting out of the existing products and services that I have, why do I need to add new products or services, and will this meet my specific business drivers?” At Virtusa, we solve the toughest engineering challenges, but first we must prioritise engineering with purpose.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? Our current environment favours the growth of the cloud over on-premises IT infrastructure. We are 100 percent on cloud at Virtusa, a healthy bulk of the applications are SaaS, and we tap many cutting-edge technologies, including AI and Chat-GPT. Full digital maturity is still some miles away both in terms of digital solutions and, more importantly, their adoption.

The KPIs I use to quantify the value of IT in all key aspect of IT delivery are closely monitored including cycle time reduction in business process (through process mining and automation), IT costs versus revenue trend, IT productivity per development, IT investment ratio on growth versus BAU, and more.

What does a good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? You’re never really done enhancing culture as it’s something that is always evolving. We’re constantly finding ways to make Virtusa a great place work, and that starts with encouraging Virtusans to be creative and curious, while cultivating the workplace so that they can build fulfilling careers and perform top-tier work. As compared to many IT peers, our top management and middle-level leadership regularly connect, and the attention to teamwork and supporting employees is repeatedly stressed. Employees are looking to managers to incubate an equitable workplace by advocating to leadership to rethink everything from work-life balance to engagement with social issues, job stability and much more.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipating to be) the most difficult to fill? Enterprises become hamstrung by surging demand to use digital technology to reshape revenue streams as well as the turbulence created by shifting to different spending models in response to the economy. We’re finding roles and skills such as enterprise and cloud architects and analytics leads difficult to fill. Simultaneously, the cybersecurity industry is feeling the pinch as experts and talent are hard to come by.

What's the best career advice you ever received? An empathetic culture fosters confidence in leadership. Some of the best advice I’ve ever been given is to take that extra meeting or call to get a deeper understanding of your colleagues and invest in building stronger relationships. It goes without saying that the workplace looks wildly different today than it did last year, and as younger generations enter the workforce, they are bringing different perspectives on careers and how to define success in life and in the workplace. Empathetic organisations have faster business growth and higher employee retention for this very reason.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Yes, Virtusa has succession plans because we believe that a culture of responsibility and accountability must be cultivated across all roles and functions. The playbook is a blueprint for the team and that includes the highest of levels of leadership. The challenge I’ve seen is that high performers are usually neck-deep in work with little to zero time to go that extra mile, and those who bend with the curve and don’t break under pressure are the ones who are ready to step into that role. It’s quite critical that high-performing staff are trained and exposed to management insights and crisis situations, so that they learn and become ready to handle anything that comes their way.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Watch closely and learn. We often are distracted by people we think are successful based on their title or where they work, but this is obfuscation. Instead, my advice is to see through the smokescreens and how tangible leaders handle pressure, encourage and build great teams, push the needle with reference to innovation and outcome, and avoid blaming others, while ensuring their doors are always open. People who are a roadblock to your success are not leaders.

What has been your greatest career achievement? We supersedes me. I have experienced a lot of great successes in my career, but the best achievements are the ones you can enjoy with your team at the end of the day. Early in my career, my team was responsible for rolling out the German global template for an SAP solution to integrate within its larger UK entity. Modernising legacy systems is no easy feat. So, when we faced challenges, such as political rifts, working through trial and error, and more, we still came out on top. Those are the days and work memories I’ll always remember.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Time is more valuable than we give credit to it, and at times, I need to remind myself that it’s important to hit pause, take that breather, and then evaluate what I can learn before moving forward. I would have preferred to use this “break” to re-evaluate how I could have handled situations differently, or even if they could’ve been solved using a better path. I’m constantly looking at how I can be more efficient with my time, so that I can maintain the relationships within my close ecosystem.

What are you reading now? The McKinsey Mind by Ethan M. Raisel and Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman.

Most people don't know that I… Achieved sports excellence representing my state in cricket, as well as a short stint modelling.

In my spare time, I like to…Hit the tennis or badminton court to stay active or travel to the mountains to clear my head and spend time away from the city.

Ask me to do anything but… Cutting down on innovations. Innovation is intelligence having fun.