Today we welcome Geeta Pyne, Chief Enterprise Architect of the Intuit Platform at Intuit to our CXO of the Future Podcast. She joined Intuit in January 2021. She started her career as a research scientist developing algorithms for Satellite Image Processing and takes pride in holding IP in India’s first parallel computer PARAM and Image Processing system ISROVISION. She is also a highly experienced Chief Enterprise Architect and Engineering Leader with over 25 years of industry experience and has a proven track record of transforming companies with next-generation architecture strategies, visions, execution roadmaps, and metrics to create and accelerate SaaS and Data platforms.
Question 1: First Job: What was your first job, and how did it help you build your career?
First of all, thank you so much; I think it’s very humbling to come to your podcast. I got to my role through a lot of grit and hard work. 25 plus years in the industry started as a software engine, and I’ll talk a little bit about that, but kind of navigated from engineer to becoming an architect. So really understanding not just that technology – I’m a tech geek – but why we do it. Why does it matter to connect technology with business? Which is why what I do is the enterprise architecture which is truly the glue between strategy and execution. I started, believe it or not, very humble. I started as an engineer, scientist engineering, I was in the India Space research organization for a little bit. You know, I grew up in India. And I studied actually with an India government scholarship, so I was very lucky to have a scholarship from the Government of India all my middle school, high school, and so on.
I did my engineering commuter science, and in the final year everybody goes to a campus recruitment. So you’re getting all these offers. That was good, I was the top one in the class, so I was able to choose what I wanted to do. And I chose this company which is under the department of space.
And I think it was my, I would say, main reason for coming back to the country. I will never be able to pay back. I wouldn’t be talking to you if I did not get that scholarship to go to that school. It was a residential school, but I think about so many things I learned, and I truly believe it really shaped me. Foundation is everything. And I think I learned a lot in this first job. You know, not only being able to work on very hard problems. But also dealing with satellite data before you even knew what Cloud was, before you had all this generative AI, and all that.
I usually like 3, the number 3. I think number one is first principle thinking. If anything seems too complex, you know, challenge every assumption convention. Really go back to this, go back to the drawing board, figure it out, and think about different ways of looking at the problem. So if I draw the analogy. How did I look? You think about the satellite imaging the earth, ultimately think about the lens and the focal slit point, and the point being image, or actually line, a simple straight line. How beautiful is that? It’s like a pinhole. Geometry. I mean, it’s such an easy way to think about it, or visualize it as well. Right? So you start breaking it down, and I think that was one of the foundation things I learned, and I kind of apply every day now.
Secondly, when you’re building software. What great looks like? How do you make sure that you are building things that are going to perform, that are going to scale, that are going to be resilient? Because when things are up in the ear, it doesn’t matter. Very little thing. You can change, right? So really, there is no easy path to getting to the final outcome. You really have to be thought. We have to understand deep take while also solving the right problem and do in a way that is going to give you that beautiful ultimately thing that you are trying to achieve. My first project was radiometric and geometry connection of Noah satellite. I mean, it was a mouthful for me then. I didn’t know anything other than somebody has evolved that ongoing, and I could break it down to a good software.
The third thing is really: knowledge makes you humble. When you are surrounded by all these great people and also multi discipline, you need to have all different aspects of it, whether you are computer science, whether you’re a physicist, whether you are, you know, a chemistry, or, you know, a mechanical engineer. All things have to come together in order to truly make something beautiful. So I think those 2 takeaways have really shaped me. I still think about that first principle thinking. Make sure that the knowledge is making you humble. And then to make sure you are thinking about solving. You know, something that is really going to work. And it’s a durable solution.
Question 2: Leadership: What is the most important leadership skill that you have learned over your career, that has a positive impact, and can you explain with an example?
There are a lot of leadership principles that you follow, whether you look at into it or out of electronics. I think number one is really leading with clarity, having a very clear vision and meeting with that clarity of thoughts and vision is so important. No, it is not about the technology. It is not about getting people aligned with that. And every day I’m trying to get better. I can never say that I have mastered it, because there are more variables that come up.
Also, if you all have a vision. How do you clearly articulate it for all sorts of audiences? And this is also in an architect role, as we say, you have to be able to travel all the flows of the elevator, whether it is the C-suite to all the way up to the engine room. So, being the very clear thoughts and articulate that to all the types of audiences, that to me is the number one.
Secondly, I would say, how do you rally up a team? How do you build a high performing team? You can have all this vision, you got everybody excited, and you actually create a team behind that.
