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Meet The Experts: Surendra Pepakayala

The success of eTeki thus far can be accredited to a collaborative effort of professional teams including advisors, marketing specialists, operations experts, development rockstars, and freelance technologists. One team in particular is very special and without them, eTeki wouldn’t be where it is today. These select individuals make up our Technology Advisory Panel. These panelists come from different technical backgrounds and are experts in their fields. Of those, we pulled one Tech Advisor aside to get to know him a little better. His name is Surendra Pepakayala. Surendra, with over 18 years of experience, serves on the panel and is also part of the core management team of eTeki. The technical connoisseur sat down with us to give his views on the industry, himself, and eTeki.

Tell us about your professional history, how you got started in IT, and how you ended up where you are today.
I first got a taste of computers during my freshman year at college. My first hands on lesson was a tutorial on ED and VI on a shared Unix system via a dumb terminal. Being an Electronics major, I had the opportunity to understand, play and program 8086/8088 and 80286 microprocessors in assembly language and developed algorithms in Pascal and C. Subsequently, I worked for the only IT company in India maintaining real-time computers from Siemens where I watched computers interface with mechanical devices. My master’s thesis focused on VLSI design (chip design) and I implemented the earliest JVM on silicon. I’ve since worked at startups in Silicon Valley, had a short stint at Microsoft, been involved in numerous tech mergers and acquisitions, founded a couple of tech companies, consulted for multinational companies in various areas including Software Development, SOA, Business Intelligence, Cloud, DevOps, IT Governance and Risk Mgmt, Program and Project Management.

What are your thoughts on the talent acquisition industry and how does eTeki fit into it?
Recruiting IT talent is a tricky business to say the least. The fortunes of an IT company rest with the talent they hire. It is due this reason, large IT companies have committed a lot of time, resources and money to put in place processes to hire the best talent. However, medium to small IT companies and staffing agencies don’t have the same leeway and rely on limited internal IT expertise to screen and hire talent. The processes around screening and interviewing potential hires is haphazard at best. For example, most times, the internal IT resources tasked to interview potential hires are either pressed for time or biased which results in a sub optimal experience for both parties involved. For the organization, this results in lost time and most times a lost opportunity to hire a good candidate. For the interviewee, this experience leaves a bad taste and aversion for the organization. The eTeki model would to a large extent mitigate if not eliminate such bad experiences. Unbiased, professional and objective interview by a third party ensures that both the organizations’ and interviewee interests are protected.

Since you have never been a thought leader in the past, what excites you about your leadership position in eTeki? What do you plan to do with eTeki?
IT interviews today are fraught with numerous shortcomings. To name a few (i) Lack of proper interviewing skills (behavioral and technical) and experience (ii) Mismatch between the interviewer’s’ understanding of the job description and questions asked during the interview (iii) Internal interviewer bias (iv) Lack of objective metrics to measure interviewees’ performance for a given job description. As a panelist with eTeki, I’ll have the opportunity to influence and the change the status quo. With help from other panelists, I hope to contribute to build an industry reference model for how technical interviews shall be conducted in a fair, objective and meaningful manner.

Due to your 18+ years of experience in the IT industry, you must’ve been through many interviews. What was your best interview, and what was your worst?
One of the best interviews I attended was a second round interview at Microsoft early in my career. The interviewer took the time to understand my background and tech exposure, helped me understand the position, team, product and technologies involved. Then he proceeded to outline a problem they had encountered. He walked me through each step while I tried to solve the problem and he added constraints and boundaries as we went along. To me, it felt more like a brainstorming session rather than an interview. We discussed about possible algorithms, design patterns and implementation details. Both sides won here because I got the job and Microsoft had one less problem to solve.

I’ve been to many interviews that I regret attending. One such interview occurred fairly recently for a freelance engagement. The interview happened in a small cubicle. The interviewer (a project manager) was pre-occupied with one of his projects. Without any intro and overview, he asked me to write an autocomplete feature using Ruby. Had he seen my resume, he would have known that Ruby isn’t one of skills. He then proceeded to get on a conference call right there. He didn’t bother to give me any writing material to solve the coding question. Needless to say, I thanked him for his time and left.

Tell us where you see eTeki going in the future.
I see eTeki changing the status quo in tech interviews and filling a void in the tech recruitment space. The eTeki marketplace is good step forward in this direction. As the platform matures and word spreads, I see eTeki diversifying into skill matching, resume screening, interview fraud detection and other value-added services not just for tech recruitment but also for other professions. Eventually, eTeki can become the one-stop shop for talent scouting, matching, screening and interviewing.

Surendra Pepakayala has over 18 years experience in implementing enterprise, web, cloud and DW/BI solutions, leading teams of 15-100 developers/software engineers, DBAs, architects, and project managers on project/product budgets ranging from $100K to $80M in revenue. His work spans startups, medium sized boutique consulting firms and multinational companies in Insurance, Telecom, Retail, Manufacturing and Education.
We are lucky to have him here with us and are very excited to see the successes his leadership will bring to eTeki.

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