Alumni Profiles Series: Archana Ramamoorthy
Archana Ramamoorthy is Chief Technology Officer, North America at Workday, a leading provider of enterprise HR and Financial software solutions. She received her master's degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Duke in 2009. Before joining Workday, she worked as a Functional Specialist at Deutsche Bank. She joined Workday in 2013, where she began as a product manager and became senior director of product management before her current leadership role.
What has your career path looked like since you graduated?
I graduated with a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Duke in 2009. While I was at Duke I interned at AT&T, related to my work at Duke in Electrical Engineering. I was planning to stay in that sector after my graduation. The 2008-2009 recession threw a wrench in those plans since there were not many open electrical engineering jobs. The industry that was hiring at that time was software engineering, and I decided to give that a shot.
I started as a software developer at Deutsche Bank, in Cary, North Carolina and worked there for about three and a half years. The job introduced me to the fascinating field of cybersecurity and I gradually progressed from being a software engineer to someone who worked in authorization systems, all the way to being a functional specialist impacting high scale software for trading platforms at Deutsche Bank.
While I enjoyed coding, I found interacting with customers and understanding “what to build” was more fulfilling than simply focusing on “how to build it.” I transferred my role from being a software engineer in DB to functional specialist. I had inadvertently stumbled upon the world of Product Management. I was also looking to move to California to join my husband, so I started applying to product roles.
This search landed me at Workday, where I started out as a product manager working in several areas including scalability and performance, search, collaboration and security. After progressing as an individual contributor in the areas of Identity and Authentication, I was given an opportunity to step up and led a team of security product managers spanning IAM, Audit, Platform security and Privacy. I thoroughly enjoyed management and leadership. I also ended up owning and growing the Associate Product Management program during this time.
I spent a few years driving product strategy, vision, and building critical security functionality as a director and then senior director of security products for Workday. I was looking for more opportunities to influence the company and the technical organization, so I transitioned to the office of the CTO with much broader scope across all of technology. At this point, I am the Chief Technology Officer in North America for Workday.
What career goals did you have when you were a graduate student? How have your goals evolved?
As I mentioned, when I graduated, I thought my ideal job would be being an electrical engineer, a designer, or someone working in the electrical engineering industry. It was purely through chance that I moved into software engineering and the fascinating industry of cyber security. At that point my goal was to learn about the field and be competent. As I grew in confidence, I realized that my passion was trying to innovate new products and have greater influence on what the team, organization and company must focus on. This led me towards product management and leadership positions. My goals then started veering towards learning and mastering the softer skills that are not directly taught in engineering courses. These included public speaking, conflict management, leadership, and coaching. Though my goals have changed, the focus has always been on learning new skills to perform better at the current role. I go where my passion leads me, and then I set ambitious goals to excel in the areas I move into.
Tell me more about your current job. What does your average day look like as a CTO?
My everyday responsibilities are threefold. First, I focus on ensuring that Workday customers and prospects understand the impact and value that our products can bring to their organization’s digital strategy. Second, I think about how we can solve big, hairy technical problems that span multiple teams. This allows us to enter new markets and maintain customer satisfaction by constantly innovating. Last, I focus on influencing product strategy and direction with internal teams by bringing in feedback and input from conversations with customers and prospects.
What is your favorite thing about working at Workday?
My favorite part about Workday is the people and the culture. We pride ourselves on nurturing an innovative and people-oriented culture. Looking at Workday’s core values, the first core value is employees, and we live by it. Ours is a company that focuses on happy employees leading to happy customers. Workday is a safe, innovative, and culturally awesome place to work.
What professional development steps have you taken to make yourself successful in taking on this leadership role?
I believe that everyone needs to make an active investment in professional development throughout their career. Education and learning should never stop with school or college. I have had several areas of focus during my career and I'll highlight a few.
First, to be a good leader, one must want to be a good leader. You need to be empathetic, have good communication skills, be able to influence people’s opinions, and work with a wide range of people and personalities, some of whom you might not agree with. Some of these skills can be learned from books and leadership training; some can be only learned via experience. My method has been both—taking opportunities to lead whenever a chance is given (be it something as small as planning a party or as large as running a cross-company initiative) as well as taking leadership courses and reading books on the subject.
The second area that I focused on is having mentors, role models, and coaches. People who have been in leadership positions can really help you think through challenges and guide you to become a better leader. I have always built a healthy mentor circle around me to help me make great decisions.
What career advice would you like to share with current graduate students at Duke?
Focus on networking and the connections you make, either at school or beyond. The power of networking is huge: I was able to get a referral to Deutsche Bank through a Duke alumnus; I got my first interview at Workday via a Duke alumnus. The Duke alumni network is powerful. Building strategic networks is a great way to get opportunities.
Ph.D. candidate, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Wanyi’s research interest is in medical imaging analysis. She received her M.S. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Duke in 2016 and Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and Bachelor of Electronic and Information Engineering from Beijing Jiaotong University in 2014.