CTO Sessions: Asanka Abeysinghe, WSO2

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped?” There are several, such as service mesh, blockchain, and the metaverse, that receive considerable hype without directly addressing human challenges.”

Headshot of Asanka Abeysinghe, CTO at WSO2

Name: Asanka Abeysinghe

Company: WSO2

Job title: Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

Date started current role: March 2023

Location: Santa Clara, California

Asanka Abeysinghe brings more than 20 years of industry experience to his role as WSO2 CTO, including the design and implementation of highly scalable distributed systems, service-oriented and microservice architectures in the financial domain, mobile platforms, and various business integration solutions. He is a regular speaker at numerous global events and many tech meetups in the San Francisco Bay Area. Additionally, Abeysinghe is a committer within the Apache Software Foundation and a member of the Forbes Technology Council. He also is an author who publishes the Architect to Architect blog and regularly contributes to technology industry publications.

What was your first job? I began my career as a Clipper and dBASE programmer at a packaging company, where I designed, developed, and managed their supply chain, inventory, and accounting software solutions.

Did you always want to work in IT? My programming journey began at the age of 16 with C++, when I acquired my first computer, a 286DX4, during the same period. So naturally I was drawn to the world of technology and continued to pursue a long-term career in this space.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I earned a BSc in Management Information Systems (MIS) from the National University of Ireland, University College Dublin. I was also among the early adopters to become a Sun Certified Java Programmer.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. My career in technology progressed steadily, without any detours. However, there was a pivotal moment when I transitioned from product development to a customer-facing role. I spearheaded the solution architecture function and led it for nearly a decade. This gave me greater exposure and well-rounded experience.

What type of CTO are you? I am a customer-focused CTO in a product-led technology company, with a strong emphasis on empathy towards our clients. I am constantly exploring the future and prefer reasoning by first principles rather than relying on analogy.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? Currently, with GPT-* gaining traction, it seems that everyone is enthusiastic about the prospects of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Indeed, there are several technologies, such as service mesh, blockchain, and the metaverse, that receive considerable hype without directly addressing human challenges. Instead, they often introduce additional complexity.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? I introduced two fundamental principles, cell-based architecture, and digital double, which now serve as the foundation for our new SaaS offerings, Choreo and Asgardeo, by WSO2.

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? Digital transformation encompasses both internal and external aspects, making customer experience and operational efficiency equally important. These factors contribute to an organisation's value streams and ultimately increase revenue. I frequently discuss this topic in a blog I co-author, which you can find at https://transformity.info/blog/.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Transformation leaders in enterprises are in the process of constructing a platform for digital transformation. However, building such a platform is a never-ending task that demands significant time and effort, often resulting in less focus on delivering tangible business value. Therefore, I'm committed to educating our customers in selecting the appropriate platform strategy and demonstrating quick business wins.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? At WSO2, we align our technology use with business goals by fostering collaboration between teams, implementing agile methodologies, focusing on customer value, and continuously innovating to adapt to the evolving needs of our customers.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? No, we do not have any trouble matching our product/service strategy with our tech strategy, as we consistently adopt an outside-in approach, follow iterative processes, and maintain sufficient feedback loops. Additionally, we avoid relying on multi-year roadmaps to maintain flexibility and responsiveness.

What makes an effective tech strategy? An effective tech strategy entails aligning technology with business goals, fostering innovation, prioritising customer needs, and ensuring adaptability to remain competitive and relevant in a dynamic market.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? I predict that the role of the CTO in the future will focus on driving digital transformation, fostering a culture of innovation, nurturing strong partnerships between technology and business teams, and emphasising adaptability and agility to navigate the ever-evolving technology landscape.

What has been your greatest career achievement? My greatest career achievement has been humanising technology and architecting transformation, which has enabled me to assist thousands of organisations around the globe as a trusted advisor. Additionally, I take immense pride in mentoring individuals and sharing my knowledge through various publications as an author, helping others grow professionally and personally in the technology sector.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have put more effort into encouraging and promoting the innovative product we built called "App Factory" which was deprecated too soon. Supporting its development and growth could have potentially led to additional opportunities and advancements in our technology offerings.

What are you reading now? San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities by Michael Shellenberger

Most people don't know that I… Listen to rock music - my favourite bands include Linkin Park and Metallica.

In my spare time, I like to…Spend quality time with my family, I'm a dad of two and a pup. I also have a passion for riding my Ducati and playing basketball with my neighbourhood friends.

Ask me to do anything but… Nothing that goes against my beliefs or ethics.