C-suite career advice: Ramesh Prabagaran, Prosimo – IDG Connect

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Name: Ramesh Prabagaran
Company: Prosimo
Job Title: CEO and co-founder
Location: California, US
Ramesh Prabagaran is the CEO and co-founder of Prosimo, which delivers simplified multi-cloud infrastructure for distributed enterprise cloud journeys. Companies innovate faster and remain in control with the Prosimo integrated stack. This stack combines cloud networking, performance, security, observability, and cost management—all powered by data insights and machine learning models with autonomous cloud networking to reduce complexity and risk. Cloud-forward enterprises, including F100, have adopted Prosimo to successfully roll out revenue-generating applications, improve operational efficiency, and accelerate positive business outcomes.
What was the most valuable piece of career advice you received? We always think of our career as a competitive game, comparing our career trajectory versus others. That said, the most valuable piece of advice I have received is to compare yourself with only yourself from a few months ago and if you have not excelled at that, then it doesn’t matter what others are doing. Do you want to be a better version of who you were even three months ago? If the answer to that is yes, you know it is something you need to work on.
What was the worst piece of business advice you received? To be in a startup you have to think differently, and startups offer a really good avenue to focus on one or two priorities at most. The worst piece of advice really comes from people who lead really large corporations, it’s not really the worst, but just bad for a startup. They start to encourage you to think about hedging and doing a myriad of tasks and a number of priorities, but you don’t have any of that nonsense in a startup.
Instead you go and jump with two feet and start thinking about making bold bets and see if it works. The advantage you have in a startup is if it doesn’t work, great. Pick yourself up and go a hundred percent in the other direction.
What advice would you give to someone starting in their career in IT/Tech? I would say, first look for companies that will make a big impact. Second, look for a mentor, manager, or a leader that can help you learn. I think those two things matter more than anything else. Then you can look at safety and career growth, but first you have to discover yourself. If you can’t do that, then it really doesn’t move the needle down the line.
Did you always want to work in IT/Tech? Yes, being around areas that are not yet fully vetted is what drew me to the field. I enjoy waking up in the morning and knowing nobody knows the right answer. It’s like exploring the jungle trying to find a path forward and that excites me.
What was your first job in tech? My first job was at Juniper networks as a QA engineer. I had to test and report bugs from a product that was going to ship to a few customers and everything kind of spun up from there.
What are some of the common misconceptions about working in tech? Too many! Tech itself is pretty broad. There is quite a bit of innovation happening in so many different areas. I think the misconception is that only new and sexy areas are what you want to be associated with in order to kind of improve on your career, but that’s not true. You can take something that’s really, really time tested, proven, do it differently, and you can still make a material impact.
Tech is not just about self-driving cars and crypto and quantum computing that make it to the front page news almost every day, but sewing the needle on something that is inefficient to begin with and making it better.
What tips would you give someone wanting to achieve a C-level position? It might sound cliche, but start with the team. I have been in small teams and have had the opportunity to form teams all the way up to kind of take large teams with 300 to 400 people. No matter the size, it starts with the team and if you don’t have the people nothing else matters. Second, put the team together based on complementary skills. It’s almost like a jigsaw puzzle and you need to intentionally find people that can all be part of the team.
Then you can have your point of view and you push that down or you can have the team come up with it and then push that up. While neither of those are the optimal answers, I think there has to be a combination of both perspectives. You need to have your thesis on how to make decisions and you need to respect the decisions coming from the ground up because in many cases, that’s the truth.
What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? I don’t think I’d ever be happy saying I reached a specific career ambition. What keeps me motivated in my professional life is solving problems and so my ambition would certainly be to solve a few unsolved problems. I’m always looking for the next challenge.
Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? I strive for a good work life balance. If I ever over rotate on either side, personal or professional, I tend to break down so the balance helps keep me in check.
What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? I wouldn’t choose a different career path, but I was always told either to become a doctor or an engineer, and I can’t stand blood so I became an engineer!
Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? Bootcamp for sure. There’s nothing like getting your hands dirty through real experience. You can sit in classes all day long and try different projects, but to have the opportunity to learn from bootcamp failures is a valuable experience.
How important are specific certifications? I like and hate certifications. Certifications are well organised and can get you to a certain point to attain technical knowledge. However, at some point, you need the experience to understand how the concepts are applied in the real world.
What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? I have two skills I look for in candidates. The first is critical thinking. I put critical thinking above domain expertise. I look for candidates that can make good decisions and approach problems in the right way. Second is my personal, “No asshole policy.” We want different personalities, but one jerk can cause the team to go south very quickly.
What would put you off a candidate? If a candidate brings something up from 10 years ago right off the bat. It’s more important to bring up recent successes and frame how your past impacted you in a positive way.
What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? Interviews should be equal parts you and your prospective employer. Do your research on the company and come prepared with well thought out questions to see if you are a great fit.
Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? I have my MS and MBA, but sometimes I don’t know which side of me I like better! The technical piece gives you an understanding of if things are built the right way, while the business side gives you the ability to analyse if ideas are going to be successful. Ideally, a healthy mix of both is good for your career.
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