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FCW Insider: The FCW Exit Interview with outgoing IAC Chairman Venkatapathi Puvvada (PV)

In this week's issue, we run an interview with outgoing IAC Chairman Venkatapathi Puvvada.

The end of June marked the last day of the tenure of Unysis' Venkatapathi Puvvada (PV) as chairman of the Industry Advisory Council. On July 1, Leslie Steele, chief executive officer of InterImage, took over leadership of the influential industry group.

So PV and I had lunch at Clyde's restaurant in Tysons Corner, Va. to talk about... stuff. We had a wide ranging conversation about IAC, his accomplishments, his tenure...

Puvvada, Unysis' vice president and chief technology officer, inherited leadership of the organization three months early after Bill Piatt, the former chairman, stepped down after he got a job with the World Bank, which is not an IAC member. While Puvvada was thrust into the chairman's seat earlier then he would have been otherwise, it also gave Puvvada the unique opportunity to craft the direction of IAC.

And IAC is facing some unique challenges. There have been a string of mergers among industry groups in the past year, and much of IAC's operating funds comes from membership and from conferences -- and the federal market is fairly saturated with conferences. Puvvada said that one of his goals was to put IAC on more secure financial foundations.

I'm still editing down the transcript. I'll post a link here Monday, I hope. But... here is a portion of the conversation:

FCW: So, as you leave the IAC chairmanship, how do you see the organization?

PUVVADA: This is a difficult financial time, you know, for obvious reasons. Market conditions are not conducive to people spending money. So, one way to deal with that is to plan for it at that time. The organization has enough in the bank to be able to survive for a long period of time. So I think that obviates it, but we need to do a lot more to drive value compensation on why folks need to be part of it.

FCW: And what is the value proposition of IAC? How do you tell people what the value proposition is?

PUVVADA: I mean, it is to be part of a collaborative environment of the government and industry. So there is no other organization that has a government component to it. You have stakeholders that are board members that have a neutral, independent, objective, collaborative environment with no single entity, individual position ahead of others. So the value proposition is to participate in a dialogue to help government understand the priorities, how to get the priorities done, how to collaborate with various stakeholders. That could be industry, government, academia, media, and to do that in a way that doesn’t compromise any objectivity, any independence, anything else.

So it really about collaboration -- the ability to participate in the collaboration, to help a better government. And why is that good for companies? You’re ensuring that we’re looking at the right issues, we’re investing in the right issues. And then you can position yourself to kind of – as an industry partner – to help the government and support the services. So it’s unique in the sense that you have a government organization that helps you understand the issues, that works with you to collaborate how to get them done, what are the best practices.

FCW: We talked a little bit before we started the official conversation about what you will take away from this experience and what you leave there. What are some of the things that you feel you’re leaving with the organization as you look back upon it?

PUVVADA: So, in terms of personally, I think it has been a great opportunity and it’s a great honor to be in this position and to represent 550 companies in this great cause. What I’m taking away is optimism that there’s a lot of innovation that the market offers that makes the government better, that we have ways to tap into that innovation. We have ways to have a candid dialogue and to be at the middle of that in facilitating that dialogue has been a tremendous, tremendous growth for me as a person.

The other major thing is that I did not fathom the challenge of the leadership of a complex organization. Our organization does so many things. So you have organizations that just do facilitate dialogue through conferences. You have organizations that do collaborative professional development and mentoring. You have organizations that get the government speakers to communicate with industry. You’ve got the organizations – not many, but there may be some – that do what shared-interest groups do. You’ve got organizations that do all kinds of collaboration, other collaboration venues. You have the organizations that take care of one set of stakeholders.

FCW: What do you take away from the past 14 months?

PUVVADA: A lot of people ask me, "What does one get out of doing these kinds of things as a volunteer, in addition to your full-time job?"

You know, the big thing that hit me is you get what you want out of it -- you get what you give. If you can have passion about how do we collectively think about solving some serious problems that we, as individuals or individual companies, cannot solve. And if people can have that perspective to say – you know, there are a lot of other forums, obviously, but this one, ACT/IAC, is a – it has the right structure, right fundamental objective, to make a better government and have a better collaboration, participate in the collaborative effort. Give, and then you’ll get a lot. You’ll get it in different ways.

There are a lot of benefits to it and that’s the perspective that I had, coming into it, that turned out to be the right perspective. It’s about volunteering, it’s about making a better place, and creating that legacy of public service. And telling our next generation it’s a good thing, you know, that the government does and we can make it better, because if we can complain about all the problems, we have to step up and say here is how we can make it better –

FCW: To do something about it.

PUVVADA: Do something about it. That's the encouraging thing about this campaign, the presidential campaign, is a lot more people are involved. Whoever wins, it doesn’t matter; I think it’s a great democratic thing and it’s the same thing here, is to get involved.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Jul 06, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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