Technology Skills of the Future with Ashish Mittal
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Technology Skills of the Future

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Leader Speak with Ashish Mittal

Leader Speak with Ashish Mittal

Meytier was honored to sit down and chat with Ashish Mittal, Head of Investments Management, Investments Operations and Compliance Technology at American Century. Ashish shared valuable insight from his years of experience hiring and leading in technology with us. We admire his thoughtful analysis of the struggles women face in his industry as well as his commitment to elevating women in tech in his own teams and beyond.

Leader Speak with Ashish Mittal

Leader Speak with Ashish Mittal

Meytier was honored to sit down and chat with Ashish Mittal, Head of Investments Management, Investments Operations and Compliance Technology at American Century. Ashish shared valuable insight from his years of experience hiring and leading in technology with us. We admire his thoughtful analysis of the struggles women face in his industry as well as his commitment to elevating women in tech in his own teams and beyond.

"Tech goes through so much change, and it's important just to be able to learn."

Women have a tendency to self-select themselves out of core technology roles and into analysis, project management, and other support roles. We believe this is becoming a barrier to some of the highest levels of leadership as companies increasingly expect leaders to come from core engineering backgrounds and continue to be hands-on technologists. Have you noticed this drop out of core tech over the course of your career? What do you think the reasons were?


I've definitely seen the phenomenon of women dropping out of "core tech" roles in the Industry, but I haven't seen many drops out of tech careers altogether. So I think they used to drop out because, over time, they selected roles in program management, operations management, financial administration, and people and operational management. This is all still in the context of tech, but rather than 'engineering leadership' or 'technology leadership' driving the core technology mission. However, this dropout has reduced significantly recently as to why - part of it is just the setup of expectations. Culturally, most organizations were historically geared towards men, so leadership roles were structurally and culturally limited for women.


I've also noticed that women were given scant support over the years when building those core tech skills necessary for big leadership roles. Partly perhaps because, for a long time, technology was a bit of a boys club and hard to break into. Informal conversations, mentorship, etc., happened between men more naturally, with women lacking a critical mass in the profession. That has started to change, especially recently, but a full transition will take time. Women weren't given the same resources, opportunities, and training to build those core tech skill sets for quite a long time. Thus, they couldn't turn ambitions into concrete opportunities as easily. The doors were a little bit closed to women.


I am fortunate to be working in an organization at the moment, where Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are part of the DNA, with leaders at the senior-most levels driving the DEI agenda in words and deeds. Indeed, this was one of the key factors which attracted me to the firm, to begin with!


What do you think are the fundamental skills to succeed in tech? What technical areas do you think are the future of tech? Where should young workers focus?


As you grow in your career, softer skills become more important. Suppose you're in middle management or senior management. In that case, it's important to have the ability to create a vision, advocate for it and evangelize, create organization and technical strategies, manage organizational dynamics, inspire your teams, and shape and drive one's environment becomes more important. Not that hard skills aren't important, they're just muted in that you need to define the vision and manage the outcomes, but you don't build it personally anymore, i.e., code yourself.


All that said, "learning to learn" is the most important thing when it comes down to it. Tech goes through so much change, and it's important just to be able to learn. Every five-seven years, people in the tech workforce have to reskill. It's important to be able and willing to learn new things constantly. In terms of important tech skills for the future, I'd say artificial intelligence, cloud computing, distributed architecture, automation, robotics, and the like are critically important. Most other tech professionals will probably give you the same answer, and I'm sure we will all be slightly or a lot wrong in hindsight after 15-20 years because something else will come up and be the next big thing.

"Environment management and vision-setting, and inspiration, become the most important skills at the most senior levels."

How do you hire? What do you look for in candidates?


For someone who has been in the industry for under five years, hiring tends to be more about promise and potential than exact skill. I look for a track record for learning new things; I look for leadership potential. When you’re hiring at the beginning of someone’s career, you’re essentially making a downpayment and hoping that the potential pays out in the long term.


For more senior roles, I ask, “Is this a person who can shape the organization and shape the vision?” Do they have the acumen to shepherd that vision through the organization? All organizations are resource-constrained, so how do you ensure you can build support and conviction to drive the right outcomes for the firm? Environment management and vision-setting, and inspiration, become the most important skills at the most senior levels.


Of course, core technical skills are a given, appropriate to any level of seniority, and at intermediate, to senior levels of hiring, they are expected as table stakes!

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