Dell EMC has two research & development (R&D) centres in India. While the Pune R&D centre is the child of larger India centre in Bangalore, it is playing differentiating role in the development of some products and solutions around data protection and storage. Over the years, the Pune centre has emerged as a hardcore product development unit of Dell EMC with niche expertise.
In an exclusive interview with TechObserver.in Sanjay Singh, Vinita Gera who heads this centre as General Manager said, “Pune centre is not functioning as the periphery, we are core to the product. For Dell EMC, we are very much in the thick of things. Our top leaders have emphasised how important India is for them.” She asserted “In Pune, while we are a smaller unit and have a lesser number of people, but the culture of innovation and sharing of knowledge is pretty high.”
What kind of work is being done at the Dell EMC Pune R&D centre?
In India, we have two research & development (R&D) centres – Bangalore and Pune. Here at Pune R&D centres, we have two large sets of experts dealing with engineering and professional services. Within engineering, we primarily do development of two business lines – data protection and storage. It is a hardcore product development unit of Dell EMC with niche expertise that works on data protection and services.
On the other hand, the professional services are across all products and they are highly customer facing. People in this unit work in shifts as per customer time zone.
You mentioned data protection and storage, what kind of activities within these two products are happening here?
For us, there are multiple product lines within data protection. Among many, two of them are completely driven from Pune R&D centre. It was started a couple of years ago with a small team with hard to find skills. These experts work on file systems at the kernel level for data protection.
That kind of skills are hard to get and longer to learn. It takes years and years of research. So, we have a lot of premium tools at the Pune centre that goes into IoT (Internet of Things) and RaaS (Recovery as a service) solutions. These two products have headquartered over here and one is split between Bangalore and Pune.
In storage, we have one product here under unstructured storage division. About 100 members of a team work in this division. They are also highly skilled and operate at a kernel and system levels. In fact, they also have their testing teams in Pune.
How is Pune R&D centre different from Bangalore?
The Pune R&D centre is the child of our larger India centre in Bangalore. Both are very much in the same space. They are not very different from each other. Some products like one of our data protection product are split between Pune and Bangalore, and some are fully built there and some are completely headquartered here.
This allows us to get the desired talent at any of these places. Both of these centres are in sync with each other. A lot of people from Pune report to leaders in Bangalore. Similarly, some employees in Bangalore report to the leaders in Pune.
As you said Dell EMC has bigger R&D centre in Bangalore. Similarly, the company has centres in different geographies. So, what is unique about Pune facility?
There are different ways to look at it. Pune centre is not functioning as the periphery, we are core to the product. For Dell EMC, we are very much in the thick of things. Our top leaders have emphasised how important India is for them.
In Pune, while we are a smaller unit and have a lesser number of people, but the culture of innovation and sharing of knowledge is pretty high. There is no wall separating anybody in Pune. That makes the city faster and agile. The good thing is that we can still have a small team culture although we are a part of a large company.
How many patents have been filed from Pune R&D centre and what trends do you see among existing employees?
I don't have the exact number but a lot of patents are being filed from here. We have quite a lot of patent holders either filed being Dell EMC or at their previous organisations. I believe the numbers would be about 10% people have either filed or granted a patent in a different stage. There are 5-6 people who could be termed as the evangelist of patenting. So, we helped other members with their knowledge and expertise by creating a platform for mentorship.
Technology like AI and Blockchain are promising but they also bring the challenge of training the staff who might not have adequate exposure to these emerging technology. So, how your centre keeps a tab in these areas?
You are right. New technologies are emerging but the good thing is that our learning platforms are also improving. Our employees like most people now have moved on to self-learning, a lot because of the online platform like Coursera. They do things on their own and we encourage that a lot.
We ourselves have a different learning platform internally. Additionally, we do a series of lectures for different offices. We are a large enterprise company with products that have been built over years. So the newer technologies have many use cases for us and we have a whole infrastructure to support that. So, we have many use cases around IoT, Big Data, Machine Learning and even Blockchain. And this is the right timing. This is the timing when we are thinking of how do we introduce these modern technologies into our existing promised line of products?
So, in addition to our internal efforts, we have partnered with analyst and networking experts for a series of guest lectures from outside to give a better understanding of emerging technologies to our staffs.
With the debate around ‘gender parity' and ‘women in leadership' role taking centre stage, the large technology companies are putting efforts to address this challenge. As women leader in technology, how do you look at Dell EMC efforts?
Personally, I feel this is such a gap area that how much work we do, there is still so much more to be done. Sadly, we have to begin and we have to complain and we have to do more and more to address this gap. So, if you look at the number of women technologists in Pune who are managers – the numbers are very disappointing. Most of them, you will find as individual contributors or in technical roles.
However, here in Pune, we are seeing a decent number of senior women in technology roles on the way to becoming an architect. At Dell EMC, we run a special programme to fast-track women journey in technology. We have a program to fast-track them in general as a woman employee and then to the technical profile.
For example, if I am a woman with about 15 year's individual contributor as a hardcore techie. I have two programs to leverage. These are not one-month programs but six-month programs with life-changing capability. Women who have gone through the programs have come out as brilliant individuals – they behave, talk and walk differently.
Also, Pune ecosystem is very supportive. There is the Anita Borg Institute Pune chapter, which I am part of, works in the area of women technology. Similarly, there are also other groups who work for women in technology as well as women in the non-technology area.
At Dell EMC, we partner with colleges and universities to promote this culture. I, myself is from a college which is a women-only engineering college. After joining here, I realised that there are at least 7 to 8 more women at Dell EMC from the same college from different batches. So we keep going back for different activities. And, Dell EMC has also been hiring from there regularly.