Building Soft Skills with Hard Data

January 17, 2024

Meet Ravi Subramaniam, tech advisor for AwakeTeams. Ravi is a Distinguished Technologist at HP Inc where he leads and develops new concepts for future (3+ years) products and services. His current focus is on Machine Learning. He brings his deep expertise to support future product development at AwakeTeams. Below, Ravi answers several questions that illuminate who he is and why he is excited to be a part of AwakeTeams. 

What motivates you to take the time out to contribute your expertise to the success of AwakeTeams?

First, AwakeTeams is a very exciting company that is working on driving soft skills using hard data. Now that is a pretty novel concept. Laura [Founder & CEO] is an awesome combination of great vision and right experience and I’m really excited to be part of the journey. The second thing is that I’m really passionate about mentoring and this is a great opportunity for me to make a contribution that is of significant value. Third, I am very curious and this domain of people dynamics has always fascinated me so maybe in the process of participating in this I will be able to learn new things that will help me expand my horizon. So while I make this contribution, hopefully I am also evolving to be a better person along the journey. Those are all reasons why I want to contribute to and be a part of this journey that Laura has begun.

What is something about the employee experience that you think needs improvement?

What I believe is missing or needs to be improved is mutual trust. I believe that this is lacking in workplaces today. We can see it in pockets; some organizations or some teams are good at it, some not as good, but it doesn’t seem to be broad and pervasive. Many teams, and oftentimes many individuals, tend to work in silos. This might be a result of business metrics. Business metrics are really focused on incentivizing and rewarding individuals but the real outcomes in today’s complex environments come from working as teams. I think the current metrics don’t really reflect current requirements and they may need to be updated. And I definitely think building trust is one area to focus on in improving business culture and employee experience.

What is unique about advising and supporting an early stage startup?

In a startup, resources are constrained and solving problems requires agility and intellectual flexibility. Meaningful outcomes have to manage multiple objectives: business priorities, market opportunities, people resource needs, and financial constraints. All of this needs to come together to build appropriate solutions. Large companies are highly organized and specialized with a lot of teams that are well resourced to enable this. But in a startup one has to do what one can do with what is available as you bootstrap to get it off the ground, and this requires a great creative process. You have to wear a lot of hats to really solve a particular problem. Also in a startup, many things are being created from scratch. This is very exciting and I think this combination of creativity and resourcefulness make advising a startup very unique.

What is your favorite quote?

I actually have two quotes that inspire me. “I Have a Dream” from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and “It always seems impossible until it is done” from Nelson Mandela. As we know, both of these quotes are from great individuals who, in very trying times and for noble causes, were able to mobilize basic human dignity and civil rights. If you really step back, these quotes transcend time and they also provide a roadmap for us as individuals. For example, to challenge oneself and strive for high achievement one has to have a dream and this dream has to be larger than oneself. And then if one is to make significant contributions, for example to an industry or an organization, this dream has to be translated into action. That action requires perseverance when even the outcome might seem uncertain or the obstacles may appear to be insurmountable. So when I take these two quotes in combination, I like to think of them as providing a roadmap for us to identify what we want to do and then mobilize the resources necessary to see it through.

What do you attribute your own success to?

There are three things I would call out. Vision, or being able to visualize a destination even if it is mostly intuitive, and then being able to articulate the vision so that people can understand the direction and desired outcomes. Then we can all work together toward where we want to go. The second thing is bringing a “why not?” attitude to my work. Innovation requires change and change comes from challenging the status quo so being able to ask “why not?” for things always helps in trying new things. Then the third is tenacity and the self-belief that I can work through challenging issues and also take on naysayers. Making significant change and making big contributions requires taking on those challenges.

What are your tips for staying “awake” at work?

I would say being present is one, especially in meetings and conversations. By that I mean being focused on what is going on. The second is to bring extreme curiosity and interest in people. And the third is to develop oneself. This can take many different shapes, increases one’s “value” at work, and can also build trust. This combination instills a lot of self-confidence as well as confidence in the team that you are working with. I think these are my key tools for staying awake at work.

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