Walk us through your CIO path. How did you decide to pursue a career in technology, and how did you progress to your current organization?
I completed my Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science in India and started my career in IT consulting with Tata Consultancy Services. After A 5-year stint with the company, I decided to move to the U.S. and continue in IT consulting with iGate. These consulting engagements gave me the opportunity to work in various industries like Tea Manufacturing, Government (New York State Senate) and Transportation (Toll Collection), Software Product Development – each of which helped broaden my perspective in the field. After getting tired of being uprooted every year, I decided to settle down in Atlanta and joined Suntory Water Group (now DS Services) in their Applications Team. I had the opportunity to execute a myriad of projects including working on an ERP implementation, rolling out Handheld devices and mobile applications across 2000+ routes, going through a merger, integrating multiple acquisitions, integrating call centers, implementing IVR and Telephony integration, and developing the first transactional website for the company, amongst various other experiences.
I was, then, hired by Lance, Inc, in Charlotte to lead their ERP implementation as their Program Director in IT to replace 4 ERP systems and 30 disparate applications with 1 ERP system. I was hired full-time after the implementation and had the opportunity to lead the organization through the post-merger integration with Snyder’s of Hanover (forming Snyder’s-Lance), 6 acquisitions, and 2 divestitures, thus increasing the company size from $750MM to $2.3B. Over the course of 11 years, I had the opportunity to work across the organization on various impactful initiatives across, Sales, Operations, Finance, Planning, and HR – many of them cross-functional in nature. During my time there, I was able to grow with the organization and eventually became the Vice President of Enterprise Applications.
The biggest game-changer for me was a unique program called “One Team Leadership” (from One Team Leadership, Charlotte, NC), which transformed how we operated in IT – “a healthy and high-performance organization”. It was a transformation from a fragmented IT (after the merger of Snyder’s of Hanover and Lance) to a cohesive unit that was business-focused, results-oriented, successful, and most importantly, an IT that seemed motivated and happy. The documented proof of the increase in engagement levels was seen in 2 independent surveys, with the team’s employee engagement being way ahead of the rest of the organization. The most rewarding part was when people told the IT Management team about how the program not only helped them professionally but how it positively impacted their personal lives.
The three big takeaways for me until this point included
- The creativity at play in coming up with solutions that helps my ecosystem be successful.
- The value of time, a resource that once spent can never come back, and the value that I can create for my ecosystem by saving time for associates in doing their jobs.
- And finally, do the above in a manner that makes the overall environment healthy and high performing, thus making the entire experience a pleasant one for all involved.
While I wasn’t initially planning to be a CIO, the idea of being able to apply my three takeaways at scale was very motivating. In 2018, I left Snyder’s-Lance after it was acquired by Campbell, to serve as CIO of Borden Dairy, located in Dallas, TX.
Tell us about your company. Speak to the industry, the size of the company, and the services provided to your customers.
The Borden brand name has a rich history that traces its roots back to Gail Borden, an entrepreneur and inventor who lived during the 1800s. Though he pursued several career paths throughout his lifetime, Mr. Borden is best known for revolutionizing the dairy industry by developing the first successful commercial method of condensing milk. With Mr. Borden’s invention, dairy products could be preserved for long periods of time and could be shipped across hundreds of miles for the first time ever. On Aug 19, 1856, Mr. Borden received a patent for his process of condensing milk and soon began opening milk factories.
In 1936, Elsie the Cow was introduced as Borden brand’s mascot. Elsie became an American icon. In 2000, Elsie was named one of the top 10 advertising icons of the 20th century by Adage.
Today, Borden Dairy is headquartered in Dallas, TX, and operates 12 plants and nearly 100 distribution centers in the Midwest, Southern and Southeastern regions of the US. We offer 35+ products that are enjoyed by millions and remain a staple in the dairy industry.
What are your top 3-5 (ongoing) main priorities as CIO in your organization?
The top priorities are:
- Analytics – We have already replaced our outdated on-premise Analytics applications with Analytics available for multiple business areas on Azure. We are experimenting with Azure AI/ML features for anomaly detection. This is coupled with a cultural transformation effort to create an information driven culture.
- Application / Infrastructure Modernization – We have and continue to upgrade infrastructure and applications and migrating relevant applications and infrastructure to the cloud.
- Automation – we are constantly looking for automation opportunities. We have implemented RPA for some core processes in Shared Services and are looking to continue to improve and automate processes using native features and RPA.
How do you decompress from your role as a technology executive? What do you do for fun?
I ride my bicycle – try to do it at least 2-3 days a week. I like hiking and have hiked many trails around Dallas. I do read non-fiction books (reading one right now as I write this – Total Meditation by Deepak Chopra) as a break from the technology world.
Can you list your top 1-3 books that you would recommend for a technology leader to have on their bookshelf/Kindle?
- The Goal by Eli Goldratt
- Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Can you share a specific quote that is a source of inspiration for you as a leader?
I keep this quote as a reminder to myself but also for my technology leaders and staff.
Be the change you wish to see in this world.Mahatma Gandhi
Please share a recommendation or testimonial on the benefit you see as a member of this CIO Professional Network.
I have found this network to be what it is – For CIOs With CIOs By CIOs – very real in terms of content (in terms of practicality, great variety, and quality) and networking opportunities.