And thirdly, it’s all about results. Right? How do you drive winding results?
I think these 3 are always common, right? And you know, years back, like in 2,000, I used to work for this company called Arrow Electronics, and I was just getting of one project which I was doing for a global transformation. And I said, ‘Okay, I’m kind of done and burnt out. Can you get me off my CIO of in Melvin and put me in something else?’ I didn’t know. I was probably getting from fire to a frying pan or from a frying pan to a fire, whichever way you think about. I was brought into a project to lead the global e-commerce for the components business. When I came in somebody had already made an assumption about how strategy and architecture should be for commerce. And I had to actually really come in as like, ‘Okay, it doesn’t really make sense’. But how do I articulate that very quickly? And I think I’ve learned that, you know, 15 years back, you get it by writing it down clearly, articulating it to my CIO, to all the business stakeholders, and all the way up. It’s not just about my opinion. ‘Do you have evidence to support your ideas? So I think it was a powerful thing. So what happened was I could convince the global CIO of Arrow that you cannot build this, because here are the 3 things that are not going to work. When I articulated the vision, I understood the power of clarity. When I was preaching that globally, the global business leader, Alistair, I remember, called out: “This is, for the record, the first time we have clarity around what we are talking about, and not just the vision, also articulating how will you get that? Not that ‘How might we?’ But what needs to be true in order to achieve that vision.” And I was like, ‘Oh, my God! These people from Australia never says these good things about anyone!’ Being able to articulate that I think is the best. And then, of course, there will be challenges coming later. But that was my execution, right? And then I had to build that team.
Now that you got it, make it happen, right? So I have to scramble, be scrappy, and build a small team, a long-term durable team.
Question 3: Prediction: Do you have a prediction around the core technology and core changes that are happening in the industry that we should all spend more time learning about?
I think, of course, data. Data, data. Did I say data? But, you know, this is just my list. I think spatial data. It had so much importance, and I don’t think we have been leveraging that. Whether it is for security, whether it is for, you know, building something more sustainable and good. I think we got to all try to uncover and learn. What does that outer space have. And how should we leverage the spatial data and then, of course, blend with, amalgamate with other sources and forms of data.
And in order to do that there are basic things like, ‘how are you going to store this? How are you going to put data and business logic together?’ We talk about vector, databases now, but there will be providing the newer versions. And there are ways of storing the logic, everything together with the data and the corresponding language. I think, again, those things will really help us. Whether there are more devices coming, you have to handle that with security and compliance, and ethics. I think we underestimate to know what is the right problem to solve. Are we framing the problem correctly? We are talking about prompt engineering. Before you know, there will be prompt engineers, jobs and Rubik’s everywhere.
But I think is important how you frame a problem. And that will differentiate the people that are solving versus those that are solving the right problem. That is going to be a differentiator, so that blending of critical thinking, understanding the domain, and also multi disciplining, I think the convergence…We have to look at multiple angles and viewpoints. How are you going to leverage data? How are you going to leverage industrial IoT? How are you going to use it for planting the right seed?
Think about how we project on the higher level, start to think about multi-dimensional problems and try to solve them holistically.
Bonus: Is there a certain principle that you live by that you’d like to share as a takeaway for our audience today?
The number first thing I would say is ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. Don’t complain. Just be the change, make it happen. Even if you don’t know whether it is right or wrong. At least make some displacement. I think that’s what I live by every day.
Live, love, and make the world a better place. I think we all have a fully shared responsibility to make the world a better place.
Geeta Pyne, Chief Enterprise Architect of the Intuit Platform, joined Intuit in January 2021.
Geeta is a highly experienced Chief Enterprise Architect and Engineering Leader with over 25 years of industry experience. She has proven track record of transforming companies with next-generation architecture strategies, visions, execution roadmaps, and metrics to create and accelerate SaaS and Data platforms. A Data Strategy & Enterprise Architecture expert who has built global high-performance teams, leading to significant improvements in efficiency, cost savings, and new revenue generation. She started her career as a research scientist developing algorithms for Satellite Image Processing and takes pride in holding IP in India’s first parallel computer PARAM and Image Processing system ISROVISION.
Geeta is also a Board Member/Advisor for Chief Architect Forum & Women in Architecture, SIM, Bay Area, Evanta San Francisco, Gartner company, as well as the Evanta Global CIO, Gartner Peer Insights Ambassador, and GTM Capital Advisory Board.