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“Constant innovation is the key to continued growth and success”, With Douglas Brown and Mithu Bhargava of NCR

To me, this comes down to three key pillars to success. First, you need to have a fundamentally differentiated value proposition in the technology product/solution you provide. If you start from a position where your technology can be commoditized over time, your success will decline over time. Have that great big idea, make sure your […]

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To me, this comes down to three key pillars to success. First, you need to have a fundamentally differentiated value proposition in the technology product/solution you provide. If you start from a position where your technology can be commoditized over time, your success will decline over time. Have that great big idea, make sure your company solves a unique business challenge for your targeted customer. Next, you need to attract the best technical talent. Your product is only as good as the people who build it. This comes down to creating a company where innovation thrives, where every employee strives to raise the bar on themselves every day, and therefore, a place where top talent fights to earn a place at. Finally, you want to create a culture that is obsessed with your customer. A culture where customer centricity is ingrained into the DNA of the company, and everything from deciding what product to build to how you build it to how you service and support it is done with a customer lens. Having the best customer facing teams, whether it’s sales, service or support is absolutely critical as you think of long term sustained competitive advantage as a technology company.


As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women Leaders in Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mithu Bhargava who serves as the Senior Vice President & GM for NCR’s Global Professional Services Organization. Mithu is a seasoned leader with extensive experience building and leading global, technical go-to-market organizations, with the ultimate goal of delivering a differentiated, best-in-class customer experience.

In her role, Mithu is responsible for the strategic direction and execution of NCR’s Global Professional Services business. Her organization brings NCR’s vison to life for customers, leveraging an extensive set of offerings. These offerings include business consulting, solution implementation, and optimization services. As businesses evolve their strategy to effectively compete in today’s ever-changing world, NCR Professional Services works closely with customers to lead them through their digital transformation journey by offering transformation consulting services, expertise to maximize consumer experience and intimacy, and innovative solutions to drive insight and decision making.

Prior to joining NCR, Mithu led the Commercial Global Technical Presales Organization for Dell-EMC. Mithu’s organization consisted of a team of top technologists responsible for positioning Dell-EMC’s product portfolio across customers and partners, working closely with them to architect the right solution to meet their datacenter transformation objectives. She originally joined EMC (now Dell-EMC) in 2013 as the COO for the Global Presales organization. Prior to that, Mithu spent over a decade at Akamai Technologies, where she held several senior leadership positions across go-to-market and corporate functions, including professional services, presales, account management, customer experience, corporate finance and business operations.

Mithu holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Mumbai, India, a Masters in Computer Networking from North Carolina State University, and a MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Business.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Looking back, I recall coming out of grad school with my masters in computer science right when the dot com bubble burst. I took the first job I got which was technical support for a technology company. This was not exactly what I envisioned my first job out of school to be, but it turned out to be a great opportunity for me to discover my passion which has fueled my path forward. I always knew I had a keen interest in technology, but while manning the phones, I quickly realized how much I enjoyed interacting with customers. I discovered that as I interacted with customers, I was able to innovate, build and implement technical solutions to solve everything from their tactical issues to broader business challenges. Over the course of my career, I have built and led large global customer facing organizations and businesses, while never steering too far from the customer!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

It’s been a really interesting journey thus far. Between when I started at the company mid-2018 to now, it’s been a story of accelerated transformation all around. We have been focused on transforming our culture, doubling down on our focus on the customer and re-inventing ourselves to be a software and services led business. To me, it has been extremely rewarding to be part of this journey, and to see our work reflected in the impact we can drive for our customers, and in our business results.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve always operated at an extremely fast pace, and thrive when I am super busy, multi-tasking and moving the ball forward constantly. I recall operating in this mode on an occasion early in my career when I was working through a major customer issue and was updating the C-level teams across my company and the customer in an email. It turned out that I didn’t spell check, which normally isn’t a big issue, until of course you unintentionally send an email with a number of typos to this high-profile audience! Folks obviously did not make a big deal and understood this was completely a mistake, but for years, I would cringe each time I thought of this instance. I learned an important lesson as well — slowing down and catching a breath is just as important to delivering results, and being able to balance pace would be a critical gating factor for me going forward.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I’ve always been fairly ambitious and have been one to raise my hand should there be an opportunity that came along that I thought would allow me to broaden my skills or progress my career forward. I’ve encountered multiple occasions early in my career where my readiness or capability to do the job was questioned, purely because I hadn’t done the job before, or because I was early in my career compared to other applicants. These instances were frustrating, and every time I was passed up for an opportunity I would feel down and out. But these instances also motivated me to push myself even more, so I worked harder to prepare myself for the opportunities ahead. I would proactively take on projects cross-functionally, take on course work to supplement my skills and differentiate myself as I planned forward. As I saw myself succeed over the years, my confidence and drive continued to grow and helped me bounce back each time there was a hurdle along the way.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve been fortunate to have a number of great leaders and mentors who have helped me tremendously in my career to get me to where I am today. However, I think the constant force behind me that has got me to where I am today has been my family. My parents raised me to believe there was nothing I could not achieve if I set my mind to it, which has been my mindset since I was a child. My husband, who I have known for the better part of my life, has been my constant cheerleader and sound board when it comes to my career.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

In the words of Maya Angelou, “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” I love the simplicity and depth of this quote. It’s a reminder every day to me personally to spread happiness and positivity. This is relevant to me every day candidly with how I choose to live my life, and the impact I strive to have.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?

