Clarity and culture: Lessons learned from recent technology staffing shifts

Broadcom's CTO shares experiences with pandemic-era staffing and recruiting challenges.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer
Photo: Joe McKendrick

As information technology staff dispersed to remote or work-at-home locations, what was the impact on initiatives such as DevOps and development? There are technology tasks that are well-suited for remote work. Still, there are other aspects of the job that still work better face to face. 

That's the word from Andy Nallappan, chief technology officer and head of software business operations at Broadcom Software, one of the world's largest tech employers. I had the chance to chat with Nallappan while at Infosys' recent Cobalt event, where he shared his experiences with managing a large workforce of technologists and the challenges faced over the past two years. 

For starters, it's not always easy to run a remote workforce, as the company had to do until recently. "There are two pieces of software development," he explains. "First, there is mostly operational stuff, which is mostly predictable. That works extremely well remotely. It's very proscribed and governed by process." 

The other side of software development is "the interaction with customers, the adoptions. the feature requests," he adds, "That involves architecting solutions for them. You need a lot of boardroom discussions and working with the customers. That goes faster if you're face to face with them. Otherwise, it takes time to understand what the customer wants. You can/t expect them to go through this sprint and more interaction."

The remote portion consists of testing to validate and deploy, he continues. "But some of the collaboration can make it better quality, better output. That's always a mixed bag."

As with all technology-intensive companies, Broadcom has had challenging times acquiring all its required talent. A corporate culture built on collaboration and ownership has proven to be an effective recruiting and retention tool for the company's technology talent, Nallappan says. Broadcom produces both software and hardware, and the software side has seen "a lot of challenges because there is a lot more demand," he says. "Everything becomes software, and everybody wants to have the best talent. Now they can hire from anywhere, which makes it harder. Barriers of region and locality are gone. People can hire from anywhere."

Broadcom, for one, has a culture of shared ownership, in which 96% of its employees have a stake in the business through stock options. Another key aspect is ongoing training and retraining, which Nallappan considers to be an essential element in attracting and keeping talent. At the same time, there has to be a right fit between employees and the organization's culture. He explains that the main risk with hiring is bringing in talent that may not fit into the organization. "They may not be aligned to the culture, but instead aligned to a business model that six months later may need to change. That's not good for the employee or employer."

Consistency in corporate culture is also vital. "You don't just keep changing it. You provide the same leadership over the years, and people will see it's got consistency and is proven -- the culture works, and it makes business sense. Sometimes it might be a culture which is not popular, but people see it works. That really helps."

In Broadcom's case, corporate culture is also built upon cultivating innovation while keeping the talent within their lanes. The company focuses on "modernizing technology, going to the cloud from on-prem," Nallappan says. "We modernize software. We containerize all the workloads over. We innovate in areas where we have established products and an established market. We don't go and create new markets. Our model is to go and acquire growth and optimize it." (Note: this interview was conducted prior to media reports of Broadcom's interest in acquiring VMware.)

The important thing about corporate culture, he adds, is that it "should have clarity. You can't have chaos with the cloud. We do things what makes business sense, things which we can monetize, and we can grow with," he adds. "If we cannot monetize, we don't innovate. We're very clear." 

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