Sometimes the best advice comes at a time and a place when you least expect it. Sitting in a Lebanese restaurant in Paris was one spot Lenovo ISG Asia Pacific president Sumir Bhatia didn’t expect to hear about how your ‘circle of influence’ impacts your leadership style. Bhatia shares his career journey across different countries in the Asia Pacific market and his next point of focus for Lenovo ISG.
What was your first job?
Three decades ago, I was recruited out of campus to join HCL. Starting my first job with one of India’s largest organisations at that time was exciting and challenging. It required me to move away from my hometown to Central India, where I worked in a small satellite office.
Starting my professional career in a remote city and moving out of the comfort zone helped me gain some important life lessons. If I am ever given a chance to do it differently, I would do it all over again.
How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today?
After graduating in computer engineering and starting at HCL, I recall in my early days I always had an interest and leaned towards business development/sales and quickly worked my way up in the organisation.
I was lucky enough that my work took me across continents and gave me the opportunity to live in Asia Pacific countries such as India, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Australia and now Singapore.
Working with peers in various countries really helped me spot how IT was changing in different environments and ways a business operates in these markets, which means I quickly became adept at adapting to change.
The IT industry today stands at an inflection point, with emerging technologies playing an instrumental role. My current role of leading the Lenovo ISG business in Asia Pacific is very exciting, especially when we are helping businesses to intelligently transform their IT to transcend.
What are some of your plans for Lenovo ISG in the coming months?
We’re coming out of the other end of this pandemic and the appetite of our customers to be future-ready with their IT infrastructure is at an all-time high.
I am focused on making sure that we are leading the innovation game and enabling organisations to navigate this period of accelerated digitisation-led intelligent growth. This becomes even more crucial with businesses transitioning to a hybrid workplace.
Many have transitioned into a hybrid, multi-cloud environment. However, this also requires them to manage their cashflow efficiently and leverage consumption-based models to achieve business objectives. This is a journey for most customers, and we are excited to be part of their transformation.
What has been your biggest business mistake, and the lessons you've learnt from that experience?
The biggest mistake in my career has been the attempt to be all things to all people. One cannot have all the answers and provide a solution for everything.
The focus instead should be on creating an ecosystem where team effort and collective intelligence are harnessed for good. To put it simply, it should always be “all for one and one for all”.
Soon enough I realised that I was spreading myself too thin and that the divided focus slows down one’s pace to the goal.
Ultimately, it is all about focus and having a vision. It is something I articulate to my team as well, that we need to focus on not just the requirements of today but what is scalable and can improve the future outcomes for us and our customers.
More importantly, we should not be afraid of going back to the drawing board and changing the course of action. In today’s volatile market, smarter technology is the one that adapts.
What are some of your ambitions - personally and professionally?
My ambitions are mostly associated with the pursuit of happiness. Personally, I am dedicated to nurturing my mind and soul and making healthy lifestyle choices. Professionally, I want to make sure that everything I do in my line of work I enjoy.
I love what I’m doing now and am invigorated and excited to bring my best self to work every day. We have a great bunch of people at Lenovo and I thrive off the energy and passion that they exude. It’s a great feeling in the morning to wake up, looking forward to the day ahead and I believe this is what everyone needs, to be successful personally and professionally.
What has been the best piece of advice you've ever received?
As unusual as it may seem, it came to me in a Lebanese restaurant in Paris! A mentor of mine got some olives and arranged them in a circle on the plate. He then put one in the middle, pointed to it, and said, “That’s you and the olives around form your circle of influence.” The stronger the circle, the better the decision-making.
So, his advice was to empower and enable leaders and it’s stuck with me ever since. But remember that it is a two-way street.
The people in your circle of influence are extremely important because as they learn and grow, so do you. Every new insight adds to your experience and empowering this two-way exchange helps you to achieve what you set your heart and mind to.
Achieving bigger milestones is always a team effort, and it starts with getting the right people in your corner. Influence people around you with your objectives, so when those crunch-time moments happen, you have the support you need.