Sudhakaran Nair was the first VP of Engineering to be hired outside OutSystems. Looking at his CV, it’s not hard to understand why. His wide range of experience impressed the OutSystems Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Patrick Jean (PJ), from their very first conversation: “He has grown teams and companies rapidly. But most impressive was his curiosity, obvious passion for what he does, and frank discussion about his past failures and what he’s learned from them,” said PJ.
“This is so relevant to us at OutSystems, our learning culture with a growth mindset and the drive to change the world through easily accessible software development. I'm looking forward to the experience and drive he brings to R&D,” he added.
With 25 years of experience in the tech industry, Sudhakaran has, in fact, built up several startups, growing their teams, improving their product, and putting them on the map until larger companies can’t help but notice them. However, his core lessons come from Apple, where he learned to simplify software development, to the delight of users.
At OutSystems, his focus from day one is on hiring a great team. And while he admits he is still learning every day about low-code, this avid bike rider and occasional drum player is definitely into the OutSystems beat.
Tell us more about your experience and background. How did you end up at OutSystems? We heard that you actually reached out to us!
I’ve been in the industry for 25 years now. I started my career at Apple and then worked in four startups, two of which I founded. In all of these, I built up small teams and grew to hundreds of engineers. Three of my startups were acquired by big corporations.
That’s how my career has been: building engineering teams and delivering products, taking it from concept to an enterprise-class product that can be repeated and used by the customers quickly.
“I was really excited when I began learning more about the company, looking into its website, and reading articles. The low-code domain, especially now, is very exciting”
In the past 18 years, I’ve been in areas such as distributed systems, databases, real-time platforms, and cloud technologies. I started as an engineer but in the past eight years, I haven’t been doing much coding, although I get involved in architecture and strategy.
Now, how did I reach out to OutSystems? I first saw OutSystems on LinkedIn. My recent company, Dashbase, got acquired by Cisco, and I decided to leave as Cisco is a huge enterprise, and my passion is to work for a company where things move quickly, much like a startup. I started looking out to see what was out there and found OutSystems.
I was really excited when I began learning more about the company, looking into its website, and reading articles. The low-code domain, especially now, is very exciting. Because of the pandemic, every company is trying to move to digital or undergoing a digital transformation. I felt it was a very interesting domain.
I don’t have much experience with low-code, but I am extremely interested in that domain.
Being your first time in a low-code company, what is your vision?
That’s the first thing that caught my attention — low-code. I know a lot of companies and have a lot of experience with startups. Getting something up and running is very hard. Even for technology folks, you need to have a team of people.
To do good full-stack application development is very hard, especially if the companies don’t have many engineers and have to hire a team of engineers. That’s always an entry barrier for many of these companies, and that’s what instantly caught my attention: the opportunity of how time can be reduced for these companies.
You’ve been the VP of so many companies. From what you’ve learned so far, what is the number one experience you’re bringing to OutSystems?
I can quickly build a team, hire the right way, and add good folks from my network. Secondly, I have a lot of experience with cloud technologies — like Amazon, Azure, and Google Cloud — and many distribution system technologies, like various databases, such as Elasticsearch, Cassandra, Hadoop, Spark, Kafka.
I have a lot of big data experience that I can bring to the team, distributed systems knowledge, and I’ve also delivered enterprise-class products many times. That delivery knowledge, I think it’s very valuable. I’m a customer-obsessed person, and in all the companies I worked in, the teams also became customer-obsessed. I always develop everything based on customer needs — this experience will be invaluable at OutSystems.
“Typically, I adapt to the company culture and try to learn the product. That’s my first task. Then, I identify the gaps, the weaknesses and try to fill the gaps. That’s how I get up to speed”
You probably get asked this a lot, but you mentioned that you’ve worked for Apple — did you meet Steve Jobs? And how was working at Apple at that time?
I worked for Apple right at the beginning, it was my first job. This was at an early stage, so before the iPhone, right? But it was very exciting because I was working on the first object-rendered software development project. They were trying to develop an object-rendered operating system, which is actually how the Java language was born — it started from that concept. So it was very exciting to be there.
The culture was very good, although Steve Jobs had left by that time. But he left his user-centric approach, it was all about the usability of the product. And they tend to simplify things at every level, right? I got very good training in all those areas. When you build software, you simplify it so that the users can use it easily — those concepts I learned from Apple. And they had great engineers at the time, passionate engineers, people who worked at Apple because of their passion.
When you step into a new company, what is your strategy for building a team?
I joined at a very early stage in other companies, so it was easier to build a culture and strategy. You don’t have a lot of legacy or existing history. And also, the product is not so mature; at OutSystems, the product is mature. I have a lot more learning to do.
Typically, I adapt to the company culture and try to learn the product. That’s my first task. Then, I identify the gaps, the weaknesses and try to fill the gaps. That’s how I get up to speed. And of course, I get to know the team and be helpful as early as possible.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I bike regularly and hike whenever I can. I play drums, not so well, but I keep playing them once in a while.