Mentor Spotlight: NTT VP on transitioning to the cloud during COVID-19

In this mentor spotlight, Kurshid shares her insight into how COVID-19 has impacted customers' priorities around cloud networking, how corporate culture can better support a distributed workforce and advice she's received in her career that has helped her blend technical skills with business development acumen.

Kelsey Ziser, Senior Editor

August 6, 2021

8 Min Read
Mentor Spotlight: NTT VP on transitioning to the cloud during COVID-19

Muna Kurshid's career has run the gamut from engineering to hybrid cloud and enterprise networking to solution architecture and sales. She attributes her ability to understand a range of divisions within the telecom industry in part to advice and support she's received from career sponsors and mentors.

Light Reading caught up with Kurshid while she was vice president of solutions pre-sales for NTT; this July, she transitioned to vice president of WW networking and security solution engineering with VMware.

While at NTT, Kurshid and her team worked closely with the service provider's clients in their transition to reliance on cloud applications and hybrid cloud environments. In this mentor spotlight, Kurshid shares her insight into how COVID-19 has impacted customers' priorities around cloud networking, how corporate culture can better support a distributed workforce, and advice she's received in her career that has helped her blend technical skills with a business development acumen.

Figure 1: (Source: NTT) (Source: NTT)

Women in Comms: Has the pandemic impacted the rate at which your customers are moving forward with their digital transformations and where their priorities lie?

Muna Kurshid: Yes, absolutely. I took on this role in October of last year, which was right in the middle of a pandemic, because I was running our intelligent infrastructure and go to market prior to that COVID-19 has literally changed every industry out there, not just the IP. We have seen an amplification of some of the pre-pandemic trends that were cool and trendy becoming a reality now. Things like the impact of social media coupled with mobility on customer behaviors, multi-channel engagement, analytics, automation and artificial intelligence – they were all trends prior to the pandemic that are all a reality now and will continue to stay mainstream as we come out of the pandemic.

This is an area where my team, the solution architecture team, brings tremendous value to our clients. We are the trusted advisor for our clients – we sit down with them, understand their business, understand their business requirements and some of the challenges that they might be going through because of the pandemic. Then we architect a solution for them, which is data-driven, connected, secure, and can not only meet the requirements that they have today because of the pandemic but can also meet the requirements as they come out of the pandemic as well.

WiC: You also have a background in hybrid cloud – what are some of the biggest opportunities and challenges for your enterprise customers that would like to move to a hybrid cloud environment?

MK: The majority of the clients are doing that because of the pandemic, because, again, cloud has always been there. It's been around for many years. But in the last year, we have seen an adoption or significant adoption in that hybrid cloud strategy. It all has to go back to the digital transformation journey that our clients are on and COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation journey for pretty much every single client that I work with.

When you are going on that path of hybrid cloud, there's two things that you have to think about. One is how can I use my infrastructure that I have today, or how I can optimize the infrastructure to drive or deliver the digital transformation? And the second is, what is the impact on mission-critical applications?

You have to make sure you can deliver the application to the end user. You have to think about both the infrastructure from an application point of view, and to drive the hybrid cloud strategy. One way to start is by having software-defined, cloud-enabled architecture that has artificial intelligence, automation, security and analytics built into the heart of the architecture.

Those are the attributes that you need, both from an infrastructure point of view, and also from an applications point of view to deliver that employee experience and customer experience to your clients. So that's my, in my humble opinion, those are the things that you have to keep in mind, especially the new embarking on that journey of hybrid cloud, or cloud adoption.

WiC: What are your thoughts on how organizations in the telecom industry can better support their remote workers during this time?

MK: Every employee that works from home, regardless of the role that they are in or the function they're in, they all have to learn in re-imagine what their workstation should and could look like. Right? My husband is a physician and he had to learn how to do telemedicine. It has been challenging for a lot of folks in the last year to be able to keep up with everything that's going on.

