Gaja Vaidyanatha, Director of Cloud Solutions Architecture at CGI, talks to The Ortus Club’s Hannah Hodkinson about the opportunities that cloud technology holds for businesses and customers alike as well as the subsequent challenges.
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Can you give us a one-sentence summary of your company?
CGI is a global IT management consulting company. We’re headquartered in Montreal, Canada. We specialise in transforming our customers’ journey from on-premises to the cloud, aiding them in digital transformation and taking their business to the next level assisted by IT.
Can you describe the of role a Director of Cloud Solutions Architecture in one word? Why?
Innovation. The whole journey from on-premises to the cloud is not just an act of lifting and shifting. It requires a certain amount of re-engineering and re-architecture of on-premises processes and functions to where they actually need to be in the cloud.
So, you have to start thinking about how we’re going to re-architect something, and that requires a significant amount of innovation and thus, so does the world.
What current challenges are leaders in your role facing right now? Can you identify a solution?
There are lots of challenges. Every day is a challenge, but the biggest challenge we have is finding talent. People who are capable of doing the job, and I think, historically, we’ve looked into this model of trying to find the right skillset in the right resumé with the right individual.
We’ve deflected a little bit from that approach by actually saying, ‘Let’s try to hire people with the right attitude and right aptitude to learn, and then let’s put them through a set of boot camps internally where we know what is required, what the skillset that our customers are looking for is, and what the service that they are looking for from us is. Then, custom-tailor, train them on specific areas in cloud computing.’ That is starting to work really well for us.
How do you explain the success you’ve had in your career?
It’s basically my desire to learn, and I think I’ve always looked at my career as a learning journey. I’ve really pushed myself beyond my known boundaries at the time on getting to learn and adopt new technologies, new methods. Just because I’ve done something for 20 years doesn’t mean I need to continue to do that now.
So, I think that whole approach to keeping an open mindset and just adapting to what the market requires has held me in good stead as far as my career is concerned.
Can you tell us about a time you took a major risk in your career?
I think the year was 2004, and I decided to go on my own. So, my entrepreneurial spirit took charge and said, ‘Okay, it’s time for you to do something on your own,’ and I launched a very small consulting company called DB Performance at the time.
It’s difficult to do that because it’s risky. You’re going from a comfortable paycheck that shows up once every two weeks in your bank account to something where you are pretty much responsible for doing all the work initially since it’s a one-man company. Then you say, ‘Okay, I think I want to give that a shot. It’s on my bucket list. I need to check it off.’ So, that was a big risk, and, thankfully, everything worked out fine. I worked really hard, and we had a good run for about 15 years, and here I am with CGI now.
What marketing/business trends are you taking advantage of right now?
The biggest business trend we have is the move to the cloud. I’m sitting in the right spot from that standpoint. That stems from the fact that I did not stop learning in my journey, right around the 20 to the 22-year mark of my career.
I had to reinvent this whole journey to the cloud is something that we’re helping our customers with because we need to find better ways, more efficient ways, more performant ways of providing the computing platform, and the cloud does that for us.
We need to take what our customers have, from an application standpoint, from a data storage standpoint, move that to the cloud, and make sure that it all works for the customer. They are able to achieve their targets, and they’re able to use data as a significant asset to generate analytics and business insights going to machine learning, AI, and all the things that you hear about these days.
That’s our way of transforming and helping our customers transform their businesses onto the next platform.
What career advice would you like to share with Directors of Cloud Solutions Architecture?
It’s not necessarily meant for other directors. It’s probably meant for anybody. I was at a junior achievement inspire volunteering event last Friday, and a high school student asked me the question, ‘What is the one piece of advice you would give a high school student?’ and I pretty much said the following, which is, ‘Never lose your curiosity to find out how things work and why things are the way they are.’
I think this is something that we all need to do, having that kind of child-like mindset to find out more and learn. This served me very well in my career, and I’m sure that it will serve others too, so I would say never stop learning.
“‘Never lose your curiosity to find out how things work and why things are the way they are.’ I think this is something that we all need to do.”