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By Eleanor Bennett

Interview

8 min read

For the next interview in our series speaking to technical leads from around the world, we’ve welcomed experienced CTO Mahe Rangareddy.

Mahe Rangareddy is the Chief Technology Officer at Alpha Omega Integration, a government contracting company in Tysons VA. An expert in data analytics, he promotes innovation and improvement within the company.

Tell us a bit more about the business you represent?

Alpha Omega Integration is a leader in information technology (IT) integration. We specialize in providing Cybersecurity, Low-code Development, IT Modernization, Intelligent Automation, Cloud Engineering, and Customer Experience services to IT systems within government agencies. AOI has more than 350 leading IT professionals and subject matter experts (SMEs) bringing decades of experience in professional IT consulting, IT program development, and market research and analysis – to develop robust, disruptive solutions that solve problems efficiently and effectively for any organization. We take pride in our focus on customer service and care and aim to serve as a true partner for our clients to turn to us for solving mission-critical IT problems.

Being the CTO, what do your day-to-day responsibilities look like?

As the CTO, the majority of my time is spent on leadership as we look to be a solutions company and more customer entangled. I focus on understanding customer mission, understanding their challenges, understanding our team’s capabilities and what we can deliver, and aligning technology to customers’ problems/challenges/mission. I am also responsible for the tasking that goes with these insights. Being a service provider, we need to be innovative in producing, and I am constantly thinking about: how can we be faster, better, and more cost-effective? So we are working on delivering innovation and disruptive solutions. We also work on developing intellectual property, and are always looking at new opportunities, avenues, and partnerships. We are in touch with our partners and are involved in some kind of partner engagement at least once a week, in an effort to give the best solution to our customers. Our IP solutions accelerators are built for agencies’ ownership as opposed to leasing from us. There may be some solutions coming up in the future where we might be using the model of pay-per-service, and we will use them to enhance our team’s capabilities. For example, we might develop a unique call centre solution that accelerates call volume production. That would be a solution we would provide to our customers as a value-add, which they can use at any time during our partnership.

I manage our Total Solutions Group (TSG), which is a unique collaborative department within Alpha Omega. TSG is a group of SMEs, consultants, and engineers, who are experts in the trade, and who share and collaborate throughout the hierarchy. It is like a consulting arm within Alpha Omega, and we consult to all of our programs, including sales. It’s also important to point out that we call ourselves Total Solutions Group and NOT Technology Solutions Group. The reason is we believe technology is not the only solution to any problem. The moment you say, “technology solution”, you pigeonhole yourself into a limited set of solutions. We use technology to solve a problem. So, we believe whatever technology we use should align with customer interest and it should solve a customer problem. It doesn’t always need to be technology, it could be a simple process, it could be people, it could be a product, or anything.

How does your technical organization work with the other operational components of the company?

We are right in the centre of everything AOI does. Because AOI is a systems and technology integrator, technology is the core of AOI’s success. Here’s how I define how AOI works: there is a discovery process, where we understand our customers challenges, understand the problems, and recognize what they want. Then there is the onboarding process whenever we win a new contract or customer. We make sure there are business developers and team delivery providers to understand what they’re doing during the onboarding. Then actual delivery comes in. So, discovery, onboarding, and delivery: our technology team is at the centre of all of those processes that drive AOI. We help come up with the solution, we make sure the solution is translated to the delivery team, and then we help delivery teams in continuously developing new solutions that in turn improves efficiency. For example, we can use bots and we can deliver software that automates log analysis. Overseeing the TSG, we work with the delivery team to explain how the new tool could be used if it has already been purchased. If it is not already purchased, then we use a process called DAR - Decision, Analysis, Resolution, which is a standardized process that we have built some tools around. We put the data into our DAR process, we get the findings, and we present it to the customer with the risks, benefits, and costs, clearly showing them the outcome of our DAR analysis. We then take their decision, to make a procurement.

In addition to helping our customers understand the solutions we deliver; TSG also helps our teams understand the solutions better. We meet these partners every day, and for example, cloud team members meet with cloud products individuals, cybersecurity meets with cybersecurity product individuals, automation folks meet with automation, etc. The reason we do that is if we discern a technology that really impresses us, we can take that and showcase it to our teams, so they understand how the commercial products or solutions are available, and how they are solving real-world problems. If our teams get stuck in a challenging problem, we parachute a team member from TSG into that group to save them from any issues they have. So, we help them in many ways. We integrate everything. The core and what drives TSG are: our customer should be delighted, with what AOI can offer, and that’s where TSG comes in, to make sure the teams that are on the ground delight the customer.

