To lead in the digital age, everyone in the industry needs easy access to the latest and most accurate data. Good news: One of the Success Stories of Female Entrepreneurs, Poornima Ramaswamy, Executive Vice President, Global Solutions and Partners at Qlik solves this challenge daily. An interview conducted between Poornima Ramaswamy and Insights Success addresses data challenges faced by customers, which can be addressed by Qlik’s end-to-end data analytics and data integration offerings.

Below are the highlights from the interview:

Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a proficient tech business leader.

I’ve been in the data and analytics space from the beginning of my career, straight out of business school. Because of my background and specialization in information technology and finance, I was able to obtain a position with Tata Infotech, an IT company which provided software consultancy and development, system integration services, and hardware manufacturing. There, I worked on a data and analytics team.

Aside from being fortunate enough to have an early start in the industry, I think what’s aided my proficiency has been that, for the last 25 years, data and analytics have been among the top five priorities for CXOs, specifically CIOs.

Industries have changed, evolved and expanded in scope, but the importance placed on data and analytics has not; in fact, it’s among the top three priorities for CEOs as a business transformation agent. This has fueled my passion to always keep myself as knowledgeable as possible, so I can continue bringing value to my company and to our customers.

What roadblocks or challenges were faced by you in a corporate business? And how did you overcome them?

To be honest, I’d say I’ve been lucky, and nothing has held me back. I’ve had a lot of very strong support from both men and women – many mentors and champions – throughout my career. My only challenge was recognizing where I wanted to go, asking for help when I needed it, and who could best help me in a given situation. And, when I felt like I was not getting the right support, speaking up really helped. In turn, lending a hand to others and focusing on making others successful also made me successful.

How do you keep yourself up to date with the latest technology?

I am very customer focused, so I always try to understand what customers are doing with technology – that is, how they are thinking about using technology for data and analytics and how this fits into their larger digital ambitions. This keeps me informed of not just technology trends, but the ones that matter most to our customers.

Where are you focusing your energy now, and where do you hope to make an impact next?

Speaking for myself and on behalf of Qlik, we are focusing on making customers become not just more data driven but more action-oriented with data. This means ensuring that they can realize what we call Active Intelligence. Active Intelligence is realized when you have continuous intelligence from real-time, up-to-date information, designed to deliver insights rapidly and trigger immediate actions automatically. This is particularly important during unprecedented crises, such as COVID.

We want to make our customers comfortable enough with the use of data and analytics that they feel empowered to make the right decisions in uncertain times – we want them to be successful and resilient, no matter what the future holds. This can only happen when organizations are looking to create a data-driven culture through the use of technology and by making data literacy a key priority at every level across their organization, which we are increasingly helping our customers understand.

What are the vital traits that every business leader should possess?

First, always have an eye for the future. Second, make sure you’re open to new ways of doing things; you want to create an organization that’s constantly looking to learn and adapt. Third, you need to lead with empathy, taking care of your people, along with your customers, treating both constituencies with compassion, care and understanding.

What culture change do you suggest for companies that want to embrace the full power of AI?

My first suggestion is to embrace a test-fail-learn mindset. I would also recommend recognizing that AI is not just about technology, but about an entire reorientation for the business – AI changes the way you operate. My third suggestion is to ward against creating bias within AI; it should be a neutral arbiter and not be encumbered by programming assumptions.

Lastly, to reap the full benefits of AI, you need business and IT stakeholders to work together from the very beginning to reimagine processes, some of which could be fundamental to the business. This can be accomplished through cross–functional, unbiased, representative teams, and a continuous reaffirmation that the changes being made are in a positive direction and support a company’s growth.

What does it take to attract and retain tech talent?

I believe tech talent responds very positively to authenticity in a company and to companies which paint an inspiring, inclusive and socially responsible future. People are simply too aware of what is going on in the world, and they want the truth. That’s why authenticity is so important. Qlik has a very authentic leadership style and approach; we espouse openness and transparency, which I believe attracts people. Our vision for the future – that data and analytics are critical and will only continue to be even more so – I believe truly resonates with our workforce. I also think empathy is incredibly important. Everyone comes from a different place, has a different background and a different passion. You need to accommodate those differences.

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