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7 Questions with Sam Kaldawi
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7 Questions with Sam Kaldawi
Name: Sam Kaldawi
Current title: Chief Technology Officer
Current organization: Vezeeta
Sam drives the tech strategy and development efforts at Vezeeta, while leading a team of 80 software engineers, data scientists, solution architects, as well as specialists in Scrum, DevOps, Cloud, and Corporate IT.
With a stellar track record in global healthcare and IT landscape, Sam has successfully established solutions in ePharmacy, Telehealth, Doctor Home Visits, AI and Machine Learning to better serve patients, providers, and partners since joining the company in 2020.
Professional Experience: Toyota, Universal Music Group, Pfizer Health Solutions
Education: BS. and MS. in Computer Science and Engineering, UCLA and CSULB; Executive MBA, UCLA Anderson School of Management.
Inspiration: “I’m motivated by passionate teams who commit their best effort with a mindset for growth and continuous improvement.”
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
In light of the pandemic, adapting to the remote/hybrid set up of managing a team of 80+ talents from different parts of the world has been a unique challenge in my career. The complexities of the world have poured into all of our lives, personally and professionally, so navigating these new waters is definitely a challenge we have faced collectively as a team.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
For me, the combination of a strong technical foundation with education and solid hands-on experience led me to the role of CTO at Vezeeta. I graduated with a BS and MS in Computer Science & Engineering from UCLA and CSULB. I developed on the technical side by always stepping up for bigger responsibilities and more complex tasks. During my career, I acquired diverse experience in IT organizations in the Entertainment, Digital Marketing, Internet, Auto, Healthcare, Financial, and High-Tech industries. More recently, in the course of maturing my leadership skills, I acquired an Executive MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management. What played a key role to become a CTO is the effort that I put to continuously improve myself, my team, and everything I do.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My day starts with a necessary dose of coffee while I have a quick look at my email and Slack for any urgent inquiries, and then I jump on calls. Usually, I’ll have meetings scheduled with team members or other stakeholders each day. During the day, I spend significant time meeting with team members, providing direction, reviewing technical designs, and following up on progress of critical projects. I like to make sure I’m giving any team members or stakeholders my fullest and clearest attention so I generally jump to those conversations first. At the end of my day, I'm going over my emails and schedule for the next day to make sure any calls or meetings I have are top of mind and get any prep work for those done the day before. This helps me make sure that I always invest my time where is most critical and needed. The only way you can do your best work is by putting in the time intentionally.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Create a good culture, surround yourself with a great team, foster open communication, and get people excited about what they are working on. This is a lesson I learned at an early stage in my career, and it always proves to be right. As a CTO I’m trying to listen to the concerns and challenges of my team. We have CTO time, where I meet with the individuals of the team in rotation and listen to what they have to say, what they would like us to improve, and what we are doing well, and frequently catch up meetings with the individual teams. It is important to be present for your team and show that you care, the more you give the more you get.
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?
The Wolf in CIO's Clothing by Tina Nunno, 2015.
The book analyzes Machiavellian tactics that a technology leader must excel in. The book helped me better understand that as a leader I need to know how to adapt, understand how to balance, and adjust my leadership style under different situations in order to thrive.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
It starts with getting a deep understanding of yourself and the people you work with. Each individual in my team has his/her own set of strengths. As a leader, I need to be able to identify those strengths, utilize them in the team, and help them work on areas that need improvement. Encouraging personal development goals is at the core of building leadership capacity. We run a quarterly performance evaluation inside my technology organization with frequent 1-1 meetings where I provide feedback to my direct reports and set goals on areas that they want to improve, and ensure to provide them with the resources needed to meet them. At the same time, I challenge my team to think bigger, reflect on our performance, productivity, quality on a frequent basis, and have discussions about raising our own bar, and becoming better at what we do.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Our journey of navigating the Covid-19 pandemic comes to mind. At first the healthcare crisis it presented itself as a major hindrance, but then we took it on, and looked for opportunities where we as a team and a company can help the community and healthcare as a whole.
We launched a number of new products such as Telehealth, Home Visits, and ePharmacy in less than 2 weeks into the pandemic, to deliver better accessibility to healthcare for our patients. Working remotely was first perceived to be a con, but turned out to be a blessing in disguise because of increased hyper-productivity. People spending more quality time with their families, and not spending time commuting has made the team members happier, and more relaxed. Now after the whole world has responded and adapted, we have permanently changed how we work with a hybrid telecommuting model with our distributed teams across nations and continents.