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7 Questions with Vikas Seth
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7 Questions with Vikas Seth
Name: Vikas Seth
Current title: Chief Product Officer
Current organisation: IDnow Gmbh
More than 20 years of rich experience in software engineering and product management & new product introduction in the areas like IT Security, Cloud, SaaS & Mobile
Lived and worked in India, USA and Europe with multi cultural and teams comprising of various nationalities
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
As an executive in the company, I have to face many challenges every day whether these are related to keeping customers happy or keeping the employees engaged and motivated on an ongoing basis. But more than challenges I consider them part of my day to day work. As a fast growing organization one area i always have to keep a close eye on maintaining and sustaining company culture and character.. We are going through a rapid growth which requires us to hire many new talented people. I have to think every day, how do I ensure new people that join the company can assimilate with company culture quickly and at the same time bring new ideas, thoughts and diversity in the company without us having to deal with large conflicts as this can also be counter productive.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
By heart I am a tech person, all my career the only thing I have done is build products that can help customers in one way or another. I have played many roles in engineering and product management over the last 20 years across 3 continents and working with smart people from more than 50 nationalities. While at Avira I was quite happy and managing a large team and platform there I got approached by a headhunter for the role. After talking to CEO and founders at IDnow over 2-3 months i had a firm belief that identity is one area which is underserved and has a lot of room for innovation and even possibility to change lives by improving transparency. During these months I had done extensive research on the topic before accepting the offer. Since then I have not regretted my decision even one bit. It is an exciting space and a lot has happened in the last 2 years as I expected.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I am not the executive who likes to keep a diary of all my tasks, one day in advance but at the same time I also like to be organized. I start my day with a cup of Tea and first thing I like to do is check my email or slack messages and I give priority to messages which are related to customers (customer emails or escalations that need my attention) then I also pay attention to messages related to recruiting and onboarding new employees. I spend quite a lot of my time recruiting and talking to my teams. Well the rest of the day is filled with meetings/discussions and 1:1s with my teams or other departments. I am very engaged in connecting so I not only do 1:1 with my manager but also skip level discussions from time to time to understand how people are feeling. Evenings are then for any work I need to like preparing any presentations looking around various new sites related to technology and identity domain, learning something new. I also like to play around with IDnow and competitive products so this is something I do over the weekends as and when I am relaxing on the sofa :). I always tell my team if I were not CPO, my second choice would be to be QA :)
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Leadership is not only about being and acting confident all the time. Many leaders have difficulty showing their vulnerable side openly as they consider this as a sign of weakness. I believe it is ok to be vulnerable from time to time in your trusted group and seek help to get things moving as ultimately it benefits the whole company and is fair for everyone who is working hard in the organization.
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 have to say it is not one book which has profound impact on my style of leadership rather many of them. Every book I read I get to learn something new from them. I am very interested in behavioral and organizational psychology as I am always interested to learn about people how they behave in different situations under different circumstances. These tools helped me a lot to street people in positive directions. To name some books I would suggest, "Thinking fast and Slow", "Predictably Irrational", "Think Again", "Misbehaving" and pretty much any book from Malcolm Gladwell. On the organizational side 2 books I would recommend any day would be "Crossing the chasm" and "One the paranoids survive".
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Understanding motivations of people from day one they join, what their aspirations and goals are, is very important. I like to believe in the leadership concept of Responsibility and Accountability. Give people responsibility, ask them to be accountable for that. Let them falter and learn fast so they don't make the same mistake again. To make this happen in big companies objectivity of results is very important compared to subjectivity. Hence having full clarity on KPIs and continuous monitoring of data and KPIs helps a lot to manage and cultivate leadership. One thing you will find among leaders is they like to be challenged a lot and explore new ideas all the time. These are some of the tools I use to cultivate leadership in my organization.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
One of my previous companies I had to do a high value technology partnership contract to launch the product in less than 5 days. Everything was ready including technical integration except contract closure as it required signature from the CEO (given the high value of the contract). The CEO office was in the west coast USA and I was stationed in Europe. Despite all emails and what not I was not getting any proper response. Finally on Friday evening I called him and he picked the call (he was on the way to Airport to travel his home). I said to Mr. CEO this contract is very important to get signed for my team to launch the product next week and I am still not sure what concerns you have with the contract despite clarifying everything in email. Here is what I am going to do, I will take the first flight in the morning and come to you (travel time was around 16 hrs with connecting flight) and clarify any doubts you may have about the contract and get your signature on site. Let me know is that ok? He was a bit surprised and said no need for me to travel and by Sunday evening I had the contract signed on my desk. :)