Monday Mentor: Sanjay Deshmukh

kanso-sanjaySanjay Deshmukh, Vice President, End-User Computing, Asia Pacific & Japan, VMware Inc.

I had the privilege and good fortune to work with Sanjay during his three-year tenure with Citrix. Although it was too short a time, Sanjay had and continues to have a huge influence on my personal and professional life. It is an honour to be able to start the ‘Monday Mentor’ series with Sanjay’s viewpoint.

I hope you too can learn some life-skills from this interaction.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your current role and what are your responsibilities in the current role?
I am from Mumbai and was born and raised in this amazing city. I truly believe that this City has shaped my character and has developed my outlook towards life. Currently I live in Singapore with my two adorable daughters and a loving wife who is also from Mumbai. We met when we would travel to work in Mumbai’s local trains. I am reserving our love story for a Bollywood movie whose script I will write when I hang up my shoes 🙂 .

I work with VMware and currently am responsible for the End user computing business for Asia Pacific and Japan region.

How did you get here? Tell us a little bit about your past history that led up to this role.

My 22 years of career in the IT industry has had 3 distinct phases:

In the 1st phase a strong foundation was built for my sales career in IT industry as I worked with companies like Binary Semantics (a leading software reseller), Tata Unisys Ltd., and Informix Inc. In the early stage of my career I realized that I was good at solution selling as I loved the concept of articulating how we can help our customers make things better by either making it simple or efficient or profitable.

In the 2nd phase I had the opportunity to build a company like an entrepreneur during my tenure at French BI software company Business Objects. In 2001 when Business Intelligence was an emerging technology I was given the opportunity to set up Business Objects in India. I was 28 years old and full of enthusiasm and energy. I learnt all aspects of business, from hiring sales and technical talent to recruiting partners to successful delivery of large projects. We built a young fearless team and took on some of the large competitors in the BI space and helped Business Objects to become a dominant leader in India. SAP acquired Business Objects in 2007 and that helped me learn to play in the big league with large deals, selling at the top and working with industry’s best talent.

In the 3rd phase of my career I was able to apply all of my learnings and help turn around Citrix in India. With the support of an extremely talented team we were able to help Citrix come out of a difficult phase and make it successful again in the Indian market.

Learning and growth have always been the 2 most important driving factors of my career. After 20 years in the Indian IT industry I decided to take up a new challenge with VMware to manage the End user computing business in Asia Pacific and Japan region. The ability to learn how to build business in APJ region and the opportunity to scale an existing business attracted me to this role.

The journey of life is a series of events and activities, some of which make a lasting impression on us – we remember them and try to imbibe those characteristics. Across your journey, what the three key things that you have learned and imbibed.

My father’s life taught me 3 things and I have imbibed them completely:
1. Be an eternal student. When you learn new things you grow.
2. Fight adversity with courage. You can find opportunity in every adverse situation.
3. Have a sense of humour and don’t take life too seriously.

What do you think is the role of a manager or leader in today’s world? What makes a good manager or leader?

The key role of a manager or leader is to provide the team an environment in which they feel empowered. Empowerment coupled with clarity and purpose of the goal will help the team become successful.

In my view Empathy is one of the most important qualities for being a good manager or leader as is it helps develop effective relationship with the team. Being authentic and consistent is also important for a good leader to gain the trust of the team. Effective relationship and trust sets a strong foundation and inspires the team to overcome challenges and achieve goals.

If I flip the above question around now, when you are hiring for your team or your organisation, what are some of the key traits that you look for, irrespective of the role for which you are hiring? What traits should today’s young professionals have?

Integrity and Passion are the 2 most important traits that I look for while hiring talent irrespective of the role.

Life is a series of ups and downs. Can you share with us some of your biggest UP and DOWN moments and what did you learn from them?

Over the years I have learnt that there should really be no UP or DOWN moment as every moment is a learning and experience of its own.

The most defining moment of my life was the sudden demise of my beloved father. We were devastated as a family but that moment of adversity gave me an opportunity to think about the life my father led and how he inspired us. At that stage I decided not to grieve his loss but to celebrate his life by writing and publishing a book on him. In my fathers memoir I captured how his life inspired us. This entire experience taught me that you can find opportunity to learn and grow in any adverse situation.

My biggest joy in life was the birth of my 2 daughters. I totally believe that parenthood makes you a better person and motivates you to work hard for growth and prosperity.

On a lighter note, what are you passionate about? How do you de-stress?

I am a sports enthusiast and like to play and watch different sports. I love to run and swim and am targeting to participate in my 1st sprint triathlon this year.

I don’t take stress hence there is no need for de-stress. Swimming with my 2 daughters and also helping them ride a bicycle gives me immense pleasure.

Let’s do a quick rapid fire round.

  • Your favourite holiday destination?
    • International – Queenstown and Istanbul and in India – Goa
  • Your favourite food?
    • Basically ‘something fishy’ (Indian coastal food).
  • Your comfort movie and/or book?
    • Bollywood movie ‘Andaz apna apna’, even after watching it over 50 times it always makes me laugh.
  • Your most prized possession?
    • The gift my wife gave me on my 41st birthday which was a collection of messages from all of my friends, colleagues and relatives published as a business magazine with me on the cover.
  • The most adventurous thing you have done?
    • Skydiving in California with my friend and the man behind Kanso Consulting Kaushal and Bungee jump at Kawarau river in Queenstown.
  • A word or a phrase that defines your core life philosophy?
    • My core philosophy is simply to try and become a better human being with each passing day.

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