He smiled slightly as I walked into the room. Not too small. Not too expansive. Just the right amount of smile. Measured. Restrained. Gentle. Reserved but not reticent. That’s Subramanyam Putrevu for you: The epitome of calm and collected.

Spend some time with him, and underneath the quiet, soft-spoken mien, you’ll find a palpable determination. It’s visible in the small things, the ramrod straightness of his back, the way he holds your eyes when he speaks to you. There’s a sense of a strong will and resolve. Hard stuff.

That’s the part of him that comes to the surface once the 46-year old CIO at Mindtree puts on his Vibram Five Fingers running shoes.

An ardent marathoner, Subramanyam, or Subbu as he is more affectionately known, has been distance running since 2008, although at college he was more of a 100-, 200- and 400-meter runner.

His passion for running sparked when Mindtree decided to create a healthier organisational culture.

In 2007, we, at Mindtree, started a movement called Healthy Mind, in a Healthy Body. As a part of that movement, Partha (Parthasarathy N.S., Vice Chairman and COO, Mindtree), and other like-minded folks initiated long-distance running, says Subbu.

(Editorial note: Mindtree is a co-sponsor of Pinkathon, India’s biggest women’s run. This year a total of 2,225 Mindtree Minds and their families registered for the run.)

By 2012, Subbu, who was 42 at the time, had run his first full marathon, or ’42 at 42′, as he calls it. Today, he does at least two full marathons a year. Of the six major marathons on the international circuit including Berlin, London, Chicago, New York, Boston, and Tokyo, he’s already completed Berlin, and will be running the London marathon on April 23 this year.

If long distance running is one of his life’s great passions, then so is running Mindtree’s IT organisation. Each passion feeds off the other, one teaching him important lessons about the other.

Here’s what marathon running taught him about running IT in his own words.

#1

Shed the Weight

This is one of the most important parallels between marathon running and running IT. When I moved back from the US in 2006, I was 87 kilos. Today, I range between 68-70 kilos. From an IT perspective, the weight represents the legacy that every CIO must take along with them. At a point in time, it becomes a burden. To be a successful runner or CIO, you need to shed the weight.

#2

It’s Important to Have Initiative and Passion

Among runners, there is this saying, “The longest distance you ever run is between your bed and the bathroom.” What it means is that once you’ve conquered that distance–from your bed to your bathroom–that you can conquer any further distance. What I’ve derived from that is that unless you create that urge to start, unless you initiate, nothing can be achieved.

#3

Remember, it’s a Continuous Journey

Running both a marathon and a CIO organisation are continuous journeys. And the decisions you make are going to be with you for a long duration.

Take, for example, the shoes a runner chooses. I run with Vibram Five Fingers. They don’t have thick soles but offer protection for your feet. Some of my friends run barefoot. These are decisions we’ve made. And they are decisions that we stick with–not just for a single run–but for a longer duration. I’ve run with my shoes for the last four years, and I don’t, yet, intend to change.

In technology, too, the decisions, one takes, aren’t just for the time being. You can’t make a decision today and overturn it tomorrow. You look at the pros and cons of a decision, you take a call, and you stick with it—for a while.

So how do the ideas of agility, flexibility, and sprints fit in? I’ll give you a marathon analogy. Runners have a general training rhythm and but a different rhythm in the run-up for an event. Many runners, for example, have either a 12-week or a 16-week preparation period before an event. Right now, I’m training for the London marathon on April 23. That training is different from general training because it’s supposed to ensure I peak with my performance on the race day.

#4

Every Decision Must Count

There are many decisions I have to make that affect my running. This includes, for example, what I eat, when I eat, when I sleep, when I wake up, even what I wear. These are just some of the decisions that impact a run.

Every decision you make must count, must align to a bigger picture. The same thing is true when you run an IT organisation. Every decision I make, small or big, must move my overall plan forward.

#5

You Can Achieve More Than You Think You Can

This is something I keep telling my team. I tell them they can do much more than they think they can. When I started running in 2008, I never thought I could run such long distances! Yet, here I am!

#6

Work Hard. Party Hard

This one doesn’t just apply to me but to every marathoner. They work hard to finish a marathon—then they party very hard. That’s one of the things I believe in. Don’t ask me how we party… come find out!

Subramanyam Putrevu - CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER, MINDTREE
CIO PROFILE
Subramanyam Putrevu
Chief Information Officer, Mindtree

Subramanyam Putrevu (Subbu) is the CIO of Mindtree and is responsible for running its Corporate Information Systems. He is chartered with formulating the company’s IT strategy aligned with business goals and execution of the same to effectively address short/long term organisational needs.

Subbu joined Mindtree in 2000 after spending over five years at Wipro Infotech. He has more than 20 years of experience in delivering and maintaining a diverse portfolio of applications.

In the current era of digital transformation, his key focus is to secure the enterprise from cyber threats, transforming and modernising the data center, enabling the organisation with digital technologies for effective collaboration and bringing operational efficiencies.

COMPANY PROFILE
Mindtree

Headquartered in Bangalore, India, Mindtree delivers digital transformation and technology services from ideation to execution, enabling Global 2000 clients to outperform the competition. Mindtree’s annual revenue is $715 million. It has 16,000+ employees, or Mindtree Minds, working in 43 global offices spread across 17 countries. Born digital, Mindtree takes an agile, collaborative approach to creating customised solutions across the Infrastructure, Application and Digital value chain.