INTERVIEWS by STEPHEN IBARAKI, FCIPS, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P, MVP, DF/NPA, CNP
Karna Gupta: ITAC President and CEO: Big Challenges and Opportunities in 2012
This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Karna Gupta.
Karna Gupta is one of the most respected and well-seasoned executives in high technology with an exceptional track record. With more than 30 years of outstanding industry experience, his expertise and accomplishments span across North American and International business domains.
Currently serving on several Corporate Boards (Public & Private), he is also on the Board of Regional Incubation Center - Venture Lab.
In January 2008, Mr. Gupta was named CEO and a member of the Board of Directors of Certicom Corp (TSX: CIC). He led the organization through a successful turn-around, led the company through a successful defense against a hostile bid, and then successfully sold to RIM with over 96% shareholder approval.
Prior to his appointment at Certicom, Mr. Gupta held the role of President for the Real-Time Billing Division of Comverse Technologies from 2006 to 2008 (NASDAQ: CMVT). He significantly improved the overall performance of the division with a globally-distributed workforce (1500) in 50 countries and serving a customer base world-wide. Mr. Gupta's previous role in Comverse was Chief Marketing Officer for Comverse Americas.
Prior to Comverse, he was President of Sitraka Mobility. Under his leadership, the company grew from a start-up venture to a strong industry contender in mobile application development. He led the organization through a successful merger with Everypath Inc of California.
Mr. Gupta also served as Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President of Eftia OSS Solutions, a company focused in delivering OSS solutions to the carriers.
Mr. Gupta held several executive positions with Bell Canada (TSX: BCE), including Vice President, Product Development and Management.
He holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing and Finance from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. He has also attended executive development programs at Duke University, Harvard, MIT, University of Western Ontario and Technion Institute in Israel.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Karna, can you profile your key roles throughout your career and important findings and lessons you wish to share from your challenges and successes?
"....My personal passion at this point is to look at the Canadian technology space and to build a framework to make Canadian technology companies successful not only locally but on a global scale...."
What specific qualities and attributes make for career success in companies?
"....We have very strong innovative ideas in the Canadian technology space coming from various sectors...."
What specific qualities and attributes do you look for in those taking on leadership roles in companies?
"....To scale and grow you need to be able to build a team around you that has similar values and a passion for things to be successful. The human side is very critical as well as the underlying training...."
How did you become the new President and CEO of Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC)?
"....I've been working in this space for quite some time and ITAC was looking for somebody who was in the private sector, ran businesses (not only nationally but also globally) and it fit my profile and ITAC's current mandate...."
What is your vision for ITAC?
"....ITAC is the pre-eminent voice of the Information Technology companies in Canada....It serves a significant purpose in the industry and going forward my personal view is not only do we have to continue to do that, but also add on the whole adoption of technology in our lives and prove why technology should be adopted at a higher pace and scale both in the private and the public sector, and find a way to showcase Canadian technology globally...."
How large is ITAC — how many members belong to your association?
"....The membership varies from a very small company to a mid-size to very large companies....Canadian and multi-nationals. It's a pretty diverse membership...."
Do you work with other associations like CIPS or the ICT Sector Council of Canada and other groups out there?
"....We do work with various associations, not only nationally but also at a provincial level...."
From your current role, what do you hope to achieve and how do you bring value to your stakeholders?
"....The value comes in various formats....It varies by who the audience is, by sector, and also by the size of the corporation....Members are quite active. I don't want to give the impression that we go and do all the work by ourselves. It is an engaging process; meaning the member organizations, their key personnel working on these files will work with our people so together we put together a proposal that is relevant to our membership...."
There are about 30,000 to 40,000 businesses in the technology sector here in Canada who represent a significant who represent a significant chunk of revenue and GDP in the Canadian economy. If these companies want to get involved with ITAC in some way, perhaps by participating on a committee or a Board or by joining the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), what's the best way to do that?
"....It is bi-directional. We do a reach-out to a constituent base and at the same time often the companies will approach us and say they would like to get engaged...."
