Sri Srinivasan, Chief Product & Engineering Officer at Zuora
On January 12th, we announced Sri Srinivasan as Zuora’s Chief Product & Engineering Officer and report to Zuora’s founder and CEO Tien Tzuo. The last three decades have served as perfect training for Sri’s new role. He has roots in engineering, starting out at Peoplesoft (Oracle), a 12 year tenure at Microsoft, serving in different product capacities including CTO of Dynamics 365, GM for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations, and Director of Cloud Engineering including Dynamics Cloud Platform for ERP. During his time at Microsoft, Sri oversaw major transformations – expansion of product portfolio into the industry verticals and large enterprise as well as transformation from on-premises to cloud and hybrid. And most recently served as Cisco’s SVP and GM of the Collaboration Group, a multi-billion dollar division including WebEx Meetings, Calling, Teams, Meeting Devices.
Why did you choose to join Zuora when you were leading a huge software division at Cisco?
Zuora is at the precipice of driving growth in a subscription-first economy across industries. We are at the center of a “once in a century” business transformation — from selling products to helping organizations create business models around endearing experiences. As a platform that enables this digital shift, and as a subscription company itself, Zuora is well on its path to enabling and easing this journey for companies in all industries. Opportunities are endless! Zuora has the ability to break away from the pack we compete with today.
I believe there are three entities important to a company’s success: customers, people, and product. Salesforce aspires to own the customer journey, LinkedIn or Workday, they own the people insights. We, at Zuora, are uniquely positioned as we have the ability to bring Customer, People, Products along with experience and value, through subscriptions as the fulcrum. We can ease the transition journey through our simple, extensible and insightful solutions.
At my two previous jobs (Cisco and Microsoft), while my remit was large, it was a small portion of the larger company and never the central theme. Zuora gives me the opportunity to work on the core of the company. Finally, Zuora is a growth focused company ready to make big bets and blow through any barriers for the sake of our customers.
Aside from a great tenure in enterprise software, what personal qualities led you to this role?
My roots are in engineering but over the last two decades have grown into learning product management and eventually into general management where I have led efforts spanning the lifecycle from marketing, into GTM, sales, product, design, engineering, support and customer success. I have been blessed to be part of customer obsessed cultures wherein we drove major transformations – desktop to web early 2000s, multiple transformations to SaaS and cloud and hyperscale for the sake of doing good (enabling 30X scale at Webex to meet the new work from home demand). All of these experiences have left me with a profound understanding and need for a continuous learning mindset. I am a big fan of “growth mindset” principles.
With the advent of the cloud, I have never been more excited about using this growth mindset towards tuning product and engineering outcomes through connected customer listening systems. I believe in data driven decision making with a bias for action.
Finally, I believe in building engineering teams with diverse perspectives for the discerning enterprise we serve. I believe in building global solutions that are inclusive and endearing.
In today’s fast paced technology world, it is so important to continually discover ourselves. No better way than to come with a learner’s point of view.
Zuora’s CEO has long said “ERP is dead”. What’s your take having spent over a decade working on it?
During my 12 years at Microsoft, I drove the company’s shift from on-prem to ERP in the cloud. In 2008, it wasn’t yet called Dynamics 365, but I led the re-engineering of the legacy system to become a suite of ERP applications. Ten years later, the subscription and cloud-based Dynamics business has grown substantially into many thousand customers mainly through disambiguation of erstwhile ERP as the market knows it.
And product-based business models are becoming less relevant, so is ERP. ERP is a system of record, more of an audit trail rather than a real time enabler of modern day business. Customers are looking for platforms that stay ahead of their needs, and most importantly relevant to the direction they are taking. ERP, with its legacy thinking, is unable to shed their inhibitions to meet these expectations.
Zuora, on the other hand, can break away from the pack (CRM and ERP vendors) by engineering simple, intelligent and extensible solutions that are easy to deploy, use and engage with, in our quest to enable a subscription first economy. It is ours to seize!
Any big takeaways over the last year (a challenging one!) that you can share with us?
I joined Cisco three years ago to work on more of a high scale cloud — one with more than one million users. But I could have never anticipated what 2020 would bring. Overnight, WebEx grew from having 116 million to 370 Million Monthly active users. An onslaught of new customers from governments, schools, medical facilities, existing customers expanded their usage as everyone worked from home – now video (which was optional in the past), was mission critical and usage went up 40 times in the peak hour of the day. If I had asked engineers to design their products for a day where everyone would work remote, I would have been laughed at. Needless to say, that became reality. It was a great learning journey and I plan to someday pen a book titled “Hyperscale for the sake of good”.
