Avee Ranjan, UTH – How to Navigate the Hiring Process and Make Your Impact as a Leader

Table of Contents:

Background

Michael:

So welcome to a very special occasion in our series of conversations with CEOs, executives, and HR leaders. Avee Ranjan, our guest today, is the assistant vice president for marketing and digital strategy at the Academic Medical Center in Dallas. Avee has many years of leadership experience in building organizations. He's an accomplished strategist, skilled in converting a vision into significant results for organizations, as well as elevating people in their professional growth. Avee is a recognized turnaround professional for companies and complex projects, as well as helping to build many startups. During his career in the IT industry, Avee led system development projects for the insurance, finance, healthcare, auditing, risk management, publishing, education, nonprofit and government sectors, overseeing development projects all around the globe, including Switzerland, Australia, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Philippines and India. Avee, welcome to our program.

Avee Ranjan:

Thank you, Michael, for that really kind introduction and always pleasure talking to you, Michael.

Michael:

Would you mind starting our talk with telling us a little bit about your personal journey?

Avee Ranjan:

So I started very small. I belonged to a family where a good education is must. So I was a really good student, worked hard to get in one of the best schools in India. I did my master's in computer application, started as a programmer, and then in the software industry, I moved to architecture and then project management, managing the small teams, IT, non-IT projects, and finally growing the ladders, like climbing the ladder slowly. I am in a leadership role.

Industry Changes

Michael:

That's wonderful. Looking back, how do you see the industry having changed?

Avee Ranjan:

A lot. Like, especially with the technology, like every industry I have worked in, they are moving towards automation. Everybody wants to save some money. Everybody wants a lean organization. So that's one of the big changes I'm seeing. And apart from that, the technology is emerging so fast that some organizations are behind, but the moment you are behind some others will come and that's really going to harm the organization. So it's changing fast. We have to do a catch-up.

Leadership Style

Michael:

Yeah. Yeah. With that in mind, what are some of your priorities moving forward with your current organization?

Avee Ranjan:

So I generally put my priorities in some big buckets and one of them is people. So I focus on people a lot and especially with my leadership style, I have to take care of the team. So I focus on like, are they empowered? Are they trained? What's their career development? Where it's headed? I'd be really happy if somebody goes to a bigger organization and makes more money. So I feel like that's my responsibility, not only getting work done, but to make sure that every team member is empowered and they are learning a lot, growing a lot. That's very important for me. So that part, I feel like I'm almost there, building the trust also is important, kindness, very important. So now I'm a little bit more focused on the processes side. So I'm looking at project management; what's the best way to do? I'm starting to center of excellence, one for social media, one for project management. So processes will definitely help the team. And then the last part is the tool. So I'm trying to implement a lot of new tools that helps our organization. So people first, then improve the processes and definitely keep the new tools and new ways of doing things in mind.

Michael:

That's wonderful. And you kind of answered my next questions partially. So if you don't mind, I'm going to expand on that. When it comes to leadership style, besides the people that work directly for your organization, how do you apply that to other stakeholders in an organization?

Avee Ranjan:

So, Michael, one piece I missed on the last question. So let me add that.

Michael:

Absolutely.

Avee Ranjan:

That, even if you are focused on people, processes are tools. You need to have a strategy and follow that, or have somebody tactical making sure that that's being implemented. So next question was leadership style, right?

Michael:

Exactly.

Avee Ranjan:

So my leadership style is servant leadership. I'm here to serve. I am responsible for every team member and I am here not only to just serve the customers, but to serve the employees who are under my team. And sometimes your leadership style changes also, Michael, based on situation to situation, but mostly I'm in the serving one.

Michael:

That's wonderful. That's great. What made you decide to work in higher education and healthcare?

Avee Ranjan:

Well, education and healthcare, I feel that's important for the society. And I was born in a family of educators. So I'm a little bit biased on that part, but when you look at education, we are putting in the future of our society and healthcare takes care of the current needs. So I feel like it takes care of both. So I'm always attracted to healthcare and education.

Hiring Process

Michael:

That makes sense. That makes sense. I'm going to change gears here a little bit and ask you about the hiring process. When you are reviewing a candidate's resume or LinkedIn profile, besides their specific skills, what make you decide to interview them or not?

Avee Ranjan:

That may be a tough one, Michael, because like on one job opening, you get hundreds of resumes and most of those candidates meet those qualifications there, they have the experience. So it's hard to figure out from the resume, but definitely I'm looking for some cues, whether they would be a culture fit or not, are they willing to learn? And I see that if I see something very unique on their resume, definitely my curiosity goes up and I would love to bring that candidate and talk about what they can help us and we can help them. It's a mutual two-way street. So definitely something unique on the resume because most of the resumes they have the qualification and experience.

