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7 Questions on Leadership with Ram Parasuraman

Name: Ram Parasuraman

Title: Executive Director

Organisation: IBM

As a trailblazer well-versed in vast areas of technology, I am consistently driven to pioneer innovative solutions for complex challenges. With an extensive track record spanning over a decade within the dynamic landscape of Silicon Valley startups, my expertise converges at the intersection of cloud, security, and AI. Throughout my journey, I've orchestrated the launch of cutting-edge Software as a Service (SaaS) products that redefine the boundaries of security, empower data-driven decision-making, and deliver better operational efficiency.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Ram's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Taking a team through change. We all know change is inevitable and is a constant in tech. But taking teams through market transitions, strategic pivots and investment decisions is never easy. Keeping the key players aligned, motivated and executing through change at the rapid pace needed is challenging in organizations of any size. The problems may be different, but the challenge is always exciting.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Through a strong foundation of self-awareness, an unquenchable thirst for continuous learning, a fearless embrace of uncertainty, invaluable guidance from mentors and role models, and a deep-rooted sense of humility that guards against taking anything for granted.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I like to keep a routine and over the years, I have figured out when I am at my creative best vs. operational best. I try to structure my meetings and activities around that circadian rhythm. It does not always work, but I try. I am also a voracious user of productivity tools like Asana, Trello and Calendly.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Never be the bottleneck to your organization's decision-making. Our world is changing very fast and a learning organization can be parallelized if our systems are not setup to make timely decisions at all levels. The key is to empower the front lines to take the call, but have a scalable way to communicate it to the rest of the troops. There is no time for hub and spoke hierarchical decision making.

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?

Atomic Habits by James Clear is my favorite go-to book. It is a constant reminder on the power of showing up, making small incremental changes. The Eighth Wonder of the world, the power of compounding takes care of the rest.

Perfection is the enemy of Progress and this is something I reinforce any time I can.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Never stop learning. Read a lot, and share what you have learned with your inner circle or your family or board of advisers. Else, just write about it, you will learn more.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I am responsible for Data Resilience within IBM. But what comes to mind when we see the word, "Resilience". Sheryl Sandberg, former COO of Facebook, said this the best: "Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity". As a Tech Executive, we have so many forces we cannot control, and if we believe in a learning mindset, we have a high likelihood of accepting iteration and failure. A team that fails fast, is afforded an opportunity to rebound faster, higher, and stronger than a team that takes much longer to fail or is in denial about that failure. So, setup an environment where failure is normal, learn from it, and setup systems to avoid making the same mistakes again.

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