Sunil Kanchi, Chief Investment and Information Officer, UST

Sunil Kanchi serves both as Chief Information Officer and Chief Investment Officer for UST. Sunil oversees IT, communications, and digital transformation for all internal systems, and is responsible for mergers and acquisitions, corporate venture capital, and partnerships. Sunil came on as Senior Vice President in 2014 when UST acquired Kanchi Technologies, an engineering services company that delivered a unique form of outsourcing, referred to as “co-sourcing.” Sunil founded Kanchi Technologies in 2009, and served as CEO, overseeing operations in the USA, Germany, and India. Previously, Sunil served as Director of Business Development for Larsen & Toubro, and as Manager for Strategic Planning Projects for Rockwell Automation. He spent his earlier career as a consultant with PTC. Sunil is known for his expertise in building high-performance teams, driving profitability and growth through innovative solutions, and executing effective go-to-market strategies. In 2013, the Milwaukee Business Journal named Sunil one of its “40 Under 40” business leaders to watch. He is a certified Lean Master and Six Sigma Green Belt.

 

Unprecedented times calls for unparalleled, unchartered leadership. Covid-19 has now offered more opportunities than even Y2K.  These times have brought in significant changes along 3 vectors – Transforming lives, Sustainable Transformation & Transforming work environment. Transforming lives through Health & Wellbeing while adapting rapidly to the new world reality of socially distanced work environment is not something that any business leader ever thought would be of the highest priority. It has been close to a century that a Health issue of this magnitude would put focus on wellbeing of employees, their family, customers, and society that we work and live in. 

The Tech-industry was privileged to be able to adapt to the almost overnight mandate to work remotely which was also not something that was feasible for most industries. Business strategy was initially devised for planning for the “Unknown phase” which I would like to define as trying to keep lights on and prepare for the good, the bad and the ugly. As Spring turned to Summer and fall of 2020, the Tech industry realized they had an opportunity that was unforeseen. Covid-19 was the new Chief Digital officer pushing all industries to digitize now or perish. While the initial lack of having proper pharmaceutical intervention to stop the spread and then the mutation of Covid-19 to the different variants that was not preventable by the vaccines made us huddle back into strategizing for the “Digital honeymoon + Delayed Dawn phase”. In Spring of 2021, we are now huddled to strategize for the new normal of “Living with the virus phase”. Every aspect of change revolved around keeping the health and wellbeing of everyone around while trying to seize the opportunity of the Digital transformation impacting all industries. This unprecedented war for talent has accentuated the focus on employee satisfaction and policies around retaining and attracting talent. 

Covid-19 has reshaped the world and it’s going way better than anybody could have really imagined. Adapting to the remote work method was a major change in 2019 and another being blending of both personal and professional lives. Creativity and profits have increased during the work from home setting and this will continue for a longer time than we anticipated. We have done extremely well with the safety measures and keeping our employees safe has been a prime focus area for us. Whether we are working from home, remotely or even on the road, the way we live, and work is always changing. Working in a changed environment has created a lot of stress, uncertainty and loneliness which can have a negative effect on the employee’s mental health. However, there are quite a few support mechanisms that are implemented to ensure mental wellness. We have focused to keep a routine with clear start and finish times in a designated workspace. It is important to take regular breaks and switch-off after your work. If possible, participate in opportunities that let you reconnect with co-workers over the phone to maintain connections. Options like virtual happy hour to a virtual DJ night along with more formal structure of not having meetings when possible on Fridays are all practices that have been well received.  Our company offers employee assistance programs that is available free of cost to all the employees. It is important to seek support from managers and co-workers if necessary. 

Sustainable Transformation is the second vector that has defined changing leadership styles and business opportunities.  While the world was focused on the near and omnipresent Covid-19, the business leaders also focused on policies and creating longer term sustainability, carbon neutral footprint, sustainable food chains, changing food habits of people, travel policies etc.  A lot of leaders are also evaluating tools that can help to evaluate with time and productivity tracking to increase employee productivity while they are working from home. Working remotely results in few touchpoints between the managers and direct reports. The team needs a specific single policy addressing these challenges that is maintained by the HR heads and the key component of remote working environment has been adopting an employee productivity and time tracking solution. 

Another key practice that has changed during the pandemic is security for remote access. Growing cyber-attacks have radically changed the fundamentals of securing a work space.  Although remote working has been growing steady for years, few organizations are prepared to enable and support a fully remote workforce because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The growing cyber threats and warnings from the US and Indian government as well as the latest phishing attacks with tech companies have been worsening. Attackers are looking for cyber vulnerabilities during this time. A lot of organizations were witnessing malicious emails posing as valuable customers to hack client data. These cyber-attacks were orchestrated at the onset of the pandemic and a lot of companies had to adapt to an advanced cyber security program. We need to make more head ways tackling one of the biggest threats in organizations which is social engineering and external cyber criminals taking advantage of non-malicious accidental insiders. The effectiveness of phishing attacks is evolving and are becoming more sophisticated that are focused so they are credible and tied in closely with the strain of malware with ransomware. Cyber criminals are realizing that if the attacks are more convincing, if its automated they can monetize on sensitive critical information like medical PII theft and ID theft. These criminals are focusing on finding compromised credentials to quickly alert people. Banks are using this already, as they send a quick alert that there’s been a fraudulent activity and helps one to respond quickly and that has changed since the pandemic. The operational and security challenges created by this shift are massive but there are cybersecurity solutions like CyberProof, a UST company that helps organizations intelligently manage their incident detection and response. The company’s advanced cyber defense platform enables operational efficiency with complete transparency to dramatically reduce the time needed to respond to security threats and minimize business impact. Vendors can continue to connect to and work on your systems and applications securely without any disruptions that are recorded for security compliance.

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