Michael:

That was it. You just shared the very important tip with our audience in terms of how to make the resume come across with some unique capabilities. That's wonderful. Thank you for that. Similarly, when you are interviewing a candidate, what are you looking for to decide whether this is a good fit for the organization or not?

Avee Ranjan:

So generally, I look for whether they are going to be a culture fit or not, because if they're not a culture fit, then not jelling with the team, it's not going to work. And I look at positive energy, somebody who's willing to learn or not, and then are they willing to adapt? So those are the most important. Again, like when it comes to the qualification and skills, I know that they will do their job, that they have been doing programming, or they have been doing marketing or they have been doing creative. They will do that, but I want to make sure that there is the culture fit.

Michael:

That I think is very important. That makes sense. And how much of a difference would it make if other team members already in your team would vouch for a new candidate?

Avee Ranjan:

If somebody comes to me and vouches for a candidate, definitely I will be putting a little bit of energy in looking into that candidate. Of course, follow the process, I'm not going to break the process. But when the candidate is in the top tier, like say top two or top three, definitely I would be inclined towards this candidate because somebody knows it's going to be a culture fit. So I am not going to take this candidate over somebody who's better, but definitely if there are two, three candidates at the same level of this candidate, I would prefer this candidate.

Michael:

Yes. Because you will have more trust and understanding that it could be a good fit.

Avee Ranjan:

Yeah.

Salary Negotiations

Michael:

Yeah. That makes sense. That makes sense. I want to ask you a totally different question more on the negotiating side or when candidates apply for a position, a lot of people are kind of hesitant to answer, or don't quite know how to answer the salary expectation question, because they're always afraid that they may be leaving money on the table. From the employer's perspective, what are your thoughts? What is your advice on that and how would you like them to go about that?

Avee Ranjan:

The first thing I would say is be honest. Whatever you're making, if the employer is asking, tell that and whatever you are expecting, tell that if it's asked, because you're wasting time for both sides. I'm wasting the candidate's time and candidate is wasting my time. Everything goes well, and we don't agree on a salary. So definitely you need to discuss or ask about the ballpark. And if you feel like that ballpark meets your needs, then go for the interview. I do not think any employer would reject you just because you're asking a higher salary. And Michael, we are in 2021, right? That you can do Google and you can even figure out LinkedIn gives you the average salary or the salary range. So you have some idea and no, you should not feel like you are leaving something on the table.

Michael:

Right. Great. That makes sense. Well, thank you for that advice because a lot of our clients are kind of nervous about that, so that's [crosstalk 00:11:16].

Avee Ranjan:

Michael, there's one more thing. Most of the people do not understand that, I will give an example here, that let's say some candidate is making $50,000, but the actual job, what they're applying that pays $95,000, the employers should be paying this candidate 95, not $60,000, little bit more than what... So there's honesty here from both sides-

Michael:

That makes sense. That makes sense.

Avee Ranjan:

If we do not agree upon a salary.

Michael:

That makes sense. That makes sense.

Avee Ranjan:

Why would a candidate come and join my organization at a lower salary? Maybe I can't pay, I don't have the budget. So I should not be wasting people's time. Let's have a rough idea of what's the ballpark and then start the interview or the process.

Michael:

Exactly. Especially if you want to keep a candidate, you want to make sure [crosstalk 00:12:11].

Avee Ranjan:

Yes.

New Executives

Michael:

Yeah. That makes sense. I mean, what is your advice to new executives, in terms of how they should go about doing the best they can do for an organization and at the same time help themselves expedite their success.

Avee Ranjan:

So again, this is what I've seen, and people might have different ideas on this, but when you get into the leadership, you need to build trust and manage the team. And I'm not selling anything here, but Simon Simon has a couple of books and he has a lot of videos out there. It would be good for them to watch. And I feel like as emerging leaders, they need to deliver. And on top of that, they need to walk the talk. So focus on team, walk the talk, have a vision where you want to take the team. So those are very important. And the senior management definitely looks at when you are delivering projects, when you are caring about the team. They look at those things.

Michael:

That make sense. That makes sense.

Avee Ranjan:

So I have a few directors working for me and I always keep an eye on them in the sense, not that I keep, it's more about that working with them to make sure that their team is empowered. Their team has the trainings done. They have the skillset. So definitely focusing on people would be the right thing to do.

In-Demand Skills

Michael:

That makes sense. I mean, in terms of opportunities in the industry, from where you're sitting, what are the positions or skills or professionals that are very in-demand in the fields that you are associated with?

