Next is Chief Technology Officer finalist in the Private Company category Karan Sondhi, public sector CTO of Trellix. Here, he talks about shaping the next generation of industry leaders, breaking rules that hinder progress, career advice and more.
How do you help shape the next generation of industry leaders?
I volunteer a lot of my personal time meeting with government leaders who are considering leaving the government to join the private industry or industry leaders who are considering entering government service. I help shape their careers and personal brands by focusing on their strengths and interests. It’s much harder to teach someone a new skill simply because it’s “in demand” right now. It’s much easier to teach them a skill they have a natural curiosity to learn and grow into.
Plus, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career, and I teach them ways to avoid the same pitfalls I made. Some lessons aren’t worth learning the hard way.
Which rules do you think you should break more as an industry leader?
Break all the rules that hold back progress. The rules were likely written to prevent a problem that was probably relevant 10 years ago but no longer exists.
Back in 2015, I briefed a room full of senior government executives on a plan to strategically embed blockchain technology into the federal contracting process, and the benefits of using cryptocurrencies to enable cross-border trade. I heard every excuse under the sun for why it won’t be successful and the rules that prevent us from using it.
Yet at the same time, no one in the room disagreed the technology would be helpful. My mantra is, “If the rules prevent transformation and progress, they should be removed.” And that’s exactly what I did. Two years later, we had one of the most comprehensive Blockchain and cryptocurrency programs in the government because I broke the rules that were holding the government back from making progress.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Lean-in. If there is a lack of leadership or execution, step up and do the job that needs to be done. Not your job? Who cares ⏤ just do it. Focus on solving the problem that’s in front of you. You’ll have plenty of time later to figure out who should eventually own the problem long-term.
Your job as a leader, no matter how low or high you are on the organization chart, is to solve problems in front of you. If you make that your go-to mindset, and consistently operate that way, you will eventually be recognized and pulled closer and closer to the decision-makers in your company (aka “climbing the career ladder”).