Rip Gerber and Ram Reddy Discuss Wearing Many Hats, the Early Days of Vlocity, and Running the Business in India
Ram Reddy, Vlocity VP & GM, India, Shares Best Practices, Early Days of Vlocity, and Running the Business in India in an Exclusive Cloudside Chat with Rip Gerber
Rip Gerber: Hello! Welcome to the Cloudside Chat, Ram. Let’s start by talking a little about what you do here at Vlocity.
Ram Reddy: You could say I wear “many hats.”
Rip: Hats it is. Tell us more about your Vlocity hats… your Vlocity baseball cap, your Vlocity turban, your Vlocity fedora, beret and bowler! How many hats are you wearing here these days?
Ram: You could say three hats. With my engineering hat, I manage several teams based in Vlocity’s India offices where we build product and our industry cloud apps. With my customer success hat, I work closely with our services leaders and I am actively involved in several of the customer projects. With my manager hat, I run Vlocity India and serve as the local executive across over 180 staff here and handle a lot of operations functions such as recruitment, payroll, office space, HR, labor law compliance.
Rip: Basically, everything required to run a company in India.
Ram: Oh, there’s a fourth hat. I am also involved in building relationships with our local partners – an alliances role. We have about 30+ partners who work out of our office; it’s part of our delivery approach of bringing all the right resources together to ensure customer success.
Rip: You have a big job. And, a big hat closet.
Ram: I enjoy the challenge. I joined very early in the company’s foundation, right after David [Schmaier] started Vlocity.
Rip: Tell us about your first day on the job at Vlocity. When was that?
Ram: I've been a part of Vlocity since day one. I joined before we had a physical office anywhere. So, my first week we were working remotely – the first distributed team members, you might say. We grew pretty fast from there. Within the first week, we had five people. Including myself. Those early days were pretty exciting… we moved to a temporary office, two offices, three tables and no windows.
The first day we went and got our own WiFi modem. We brought our own laptops. And, by the time lunch came around we had already started coding and building product.
– Ram Reddy, VP, Engineering & GM – India
Rip: That certainly sounds like true start-up mode.
Ram: The first day we went and got our own WiFi modem. We brought our own laptops. And, by the time lunch came around we had already started coding and building product.
Rip: Coding on Day One. That says a lot about the speed of the company from the very start.
Ram: Day One. We started building on Salesforce and created Party Data Model – a precursor to the model that it evolved into. But we were not Salesforce experts in the beginning, so we had to learn as we went. We searched online and figured it out.
Rip: That’s testimony to just how agile and versatile the Salesforce platform really is.
Ram: Yes, it’s an amazing cloud platform. David [Schmaier] hosted five of us that first week, at a restaurant called Town Hall. Then we went out and bought a whiteboard.
Rip: The company has grown like a rocket ship ever since. Why do you think that is?
Ram: There are a few reasons, I believe. One, I think we don't talk enough about the platform. Salesforce platform is pretty incredible. You can just start building on it, out the gate. Unlike some legacy technologies and software, where it takes weeks to set up software on your laptop and install a bunch of things and get a lot of complex training to understand how to work it. With Salesforce, you’re creating value for your business right away. Day one.
Rip: Salesforce is an extremely flexible, scalable and powerful platform.
Ram: Yes. And, Salesforce enabled Vlocity to build apps quickly. It also helped that the initial team, under David Schmaier's leadership, was very aligned. We all had a clear focus and knew what needed to be done.
Rip: Focus and a clear mission. From the start.
Ram: I think the other important thing, really most important, is culture. And we were able to attract really talented folks because of our strong culture.
Rip: And how do you describe the culture here at Vlocity?
Ram: In simple terms, we respect everyone. We consider every person's opinion. We empower our teams and put ownership on the individual. Give them responsibility. Everyone here is also really hands-on, everyone’s sleeves are rolled up. Including our CEO. Everyone gets into the trenches. We attract great people who like to get things done. So culturally I think our folks are given the responsibility and they execute it.
We empower our teams and put ownership on the individual. Give them responsibility. Everyone here is also really hands on, everyone’s sleeves are rolled up. Including our CEO.
