Opinion

24 Hours With… Vpon COO D. Sriram

Duraiswami Sriram24 Hours With… spotlights the working day of some of the most interesting people in Mumbrella Asia’s world. Today, we hear about a day in the life of D. Sriram, COO of Taiwan-based mobile big data firm Vpon.

5.30am. Alarm rings. We (my fiancé Jacquelyn and I) now have 15 minutes to snooze and wake up with the second alarm at 5.45am, at which point we’ll quickly change into running clothes.

6.10am. We’re downstairs stretching and warming up, and waiting for my wretched Garmin Forerunner 15 runner’s watch to find the GPS signal – after about five minutes we’re ready but the $%^& watch isn’t so I put it in stopwatch mode and we go.

7.05am. Back home, cool down and start preparing breakfast – fresh juice (carrot, ginger and orange for today), cut fruit (today is a very sweet melon) and an omelet. “Proper” coffee from an espresso machine and we’re done.

8.15am. Showered, shaved and getting into my work uniform of jeans and shirt. I keep a jacket in the office for unexpected client meetings. A far cry from my suit wearing days at Starcom [Sriram is the former APAC CEO of media agency Starcom] but I’m usually still the most dressed up person in office.

8.30am. I take the bus to work most days, occasionally if I’m running late I’ll take a cab. I haven’t driven a car since I moved out of Singapore in 2013.

The bus ride gives me 40 minutes to do a lot of things using my phone:

  1. Email (of course) – I don’t get a lot because I tend to tell people to drop me from the cc list on long chains
  2. Status Reports and Sales Updates – I’ve got my colleagues using Smartsheet – a cloud based app which allows everyone to update reports covering all manner of things from sales pipelines to product roadmaps
  3. News – I usually catch up on CNN and BBC on my way to work and take a quick look at Linked in – I try and read one article / post relevant to work each day so I can keep learning
  4. Music – today I listen to ‘Three Little Girls’ from Eric Clapton and JJ Cale’s album – Road to Escondido. Song ends as I get off the bus and take a short walk to the office.

9.05am. Get to my desk at work, retrieve my laptop. Since I’ve already glanced through my mail on the bus I can get straight to real work – today I review some finance data on costs and revenues by office in advance of a 9.30 meeting.

9.30am. Finance meeting. Vpon is headquartered in Taiwan and a lot of our resources and costs are centralised. We’re now generating a lot of revenue overseas, so we’ve started thinking about assigning costs across offices, moving money between entities and related issues – so the changes we discuss are linked to getting the right structure for the long term.

10.30am. Daily 30-minute catch up with cross functional team of people from campaign management, data science and product management. The two constant agenda items for every meeting are reviewing incoming prospects (to see which ones we can take on, which ones we need to renegotiate to get reasonable KPIs and which ones we don’t accept) and then reviewing performance on current campaigns to identify any where we need an intervention.

11am. We do product development meetings with each office once a fortnight –  mostly updates on product roadmaps, but also an opportunity to discuss bug fixes, feature requests and so on. I generally have very little to do in this meeting except sometimes when the discussion veers off in a sales/performance delivery related direction or to reassigning priorities on the product roadmap.

D. Sriram at the gym1.05pm. Race to the gym to try and finish my workout within the lunch hour. I started weight training when I was a skinny 18 year old, and I’ve kept it going for most of the 31 years since – although I had a few years off in my late twenties when being a first time parent took priority, and also in 2014 when I crocked my shoulder.

I prefer to train after work, but in the weeks when Jacquelyn is in Taipei or I’m in Shanghai with her, I try and finish at lunchtime so we get more time together in the evening.

Today’s workout is chest, shoulder and triceps – 27 sets of training which take me about 40 minutes. I have a caesar salad and espresso at the cafe next to the gym and get back to work by 2.25pm.

2.30pm. Management meeting, Vpon style. Victor, founder and CEO of Vpon sits on the other side of the partition from me (we have a completely open office). Top management meetings at Vpon consist of us rolling our chairs around so we’re at one end of our work. Today we talk about an employee who’s leaving and some of his feedback, from which we segue into a discussion on a few other related topics. We usually do this once or twice a day. Sometimes if we need privacy we’ll find a vacant meeting room or a quiet corner in the cafeteria.

Vpon management meeting

2.45pm. I work on a presentation I’m delivering at a seminar later this month. In parallel I’m also working on an internal plan on re-organising our resources in the campaign management area – I’ve been in Vpon around 7 months and in that time we’ve done a fair bit of reorganising, refocusing of priorities and so on, and I spend a lot of my time in the office trying to create better processes and structures that will help us manage our growth over the next few years.

4.30pm. Short meeting with HR to review some changes in how we incentivise different functions in the company. We also discuss a package for someone who’s moving from part-time to full time employment with us and chat about one of our senior managers who seems to be struggling a bit with managing her team.

5pm. Informal product meeting. At least once a week I try and have a coffee and chat with our head of R&D and product development – Steven. I enjoy learning more about the technology that drives what we do, and usually Steven has questions on where I see the focus in terms of revenue growth, client profiles and so on. Invariably as we walk back to the office we also get onto other topics – running and training, things and places I haven’t yet seen in Taiwan and so on. Steven also sits in on some of the performance delivery meetings so sometimes he’ll have suggestions on things we can do to give that team more tools and capability.

5.15pm. Talk to a potential client – I don’t normally get involved in the sales process but this client happens to be a contact of mine so I’m working on getting them signed on.

Continue working on my presentations and also confirm my travel options for going to the seminar so that someone can help us make bookings.

6.05pm. Homeward bound. On my way I message a couple of CFO friends of mine to ask about how they repatriate profits from China to HQ. One of them calls while I’m commuting, and the other says he’ll call me later in the week.

7pm. Jacquelyn works from home when she’s in Taipei. Fixing dinner takes me about 15 minutes since I’ve done most of the work upfront. We have a nice glass of chilled riesling with dinner.

8.15pm. We settle down on our balcony and look out over the river at the riverside park, people running and some folks playing tennis. It’s a lovely peaceful time of day when we drink a post-prandial glass of wine, read, chat and sometimes I’ll write or play guitar.

9.30pm. We finish doing laundry, generally clearing up the house and do some prep for breakfast the next day.

10.15pm. Bedtime. I’ve got books all over the house – usually thought provoking books or fast paced novels in the living room and the bedroom for comfort reading – the Lord of the Rings (which I’ve read probably a hundred times), short stories by Mark Twain or O’Henry . I’ve tried Kindles and ebooks but it’s not the same.

The day doesn’t quite end there, but I’ll pull the curtains on my ‘day in the life’ sketch at this moment. That’s all folks!

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