Hello Sarita, please tell us about your journey at Cognizant and how your role has evolved over time?
At Cognizant, I have had the privilege to work across multiple roles and geographies. I started my Cognizant journey in India where I led the data analytics marketing and analyst relations functions. Thereafter, I moved to the United Kingdom to lead the strategic alliances and partner marketing for our fast growing digital business. Here, I got an exciting opportunity to work with our regional management and with the leadership at key partner organizations.
A few years later, with an intent to deepen my understanding of the European market, I relocated to the Netherlands. In my current role, I run strategic alliances and partner marketing with a focus on data, AI and cloud, across Europe. I build and nurture a network of tier-one partnerships with technology leaders across our strategic partner ecosystem in EMEA. I ensure collaboration across stakeholders to help our clients’ business grow.
In addition to running the strategic alliances and partnerships, I am working as a data privacy consultant. In this role, I am currently advising one of our clients, a leading telecommunication major in the Middle East on how to accelerate data privacy and protection awareness and adoption for all of their employees.
Over the years, we have developed strong alliances with top-tier established technology leaders and fastest growing disruptors. We work with an array of partners in both strategic and opportunistic terms.
To become truly business-driven, our clients must base their digital transformation on an intelligent core, allowing business insights at scale to drive strategy and decision-making. Our client first approach is complemented by involving our partners early in the sales cycle. We analyze our client’s enterprise landscape and then recommend the technology that best fits their unique business scenario. A suite of trusted partners enables us to recommend the best-fit tools and accelerators to our clients and achieve a winning formula for success.
From the power of cloud to the insight of AI, we stitch together bespoke leading-edge solutions that help our clients realize business value. The solutions we build with our strategic alliances operate at the scale that the digital world demands. We put world-class thinking and co-create multiple industry specific solutions. This in turn drives faster Return on Investment (RoI), a win-win for our clients, partners and our business.
Our clients and prospects also recognize our significant investments in our strategic alliances in terms of certification, accreditation among others.
In the digital age, consumers expect more transparency and responsiveness from the custodians of their data. Hence, businesses are looking for newer ways to establish trust and delight their customers. However, a digital transformation journey is only successful if privacy and regulatory compliance is at the heart of their data, product and services strategy.
Data privacy compliance is not just a matter of complying with the law. It is also about your business’s reputation and competitiveness. A business needs to have a robust data governance framework to begin with. A solid understating of local laws and regulations pertaining to data privacy is important. Just as any plan is as good as its implementation, once a data protection and privacy strategy is in place, the sponsors’ then need to ensure that the employees understand the importance of data protection and privacy. That is, the employees need to be aware of when and how it applies in their day-to-day work and beyond (on social media for example).
Ultimately, the employees at work are the custodians of the sensitive personal data and thus, the onus is on them to protect it. Unless they are fully educated on key data protection and privacy concepts and compliance mandates, any lapse of judgement or an error on their part can lead to a massive data breach and adversely impact trust and reputation of all the concerned stakeholders.
One of the projects that I have been working on revolves around establishing data privacy foundation for a leading telecom. Today, nearly, every move that a netizen makes can be or is being tracked. We are working to ensure that our client is compliant with upcoming regional data privacy laws and regulations whilst they continue to innovate and bring best-in-class products and services to their customers.
Traditionally, telecoms have witnessed one of the highest churn in the industry. Most businesses cannot imagine compliance and innovation hand-in-hand. In the beginning of our partnership, our stakeholders at the telecom were no different. After a thorough understanding of our client’s business and tech landscape and working with stakeholders across IT and lines of businesses and intensive discussions, we proposed a framework, which not only enabled them to become compliant but also fueled innovation. We created a prototype by leveraging the latest and leading data privacy tools in collaboration with our technology partners and now are at the confluence of compliance and innovation.
I am very proud to share that our partnership has yielded positive results. Our client has been rated top in their industry in the data privacy sector by the regulatory authorities and has been recognized as a pioneer in this space. This has enhanced their brand reputation, the trust their customers place in them and improved stickiness.
