From mining to deep tech, a sneak peek into the professional journey of Odessa’s Sunil Mishra
In this week’s Techie Tuesday, we feature Sunil Mishra, Senior Vice President – Product Management, Odessa, a builder of products throughout his professional journey who enjoys sharing his learnings with others.
Tuesday February 14, 2023,
6 min Read
An author, a teacher who has designed a number of tech-based online courses and an avid traveller thanks in part to his tech career, Sunil is someone who loves to share what he experiences.
“One of the advantages of the career progression that I have had has been the opportunity to work in multiple functions. Cutting across different functions and managing various things is a great platform for learning, and technology provides these kinds of opportunities more than most other industries,” Sunil tells YourStory.
Early days and career progression
Born and raised in Bokaro Steel City where his father worked in Steel Authority of India (SAIL), Sunil’s earliest memories as a child were those of visiting factories. This led to a natural inclination towards engineering. “Bokaro is well known to produce very good students academically. So, the city itself has been my source of inspiration. In my early schooling days, I was more focused towards doing well in competitive exams, which are primarily geared towards engineering and technology,” recalls Sunil.
Armed with a B.Tech degree in mining engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (ISM), Dhanbad, Sunil was placed at Tata Steel where he worked in open cast mines in the mining belt of Jamshedpur. Among his first few assignments, he was asked to optimise the dumper movement of iron to maximise output. This was a mathematical exercise where he had to make use of computer simulation to figure out the best way to optimise production. This piqued his interest towards computers and technology and found his true calling in information technology. Soon after, Sunil left his job at Tata Steel to pursue an MBA in Systems and Finance from the Indian Institute of Management (Lucknow).
“After completing my MBA, I joined Citicorp Information Technologies, which is primarily into finance and systems. So that was the sweet spot that I was looking at, for my career. I spent the next couple of years in product development in the banking space,” he says. Sunil then took the plunge into a pure-play technology player by joining Infosys where he spent eight years in product development, consulting, pre-sales and project management. The next few years were spent in Accenture and McKinsey. “As one of the first hires at McKinsey Solutions in India, I was responsible for setting up the team, the practice and the support and operations team there. We created some very successful products in the benchmarking and analytics space,” he recalls.
Sunil rejoined Infosys where he was heading the consulting team as well as an ecosystem innovation group. This team was primarily responsible for incubation of new products and interacting with the fintechs and building collaborations within the ecosystem. He was instrumental in conceptualising, designing and developing innovative digital solutions like ‘Mobile Teller’ and ‘Conversational Banking’, which have won several national and international awards in banking.
After a string of professional accomplishments, in 2022 Sunil was excited to take a leap and join Odessa, a leader in the niche product area of asset finance. The company is expanding into new geographies and is leveraging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in the process. “I joined Odessa primarily excited by the growth opportunity that this company has, and the possibilities it offers in terms of application of newer technologies, product management principles, design thinking, among other things,” he says.
Sunil’s main functions at Odessa involve managing the data insights products, a key business area for the company. He also provides sponsorship of the internal innovation program called Launchpad, now in its fourth year. Delving deep in Launchpad, Sunil explains, “Launchpad is a program to spur innovation in the organisation. So, the idea is not just to generate an idea, but also to take it to execution. For the final selected ideas, that can even mean developing a product that can be taken to market. We have broad themes that center around customer excellence, product excellence, operational excellence. We then invite ideas from all Odessans. It's more than a hackathon, it's an opportunity to incubate new products and processes. Participants join a six-month program where we shortlist ideas, take them through design thinking courses and workshops to refine those ideas and create prototypes.”
Of teaching, learning and writing
Talking about his mentors along his professional journey, Sunil says, “I have had many mentors in different phases. Some of these mentors helped me to navigate my career from one string to another. An important part of my career progression has been that I have switched across different roles. So that has been facilitated by my manager or mentor where they realised that I had interest in some area, and probably I could do well there. I also remember some contributions from my counsellors in McKinsey, where they helped me to envisage the whole business model and understand the customer. I am very grateful to them because they have helped me to navigate my career across different streams.”
Given his keen interest in AI and his inclination towards imparting his knowledge to others, Sunil has created courses on Udemy on 'Basics of Deep learning' and 'Basics of NLP', which have become popular among the online learning platform’s learners. Sunil also keeps himself updated by pursuing new technology courses while simultaneously creating new courses.
This multi-faceted personality has also authored four books. The most recent being ‘Mysteries of Mind: A Scientific Enquiry’. His previous book ‘Who Stole My Job?’ was a fiction based on technology disruption in the digital world. Likewise, Sunil has written a book called ‘Transit Lounge’. For someone who has visited more than 40 countries over an illustrious professional journey, this book talks about the learnings that an individual imbibes as a part of his travel across different cultures. He has also written 'tech & biz' - a technology column in Free Press Journal, a Mumbai-based newspaper.
He has been a mentor for IIM Lucknow-SIDBI Centre of Innovation and works closely with the startup ecosystem. He has also been associated with Atal Tinkering Lab – a school mentoring program run by Niti Aayog.
Advice to young techies
As a speaker and panel member for several national and international events on topics of new technologies and a veteran in the field, Sunil says that the only thing that is constant is change in the technology space. “For anyone interested in technology as a career, they will have to prepare to unlearn and relearn continuously. It’s important to stay on your toes and stay curious,” he signs off.