An Empathetic Leader: Sudhakar Ramakrishna
As businesses and workers around the world continue to adapt to the new normal, CEO Sudhakar Ramakrishna says SolarWinds is working on innovative solutions to increase productivity and business success.
There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic started a fundamental reassessment in many companies regarding how to do business. While the pandemic may have been the final straw for this widespread corporate realignment, according to Sudhakar Ramakrishna, President and CEO of software firm SolarWinds, it only accelerated the need for change.
Sudhakar brings up the example of a client he worked with before SolarWinds during the first stages of the lockdown in March 2020.
"The customer, a bank, called us up and said, ‘We need 250,000 of our employees to be working remotely starting next week. How can you make that happen?’ This urgency is what COVID-19 stirred up, but before that we had been slowly seeing the increased need for workplaces to become more hybrid-compatible," Sudhakar says.
Moving forward into a more hybrid business ecosystem, where people will move between the office and home, Sudhakar believes the main challenge will be how to continue to foster business agility in this new business landscape.
While some of these new issues that will need to be confronted are known now, others cannot be anticipated given the rapid pace of change. To ensure that SolarWinds is able to offer the most agile solutions to clients, Sudhakar and his team decided last June to standardise everything that is done on the SolarWinds® Vertical Alignment Platform.
Sudhakar sees there being two major problems that SolarWinds customers face. First, the sheer level of complexity when it comes to the number of applications, customers, cloud environments and users they need to manage. Second, budgets are not growing in proportion with this complexity.
In the next few years, our focus will be on taking the level of productivity of our customers to a new level.
"If you truly think about how you serve those customers, you have to help them address those two challenges. In the next few years, our focus will be on taking the level of productivity of our customers to a new level," he adds.
Helping clients automate their environments to reduce the amount of error-prone manual work can go a long way to reduce the problems they face. SolarWinds also supports clients throughout their use of the SolarWinds Platform, helping them solve issues and address security challenges they might be facing.
Thanks to Sudhakar’s extensive experience working directly with customers, he is well-placed to not just understand their needs, but also make sure that the customer is always at the centre of decision-making.
"I have been super lucky that right out of grad school I started working with customers. My very first day in the industry, I had a customer on the other side," he says.
"Nothing helps you become better more quickly than a customer who tells you that your craft is not good enough for their needs."
Nothing helps you become better more quickly than a customer who tells you that your craft is not good enough for their needs.
Developing customer-centric skills, such as how to be empathetic, is an essential skill for somebody in Sudhakar’s position.
He mentions, however, that it can be a humbling experience. You may go in thinking you have done the proper research and that you are an expert at what you are doing, but often, the customer can be on a different page and reconciling this can be a challenge.
"Then, over time, you round out your skills and develop business capabilities. You see the world, you travel the world and widen your lens, so to speak, in terms of your perspectives," he says.
"I am in many ways the collective result of all of those experiences and influences and mistakes along the way, and that led me to creating the SolarWinds culture and the value system that we now have."
Back in early 2021, Sudhakar and his team started to evaluate which new markets to target globally and built out an expansion road map. The company currently has teams in the United States, Australia, Asia, Europe and India, but he says there were a lot of white spaces where business changes were needed.
"We decided to focus on investing in those areas. One of these areas was Central and Southern Europe, where we found that the market was being under-served, so we have started to place a larger focus on improving there to take advantage of this opportunity."
By asking questions about the penetration rate in a market and seeing if there were any opportunities for growth, Sudhakar was able to gain a clear understanding of the actions the company needed to take in each country, and says SolarWinds is now working towards achieving this growth.