The Challenge: In 2023, IT leaders will be impacted by the resource crunch more than ever before. The shortage of qualified personnel in IT causes project delays, decreased productivity, and increased costs. The Director of Technology, Ashish Rai, along with his team at Skill-Lync, is entrusted with optimizing several IT functions to save the day.
Leaders do what leaders are expected to do. With over 12 years of experience in IT, I started as a QA professional in automation but switched to development as a senior engineer. I later became an engineering manager and then took on a leadership role as the Director of Engineering at Infinity Learning. Now, as the Director of Technology at Skill-Lync, I lead a team consisting of around 50 people, including engineering managers, QA leads, architects, and the mobile team. Reporting to the CTO and Co-Founder, my responsibilities encompass all things related to engineering and technology within the organization.
A brief overview of Skill-Lync:
Skill-Lync is an educational company that provides high-quality content in mechanical and electrical engineering to upskill students for better job opportunities. We offer various programs and use a Learning Management System to deliver content while tracking student progress. Our intelligent lead distribution system connects customers with sales engineers who specialize in their interests. We also develop platform projects to enhance the learning experience and ensure career growth for our students.
Surviving startup challenges
Today, several startups have matured in terms of funding and market presence. However, for companies in their early stages, it is not just about building a product or a company; it is about building a vision that one believes in. As a startup founder, the journey can be a rollercoaster ride, with its ups and downs, but the challenges we face as a team are what define us.
In my experience, one of the most critical challenges is finding the right team—a team that believes in your goals and shares your passion. Finding someone to do the job is easy, but finding someone who can take your idea and turn it into reality is the real catch for us at Skill-Lync. There are numerous vendors and consultants available, but finding someone who can work with your vision can be daunting.
As a startup, you're not just competing against other companies but also against time. You need to be agile, and that means choosing the right technology or stack for your product. This goes above and beyond the technology itself and addresses the people who will be working on it. Our focus is to find a team that has the right skills and can work seamlessly together.
As we start to grow, data management becomes another challenge. Data is everything in today's world, and managing it can make or break a company. Thus, we are seeking people who can extract data and turn it into insights; people who can make sense of the chaos.
Finally, security is also a major concern these days, and compliance can be an issue if we want to go global. In a world where data breaches are becoming increasingly common, we need to ensure that our products are secure and compliant with local regulations. It's not just about protecting your customers' data; it's about protecting everything we have worked so hard to achieve so far.
A tech team's code for success
We are addressing our challenges one by one by investing more time in gathering requirements rather than delegating tasks. We spend a significant amount of time in brainstorming sessions to determine what is truly required and how it can benefit our customers. We have also established an ecosystem in which we experiment with any project or product we create; if it works, we proceed with it, but if it doesn't, we drop that product. This efficient model is something we are actively working on.
Ever since I joined Skill-Lync, six or seven months ago, our tech team has grown from 30–40 people to around 55. We've implemented some new processes, such as having requirements come only through the product team, with a layer called the product divide team to keep everyone aligned. Requests must be documented in a tool and the code should be reviewed by peers and leaders. We have added a quality team to ensure that the code that’s going into production is of good quality and has minimal issues.
Breaking even and breaking through
Since I joined Skill Link, we have been able to generate enough revenue, and our team's efficiency is at a decent level compared to other teams. We work within certain rules and processes that other teams may not be able to follow, and this is an achievement. Other team managers and leaders have approached me to seek guidance on how I manage my team, set KPIs, and ensure that the team's work adds value.
As an IT leader, my priority is not only to increase the business's revenue by leveraging technology, but also to create something meaningful that can impact people's lives. As a company, we have already raised a certain amount of funds and aim to break even without raising any additional funds. This means that our expenses should be less than our revenue. To achieve this, we are working to reduce our costs and increase our revenue on a monthly basis. Therefore, we prioritize projects that can help us achieve this goal; any project that can reduce our costs and increase our revenue is given top priority.
Every day is a battle against the resource crunch and a race against the clock. My approach to overcoming the challenge of resource constraints is to allocate the right project to the right team. Managing data pipelines can be overwhelming, but it is also an opportunity to create something revolutionary. Therefore, we use around 30 third-party software for various purposes, such as calling and generating leads. We are also creating a data lake that can help startups manage their data more efficiently; this solution has potential to change the game for every startup out there.
I believe that, as an IT leader, my job is not only to lead but also to inspire my team to be the best they can be. I want to empower them, trust them, and give them the freedom to create something amazing.