Women In Comms

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.

(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

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