Rashmi Kumar, Chief Information Officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise: We need environments where everyone feels free to express their “part”

With an energetic, positive attitude, technology executive Rashmi Kumar has led teams to find ground-breaking solutions across many industries. As a female leader in the tech spectrum, she was first inspired by her mother, who encouraged her to pursue STEM coursework at a young age. The more she learned, the more she realized she enjoyed it and excelled in the field. She credits her competitive nature as a critical component of her success. 

In her current position as the Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, she is responsible for an application portfolio of 850 applications. These include significant initiatives, including building digital organization and capabilities, as well as managing and improving the performance of outsourcing partners. 

If she sounds busy, it’s because she is! Luckily though, she took time to speak with The Ladders about her predictions for the future, the importance of developing core values, and more:

How has your industry changed in the past five years?

The IT industry has changed more than any other sector. The primary reason for this is that every business—regardless of the industry they operate in, or their target customers, or the products and services they deliver—these businesses are required to, in some form or fashion, be technology companies themselves due to digital trends. It is our challenge in the IT industry to meet the ever-growing changes and demands of the marketplace and the needs of our customers. 

How do you anticipate the job market for technology in the next year?

The COVID-19 crisis has driven the need for the digitalization of goods, services, and products. And the companies that can reach their customers in different settings—virtual, in-person, at home, etc. versus at a location–will be the companies that survive. Because of this, and the fact that every business today must be a technology company (in some form or fashion) due to digital trends and consumer demand, the job market will grow for individuals who have the skillset to help companies deliver digital products and services, and goods. 

Just as importantly, these individuals must have the mindset of continuous individual growth and learning to be positioned well—it’s imperative to refresh your knowledge and be willing to upskill yourself as the technology itself and market changes so rapidly. 

What excites you the most in your current role?

As the CIO, my team and I are excited to be part of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) historic and strategic pivot to a company that meets its customer’s dynamic IT needs with a portfolio of consumption-based, as-a-Service products. For me, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to work for such a bold company–where our leadership and customers have aligned on this strategy—which is a tremendous opportunity to meet the ever-growing market need. 

The IT team is critical to the implementation and the success of this strategic shift. As such, we are managing an internal transformation program, one of the largest-ever implementations of an end-to-end business process transformation for HPE that will benefit our employees, partners, customers, and shareholders.  

How would you describe your company culture?

HPE is at a significant intersection in its history. As part of our journey, we are undergoing some changes to reinforce better key aspects of our heritage and values with refreshed cultural beliefs and behaviors–such as being obsessed with the customer. This is a growth exercise for the entire HPE team, and together, this will help us deliver on our corporate purpose to advance the way people live and work.  

What’s the most challenging part of being a leader/manager? What’s the best part?

I’m most interested in helping each member of my team (and other professionals I come into contact with) achieve their highest potential. One of the most significant challenges and rewards of my role is creating a leadership culture—helping all my people leaders develop the mindset to pursue their highest potential and seek to do the same for all their team members. I want my people leaders to really understand deeply why someone struggles if they struggle, and what we can do to tweak our approach to help an individual to be their best. 

Additionally, I really believe in diversity and creating an environment where every team member feels free to express their “part” or unique viewpoint, and just as importantly, incorporate these various “parts” from all our team members into our work. As individuals, employees then feel ‘seen’ and valued knowing their contributions matter. This is good for the team, the individual team members, and, ultimately, the business.  

 What are your core values as a professional?

Transparency and integrity – people know where they stand with me. There is only one version of the truth. 

How can job applicants catch your attention? What stands out?

I hire people for talent versus for a specific skill because, in the technology field, the requisite skillsets change very quickly. Candidates should be able to demonstrate they are committed to being lifelong learners, able to influence others, and deliver business outcomes. 

What project at your company are you the proudest of? What did it teach you?

Our IT transformation program, known as NextGen IT, is a critical initiative that will help us re-architect our company to deliver on our strategic pivot to an as-a-service company. NextGen IT will provide the IT capabilities that will enable our business transformation to achieve four key outcomes: revenue growth, operating efficiency, enhanced experiences, and business agility. For the many cross-functional teams and hundreds of pan-HPE team members working on this program, it has been a tremendous opportunity to develop and fine-tune one of the important skills necessary in a company that is obsessed with its customers: the ability to see and connect the dots.  

How do you find a healthy work/life balance? 

I drive decisions based on analysis and data, so that ensures that when I am away from the office, I am not so preoccupied with work. I take time to settle down by taking a long walk, cooking for the family, or sleeping well—those things leave me more energized. I also manage well-structured to-do lists on paper or electronically, which gives me the mental bandwidth to focus on more important things. 

What are some of the challenges you have faced as a POC in this industry?

I have had challenges within the IT industry and over time. I’ve taken it upon myself to be extremely knowledgeable about my area of the business, stay well-informed about future trends, and so forth, and be extra prepared to help increase my value and garner respect from others. 

How do you feel about the current climate in America right now in regards to race? Is it changing your work culture?

From an economic perspective alone—when we think of the impact of the underserved—if the underserved are denied full participation in the economy by our lack of support of their education or the opportunities given to them versus other citizens, we are seriously hampering the overall world economic potential.

HPE is committed to being unconditionally inclusive, and while we do an excellent job in this space, we know that there’s always room to grow and improve. Part of that growth requires us to listen to the diverse voices within the company and make sure they feel heard and seen and have the opportunity to voice what they want to see from HPE. 

For example, our Executive Committee—our CEO, Antonio Neri, and his leadership team—recently completed a listening tour with our black/African American team members in response to the death of George Floyd and the public conversation around police-community relations. Coming out of those, the company made a series of commitments to be an even more inclusive place for team members- current and future.