Friday, July 31, 2020

My Interview in 'Innovation Diaries' Series

I recently moved on from Citrix, my organization or rather should I say, a good part of identity since more than 12 years.
The Site newsletter team that I was a part of when at Citrix interviewed me before I left to feature in a popular series we called as 'Innovation Diaries', where we featured key Innovators from the site.

I was quite humbled at the opportunity and sharing my responses to the various questions as below.
Sharing the interview as it appeared, starting the next line-

In this edition of Innovation Diaries, we got in touch with Anuj Magazine, Director, Product Management. Over a span of 13 years, Anuj took up roles across Engineering, Technical Operations and Product Management. In addition to spearheading flagship innovation programs like TechFair and Lean Innovation Challenge, he has filed 15 patents.  

Read on to know more about his journey and thoughts on Innovation and Product Management.

1. You have explored roles in multiple domains in your career - Engineering, Technical Operations and Product Management. Could you take us through your career journey thus far?

[Anuj] Yes, I did work in different areas in my career at Citrix. Some of the choices that I made were intentional, others just happened. With the benefit of hindsight now, I can safely divide my career at Citrix into 2 phases.

The first phase was focused on engineering. I was an early employee in Engineering Shared Services (then called as Product Services Group). I helped setup the first team in this sub-org, and grew to the rank of Director of Engineering.

The second phase started with me taking up a brand new role we called Director, Technical Operations with a focus on site-level Innovation, Tech learning, Executive Briefing Center, University Technical Relations, Tech Ecosystem/Start-up engagement and many such areas. This was a completely different world for me, with the role providing great breadth and sufficient depth of experience. Looking at both qualitative and quantitative measures, I feel proud of the way this role created an impact. We grew tremendously on all the site level and the global initiatives.

In the last 2 years or so, I have contributed to the Developer Ecosystem/API Platform as Director, Product Management.

Prior to Citrix, I worked with software product companies- Quark Media House (Software Publishing product giant) and McAfee - both roles focused on engineering.

I started my career as a person focused on engineering, and over the years, have transformed more into an explorer.

I have been a student of how careers are shaped and can point to a few career principles that worked for me. Before you read these, just bear in mind that every journey is unique - so some principles may resonate with you, some may not.

- Embrace non-linearity: There are 2 approaches to leading careers, which I explain with a map and a compass analogy. Maps tell you where you are, what your next step is, and shows you a path to final destination. Compass is something that gives you a sense of direction but not the path in detail. Career paths are like maps and represent linear career. Non-linear careers are driven by sense of direction and exploration to figure out the path. Compass based approach helps you deal with ambiguity that will only increase in the time to come.

- The biggest obstacle to your success is you. Learn to get out of your own way. Don't overplay your limitations, work on them and trust your instincts and skills.

- Be the CEO of your own career.  You better take charge of your career because nobody else will.

- Stay away from the sense of entitlement: Nobody owes you anything.

- Build Situational Awareness. Being aware of what's happening around you in the organization helps you find opportunities. I never missed an All-hands, missed watching GEM, Earnings call or any communication by the leadership. This information helped feed the compass.

- Focus on giving back as soon as you gain something.

- Think like a beginner always, more so when you think you have become an expert.

- Ambiguity is actually an opportunity.

- Luck matters, but you can influence your luck by working hard and embracing the points above.

2. You have been in Citrix for close to 13 years. How have you seen the culture of innovation evolve at Citrix? How did you foray into innovating/patenting?

[Anuj] At a macro level, When I joined Citrix in 2007, we were already established in App Virtualization and the Networking areas and were firming our feet in Desktop and Server Virtualization. Over a period of time, we added significant capabilities around data, networking, and intelligent workspace technologies to set the foundation for our vision right now. A few points stood out for me in Citrix's innovation journey.

- We were born in 1989. Only a handful of companies that started then are still relevant. It speaks volumes of our Innovative spirit.

- During this time, we traversed through massive transitions. In early 90's Windows was in it's infancy, Internet was still an academic project. We embraced both, then saw through 2000's dot com phase, then the mobile revolution starting mid 2000's, then AI, and now Workspace. We saw through so many slowdown phases through our existence. It's simply fascinating as to how we remained nimble in these times of disruption.

The point that I am coming to is that Citrix is one of the Innovation giants - Innovation is in our DNA as a company.

At a micro level with regards to the internal culture at Citrix, I have seen transformation over the years. In the first half of my tenure here, if we choose to see Innovation through the lens of Organic or Inorganic innovation, the scale was arguably titled more towards Inorganic innovation. If you see our acquisition history, majority of our acquisitions happened between 2007 and 2014. We did innovate internally but holistically thinking a good lot came from acquisitions. 2015 onwards, is when the innovating by acquiring wasn't at the center of our strategy and 'focus' became the buzzword. A lot of internal innovation, or should i say 'bottoms-up' innovation and the processes specific to it were setup during this phase.

Interestingly, this phase coincided with my taking up the Director, Technical Operations role, and I got a chance to formulate and influence some of the innovation processes we have now. So my innovation journey typically evolved with the evolution that was happening at Citrix.

Though I was involved quite much in bettering the patenting process, my own patenting journey started a bit late (I have ~15 approved patents), but I enjoyed being part of the whole process.

3. You have launched/driven two major innovation programs in Bangalore - Techfair and Lean Innovation Challenge. What do you think are the factors that contribute towards building an innovation-centric organization? How have these programs contributed?

