THE INDUSTRY EXPERT: Sreekanth Iyer—Find yourself a career mentor

By Masha Tseveen.

Welcome back for the seventh installment of the Industry Expert Interview Series. This week we’ll be featuring Sreekanth Iyer from IBM India Software Lab. If you missed our previous interviews, you can check them out here. Please join the conversation by sharing your thoughts below!

New PictureSreekanth Iyer is an Executive IT Architect on the IBM Security Systems (CTO) team, focusing on building IBM cloud security solutions. He is an IBM certified and Open Group certified Distinguished Architect with over eighteen years of industry experience. He has over 18 years of experience and has led several client solutions across multiple industries. He is an expert on cloud computing, information security, service-oriented architecture, event processing, and business process management. He currently works at the IBM India Software Lab. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter @sreek.

Can you tell us a bit about what you are doing in your current role?

Currently I work in the Chief Technology Officer office of IBM Security Systems Division. As part of my role as the Cloud Security Architect, I drive technical strategy and vision for IBM cloud security. As part of my job, I work with clients to understand customer scenarios and requirements on cloud security and on the other side work closely with our security product management and development teams to deliver the required capabilities in our products and solutions.

Share us about some of the world-class products and services IBM India Software lab is currently working on

Our security products and capabilities are delivered across multiple labs across the globe. We collaborate across various IBM locations and divisions to deliver the best solutions and integrations to the customer. The India security team focuses on the developing some of latest in terms of Identity and key management software which includes aspects like federation, privileged identity management, etc. I work on integrating some of these capabilities with some of the latest Cloud offering from IBM like IBM SoftLayer (IaaS) and IBM BlueMix (PaaS).

What skills and know-how’s should modern architects/developers gain to keep current with the latest in technology trends?

If we look at multiple surveys and studies show our talent pipeline in information security skills as extremely weak and more than 86% of IT students in India are not aware of cyber security skills. Only a meager percentage of the IT students can write secure code. We also see that many of the security programs being offered in colleges are not updated to reflect the latest threat and security landscape. Modern architects/developers should learn to produce secure software and should be skilled/trained to build solutions that are secure by design. They should also learn about the challenges and opportunities with the mega trends like cloud, mobile-bring your own device (BYOD), internet of things, social and big-data. Apart from technical skills, we also need to develop leadership and soft skills to speak with new buyers and Line of Business users.

If you were hiring people for your team, what qualities would your look for?

With the changing landscape of how IT solutions are developed and delivered, people have to be extremely good in learning new things fast. We are required to be very agile in terms of delivering incremental capabilities to the customer. People who can design, develop and deliver the next generation innovative solutions that are “born in the cloud” as well that are social, mobile and leverages analytics are going to be in demand.

How did you get started in tech? When you look at your career today, what excites you the most?

I was a lateral hire with around 4+ years work experience from outside. I started my career at IBM as a support engineer at Java Technology Center in 1999. “Solutions for a small planet” was an advertising slogan used by IBM in the 1990s. This slogan had a profound influence on me and inspired me to take up the IT Architect path. I was interested in building solutions but to be an architect required more skills.

I explored the Architect profession further and understood that it was about working closely with customers and providing a technical solution to solve their business problems. This required that you need not just the depth in few areas but the breadth in terms of understanding the industries, businesses as well as our larger portfolio of products and services.

I kept learning about our products and services and reading up on different industry segments on my own. When the lab services and solutions team was formed in 2005, I joined that team which provided me the opportunity to work with customers and apply the knowledge.

But to grow as an architect, it was required that you prove your skills, experience as well as knowledge through getting certified. IBM has provided me opportunities to learn and apply my skills as an Architect. I’ve a rich experience building solutions based on SOA, Cloud, Information Security, Event Processing for multiple customers and industries across the globe.

The customer’s problems and issues are not the same that we addressed 10 years ago. The new solutions are more complex and are being developed and delivered for new geographies. So you need to develop new skills, knowledge as well as make adjustments to the methods to build the next generation Solutions. I love learning and my job requires me that I keep learning so that I can deliver on these new challenges. This is an exciting time to be in when the way we are consuming and delivering IT is changing drastically.

On acquiring and sharing knowledge…

I have a good network through participating in various communities of interest internally and externally. I rely on this strong network of coworkers, professionals across the company and outside whenever I’m in need of any urgent information. I keep myself updated on the new trends, by taking relevant online courses internally available through Think Academy and IBM University. I’ve also signed up for few of the massive open source online courses. I publish a lot of my learning through my blogs (http://ibm.co/sreek) and share relevant content to my network through Facebook and Twitter. I get to share and learn with my interactions with academia. I’ve conducted various IBM workshops at multiple campuses on Cloud, Cyber Security, SOA, etc which is another platform for me share and gain knowledge.

What three pieces of advice would you give to people who would like to follow a career path similar to yours?

Below are the three things that have helped me to grow in my career.

1. Take ownership and if you believe in something, follow your passion and belief right through the end. Even if you get push-backs, don’t quit. Think differently and look for alternate ways to solve the problem.

2. Find yourself a mentor – A career mentor can help you whenever you run out of options. Use them to validate and reflect on your actions and decisions.

3. Keep Learning & provide give back. The day you stop learning, your value will also drop. Share your learning, so that you can help the other person learn in less than half the time that you took to learn a topic.

Anything else you would like to share?

Building your technical eminence and excellence is critical for your growth in this digital world. Social Media can help in this. Leverage it.