8×8 CEO Vik Verma on the future of work and how the role of CEO will change in the next 10 years

Vik Verma joined the team at 8×8, the communications solutions company, after having multiple leadership positions at Savi Technology, and then moving to Lockheed Martin when the company acquired Savi Technology in 2006. Ladders spoke with Verma to hear about why employees will be able to define the future of work themselves, his biggest- and most important- career risk, and the one-way companies can overcome failures.

What’s the biggest trend in the communication solutions industry right now?

“The biggest trend we see is what we call the rise of the first truly omnichannel workforce -workers who demand constant, seamless access to text, chat, email, video, and phone calls on any device. Digital natives like Millennials and Gen Z are making up an ever-larger share of the workforce, and they can navigate all of these modes of collaboration at once, so they demand communication solutions that make this effortless. For example, if I’m a product manager and I’m texting my team about a new feature idea, I should be able to easily transition that conversation to a video call or a workroom without losing any of the previous contexts. Collaboration solutions need to be able to support that level of fluidity, and that is a massive change for the traditional players in the industry.”

Do you see artificial intelligence being a key player in the work 8×8 does?

“Certainly. In fact, it’s already having an impact. Earlier this year we announced a new integration with Google Cloud’s Contact Center AI within our 8×8 Contact Center Solution, improving first response rates and agent support within the contact center. Our own machine learning and AI solutions are already making data actionable in ways that were previously unachievable. For example, in the contact center, AI can proactively pull customer information so agents can immediately see all available context, allowing them to more quickly focus on delivering value to customers. AI can even help coach agents in real-time using natural language processing. It’s driving a foundational shift in communications and collaboration.”

Where do you think 8×8 fits into the future of work?

“The future of work is nonlinear. Before the digital era, work started when you entered the office in the morning and ended when you left in the evening. Now that we have such powerful communications devices at our fingertips, the barriers between our personal and professional lives have been erased permanently. Why not leave the office early and take a conference call on your way to your kid’s soccer match? There’s nothing tying you to the desk anymore. It’s all about crafting a unique experience that works for you. For 8×8, our job is to build the tools employees need so they can work smarter and collaborate faster, enabling them to define the future of work themselves.”

In your time as CEO, has 8×8 tried a project that ended up failing? What did you learn from that experience?

“It all comes down to people – you can never underestimate the importance of good values and cultural alignment with the team. There are times I’ve hired people who are brilliant but their values don’t mesh with the company values. When that happens, you will never succeed.”

Do you see your position of CEO changing at all over the next 10 years? Why or why not?

“It would be a very big problem if the position of CEO didn’t change within the next 10 years. Businesses today are facing the unprecedented challenge of digital transformation, and they’re learning how to act on opportunities in real-time. CEOs need to be the champions of that digital flexibility. How can we use data to reduce inefficiencies and be smarter with our resources? The faster you’re able to move, and the more you’re able to give employees the ability to do so as well, the better chances you have of thriving in the digital economy.”

What advice would you give to a professional looking to move into a management role?

“The biggest mistake any manager can make is thinking they need to be the loudest person in the room. Simply because you’re heard the most, seen the most, doesn’t mean you’re providing the most value to the business. Being an effective manager means creating an environment that fosters intellectual curiosity and debate, embracing the team-first mentality. Look at mentorship initiatives and surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are. Managers that put the group above themselves are typically the most successful.”

What is the biggest career risk you’ve taken? Did it pay off?

“I walked away from a fully-funded Ph.D. program in electrical engineering at Stanford, less than 18 months before graduation, to join an early-stage startup. That startup ended up inventing RFID technology to track cargo containers around the world using the Internet. This was the first application of the Internet of Things and launched an entire industry. I never looked back, and went on to become CEO of the company (Savi Technology, Inc.).”

What’s your favorite part of the 8×8 company culture? Can you explain that culture to us?

“Our values start with accountability and end with ‘play to win.’ 8×8 doesn’t care where you come from, what god you worship, the color of your skin, or your gender – all we care about is what is in your head and heart. And that we play to win together.”

What advice would you give to a professional interviewing at 8×8?

“Be bold, be creative, and be prepared.”