We are leading the way for our customers in a digital first e-commerce world. We are the software and service technology partner of choice to RUN restaurants, retailers & self-service banking. We service thousands of customers in 100+ countries, working with them every day providing end-to-end technology and services.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

NCR is a 137-year-old company that’s had a legacy of innovation built into its foundation. From the first cash register that was invented by NCR to today where we are leading the way for our customers in a digital first e-commerce world. We are the software and service technology partner of choice to RUN restaurants, retailers & self-service banking. We service thousands of customers in 100+ countries, working with them every day providing end-to-end technology and services. What has been incredible to see as a relatively new executive at the company is the immense loyalty employees have towards the organization, and the pride they take in serving our customer base. It truly stands out and is a business differentiator for us as a company.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am working on several exciting projects right now! One that is near and dear to my heart is transforming our professional services business to provide value-added services and advisory to our customers. In today’s post COVID world, all businesses we serve, be it retailers, restaurants or self-service banks are all being forced to transform. With our advisory services, we are empowering our customers to thrive by helping them transform their consumer journey and store/restaurant/banking operations by creating an experience across physical and digital channels. This has a huge impact in allowing a small restaurant to continue their business through their online presence, for example, or allow for curbside pickup/delivery to expand their business through new channels. Similarly, partnering with grocery stores to redesign their consumer journey and allow for digital checkout and experiences in a post COVID world has been incredibly valuable to businesses in the current times.

Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in more broad terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in Tech? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

I am happy that over the last few years there has been progress in the right direction for women in business and in technology. I think in the last 6–12 months there is more awareness than there ever was on the opportunity ahead of us to have a greater representation of women in the workplace, be it on corporate boards, C-level positions, or in technology positions. We are past the stage of acknowledging that there is a problem. There is violent agreement that there is a need for action to ensure that women don’t just pursue a job in a technology field, but are set up to thrive with long-term, successful careers. To solve this, we need to recognize the barriers that exist even today, address them, and work towards driving a truly equitable work environment.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?

I think the biggest challenge women in tech face today is implicit bias, largely driven by being a much smaller part of the population in the sector when compared to their male counterparts. There is still a perception tied to women in tech being less skilled, less competent and overall, less ambitious than their male counterparts. Women must work not just to be great at what they do, but also go the extra mile to fight and change perceptions. The good news here is this is changing fast as more young women pursue computer engineering /STEM degrees because there is a natural shift in numbers taking place in the workplace. This is quickly changing the mix, and with it, the perception. I would encourage women in tech to continue to be aware of the environment around them, and make a conscious effort where needed to position what is important to them in the workplace from a skills, learning, contribution and ambition perspective.

What would you advise to another tech leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill? From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?

Constant innovation is the key to continued growth and success. I think every business is cyclical to some extent, and goes through periods of hyper growth then consolidates. The way to drive “consistent” growth outside of these natural ebbs and flows is through constant innovation and constant reinvention. Stepping out of your comfort zone, into new adjacencies and finally to new ground is key to sustained growth.

Do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?

Very simply — Skills, Incentives and Inspection. High performing sales teams are highly skilled in their industry to start with. To create a high performing sales team, you have to invest in training your sales team to be the best. How you incentivize sales is important to driving the behavior you expect to see. You want your sales team to be aggressive and strive to overachieve on their goals, for which you need to set their goals and incentives correctly, in line with your corporate growth objectives. Finally, inspect what you expect. If you don’t have the right operating cadence in place to manage your sales operation, even with the most skilled team and right set goals, your team will not be set up to perform to its maximum level.

In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?

Reference based selling is always the most effective method to attract new customers. There is no higher testament to a company than to have your customers be out there validating you in front of prospects. To get to this point however is challenging. A customer needs to truly view your company with the highest degree of trust, and as an extension of their operation so to speak to be able to give you an external reference, and put their validation behind your company name.

Based on your experience, can you share 3 or 4 strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?

In my view, you want to create a culture that is obsessed with your customer. A culture where customer centricity is ingrained into the DNA of the company, and everything from deciding what product to build to how you build it to how you service and support it is done with a customer lens. Having the best customer facing teams, whether it’s sales, service or support is absolutely critical as you think of long term sustained competitive advantage as a technology company.

As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?

In the words of NCR CEO, Mike Hayford, the key to driving the highest degree of customer satisfaction — “Treat every customer like your only customer.” Sounds simple, and it is actually that simple. Customers rarely churn because they want to switch partners/vendors if in fact they feel like they love the product/solution they bought, and their account sales service and support team is exceeding their expectations. That only happens when you truly put customer satisfaction above any other metric, and truly have happy customers and that in turn leads to business growth and success. To quote Mike Hayford again, “Happy customers buy more stuff.”

Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful tech company? Please share a story or an example for each.

To me, this comes down to three key pillars to success. First, you need to have a fundamentally differentiated value proposition in the technology product/solution you provide. If you start from a position where your technology can be commoditized over time, your success will decline over time. Have that great big idea, make sure your company solves a unique business challenge for your targeted customer. Next, you need to attract the best technical talent. Your product is only as good as the people who build it. This comes down to creating a company where innovation thrives, where every employee strives to raise the bar on themselves every day, and therefore, a place where top talent fights to earn a place at. Finally, you want to create a culture that is obsessed with your customer. A culture where customer centricity is ingrained into the DNA of the company, and everything from deciding what product to build to how you build it to how you service and support it is done with a customer lens. Having the best customer facing teams, whether it’s sales, service or support is absolutely critical as you think of long term sustained competitive advantage as a technology company.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Gender equality is a key movement which I believe I have already contributed to in my own way, and which I certainly see as bringing tremendous benefit to so many people if we could scale and accelerate it even more. The position of women as equal partners at home and in the workplace is extremely important to me and to humanity.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Without a doubt, Melinda Gates. To me, she has had a disproportionate impact on gender equality in the world today with her strong vocalization for the position of women as equal partners at home and in the workplace. Furthermore, I attribute much of the philanthropy we see across the world today to the early efforts, awareness and the example she set with the Giving Pledge and many similar initiatives.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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