– Ram Reddy, VP, Engineering & GM – India
Rip: Are there are unique aspects to Vlocity culture in India? What do you do to create that kind of culture where talented people want to come and stay?
Ram: Culture is a very important aspect to work here in India. A lot of the culture comes from the way we work closely and collaboratively together. I feel pride when I experience our culture in action, because I’ve had a little something to do with it. While some companies in the region may not treat their employees well, at Vlocity, we value our employees and treat them with respect. It comes back to giving responsibility to your team. We want to empower our people to be creative in executing whatever task is required. Our Vlociters appreciate that.
Rip: Even though we're a large-scale company now, the Vlocity work ethic and culture remains like a start-up.
Ram: Yes, we are very nimble and very efficient. Which means we're very productive. Even though we have grown quickly in a short time, we have mainly been able to maintain that culture.
Rip: Ram, you are one of the most productive and hardest-working people in the company. You travel quite a bit, too. But when you're not traveling or working, building products and working with customers and services, and running the India office… when you are not wearing all those Vlocity hats… what do you do for fun?
Ram: I spend as much time as possible with my wife. She is an entrepreneur like I am, though not in software. She is a founder of a non-profit organization called Sukrupa, which provides free schooling for underprivileged kids in and around Banglore. She runs a high school in India and provides education to about 500 students, at no charge.
Rip: That’s wonderful. We need to invest in the future of our children.
Ram: Her school is in a neighborhood in Bangalore where there's a need for education. I try to support her as much as possible, by providing moral, emotional and financial support as much as possible. I wish I had more time to spend at the school.
Rip: That's also a core value here at Vlocity: “We Give Back.” On the topic of giving back, can you share some advice? You've been a successful technology executive for many years. Any advice to people who are just starting out in their careers in the technology world? What advice would you give, say, to your younger self?
Ram: A couple of things. When I was just starting out, I was working as an individual contributor, just doing the task at hand without really understanding the big picture. Then I started getting involved in the purpose, not just the project, and I started meeting with customers. Meeting customers really opened my eyes. And, it was a humbling experience.
I started getting involved in the purpose, not just the project, and I started meeting with customers. Meeting customers really opened my eyes. And it was a humbling experience.
– Ram Reddy, VP, Engineering & GM – India
Rip: How was meeting with customers humbling?
Ram: Because when you are working on your product, you think you are working on the most important piece of the solution and subsequently believe you are the most important person. There is a certain amount of arrogance. But when you see the big picture, you realize you are only part of the big solution. You have to figure out how your software works with other systems. And how to get things done, not just with code, but with people.
Rip: Because you are one piece of the puzzle…
Ram: Exactly right. And that's also true with working on a team. You could really be a hot-shot developer, but still you'll have to work with others. No one person can do everything. You always work with people. Networking is very important.
Rip: Networking is important in any role.
Ram: Early in my career, I worked at a big company, and my first manager told me: “always network – this is a very important aspect of getting things done”. Chances of getting help or even getting a response to your email are high if that someone is in your network and aware of who you are. They will be much more prompt in getting back to you if they know you.
Rip: And was that true?
Ram: Yes. If you take time to meet people, get to know them, they are no longer strangers. If someone knows you, they are more willing or eager to help you. Regardless of where you are in your career, networking and building relationships is very important. Knowing technology is great, but if you also know people and what they are trying to accomplish, you will be much better at solving problems and removing obstacles and getting things done.
Rip: Well that was interesting. Let me recap. I heard you talk about the “Three C’s” in building a great company.
Ram: “The Three C’s?”
Rip: The first C is CODING. You started Vlocity Day One coding. The second C is CULTURE. From Day One, we were focused on building a great culture, one that you continue to invest in today, as we approach nearly 1,000 Vlociters.
Ram: And, the third C?
Rip: Your focus on CUSTOMERS. Not only in building a great company, but also in building your own personal brand, your style of leadership, and understanding how to work with others.
Ram: I like it! Code, culture, customers… that’s a lot of what Vlocity means to me.
Rip: Anything else you want to add?
Ram: Just that the experience here has been amazing.
Rip: Ram, thank you for your time. And your leadership.
Ram: You too, Rip. Thank you.