What does the role of the Chief Product & Engineering Officer bring to Zuora?
Unifying engineering functions under one technology leader brings great agility and alignment towards our objectives. I plan to learn from each one of our ZEOs, yet synergize us towards a few simple objectives that will reflect and amplify our customer obsession. Commonality of purpose, planning and outcomes are force multipliers and that is the design principle used by Tien and the leadership team in bringing these functions under one leader. Needless to say, I am humbled to have this amazing opportunity.
Originally posted January 12, 2021 here.
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Hi! I’m Natina. I manage communications (like this blog) and diversity + inclusion work for the Engineering Team. I hope this blog post finds you doing, feeling, and being well.
When I onboarded in April this year, it was with the expectation that after this “coronavirus thing” passed, I would be working from the office. (Oh, how naive we once were, right?). Everyday I logged on to work from the couch (the porch, the kitchen, the car) checking for that “return to the office” notification. I remained enthused about my eventual first day of work, at work!
The “first” in many facets of my life have been seriously exciting memories. The first day of school - including undergraduate and graduate experiences. The first day in a new city, a new state, a new time zone. The first time I used chopsticks. Even that very first bite of Miss Loretta’s sweet potato cookies . There is something to the new surroundings, the new customs, the new people, the new tastes, the newness of it all that excites me. (you too, right?)
Sweet Potato Cookies: The 6th Love Language.
So as you might imagine, I worried that not taking the tour of the office on my first day; introducing myself to the others seated near my work station; or realizing that my train stop is the same as someone else’s on the commute home, would impact my experience here at Zuora. My onboarding was peppered with the thought that when we finally flatten the curve, I will get to know, connect, and build relationships with my new colleagues - from within 6 feet/2 meters.
Everything exciting about my home office (read: dining room table) faded, once I realized that it would also be my place of work. I let go of the anticipation of walking down a hallway and hearing things like, “those are cute shoes” and “does that dress have pockets?” Or someone noticing the fire bender charm hanging from my neck, and debating the better Avatar - Aang or Korra. Much like the dwindling excitement of my dining room, I settled into dress shirts and pajama bottoms, exchanging those cute shoes for cool socks.
Six months later my worries about not working from the office, couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ve exchanged virtual school woes (I have a goddaughter in the sixth grade; also not sure I’m smarter than one), celebrated birthdays, Slacked condolences, and sent best wishes via flat rate shipping. The warmth of a side hug or a whispered comment in a team meeting is missing - but somehow I felt it in the gifs, text messages, and random deliveries at my doorstep.
I feel invested, probably more so now, in the lives of my colleagues than I likely would have, walking down a hallway with my earbuds in; popping into the kitchen for a kombucha between meetings; or looking for a moment of solace as life (literally anything happening in the world right now) bled into the workday, from a bathroom stall. Sure, virtual happy hours aren’t as vibrant as the real thing, but don’t they cause you to focus more? Who joined? Who turned their camera off? Who is still waiting on the audio to connect? And always, it seems - me, on mute, talking to the screen.
That's me, on mute. Always, on mute. Talking.
What happened in six months?
Perspective. Very accidentally.
I made friends, just like I do in my real-life, in social networks. That’s what we do, right? We connect with people who know our friends; or follow people online with intriguing talents; and listen to podcasts that help us decompress. We have already learned how to build relationships with people we’ve never met before. For those who were remote employees prior to the pandemic, this revelation is not profound. For those of us catching up, we are worrying less about physical connections in the office, and messaging our colleagues about work, and the package that was just delivered. (I can’t count the number of times I’ve logged on minutes late to a zoom meeting because of the doorbell/delivery).
Even before the pandemic, we were e-meeting colleagues and professionals in our global/distributed companies. Connecting with people we likely might not ever have a face to face interaction with. There was always the possibility, though - in the time before the pandemic. Happenstance meeting in the elevator. Waiting at the shuttle stop commuting home. At an industry conference. I’ve started many, so many of those e-meetings with my name, and “I hope this email finds you doing well.” I meant it before, truly. But there is nothing like the reporting of a second wave of COVID19 cases to give that email greeting new meaning - testing the truest extent of our emotional intelligence.
Sure, “work” was not intended to be this way. Many of us believed that being safe-at-home had an expiration date. But, much like we do with our business - flexing our agility and pivoting to meet customer needs - we are similarly evolving the notion of what it means to “go” to work, “where” work is located, and “when” work happens.
So, stay safe out there, wash your hands, keep the recommended 6ft/2m physical distance (especially at the grocery store!), order some cool socks, take yourself off mute before speaking, and stay connected.
Hoping this found you doing well...truly well.
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