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7 Questions with Atanu Dasgupta
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7 Questions with Atanu Dasgupta
Name: Atanu Dasgupta
Current title: Vice President, Product Engineering
Current organisation: Informatica
Atanu has worked in the software product industry for over 25 years. After his graduation from IIT( Indian Institute of Technology), he worked as a hands-on engineer for over 10 years in the United States, Sweden, and India. He learned his leadership skills from some of his past managers and took up new roles at various organizations. In the last 15 years, he has developed a unique leadership style that is well respected by his organization.
He has played leadership roles in building new products, setting up teams, and transforming the organization into a high performing culture. He has worked in companies such as Sun Microsystems, Hewlett Packard, ABB, and several other large and mid-size companies during his career. He has also consulted for private investors in assessing products and leading due diligence for companies and helping them make the right decisions.
He values people and has a great eye for talent and believes in influencing people to get the best out of them. He has developed several leaders and individuals by providing career guidance by coaching and mentoring.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
I would say the most challenging part is to ensure that teams and individuals are connected to the goals, core values, and culture of the company so that they feel proud about it. The challenge becomes more when there are new acquisitions or new teams are formed, and there is a mismatch between the culture or core values.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have learned the intricacies of software products and engineering over time. It has been a continuous journey of learning and improvement. This learning has been a combination of self-learning and also from others. Right from my first job, I have enjoyed working with customers closely and worked with several good leaders.
Gradually I also picked up various aspects of the software business, functional teams within the organization, and how one navigates through a large enterprise. Many leaders have inspired me and provided some unique inputs that I treasure. Gradually I learned how to lead larger teams with complex reporting structures and saw the importance of the right communication and good decision making. I have taken chances and ventured into roles that I was not initially comfortable with, which provided me with greater learning opportunities.
As a leader, I have learned how important it is to walk the talk, listen to others, be fair to people, and always be connected with the team and customers.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My day would start with a cup of hot tea, followed by walking my dog for 15 minutes. During this walk, I enjoy the morning air and also think about my day, plans, and sequence of work events today. Later I would come back and hit the badminton court in a nearby sports club. Our game is quite intense and helps me rejuvenate.
Later my workday would typically start by 8:30 am with various meetings, discussions, reviews, and one-on-one meetings. After work, I spend time with my daughter and family. I try to limit my evening work to less than 3 hours by planning my day well and working efficiently.
I typically have my dinner by 8 PM, followed by walking my dog along with my wife. After dinner, I spend time studying new topics and researching emerging technologies that are of interest to me or listen to music. Finally, I plan about my next day before going to bed.
I avoid keeping any pending work ( backlog) as much as possible, I believe in keeping no dues and completing anything pending to me before my next day starts. I avoid anyone waiting for me for their important work, I prefer to stay ahead.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
One of the big lessons I learned was the importance of kindness and forgiveness. The most important part of leadership is to gain trust and respect. I found empathy, kindness, and forgiveness to be an important ingredient to it. Kindness allows the leader to be seen as more humane and someone who understands a person, not just output. Empathy and forgiveness allow people to cultivate fond memories of the workplace, which drive higher commitment towards the leader. People make mistakes, and this is often a process of learning and getting better.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I remember this book, “Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions” by John Kotter. It has a very nice and impactful story about a colony of penguins facing a dilemma of whether to change to maintain the status quo. Till one day, one of those Penguins, a change driver, figures out that their iceberg is melting, and they are better at moving fast. The story unfolds how this leader convinces others to see that change is needed and gradually motivates everyone. Though a simple story, it portrays a powerful message about the fear of change and how to motivate people to face the future and take action.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
This has been a constant process to cultivate new leaders in the organization. I achieve this by working closely with my team to identify potentials, providing timely feedback as a coach, involving them in various cross-organization initiatives, and nurturing them with leadership values that will help them earn respect and trust in the long run. Making investments in people always pay off. There are also situations where external hiring is necessary, and I ensure that we exhibit high standards in making hiring decisions. While the selection of new hires is as important to value the future potential as it is to look at current performance.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
A few years back, I came across a situation where I had to select someone for leading one of the company's top product initiatives that had global visibility. Some people suggested names that were well-known and had already been established. However, I had taken an odd decision to choose someone who was relatively new but had the passion to succeed, besides competencies for the role and communication skills. It so happened that my decision was right, and this individual proved to be very successful in this initiative and made us all proud. Often, taking chances on people is important to demonstrate true potential.