Fast lane

The top men in networking reveal their secrets for success. This time around, Tharanga Nagarajan, IT manager for AAB Qatar.

Tags: Oracle Corporation
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Fast lane
By  Imthishan Giado Published  November 27, 2010

What is your career progression to date?

I started with a consulting company back in India as an operations support guy. Afterwards I moved to Shell in Oman as a programmer and computing support guy. That was from 1983 to 1992, then I moved to Qtel to head technical support.

From telecoms I moved to Qatar Shipping to head IT. From Qships, I moved back to Oman to Zubair Automotive Group as an IT manager. I started my career with consulting, then moved to the oil industry, then to telecoms, to shipping to automobile. Except airlines, I’ve touched all the industries.

If I sit back and think, whenever I moved to a new industry, I had no idea of where I was going in terms of knowledge. When I moved from oil to telecoms, that was the first time that I realised how the PABX and GSM works. By the time I understood everything, I moved to automobiles where I only knew how to fill water and petrol!

What is your finest achievement so far?

In Qtel, I had to implement a fully fault-tolerant system with the available technology of 1993. It was two similar system six to eight kilometres apart with load balancing and without any downtime for backup or problems. Then of course, there is implementing Oracle E-Business suite in AAB Qatar, with 300 users who weren’t used to any of the latest technology.

More than that, I’ve worked hard to bring my subordinate staff up to the standard. Most of them are now IT managers. They are still in touch and have good relationships with me. I’m very proud of that.

What drives you towards excellence in IT?

I always think that IT has no nationality or language. IT is a key for everything in the past two decades. Whether you own a barber saloon or a five-star hotel, IT is the main thing. Without IT, nothing can move.

I can never say that I know everything. It’s an ocean that everyone swims in. Everyday something new comes out and I feel that sometimes I’m only 20% of the level I’m supposed to be, because 24 hours is not enough if you want to do things. That’s what really drives us.

Given the option, what choice would you make differently?

I would have gone into sales and marketing. Whatever systems I developed, I do market them in front of my customers. I’ve seen everywhere that the sales manager becomes the GM and goes up to CEO.

At the end of the day, if you’re a CEO, that’s it – the company sees that as your maximum level. Whereas the salesman is seen as being able to lead the company at the end of the day, because he brings business. I always felt that I had the aptitude and the knowledge to convince anybody of anything, but I got into technology. IT has paid me well and I have no regrets, but I always felt that I could have gone into selling IT products such as software.

What emerging technology do you think will have the biggest impact in IT?

Today, it’s social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. My grandmother has found of her classmates through Facebook. That sort of communication has made geographical distances history.

What advice would you give to young professionals seeking to become the CIO one day?

You have to have an open mind. Oracle guys usually say that they are very happy with what they are earning and doing. You are an IT guy, you have to know hardware, software and networks.

That thirst for learning and listening has to be there – you learn a lot by listening to your superiors. They say that when you want to become rich, you move with a rich crowd. You need to select your friends and pick up from them things you don’t have. Certain things come from birth and others come only from growing.

A good CIO needs to have the listening capabilities more than talking and then delivering what he thinks is right. At the end of the day, you are in a service industry. What I think may not be right in front of the business owners until I get to know what they are thinking.

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