When we think about employee experience, we have to make sure that we are giving them all the tools that our employees need to work from anywhere. Once they come out of the pandemic, we also have to think about employee wellness. We really have to take into consideration on how we support our employees from a wellness point of view to make sure they feel comfortable coming back to the office, and that the environment is safe for them and it's the right time for them to come back.

Every time we talk about the pandemic and working from home, we automatically just focus on our employees needing more collaboration tools or more access to resources to be able to do their job. But oftentimes people forget about the wellness component, which is very critical for employees, especially mothers, and young, upcoming female leaders within our organizations to make sure they feel comfortable and confident that the environment that they're going to come back in is safe.

WiC: Do you think some corporate initiatives such as having flexibility in core work hours, or things like that could also be beneficial in helping people balance everything?

MK: Absolutely. Giving the employees the flexibility is really key from a wellness point of view, and if I know that I have a supportive work environment, that enables me to take a small break or to just go sit upstairs with my son during a zoom lesson that he's on to support him.

We give our employees, both male and female, all the tools and all the flexibility that they need to make sure that they are taken care of both personally professionally, so they have all the tools and access to all the systems and applications that they need access to, to do their jobs.

Next page: How to build relationships with mentors and sponsors

WiC: Looking at your career overall, have you had a mentor or a career sponsor who made a big impact on your career? Did they give you any professional advice that stuck with you?

MK: I've participated in many different programs around mentoring. I've had many different mentors and a few sponsors. I tell all the young girls and women that I coach to make sure you not only have a mentor that can give you the day-to-day coaching, but make sure you have a sponsor who is advocating on your behalf when you're not in that room. I was very fortunate that I've had a couple of really good sponsors throughout my career that have given me some really great coaching and really helped shape who I am and what I do today.

One of the best pieces of advice that was ever given to me was "know your numbers." When I was fresh out of college and had finished my Bachelor's of engineering I was enrolled to do my masters. I was also hired by Cisco to be a solution architect and Cisco's former CFO was my mentor. She told me that no matter the role that you're in, always know your numbers. If you know where you're going and if you know the impact you're making on the business, you're going to thrive. That advice has helped me tremendously now because I manage P&L and having that type of background is really critical.

Having mentors is very critical, but at the same time, it's equally important for us to have sponsors that you can lean on who can advocate on your behalf when you're not when you're not present in a room.

WiC: It sounds like "know your numbers" is twofold in terms of being the best you can at your job, but also keeping track of the wins and successes you have, sharing those with your manager and adding them to your resume. Is that correct?

MK: Yes, absolutely.

WiC: Do you have any advice on someone who's maybe just starting out and looking for their first mentor? How to identify that person and develop a relationship?

MK: Whether it's a mentor or sponsor, look for someone who is not in your straight chain of command, and also was not in your domain. I'm an engineer, and when I started, I was an engineer and my mentor was the CFO. That way, you'll be able to learn the different aspects of the business, such as sales or finance.

When you're looking for your mentor, think about two things. One, where do you want to go in your career, and how can you learn new skills that you might not get exposed to in your day to day operations?

If someone wants to be CEO one day, they need to learn finance, they need to learn the legal aspects and they need to learn the operations aspects of business. Expand your horizon, go outside of your domain, and learn something that you might not get exposed in the role that you're in.

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Kelsey Ziser

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Kelsey is a senior editor at Light Reading, co-host of the Light Reading podcast, and host of the "What's the story?" podcast.

Her interest in the telecom world started with a PR position at Connect2 Communications, which led to a communications role at the FREEDM Systems Center, a smart grid research lab at N.C. State University. There, she orchestrated their webinar program across college campuses and covered research projects such as the center's smart solid-state transformer.

Kelsey enjoys reading four (or 12) books at once, watching movies about space travel, crafting and (hoarding) houseplants.

Kelsey is based in Raleigh, N.C.

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like