I am teaching a course at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore starting next month titled “Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation”. The course has motivated me to interview technology managers, academicians, consultants and get fresh perspectives on the Management of Technology (MoT). Hence the series MoT-chat. Here is the first interview on MoT-chat series – of my friend Zunder Lekshmanan, Chief Technology Officer, OpenTurf Technologies.
In this interview, Zunder talks about what it means to run a VTO’s Office(2:05), how he monitors, tracks and assesses emerging technology trends (7:38), how he performs experiments (10:34), builds use-cases (19:46), makes build-vs-buy decisions (30:40), How he builds partnerships (32:42), What strategic bet means to him (36:26), His experience in starting a technology company (38:48), Role of Under-The-Carpet (UTC) R&D (43:04), His style of motivating senior engineers (45:06), Role of structured learning (47:06) and the meaning of being a “Cracked Pot” (50:45).
The audio in AMR format is available here (5MB) and in MP3 format is available here (25MB). The transcript of the interview is available here.
Here are a few nuggets of wisdom from Zunder:
- In my view, technology, whether it succeeds or not, it’s the ability to get things out and feel it in the hands of customers.
- I rely on the fastest time to market.
- (On an interesting technology trend) I first see if there is an application area where I want to use it.
- (Apart from experimenting myself) I also go to experts, people who have worked with me and still are in the industry, I take their views.
- The success of the use-case is based on consumption.
- In my books, CTO has to meet customers.
- (In my start-up) I made the same mistake as many people, saying, “Build it and they shall come.”
- UTC (Under-the-carpet R&D) was so successful for me that business guys used to ask, “Zunder, what’s cooking?”
- Just don't be satisfied with the status quo.
- You should have a sense of indiscipline somewhere.
- “Cracked Pot” means don’t hold anything, don’t take permanent positions. Let the water flow.
Here are a few things Zunder refers to in the interview:
- Algorithm, an AI newsletter published by MIT Technology Review
- ThoughtWorks technology radar
- Zunder’s blog “Be a cracked pot”
- Zunder’s first book on Amazon: The road to Leh discovering heaven on earth, 2012
- Zunder’s second book on Amazon: As the crow flies: Chronicles of a middle bencher, 2018
- While it didn't get covered in the interview, Zunder is a fan of Google's 4E model - Earn, Entice & Defend, Expand the pie and Experiment