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A podcast Series With Chet Kapoor

Season 1 · Episode 13

Believe. Inspire. Execute. Season 1 Recap

That's a wrap! After 12 phenomenal conversations, DataStax Chairman and CEO Chet Kapoor wraps up season one with the top takeaways and lessons learned. The season finale includes the greatest moments from: NetApp, Burberry, Barclays, Pearson, Udacity, AT&T Business, Nordstrom, Jackson Financial, T-Mobile, Banco Santander, Home Depot, and FedEx. We're just getting started... So stay tuned for season two in 2021!

Published December 15th, 2020  |  8:13 Runtime

Episode Host

Chet Kapoor

Chet Kapoor

Chairman and CEO of DataStax

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Episode Transcript

Chet Kapoor: Hello, everybody. I'm Chet Kapoor, Chairman and CEO of DataStax, and this is the Inspired Execution podcast.

Chet Kapoor: You're listening to the finale of season one. We had a phenomenal first season with 12 great episodes. I had the honor of chatting with tech leaders from some of the world's most recognized brands like FedEx, T-Mobile, Home Depot, Burberry, Nordstrom and more, and there was so much to learn. We did this podcast because I wanted to find a way to make these discussions available to the next generation of leaders. 

As the season progressed, the conversations covered a variety of topics from Rob Carter talking about why he believes technology is the digital nervous system at FedEx. Sebastian Thrun discussing how learnings come from failure. Kim Stevenson who talked about why inclusion is vital to sustaining a really good team where everyone else values, appreciates, and makes impact. And Sorabh Saxena discussing his three M's of inspiration. More on that later. It was a lot of fun, and these leaders are truly inspiring so let's jump right in.

Chet Kapoor: Let's start with the role digital transformation and data plays in how we service our customers, especially during this unique time with COVID. I will begin with someone I consider a friend, Cody Sanford of T-Mobile. Cody shared with us that the workplace will never be the same, but the important thing to learn on how digital and data comes down to tying it to the end customer. The key takeaway from this episode is that it's not really about technology. It's about putting the customer at the center and empowering people on the front lines.

Chet Kapoor: During my chat with Albert Hitchcock of Pearson, he mentioned that COVID-19 has not changed the education company's vision or strategy at all. In fact, it has accelerated it. Albert shared his point of view on how digital native companies like Uber, Amazon, and Netflix have raised customer expectations and are now the baseline. His advice to listeners is clear, digital transformation is a marathon, not a sprint.

Chet Kapoor: Nordstrom's Edmond Mesrobian sees a silver lining despite the impact of COVID-19 on the retail industry. He described these interesting things as focused opportunities. Edmond said it forced Nordstrom's to focus on the moment and revealed avenues to accelerate digital transformation that might previously have gone unseen. He explained it really well. Let's take a listen:

Edmond Mesrobian: The biggest transformation is that the infrastructure required to really build something wonderful and world-class, it no longer requires you to be the infrastructure provider in every sense of it. There are advantages to having infrastructure in terms of whether it's your own version of Cassandra on prem versus the cloud. There's reasons why you'd want to have a mixture, a hybrid, so on and so forth. But more to the point, a lot of those technologies are quite now in the mix and in the large. You don't have to invent that later and you can put more of your fuel at inventing at the customer edge.

Chet Kapoor: The work that Fahim Siddiqui and the entire Home Depot IT team accomplished during COVID is truly remarkable. In our chat, Fahim talked about the importance of velocity and decision-making at a time when they're seeing Black Friday volumes every day. The win for Home Depot? They successfully launched curbside pickup in less than 30 days with Cassandra and DataStax, which ultimately increased digital sales by 100% in Q2.

Chet Kapoor: Another area we talked about was the importance of becoming a Data-Driven enterprise, and more importantly, how to get there. Ashok Vaswani from Barclays was awesome, and emphasized the importance of collecting data and getting it to the right place, in the right time, and the right format, and using it in the right way. All of these things are very difficult to do. Ashok made two things very clear, digital transformation is only successful if it comes from a cultural mindset shift, and two, data plays an increasingly important role in all aspects of financial services companies.

Chet Kapoor: Aiaz Kazi of Banco Santander underscores this. He says that evolving into a data-driven enterprise and a platform business is more critical than ever in this new world. Aiaz discussed how enterprises can move from traditional on-premise to cloud native mobile first and AI enabled platforms. Aiaz said it best, when referring to the digital transformation journey, he said, "We have only just begun."

Chet Kapoor: Dev Ganguly of Jackson Financial pointed out that data is the fuel of this new economy. He says, "The more data we have, the more capable the AI engines will be." Two things that stood out in our chat, one, liberating data is one of the most important challenges facing IT, and two, the pace of change encourages us to have an outside-in perspective.

Chet Kapoor: I really enjoyed my conversation with Rob Carter, the CIO of FedEx, who shared FedEx's digital transformation story. It's impressive when you think about FedEx. FedEx connects 99% of the world's GDP. They gained 50X performance over legacy databases through transforming their data architecture. It was great to hear why he believes technology is the digital nervous system of a company and how he's working to activate data at a very macro level. Here is what he said:

Rob Carter: We have significant repositories of data, and now what we're doing is using this next generation technology to activate that data in a more real way, and try and provide insights to the world and to customers that we think will be quite valuable.

Chet Kapoor: Our guests all shared leadership tips and what they wish they could have told the younger version of themselves. Sebastian Thrun of Kitty Hawk and Udacity told us that success doesn't come from being good at something. Not surprisingly, he prefers learning, which often comes from failure. What failure is to him is learning fast and living by the mantra, you can make any mistake, but you can only make it once.

Chet Kapoor: Mark McClennon of Burberry reflected on the factors that make up his success. He notes that many CIOs take a zigzag career path that include a variety of business roles. When I asked Mark, what advice would you give to a younger version of yourself, he shared three pieces of advice. Don't worry so much. Don't underestimate how much people want to help you along your journey. And the last one, most importantly, always make sure you have a source of joy in your life.

Chet Kapoor: Kim Stevenson of NetApp shared the power of having a network and that career paths do not need to be written in stone. Her advice to listeners is summed up best in this clip:

Kim Stevenson: The key is that you could get your diverse experiences through different functions like I did, or different companies, or different industry sectors. The important part is building that perspective that allows you to see problems through lenses that maybe others don't see, and that will create a wedge that you can leverage to accelerate your own career, your own company, whatever the case may be.

Chet Kapoor: Last but not least, we heard amazing lessons in leadership from Sorabh Saxena of AT&T business. When I asked him, who inspires you, he said that he gets inspiration from many people, but it's really the three Ms, Michael Jordan, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. What a list. They all overcame adversity to inspire millions in their generations and generations to come.

Chet Kapoor: These guests have continued to inspire me with their journeys, lessons learned, and their vision for the future. I encourage you to listen and listen again. If you have any feedback or suggestions, you can tweet me or email 

Season two will be just as impactful. We have amazing guests from Cisco, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Macquarie Bank, PayPal, and other global brands already lined up. 

Thanks for joining us on this journey and see you in 2021.