Tech Industry Needs to Call for Multicultural Leaders

Tech Industry Needs to Call for Multicultural Leaders

It is time to call out the elephant in the room: in the technology space in the U.S., there is a serious lack of multicultural leadership. When I say leadership, I’m referring to the ability of techies (read programmers or developers) to inspire a multicultural organization, and to be the torchbearer who shines a light on the un-trodden path. Really, there are only a handful.

To get to the heart of the problem, it’s important to understand how an employees background can impact their ability to lead. Let’s take Indian workers: I can empathize with my Indian brethren (the folks from the Indian subcontinent, who we know populate every technology company). I understand the difficulties they faced since I took a similar path. For anyone raised in India who then came in search of more opportunity in the U.S., there are a handful of realities that will likely hold him or her back from leadership:

    1. The Indian education system does not focus on producing leaders. From my experience, Indian education is all about teachers subduing the students and keeping them under control. In the Indian political system, a majority of the leaders are either uneducated or poorly educated. Seriously well educated people such as Man Mohan Singh (an Economist with a PhD, who was a lame duck Prime Minister in the Congress government for two terms) and even Abdul Kalam (a celebrated Scientist and an admired techie leader, a fascinating personality: a Muslim by birth, a vegetarian who reads Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture, every morning) were great experts in their chosen disciplines. Both failed miserably as leaders within the Indian political, governmental and the so-called democratic system.
    2. Indian children are taught to follow a path not forge one. From kindergarten until retirement, the focus is on following instructions, standing in line, completing assignments, and following the same pattern day by day. Kids who do anything else out of curiosity or interest are labeled insubordinate. Middle class parents religiously send kids to schools that insist that his only goal is to become a doctor or an engineer.  He ends up getting a seat in an engineering college and after four years gets a job working for a company like Infosys, Wipro, TCS, Cognizant, or one of the other multinational companies based out of Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, or another tech city in India. The path to “success” is in doing what one is told.
    3. India has a history of invasion. Throughout its history, India has been under some kind of an invasion or other. Indians were slaves under the Mughal emperors and then the British for the last 500 years until 1948 when Mahatma Gandhi helped secure India’s freedom. This is part of the ambiance that shaped the country and it cannot be ignored.
    4. There is a perception that Indian people lack charisma. One line of thinking is that, as brown skinned individual, I am not able to shine in front of a predominantly white group of peers. I disagree: I have been in meetings where I was the only brown skinned guy, and I was leading multi-day meeting where the audience was all white folks. We need to work against the stereotype. The secret to charisma is being well dressed, well groomed, and confident. Don’t worry about having an accent: Speak with your natural intonation. Most of all, clearly demonstrate that you are an expert in your chosen discipline.

Of course, there are other elements that can make transitioning from techie to leader can be difficult for anyone, and these elements play a part as well. Some realities that affect everyone:

  1. To be a leader, you have to go from being a detail (flag/field/table/code) level thinker/talker to being a high (big picture) level thinker/talker.
  2. Developers often get the blame. Programming is hard, and developers often face projects where the specifications are not complete, and exceptions happen and everyone assumes it is the developer’s fault. Over time, this could certainly sap anyone’s enthusiasm and confidence for the idea of taking a leadership role.
  3. Techies tend to be introverts. Introverts, by nature, are happy to be buried in computer coding or troubleshooting. These folks are less than inclined to leap into leadership.

Clearly, there are some challenges around attracting and identifying leaders for the current pool of technology experts. However, the industry would benefit from it. Next time, I’ll talk about what technology leadership really means. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts and reactions in the comments section below.

Originally published at on Feb 29, 2018.

Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiator designs, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. SG LoadProof is a patent pending Centralized Enterprise Photo/Video Document System on Cloud for Supply Chain. SG LP is built on the fact that photos & videos are vital docs as important as POs/SOs/Legal Contracts/Fulfillment Orders that reside in ERP/WMS/TMS systems, that serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal proof of crucial, critical, vital operations executed in Supply Chain within/across orgs when fulfilling customer orders as well as meeting contractual obligations between orgs as merchandise is transferred between different parties that partake in Supply Chain functions & operations. And these photos/videos data should not be stored in someone’s Smartphone or Email Inbox or in their personal/work Computer, but should be stored in a Centralized Enterprise system, where such data can be pushed into super-fast, stored securely, accessible to all stake holders (CFO/Sales Reps/Customer Support/AR/AP) in an org, as well as facilitates super-fast retrieval/sharing. LP is an Enterprise System of record for Photo/Video docs & is as important as an ERP which is an enterprise system of record for POs, SOs, Legal Contracts between parties etc. that have huge legal ramifications, also as important as a WMS (Warehouse Management System) that hold indispensable shipment & fulfillment data on orders. Like how Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc. have evolved into social media platforms/systems that enable individuals to showcase their beauty/pretty clothes/lovely cosmetics/hep coolness etc., LoadProof is an Enterprise system that holds similar photos/videos, but for a different reason, not for show off, but to serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal & indisputable system of record and proof that can be presented even in the court of law, when there is a dispute between parties while they execute many facets of the Supply Chain functions & operations. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 25 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit the company at Also follow him at