CIO Spotlight

Digital dose

_CPI1408Vignesh Unadkat has been interested in computers since his childhood in Mangalore, India. The Director of IT and Promotions for Thumbay Group was exposed to IT at a very young age, as a high school student.

At this time, computers in schools – particularly secondary schools – were not very common, and so to some extent, Unadkat was very lucky to have such an experience. “I remember they showed us a supercomputer – a Zenith computer, I remember clearly,” he recalls, “They said that if we were interested in computers, we could take courses and learn.” With that, he says, the instructors gave the students a box of floppy disks, and his passion for technology was born.

In those days, the students were learning simple code and using MS DOS. “We were writing programs in MS DOS, and as I learned, the technology progressed with 2.0 and so on.” After his technology course work in his teenage years, Unadkat was certain that his career future was in IT.

In 1989, Unadkat enrolled in Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara College of Engineering and Technology, a private engineering college located in Dharwad in the state of Karnataka, India. There, he became involved in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest technical professional association. In 1993, he earned his Bachelors in Engineering, and began his career.

“My story is a little bit unusual,” says Unadkat about his relationship with Thumbay Group. “In fact, one of my first jobs after graduation was setting up technology centres for Thumbay Group in India. I was in Mangalore, assembling computers and laying out the foundations for their computer centres.” At the time, he didn’t realise that he would go on to spend the rest of his career with the company.

In 1999, Thumbay informed Unadkat that they would be opening a health facility in the UAE, and invited him to move to the Gulf. There, he became an Assistant Manager at the newly formed Gulf Medical University. “I will admit that I was a bit nervous,” recalls Unadkat, “We were setting up a new health facility, and it was my first experience doing something like that.” In 2001, he also began work as a lecturer at Gulf Medical University.

Nervous or not, Unadkat was quite successful and in 2005 opted to return back to school to capitalise on his experience with technology in the healthcare industry. He attended Sikkim Municipal University of Health, Medical and Technological Sciences and in 2007 earned his MBA in Information and Technology.

That year also saw Unadkat progress up the ladder at Thumbay, becoming the Assistant Director of the IT Division at Gulf Medical University. In this position, he began to take on promotional responsibilities as well. “I became interested in branding as we began building our websites,” he says, “the management recognised that I was especially creative in this aspect, and allowed me to take on the management of branding and promotions.” Since then, he has taken on a number of branding and promotion projects, most visibly as the co-coordinator of Thumbay Group’s Health Magazine.

In 2012, Unadkat was moved up yet again – this time taking on the top position in the IT department as the Director of IT and Promotions. This year is his 15th with Thumbay Group. “A great deal has changed since I began with the company,” he says. “When I joined, there were only 10 computers. Now we are working on projects that involve linking campus IT infrastructures.” In addition, Unadkat is overseeing a number of upgrades and installations for the company.

“To be honest,” he says, “my role in IT has changed a great deal. Now I think about strategic planning. I am on the phone with vendors, and on the phone with other departments.” Though his days of tinkering with technology have passed, Unadkat still manages to “get under the hood” of a computer every once in a while. “I try to spend one and a half to two hours per week just getting inside and working with things,” he says.
Though he is more often in a boardroom or office than laying cables or setting up computers, Unadkat realises the importance of staying abreast of current IT trends. “People expect me to know what is best for the company in regard to IT. However, they also expect me to tell them what I think of the latest laptop or smartphone. I get personal calls like this quite frequently,” he says. Also, Unadkat clearly enjoys knowing about the latest and greatest in technology – it is obviously his passion, even outside of an office setting.

When asked about his greatest accomplishments at Thumbay Group, Unadkat is modest. “I could not have done anything without the support and trust of our management,” he boasts, “It is amazing to have an administration that truly trusts my judgement and believes that I know what is best.” The president of Thumbay Group, Thumbay Moideen, Unadkat says, understands that technology is a key driver of business.

The trust that the management has placed in him is likely a reason that he has stayed with Thumbay Group these many years. “Because the management has confidence in my projects, I am never bored,” he says, “we are always doing something new – we are always on the cutting-edge,” says Unadkat. This kind of forward-thinking, coupled with the variety of industries that Thumbay Group now works in, keeps the job ever-changing and interesting. In the last decade, Thumbay Group has expanded its operations into a variety of industries – from health spas to coffee shops.

Unadkat advises university students that may want to go into IT to stay passionate about their work. “I think that, no matter what you do, you have to be passionate. If you are interested in what you do, you are sure to succeed,” he says, “You need to work hard as well, but if you are passionate, the hard work will become easier.”

As for his other passions, Unadkat is hard-pressed to think of something outside of technology. “I quite like cricket,” he says, “I used to lead the cricket team here at Gulf Medical University.” Unadkat’s true passion will always be technology, computers and keeping Thumbay Group on the cutting-edge of technology. In an industry that often sees IT professionals move from one company to the next, it seems clear that Unadkat’s 15 years at Thumbay Group are only the beginning.

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