What do you see as the hottest trends within your industry today?

We are a service integrator, so what’s hot is going to be something in application development and technology modernization. A lot of legacy applications are going to go through some technology refresh, and a lot of government agencies are going to start using new technologies and new innovations. A lot of transformative work will happen. From technology trends, some portion of the investment is going to cybersecurity. That’s going to be one of the nation’s biggest issues that we need to work on because there is a shortage of skillsets that can support the cybersecurity workforce, so there will be a lot of automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) driving innovations. Most of that will come from the application of AI/ML in data analysis. There’s a lot of data available and they need to analyze that data, so I would say that’s going to be one of the hot trends.

Another hot trend emerging is hyper automation. I would describe hyper automation with the following formula: RPA +AI + ML = Hyperautomation (RPA is Robotic Process Automation). You use bots that are super intelligent, that can do most of the rote things that humans can do, so the human can focus on something the bots cannot do like day-to-day activities.

For example, you can create an algorithm that separates emails by importance. Something is organizing that for you, and that is simple automation. But say someone sends you an email to try to schedule a lunch, but it doesn’t work with your schedule. When you apply AI/ML to this automation, the bot could be intelligent enough to open the email, read it on your behalf while you are in a meeting, understand the context and execute an appointment for you. So, you aren’t spending that time setting up important meetings, but you know that it has been done. That’s hyper automation. Of course, the bot needs to be trained, but whatever it’s trained on, it can do those activities well. It opens up your bandwidth and improves productivity, so you can do other more complex tasks that require more of your time. This also addresses the shortage of workforce and the sheer volume of work that people now must contend with. And that’s what we are trying to do in the cybersecurity space, bringing in and applying AI/ML. Log analysis is definitely one activity we are looking to hyperautomate to give us the results that we are looking for in a fraction of the time. And there’s a lot of experimentation we are working on to learn and develop the algorithms for it.

We are always collaborating with people and partners and engaging them, even though we may not be working directly with them, to understand what’s going on in the industry. We learn from them, and we know that talking to partners is the best way to understand what’s new in the industry.

Do your technical teams or do you use log analysis as part of your role? If you do, how to find this helps day-to-day operations?

Yes, one of the IPs we have is a collection of RPA bots (we call them “intelligent bots” because they have infused AI into them). If we feed the log into it and we know the characteristics of a log, and if the bot is trained to read certain aspects of the log, we do log analysis using the bot. Instead of humans analyzing the logs, the bots analyze the logs. Any use of the bots is going to increase productivity and decrease individual work expenditure, allowing people to accomplish more.

What can we hope to see from your business in the future?

More growth! We want a future in business in general for AOI. We are working on some innovative IP solutions, and we will be rolling out those solutions accelerators, from the technology side. On the business front, we are becoming more and more focused on certain customers, and we are trying to bring in SMEs who understand certain areas, such as cybersecurity. We are always looking for the best-in-breed cybersecurity SMEs and consultants, and we want to build and give the best to our customers so that the cybersecurity line of business grows.

We are also looking at some great collaborators who we can partner with, such as technology, implementation, and small business partners, so we can grow that ecosystem and we can excel at what we’re doing. This also includes recruiting, which we want to ramp up even more going forward. We are also looking to grow the knowledge base of our workforce with training and certifications, and TSG has actually created an initiative that has gamified our training process. Previously, the engagement rate of the training that was available and accessible to our employees was very low. We identified a list of 30-40 certifications in management and business analysis, Microsoft, Azure, AWS, UA Path, and cybersecurity certifications, to name just a few, and we assigned points to each of those certifications. A leaderboard was made to track those who were acquiring the most points, and the winners were awarded various prizes, from cash to lunch, to tech gadgets such as a GoPro and Oculus VR.

So we are doing things a little differently to make sure employees are taking advantage of the availability of training, and we’ve seen great traction. It has created healthy competition and we currently have 70+ new certifications in the span of 7 months. And to date, at least 67% of our employees have at least 1 cybersecurity-related certification. We would like to continue to grow this initiative to keep increasing the knowledge base and authority of Alpha Omega.

If you enjoyed this article then why not check out our article on Python logging best practices or our article all about software deploy tools?

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