Our team has been working from home in some capacity even prior to COVID-19. Even though my role is Europe focused, I align with our global team to ensure that we are able to leverage the strength of our partners and solutions across geographies. Like most people working in the global delivery model, this often means working across time zones and with people who you rarely get to meet with in the physical world. This was true even before the pandemic.
I believe that trust is the most important factor in the success of any business/work from home/anywhere approach. Even in the offline/physical world, trust is the key to a high performing team. Teleworking did not change much for us. Mutual trust keeps us all together as professionals. We ensure that the meetings are organized in a time zone friendly to all participants as far as possible and that people actively switch-off from time to time. Breaks, evenly distributed throughout the work hours are important to keep one’s batteries charged.
At the same time, our broader team organizes virtual fun activities. These give us an opportunity to know more about our colleagues and what they do at work and beyond. Knowing more about our co-workers helps us to bond and thereby work better as a team. I believe that tightly knit teams are geared for success.
We work hard at what we do, never losing sight of our goals and celebrate our milestones, no matter how big or small.
In an always-on digital economy, the shelf life of clients and market insights is constantly shrinking. Today, direct selling through digital is the channel of choice and precedes the rest. It will continue to do so in the foresee-able future.
In my opinion, the three essential skills for a career in marketing include:
a. Communication across formats – Know how to communicate with your stakeholders, keep communication crisp and relevant and finally communicate through the right channels. I have realized that language (written, verbal and non-verbal) is one of the most important skills for any marketer and for that matter for several other professions too. It is a good idea to invest in learning additional languages if one has time and resources. A new language not only enhances one’s knowledge and understanding of diverse cultures, but also increases one’s marketability. These days and am working towards learning Dutch.
b. Know more, to grow more – Marketing is as much a science as it is an art. While the “science” is relatively easier to gain access to via the tools and technologies out there, the “arts” or the social aspect of it, however, needs to be experienced and therefore, takes time to build upon. A cross-cultural setting can enrich an individual’s understanding and thereby stimulate innovation. I like to immerse myself in diverse cultures and values and seek to work in an inclusive team as much possible for an experiential learning. For a marketer, an ability to connect with people across cultures is an extra advantage and gives one a leg up in career progression.
c. Focus on cross-pollination – it is important to be aware of what goes on in other industry sectors and regions beyond the one in which one is already working in. Inspiration can come from unexpected places. Wash, rinse, repeat can work across industries if we are addressing similar pain points. Therefore, it pays to be curious and open to other ideas and allows one to pivot quickly in response to the changing trends.
Once a business has established what its brand stands for, it should then thoroughly think through how to increase the “top of the mind recall” for their brand. Often, we trust those businesses more, whose name (and at times tag lines) we remember, and whose logo we recognize (even from a physical distance in case of physical/digital billboards, for example). Brands should spend their time and energy to think about how can they become more relevant and hence, more memorable. It is important to build the trust between the audience and the brand. Trust helps to extend top of the mind recall. As consumers, most of us instinctively prefer to spend money on a brand, which we can connect to and trust.
As the saying goes, “out of sight, is out of mind”. A brand needs to be visible on the right channels at an optimum frequency to ensure their longevity. Therefore, a brand strategist needs to think about how to keep their brand, “alive” and actively engage with their target audience for as long as possible in a consistent manner. Today, nearly everyone who is consuming digital offerings is also on the social media. It is important than ever for businesses to invest resources to ensure the brand is identified with the messaging that they would like to convey and not get diluted in the online frenzy.
It always pays to have an extra pair of eyes and hands, preferably from a different team, who can evaluate your strategy from a fresh lens. Having someone on the team who can play a devil’s advocate is actually quite helpful. This way, the team gets a chance to hone their brand message before it goes out to a wider audience.
I keep myself abreast of latest trends in technology via discussions with experts in their subject area and exchanging notes with professionals on networking sites and summits. I also like to read major trade journals, a habit that I picked up during my days at business school.
I also invest in training and certifications in technology related fields to acquire new skills. Recently, I received my data privacy professional certification, which was issued by one of our data privacy partners.
On top of this, I believe that soft skills go hand in hand with the tech knowledge. I regularly interact with leaders across the lines of business who have honed their soft skills along the years to learn how they interact with clients, build and lead their team.