[Anuj] Tech Fairs were originated in Citrix India in 2009 when during the visit of then CEO (Mark Templeton), the leadership team decided to showcase innovations that were happening in various groups. So, wasn't involved in really launching Tech Fairs but yes have driven them since 2015.

The Lean Innovation Challenge (LIC) and Incubator Program is a more recent phenomenon starting sometime in 2017-18.

Focusing purely on Innovation from ground-up, here are some of the factors that I believe are vital in building an innovation-centric organization:

1. Top Management commitment is of the foremost importance. Without it, it's simply hard for things to move. This is why I like Tech Fairs as our senior leadership makes it a priority to attend. It matters at so many different levels.

2. Education and Innovation go hand-in-hand. It is not possible to build an Innovation-centric organization without focus on learning. This is why i particularly liked the LIC program, wherein there was an unprecedented focus on mentoring and training.

3. Having support for ideas is paramount. Great ideas die prematurely if there is no funding or the required leadership support available.

4. Alignment with core strategy: The more the ideas are aligned to organization's strategy, the more the chances they have for productization. And this is the responsibility of idea generators - to ensure and be knowledgeable about the strategy and organization's direction.

5. Building processes for Idea validation: Focusing Innovation programs purely on building things, and not on validating make or break assumptions underlying a business model results in ideas not reaching their full potential.

6. Feedback mechanisms: Innovation programs should provide the feedback to employees on ideas as to why they are selected or rejected. The feedback loops ensure that innovators get better and we get more outcomes from the program.

7. Discouraging silos: A true potential of innovation programs is achieved when we have people from different business units/products collaborating on ideas.

In terms of impact, I have seen the Innovation Programs contributing in a significant way to Citrix's success. Speaking of some data here, from Citrix India's perspective, since 2016 (till early 2019) - Ideas generated bottoms-up have seen 4-5x increase, # of Invention disclosures have seen 100%+ increase, patent filings have increased 300%+ while at the same time increasing the submission quality.

 4. How do you keep yourself up-to-date in such a dynamic technology industry? What’s the learning strategy that has worked for you?

[Anuj] I follow a simple 2 step strategy, which i call learn and give back.

As a first step, I am constantly learning via books – I read around 50+ in a year. I learn via social media, mostly twitter that I have optimized for professional learning by following the right people. Most importantly, I learn via interacting with the right people. Books are great, but nothing beats social learning where you have opportunity to interact/ask questions and bring out the tacit knowledge and experiences.

As a step 2, I strongly believe that giving the knowledge back is an important part of the learning process. Unless you empty your cup, you can't build room for more coffee. Likewise, unless you share you can't build room for more knowledge in your mind. Giving back also ensures that you open learning conversations with like-minded people, thereby increasing your growth along with the community. I try and give back by sharing on social media like LinkedIn, Twitter, speaking in conferences/meet-ups, and writing a blog among other. I keep exploring other interesting means.

I am passionate about packaging knowledge in interesting ways to help people consume the same with ease. I use my personal blog ( as a field to experiment on different communication styles and normally share them via LinkedIn. My quest to simplify knowledge made me to learn an art form called sketchnoting recently. (You can find my work here:

In essence, learning should not be treated as an individual pursuit. You grow faster if everyone around you is growing. I consider my personal learning cycle incomplete till i have given back what i have gained.

5. What advice would you give to someone beginning his/her innovation journey?

[Anuj] I would give these 4 advices that I have seen working for me.

- I believe that being innovative starts with something very fundamental - which is to have a genuine desire and hunger to create an impact. Innovation is simply not something that you just "do". You have to want to excel. You have to want to be more than average. Unless one has that burning desire, that fire in belly to see through the outcome, the innovation pursuit may likely fall short of the intended outcomes.

- Cultivate the ability to bend the reality to your will

In my experience, I have seen quite a few situations where Innovative ideas could not reach the desired outcomes. Now, I don't want to be seeming like generalizing things here and it can really happen due to several factors, but to me the factor I narrate below is quite high on the list:

Eric Weinstein's quote: "When you’re told that something is impossible, is that the end of the conversation, or does that start a second dialogue in your mind, how to get around whoever it is that’s just told you that you can’t do something?"

Most ideas start with rejection. It is paramount to be objective about the reasons for rejection and change course if needed. But if you still believe in your idea, Eric's quote above comes in handy.

Until recently, I wasn't aware that there is a term to describe this trait - the term is High Agency.

Shreyas Doshi's quote: High Agency is about finding a way to get what you want, without waiting for conditions to be perfect or otherwise blaming the circumstances. High Agency People either push through in the face of adverse conditions or manage to reverse the adverse conditions to achieve goals.

Be a High Agency individual.

- Cultivate interests beyond work:

Most of my ideas or moments of inspiration came when I was not working and indulging in some interest or hobby while allowing my subconscious mind work on the idea. Whatever it may be - music, art, physical exercise, running etc., cultivating and working on a hobby is an important part of the creative process.

- Sleep well:

This comes from my learning from the book 'Why we Sleep'.

"In dream sleep (which is one of the phases of sleep), there is almost a form of informational alchemy where the brain starts to collide all the things it recently started learning with the catalog of all the information it has pre-existing. By marinating all the information paves way of devising novel insights to these previously difficult problems. That's probably the reason you have been told to never awake on problem instead you are told to sleep on the problem."

Sleeping well makes you creative. Ensure that you feed a problem you are working to your subconscious mind before you sleep and let the informational alchemy happen.

 PS: Since having this interview with us in the first week of July, Anuj has called curtains on his illustrious 13 year career at Citrix.

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