Do you do any lobbying on behalf of the Industry to the governments either at the provincial or federal level?
"....We are not lobbyists - we are the voice of the industry when it comes to public sector input both in terms of policy issues and legislations or any process change...."
What is your assessment of IT industry challenges and their solutions?
"....In very large organizations, mid-size and up, sustainability is a big issue in terms of continued building of the business and continuing to support an eco-system that not only helps them but helps the broader community at large....If you are looking at younger IT companies the issues are very different. You're trying to build business, you are trying to get the product out the door and you want to be relevant to the market in terms of what you produce. So the challenges do vary and are very much a function of the lifecycle of the corporation...."
Sometimes we see statements coming out of the ICT sector council in Canada about the skills shortages. Do you see some of the same kinds of challenges - not having enough skilled workers or people having the appropriate skills for the IT industry?
"....There are a bunch of issues that are all related but they are all working to solve the problem of the IT sector skills shortage and the type of skill sets you need going forward....It's not necessarily IT, it's really the technology skill set that needs to be continually re-harvested in the country, because we are moving from a natural resource to a human resource base model more and more as we move forward in the millennium...."
What is your assessment of IT industry opportunities?
"....If you look at the country as a whole and you compare us to the rest of the world, we do have good Information Technology infrastructure....I think there is tremendous opportunity for Canada as a nation to become a major powerhouse in the technology domain if we continue to build out this underlying infrastructure...."
What are the top challenges facing business executives today and what are some possible solutions?
"....Most senior executives always struggle with 'how do I continue to innovate and stay ahead of the game and commercialize and productize what we develop'....To do that you need not only ideas, but you need a strong skill set and a strong team to deliver on the ideas...."
On the other side of the coin then, what are the top opportunities facing business executives today and how can they be actioned?
"....For Canadian businesses the strong card at this point is to build a global trade because we as a nation are looked favorably almost anywhere in the world...."
Karna, what are your predictions for technology, trends, and events to watch for?
"....It's a 6 million dollar question. Everybody has a set of opinions and it's always an opinion of one....The biggest issue is still the mobility (mobility not in terms of the mobile phone but everything mobile whether it is mobile computing, healthcare information or even healthcare processing improved)...."
Why should IT executives attend the IFIP World CIO Forum or WCF? [Editor's note: For more information go to: http://www.worldcioforum.com; Call for papers; WCF news in the IFIP Newsletter].
"....There is a whole standards domain that open up in various subcommittees and work committees that will come out of this which will lead to a better place. It will be a lot more efficient, a lot more robust because you will have all of these inputs from various places and there will be a level of consistency around it...."
What are your thoughts on computing as a recognized profession like medicine and law, with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, and recognized credentials?
[See http://www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council]
"....These are always good things — more common understanding and common language that people use around the world in any profession is useful because it improves the efficiency and increases the velocity of innovation and delivering new products to the market...."
Do you have any stories to share of IT professionals taking on projects outside of the companies they work for, projects that have a societal cause or something that advances the human condition in some way?
"....Look at what happened with the political point of view — you saw people being connected and having a common voice and a common cause. It doesn't have to be political in nature it could be anything...."
Please share some stories (something surprising, unexpected, amazing, or humorous) from your work?
"....Each one of them that I remember as I travel around all of these countries is quite unique and what jumps out at all times is there is a human connection to them...."
You are on the Board of a regional incubation center - can you describe that work in any way?
"....In Ontario there are several regional incubation centers and I sit on the Board of one of them....What they do basically is to provide a storefront for local entrepreneurs to come in and get support to get together the valid proposition, to provide them with some context on market research and if need be, provide them some executive support on a volunteer basis...."
If you were doing this interview, what question would you ask and then what would be your answers?
"....What roadmap do you use to handle issues?...."
What drives your passion outside of your work?
"....To keep my mind clear, I like to work out regularly....A big part of my life, outside of my work, is making sure we are engaged at a family level as much as we can...."