C-suite career advice: Bhaskar Himatsingka, Adaptive Insights

C-suite career advice: Bhaskar Himatsingka, Adaptive Insights

Name: Bhaskar Himatsingka

Company: Adaptive Insights, a Workday company

Job Title: Chief Product Officer

Location: Palo Alto, CA

Bhaskar Himatsingka is an experienced technology veteran and visionary who is passionate about innovating and delivering world-class products and teams—at scale. Himatsingka leads Adaptive Insights' engineering, product management, technical operations and support teams. He brings more than 20 years of experience building teams, technology, and products. He joined Adaptive Insights from Change Healthcare where, as CTO, he developed a new technology roadmap, led the engineering team to re-architect the way the company stored and analysed data, and oversaw the launch of successful new products.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? I was once confronted with a choice between joining two organisations: one offered an opportunity that I knew I would easily excel at; the other posed challenges and work roles outside of my comfort zone. My manager suggested that whichever opportunity I was afraid to confront most is the one I should take. To succeed in the C-suite, executives need to have a grounded perspective on the other functions in the business outside of their core area of expertise. The key lesson I learned from this experience is that if you are not afraid of the next opportunity, you will become bored of the new role very quickly without building on the perspective needed to run a successful business.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? I was once leading a brand-new initiative to build a new business in one of my prior roles. We had a choice between picking a path which would have taken likely 5+ years to build a business vs. once which would have taken 2+ years but likely much smaller in eventual scope and size. I was advised to pick the latter for expediency purposes. I deep down believed the former had a higher likelihood of real success. I however went with the advice and unfortunately, we ended up with limited success and had to then pivot to the longer path after a lot of learnings and missteps.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT? First, always be curious and learning. It is unreasonable to expect that all learning will come from the job. An inquisitive mind requires being proactive and learning more about what is occurring in the industry.

Second, make sure you have a good mentor. I have been very fortunate that all my mangers have been mentors first and managers second. Managers who care about where you are going, what your desires are - and not just see you as a resource - are incredibly valuable.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT? Even though it's such an old way of thinking, people still see engineers as people who don't want to talk to anyone - i.e. as people who want to remain behind a computer. In reality, IT is the ultimate team sport. Engineers have to work together to be successful. No longer can a single person independently build a business out of nothing. 

Did you always want to work in IT? As a high school student, I wanted to be a mathematician. But I quickly realised that I wasn't smart enough to be a career mathematician, so I redirected my passion for math and problem solving to the field of Computer Science and have never looked backed since.

What was your first job in IT? My first job in technology was right after I graduated with my bachelor's in Computer Science. I was going to come to the US for post-graduate studies and was free over a long summer. I walked the major local training institutes to find how I might be able to help and after spending nearly a week knocking on probably 10+ offices, I landed a job for summer to teach "C Programming" to the teachers of this programming institute. My real first job was at Oracle in the database kernel team.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? Don't be too greedy: remember that things take time.  Identify what is next on your path and take the time to learn about it. Take the lead and raise your hand for opportunities that are uncomfortable to expand your horizon. That's how breaks come. You may be the most talented person, but you have to be at the right place at the right time as well. There is some luck involved, but be patient, keep learning and the moment will come.

What are your career ambitions, and have you reached them yet? When I was in my twenties, I wanted to be a "CTO" without fully knowing the reasons why. At the time, it simply sounded like a cool job. In 2007, I secured the role not knowing what to do. It took a full 5-10 years to learn how to be a good CTO and discovered how being a business leader could be in the process. Throughout this career, I never defined myself as wanting to do a single thing but instead remained curious on the next exciting thing. Next steps for myself? To either be a CEO or to continue my current role or something similar in a different domain or with an even larger impact.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? "Balance" means different things to different people. Some people work to live, some live to work. For me, the traditional notion of "balance" doesn't exist because I have lived to work since the day I first started.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I wouldn't change a thing. 

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? A degree.

How important are specific certifications? They are not very important.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? They have to be team players, embodying the "we before I" mantra. They have to be curious, always learning, and passionate in their professional pursuits.

What would put you off a candidate? This might be best defined by qualities opposite of what I actively look for in a candidate. When I hear a lot of "I," even when they talk about what they have done in the past, it shows an inability to work with a team. Another red flag is how they might excuse their lack of intellectual pursuits because they "didn't have time." If you are truly curious and passionate, you will make that time. 

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? As mentioned by what puts me off a candidate, an apathetic attitude to learning and a focus on oneself over team dynamics are to be avoided. Conversely, possessing a genuine interest in learning, a willingness to take on less-comfortable challenges and showcasing a proven track record for team projects will make a candidate shine.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills - or a mix of both?  For the technology field, technical skills are essential. As you grow in your career, you will need the technical talent and essential business expertise to match the specific requisites the industry demands. 


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