Follow this 6-part Meet the Expert series that features Polycom’s six Distinguished Engineers. In these blogs, we learn more about who they are and what makes them exceptional at what they do.
Today, meet Mahalingam Mani, DE.
Q: What was your career path to Polycom?
Mani: I joined Polycom in 2012 with a wide range of career experience in distributed systems, network and applications security, mobility and wireless, UC and Cloud-Federation, and standards improvement.
I came on board to build a Polycom cloud based solution – originally codenamed Akash. I was very excited to contribute to that problem and am pleased to continue being involved in various follow-on efforts today. Since then, Cloud AXIS (now known as RealPresence Web Suite), also a limited spinoff of the initial work, has grown into a capable messaging and collaboration delivery platform in its own right thanks to the work done by its architects and Engineers.
Q: What are your areas of expertise?
A: I have expertise in many areas, but lately have been very focused on cloud technologies such as database, analytics and Internet of Things (IoT). My team has been working on applying these areas to collaboration and collaboration infrastructure.
Currently I am leading an API framework initiative to ensure that our solutions consistently and effectively integrate into the customer workflow. I am also the co-chair of a group focused on UC IoT work in IMTC, an Industry Standards Alliance co-founded by Polycom consisting of major UC vendors including Cisco, Microsoft, Intel, Qualcomm and HP to promote interoperability through liaison with standards organizations and defining inter-vendor ‘bakeoffs’ . I am also tasked with the architectural oversight & consistency of our various Cloud initiatives under way.
Q: What inspires your work?
A: There are several factors that keep me inspired; collaborating with my intelligent and capable peers; providing value to and delighting our customers; and the satisfaction of seeing the solutions we build addressing customer challenges.
Q: Tell us about some of the most memorable moments of your career?
A: I am happy to share a few of many moments in my career I have found memorable. Leading and designing the first microkernel-based Distributed Unix Boot at Unisys is one. Working my way up from architect to become CTO at VPNet Technologies (later acquired by Avaya) is another. When I started working at Polycom I led the project initiative to offer our solution as a Service from the Public Cloud. These have been some very memorable moments of my career.
Another memory that stands out was my first patent granted (I have now received 13 patent grants in Distributed Systems, Wireless, Mobility, UC and Security). Also my first leadership role as chair of a working group in IETF standards (I have since chaired workgroups in standards bodies: IETF, OASIS and, now, IMTC) and have technically contributed in Mobility, Management, Security, UC SDN and now UC IoT.
Q: Describe your approach when working with customers?
A: It is important to listen to customer’s challenges and deeply understand their workflow to create collaborative systems they can and will use; that are also easy manage.
Q: How do you work with partners and sales teams to address customer needs?
A: Leveraging sales teams for their insight into customers is the key; they are the windows to the needs and challenges of our customers, so keeping open lines of communications there is important.
Polycom partners are also an important window into the needs of our customers, especially partners who use our APIs to develop integrated systems. Here we must be relentless in our relationships with partners and customers to ensure that we get the execution strategy right and create prototypes that will become problem solving solutions.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I love learning, studying nano- and bio-technology, and solving puzzles. I enjoy classical music and spending time with my family. I also lead a non-profit organization called SanKritiLaya; it seeks to promote Classical Music by sponsoring tours of top-ranked and upcoming artists from around the globe, primarily from India at this time. Founded by myself and two others (each with our day-jobs) in 2008, the foundation has completed eight successful years of operation. Besides sponsoring a North America-wide tour, we also present concerts by these artists in Silicon Valley. A passion and love for Classical Music (of all origins) comes from the mathematical nuances involved in any classical form. Getting younger generations interested and involved in classical music inspires me to do my bit; exposing a broader world of audience to the nuances of centuries-old genre also provides a high degree of pride and satisfaction. I am thankful to the huge workload of my board bearing the brunt.