The Latest from the ABM Experts
March 10, 2020
Kalpit’s Remarkable Journey from Programmer to CEO
Written by Sangram Vajre
Everyone gets their start somewhere, but very few end up making it to the CEO level.
Even fewer climb that far up the ladder at the very company that gave them their first job.
But that’s exactly what today’s guest managed.
What is so remarkable about Kalpit is he advanced so far while uplifting those around him.
When he saw people performing better in the roles he was in, instead of getting jealous or tearing them down, he saw it as an opportunity to find a way he could provide more value to the company.
And he did something bigger and better every time.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- How something as simple as a schoolyard argument can change your life’s trajectory
- How a willingness to try new things leads to opportunity
- How a good leader uplifts their team (and a good team supports its leader)
This post is based on a podcast with Kalpit Jain. If you’d like to listen to the full episode, you can check it out here and below.
A small first step
Kalpit: When I was in the 10th grade, I used to not be one of those guys who love studying a lot. I used to enjoy playing. And, in India, we play a lot of cricket.
After school, I used to go out of the building, play with my friends and keep enjoying my life.
Then, when I got into 11th grade, I had a small fight with one of my best friends. So, what happened was, whenever he would come down, I would not go down.
I would stay in the building, get into my room and study, so that I didn’t get engrossed in playing downstairs.
And I think that was a turning point in my life. I came from a person who was not very studious and got into education because I had a small — very, very small — fight with one of my friends.
That’s how I got into engineering, graduated and got into Netcore as a company.
Our fight ended 6 months after we had it. He’s back in the U.S. right now. But when he’s in India, the first thing he will do is come and visit me.
Getting with the program
Kalpit: Way back in 1998, when I started my journey, programming was something I was being thrown into. I’m actually a production engineer — I got into computers by accident.
I started liking programming in the early days, which I did for almost 3 years. I ended up doing reasonably good programming.
We were using Linux as an operating system — and I just love operating Linux. That’s when I moved a little bit more onto Linux system administration.
Back then, we had a very good engineer who joined us in 1999 or 2000. Both of us were doing programming, but I realized he was a very good programmer compared to me.
His logical skills, his programming analytics skills were excellent — I was good, but I was probably not the best.
I said, if this guy is really great at programming, I need to do something which is not just programming, but a little bit of administration. And let’s do a little bit of systems learning.
Full sales ahead
Kalpit: Around that time, one of our sales heads met with a big accident and he had to move out. My founder at the time said “Kalpit, we don’t have a sales head; would you like to do sales?”
I said: “I’m not a sales guy and I’ve never done sales in my life.”
I was a little bit of an introvert back in those days. But he said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there at the back. You just be the head of people in the sales team and I’ll support you wherever and whenever I can.”
That was the first experience for me as a business guy. And I think the combination of tech plus sales helped us achieve our goals as an organization.
A lot of the conversations I was having with my clients back in those days used to get into a lot of technical discussions, which my sales guys would appreciate. They could see the value of what I was able to bring to the table for them.
Charting new territory
Kalpit: In 2008, I became the chief operating officer for Netcore solutions. We had just gotten into the digital marketing space.
From 1998 to 2006 we wanted viral marketing. Then, in 2008, we got into email marketing and I became the business head for that.
That’s how I think I got a flavor for a lot of things a company needs to get right. From running the company as an SBU to getting the customer success team and sales team operational.
I think a broader experience came in and that’s how I grew as an individual.
In 2009 to 2015, I ran operations overall — which meant running the technology team, the product team and the operations team while I was doing a bit of sales.
But then we hired a chief sales officer. So, he was driving sales.
And I got the opportunity in 2015 to become the CEO.
A captain needs a crew
Kalpit: The most important thing I would say — and I would attribute my success to — is the team around me.
When our founder made the decision to have me run sales that he probably saw that I was at least a reasonably good people-person.
And what makes a leader is not how good you are at driving a function, it’s how good you are at leading a team. I think that’s what he saw in me.
Second, at Netcore, we’ve always loved to entrust people with new responsibilities and see how they are able to deliver. My founder did it with me and I continue to do it.
If they have the right approach, attitude and the willingness and curiosity to learn, I think that’s more than enough for someone to take up a new responsibility.
We’ve had individuals who joined us when they were 21 and by 30 they are in the CxO position within the organization or they are running a big company outside of Netcore. I think one of the reasons they’ve grown really fast is they have not looked at their job as that job only.
The only ways I think individuals can really grow are taking more accountability, ownership and responsibility of what’s happening around you.