Cloudside Chat: Rip Gerber and Vijay Sood On Being a Pioneer, the Importance of Learning and Climbing Mount Everest

Cloudside Chat with Rip Gerber and Vijay Sood

The Cloudside Chat Series Welcomes Vijay Sood, Vice President, Industry Program Architects, Global Lead.

Rip Gerber: Vijay, welcome to the Cloudside Chat. We’ve been eager to learn more about what you and the Program Architect team is doing in the Industry Cloud. Since you are the Global Lead for the Program Architects across Vlocity, you are the best one to ask! Vijay, what exactly is a Program Architect?

Vijay Sood: Thank you, Rip. I am happy to explain. A Program Architect is an enterprise-wide “uber” architect who understands in-depth three areas: the customer’s industry, the Vlocity platform and the Salesforce platform and what we need to implement successfully.

Rip: That’s a lot to be across –

Vijay: It is. You need to understand cloud architecture specifically as it pertains to the customer’s industry. You need to know how the cloud can add value to the customer. And you need to transfer that knowledge to the customer – help the customer build that competency so they can be more successful in the multi-year transformation programs that they're doing.

Rip: When I hear the word architect, I think of building a house… the foundation, the rooms, the plumbing, the electrical… and pulling all those elements together. Is that a good metaphor for what you Program Architects do in these digital transformations?

Vijay: Absolutely. You would never build a house without a plan. Or the right expertise, right? In the cloud architecture realm, you're going deep with enabling and changing the customer's core processes. You must make sure you're scaling your design and adding value every step of the way.

You need to understand cloud architecture specifically as it pertains to the customer’s industry. You need to know how the cloud can add value to the customer. And you need to transfer that knowledge to the customer...

– Vijay Sood, VP, Industry Program Architects, Global Lead

Rip: How did this role come about?

Vijay: It started at Salesforce, the world’s #1 CRM. I spent almost ten years at Salesforce and helped to start the Program Architect practice there. Now at Vlocity, our vertical program goes even deeper, because we apply industry expertise to help customers with their cloud transformation journeys.

Rip: I remember when we met, over five years ago, when your first joined Vlocity. We met in London, where you were working on one of our first large-scale deployments of the Industry Cloud at Sky Italia. But you were not a Program Architect then. Can you walk me through your personal journey of coming to Vlocity, why you joined and how you came to be running our Global Architect Program?

Vijay: At Salesforce, I ran our largest multi-country deployments at the time: like a 60 country deployment across 20,000 users. This was long before Apex and Visualforce.

Rip: Vijay, that’s super impressive.

Vijay: Then I ran the EMEA Salesforce Program Architects practice for over three years. We were maturing as a company and recognized we needed salesforce enterprise architects who could work with the chief architects at the customer site.  However, Salesforce is predominantly a horizontal platform. 

Rip: But you then came to Vlocity. Was it our vertical strategy and platform addressing the industry-specific needs of our clients? Was the vertical application missing from the CX?

Vijay: Exactly right. I met David [Schmaier], I met you, I met the Vlocity Vertical leaders and I was hooked. I always thought that we needed to verticalize the multi-tenanted cloud architecture. Vlocity was going there and so I became the first services hire for Vlocity Europe.

Rip: The pioneer.

Vijay: Thank you. On my day One, I remember going into Sky Italia with limited product knowledge, limited information, and driving an 8,000+ Seat Siebel swap. What helped me was the knowledge I had from Salesforce and a great team in Vlocity.

Rip: Sky was one of the largest “Siebel Replace” projects for Salesforce at the time.

Vijay: We eventually deployed to 10 call centers with over 8,600 users.

Rip: Congratulations. Sky Italia is one of our top references accounts thanks to the benefits they’ve realized from your work. So Vijay, how does one become a leader in the program architect discipline? What does it take to be a great architect in the cloud?

Vijay: You need to have a passion for software architecture. You need to have a desire to get deep into your customers’ businesses, roll your sleeves up and be a good communicator since you are working with many different teams and stakeholders. You don’t need to be a coder, but you do need to understand business processes, our platform and also understand the ‘why’ of technology and what value it will bring. And you need a little tenacity, because digital transformation is not easy, and often the change you are driving is disrupting legacy decisions and organizational memory.

Rip: Our deployments move fast, evolve quickly, and have many moving parts.

You don’t need to be a coder, but you do need to understand business processes, our platform and also understand the ‘why’ of technology and what value it will bring.

– Vijay Sood, VP, Industry Program Architects, Global Lead

Vijay: Yes, they do! It’s not the technical savant that succeeds. We can teach technology. The number one quality I look for in program architects is a willingness – and the ability – to learn new ways of doing things, industry understanding, an openness to new approaches that drive value and change.

Rip: Vijay, I know you are a consummate learner. You are always challenging yourself. What do you do when you are not architecting? 

Vijay: Like you, Rip, I'm a family man. My kids are growing, and we enjoy hiking together. I recently went to the Mount Everest Base Camp and did a whole week of climbing. 

Rip: Everest?

Vijay: Yes. Everest Base Camp.

Rip: Wow.

Vijay: Three years ago I ran the London marathon–

Rip: Wait, let’s get back to Everest. What did you learn about yourself, climbing Everest?

Vijay: A lot. That climb helped me appreciate just how fragile life is...and how you can do anything if you set your mind to it and learn what limits you mentally. If you do the whole tour, Everest is about 260 kilometers of hiking, and there are four main peaks you can do. We did all those four main peaks, including Everest Base Camp. And that's about 5,300 kilometers (17K ft) high each. A lot of up and down. And the thing is, you have to enjoy the nature of it, the things that you never see in your normal life. That's exciting.

Rip: You push yourself, Vijay. You have a deep curiosity.

Vijay: Being curious about something that's not in your comfort zone is quite good. I like that.

Rip: Let's say I'd want to become a Program Architect at Vlocity. What do you look for when you are interviewing?

Being curious about something that's not in your comfort zone is quite good. I like that.

– Vijay Sood, VP, Industry Program Architects, Global Lead

Vijay: A consultative mindset and a passion.  I’m looking for problem solvers, not someone who comes pre-packaged with answers. Those that join my team have an excellent ability to communicate complex ideas properly for a given industry. And if a candidate is also a doer, enthusiastic and passionate, that's the person I’m looking for. I'm really passionate. I really love this industry. 

Rip: Vijay, thank you for your time today. Last question: what's the next mountain for you?

Vijay: Finding the balance :-). I want to go and do Kilimanjaro with the family. Maybe get back to Everest and go to camp2 or the first step of base camp. That requires mountaineering, so we'll see. But you know, I’m curious and I like to push myself. Let’s see what’s around the corner...

Rip: That you do!

Rip Gerber

Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer

Rip Gerber has 25 years’ experience inspiring and leading great people to build disruptive, market-leading companies, raising over $500M in venture and IPO funds that have delivered a collective 5x return on invested capital. He currently serves as Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer of Vlocity, Inc. where he leads all go-to-market activities, brand strategy, and global business development. Gerber has helped propel Vlocity as the fastest-growing Salesforce partner (out of 5,000) for four years in a row.

Rip is also an international best-selling author and accomplished musician. Throughout his career he has driven a dual agenda of ‘pragmatic creativity’ and ‘warp-speed innovation’ in the enterprise software, mobile, and Software-as-a-Service industries, where he has served in CEO, GM, Board Director and CMO roles for several venture-backed and seed-to-IPO companies. He started his career at the CIA and has served in management roles at Firestone, American Express, Nokia, Publicis, as well as founding and selling several tech companies including @once, Commtouch and Locaid.  He has a biochemical engineering degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Harvard University.