Avee Ranjan:

IT industry, I'm talking just in terms of IT industry. There are more jobs than people. So it's always good to keep an eye where you are interested in going. So you have to decide, the candidate has to decide what they want to do in life. They want to be an architect, then go towards architecture. If you are looking to be a project manager, look at project management. Some people might say that I only want to work on UI/UX, then focus on that. So my suggestion would be that read a lot. Like I put in a couple of hours, almost every day, reading about where the industry's headed, what are the new things happening, new ways of doing things. So those are my suggestions to the emerging leaders. To keep the focus and on top of that, make sure that you decide your line. That if you focus on something, somebody might decide that I only want to work in education, higher education and keep a focus on that. Look at the trends, look at the new ways of doing stuff. So that's my sedation.

Young Professionals

Michael:

Okay. That makes sense. That makes sense. For younger professionals, mid-level employees, any advice on how to be successful, kind of keeping a balance in life, as much as focusing on the career. Do you have any recommendations on that?

Avee Ranjan:

Yeah, definitely. And to be honest, I've been there. Right now I'm in a leadership role, but it started like 20, 25 years back. And when you look at the definition of a success, it's different for you, Michael, it's different for me. Some people are happy with money. Some people are happy with titles. Some people are even, I know a few of my friends that are happy with the mission of the company. So there is one common theme here that is happiness. So I would say that you need to decide what makes you happy and then have a plan and follow that plan.

Michael:

That makes sense.

Avee Ranjan:

There are a couple of other things also I will add to it that you need to have a work-life balance. You cannot burn yourself out. Your productivity goes down and it's one life. Like within this life, I have limited time and I have to utilize that.

Avee Ranjan:

So use the best of it. And of course, when you say that, follow your heart or follow your passion, put some guard rails. Like it's not like I'm going to quit my job and go do something. If you want to do it fine, but put some guard rails around. And Michael, if you allow, I want to share a very small story.

Michael:

Please.

Avee Ranjan:

So there was a study done, I don't know when, but people who were dying, this question was asked. The question was what's your biggest regret in life? And I don't remember the percentage, but the majority of the people said, "That I did not do what I wanted to do, but I did what my parents wanted me to do. My wife wanted me to do. What the society wanted me to do." So follow your passion.

Avee Ranjan:

Even in a job, like we all have passion and something that attracts you. For some people it's leadership, for some people is technology, some people marketing. I would say, follow your passion. You only have one life. Utilize it to the best.

Michael:

Exactly. And I guess following your passion, you'll be even more energized to go after that. Yeah?

Avee Ranjan:

Yes.

Final Thoughts

Michael:

Exactly. On a totally different note, what would you like to kind of set your current organization apart as an employer?

Avee Ranjan:

Let's see, we focus on people and I believe that whenever you look at academic medical centers, we are not only in healthcare, but we are in the education also. So we are building the future. So that's a little bit different in that we are not only in healthcare, but we are an education system. So that differentiates that. It's a huge organization, but culture is good. People are nice. It's like there's charm that people are nice. And that sets us apart.

Michael:

Yeah. That makes sense. That makes sense. What would you personally like to be remembered for as a leader?

Avee Ranjan:

Oh, wow. I don't know. Something like that, like happy-go-lucky kind of guy, like work hard, followed my passion and I like to help. So whenever possible I help. And I learned lots of skills I have, so I like to share those skills. Like I teach PMP classes. If I learn something new, I share with people, even if I watch a nice YouTube video of some leaders talking and I find something interesting, I share with people. So happy-go-lucky, follow this passion and help others.

Michael:

That's wonderful. Any other thoughts that you would like to share with our audience?

Avee Ranjan:

Yeah, absolutely. And how about another this story, Michael?

Michael:

Absolutely. Please.

Avee Ranjan:

So one of my yoga teachers in Minneapolis, and actually his name was also Michael.

Michael:

Oh, that's great.

Avee Ranjan:

So he, he shared a story with me and he said that a professor in a class brought a jar, a glass jar and he put some big rocks into that jar. And he asked the students, is it full or empty? And the rocks were till the top. The students are like, "It's full." Then he took some pebbles. He put the pebbles in that. And then he asked the students, is it full or empty? Now the students knew where it's headed, so they are like, "It's full." Then he put sand into it, then water. At the end, he asked like, Michael, "What did you learn?" And every student said that like, "There's always room for more." But the professor said that like, "No, if you don't fit the big rocks first, you can never fit in."

Michael:

That's wonderful.

Avee Ranjan:

I have been applying that to my work, that you need to focus on the bigger priorities. Take care of those and the smaller wins will always find its way. [crosstalk 00:21:10] Go, Michael.

Michael:

Oh I was just thinking, I was applying that as you were telling me, I was trying to apply to my day-to-day life, because it is so clear, so true. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Avee Ranjan:

That was an eye-opening moment for me, and after that I started figuring out my big rocks. And I feel like all my rocks are in place now, all the small stuff it's going well the knock on the wood.

Michael:

That's wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing that with us.

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