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Teradata’s Reema Poddar on taking risks and learning

Reema Poddar of Teradata heads up the company’s technology and innovation office and looks after the information security. She tells Toni Sekinah about the women she admired in the technology and business worlds, what she does to make sure the customer comes first and how she encourages diversity in her organisation.

When the Customer Experience version was released at the end of October, Poddar said that it would help data professionals who focus on customer experience to reduce the need to leverage their own systems for customer analysis. In addition, she said that the Analyst version would give analysts the tools they need for self-service data loading, discovery, machine learning and other advanced analytics.

Poddar said: “Vantage Customer Experience provides a best-in-class, tailored experience, using Vantage as an enterprise customer data platform to ensure marketing and customer experience professionals have the autonomy and ease-of-use they need to integrate, analyse and activate customer data.” She added: “Vantage Analyst makes it simple for business analysts to perform guided data science analytics without having to write a single line of code.”

With Teradata striving to help its clients keep their customers happy, I wondered about the company’s strategy for delivering better customer experiences. Poddar said Teradata does this by aiming to create best-value and most time-efficient products and services with the utmost ease of use for the user.

“Our strategy is to be customer-obsessed.”

“That means delivering business outcomes quickly, keeping in mind the simplicity and the user experience. Our strategy is to be customer-obsessed. We are where we are because of our customers, so really want to understand their challenges and partner with them to deliver a solution they can inherit and move forward with,” she said.

Poddar is responsible for both the corporate security of the company as well as product management, product engineering and the technology and innovation office. Having driven a cultural change in the technology and innovation office, she inevitably encountered challenges. She said that organisational resistance to a culture of change could have been a roadblock but her method of avoiding this was to make sure there was trust, transparency and collaboration.

She said: “It is all about sharing knowledge, using one strength with the other. You use those human factors, you apply the same in the engineering organisation.” Poddar added that veterans who have been in the company for several decades need to be brought “into the mix” and this is done by making sure they understand how to work with the new people coming in and what is being asked of them as the direction of the organisation shifts.

As a member of the C-suite, Poddar recognises that she can be a source of inspiration for other women working in technology. As such, she goes into schools and gives presentations encouraging young people of all genders and ethnicities to consider a career in tech by explaining the range of roles available in STEM careers that don’t necessarily require excellence in mathematics. She said: “I am very passionate about telling the story and sharing my own experience. Some of the dos and don’ts.”

A strong supporter of women in tech and business, with special admiration for computer scientist Rear Admiral Grace Hopper and former CEO of Pepisco Indra Nooyi, Poddar is also a firm believer in diversity being more than gender diversity and that a diversity of backgrounds and ideas is extremely important when building new products.

“You don’t build products for or sell products to just one market or region. Allowing people to speak up and not be shy is very important. In my organisation, there’s a concept called ‘obligation to dissent. You are encouraging them to talk and not feel threated and offer a different opinion. These conversations bring about diverse thoughts and that’s how you encourage diversity,” she said.

So what is the main lesson she has learnt and would like to pass on? “You have to fail and take risks. You only win or you learn. You never fail. That is one mantra I always tell the kids. Don’t be afraid to take risks.”

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