Editor’s note: The winner of the Chief Officer Awards Private Company CTO Award announced June 17 is Allen Badeau of NCI.
On June 17, WashingtonExec will be virtually celebrating the most impactful and innovative C-suite executives in government and industry. These chief officers work in technology, security, data, operations, finance, business and more, excelling on both sides of the government contracting sector. Our team of judges have chosen the finalists for the inaugural Chief Officer Awards, so before we announce the winners during the event, we wanted to get to know the finalists a bit better. This Q&A series highlights their careers, successes, proud professional moments and notable risks.
Vishal Rajpara is the chief technology officer at Casepoint and a finalist in the Private Company CTO Award category.
What key achievements did you have in 2019?
Casepoint had a major product release in 2019. It was a transformative upgrade from our previous version two years in the making. It was particularly significant to make this release happen because parallel to its development, we had to serve our existing client-base in our original product for two years.
In order for this to happen, the company experienced unprecedented growth. Since 2015, the company has increased its total employee count from 45 to approximately 500, and its development team is now 12 times its original size, increasing from about 15 employees in 2015 to approximately 175 today. Casepoint is a privately funded and profitable company, and the recent organization evolution is supported entirely from incoming business without any outside investment.
Needless to say, the success of the new platform was also a point of concern as we continued to invest into its creation. We were extremely pleased to see its adoption upon release in 2019. After the upgrade, Casepoint saw its install base grow by more than 70% and has also seen a 250% increase in inbound customer queries.
This growth is fueled primarily by the aforementioned technology release: a transformative upgrade of our cloud-based software-as-a-service solution, Casepoint eDiscovery, and the new Casepoint Platform, which customers can use to integrate a full range of enterprise applications, documents, legal data and legal workflows within a single, flexible platform and user interface.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Listening. You have to listen carefully to what your customers and prospects are saying so that you can develop a product that really solves their challenges rather than what you think is a good solution.
Last year, just over 60% of our product enhancements and new features were a result of direct customer feedback. This has led to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty as well as leading to new customers who have found value in those new features.
You have to listen carefully to your team. Don’t dismiss their ideas just because you don’t agree with them right away. Take time to understand what they are trying to say or accomplish. Understand what the benefits and pitfalls could be. Then regardless of whether you accept or decline their suggestion, they will feel they had the opportunity to contribute, they will feel heard, and you will create an environment that fosters the exchange of new ideas.
You have to listen to your heart. Truly listen and feel into what you think is the right thing whether it be for your customers, company, or team members.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
I worked in the legal space for years, in 2008-2009. Since I started working in the legal space more than two decades ago, it was quickly apparent to me that there were many inefficiencies in legal processes and workflows. I recognized plenty of opportunities for unified automation to help us do things faster, better and more cost-effectively. I developed a firm conviction — which I still hold today — that automation is the key to efficient process management. That is when I realized I must focus on the technology aspect of legal.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
The simplest and most honest answer is that I am constantly challenged and have fun every single day. These are two important elements of our DNA: ownership and fun.
I love the level of ownership so many of our team members bring to their role every day. People on our team are constantly seeking new ways to do things, ways to improve our tech or processes or communication.
When I first co-founded Casepoint, I thought it was incumbent upon me to push and lead on all fronts. But I realized that when you surround yourself with the right people — individuals who are innate leaders, who carry a spirit of entrepreneurship, who own whatever role is before them while working toward the role they one day hope to have — then you are going to be challenged every day in all the right ways.
That is how we have progressed as an organization over the years and frankly that has been a key part of keeping me on my toes. I have to constantly bring my best because I know my team will constantly push me to find a better solution or a new, more efficient way to do something.
Surrounding yourself with individuals like this also helps embed a sense of ownership into the DNA of the company culture. When you put that type of energy and focus to work as a cohesive force, anything is possible.
I also love how much fun I/we all have every day. Not only do we have a bunch of talented, hard-working people who truly own what they do, but they keep a fun jovial spirit about it. Friday team lunches, practical jokes, acts of kindness and sharing of our full selves with one another makes each and every day plain fun. When you’re having fun, it doesn’t seem like work many times.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
Failure is the first step toward success. One thing I learned from failure is that it gives you the perspective of how you can do better next time or differently next time.
Which rules do you think you should break more as a government/industry leader?
I do not let precedence fetter me. Casepoint’s motto is: “Challenge the Norm. Make a Difference.” That’s what I have practiced and continue to practice today.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
When my brother and I founded Casepoint in 2009, we had to risk our and our family’s financial security. We were in the midst of the U.S. financial downturn. At one point, just to save money, our wives and children went to live with our parents in India for a little while so we could put all our energy and resources into building the company. But we persevered, scraped and didn’t let the struggle keep us down.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
What I am most proud of and what I find to be most impactful is this small group of individuals have grown with the company, were instrumental to developing a new set of technologies that will pave the way for our company over the next decade, and most notably, they are still working alongside me helping me oversee and lead a team of over 500 people.
Seeing and experiencing their professional growth has been very satisfying. However, what makes me feel proudest is being witness to not only their professional journey but their personal ones taking part in their weddings, first home buys, first child, or their involvement in the community.
What was your biggest career struggle and how did you overcome it?
When I co-founded Casepoint just over 12 years ago, all I had was an idea and an older brother who supported me. We struggled in our early years but we kept pushing ourselves. At one point, to save money, our families went to live with our parents in India for a little while so we could put all our energy and resources into building the company.
We hired a few developers to speed up our efforts. While these developers were young and perhaps even considered “junior” in terms of their experience at the time, they more than made up for in their hunger and passion to learn and push themselves. I felt it was my personal responsibility to not just build an innovative product that would disrupt the legal technology market but also make sure that I was putting just as much energy into my people as I was my product. I wanted to build a loyal team that could be entrusted to one day help lead the company without relying on me.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Work with passion, not pressure — all the while, stay humble. You cannot be a leader without taking risk or breaking boundaries. Once you are a leader, it’s no longer about you. It’s about others and how you can make a difference in their life.