A Leader is Most Effective Leading From the Front: An Interview with Ilham Fareed
Meet Ilham Fareed of Connex Information Technologies, Extreme’s Champion of the quarter
If Extreme Champions were the Avengers, which superhero would you be?
I think I’d be Captain America because I try to inspire my team not just with words but with actions as well. The leader is most effective when he leads from the front, providing an example and inspiring the rest of the team to follow. Steve Rogers as Captain America also makes sure to understand the needs of his people and puts them in the first place. In my case, I always try to keep in mind how my decisions will affect my teammates and customers.
What moments in your work do you find the most rewarding?
When I’m solving the problems of my customers. One of the most fulfilling projects so far has been the one that we are putting together right now for one of the state universities in Sri Lanka.
What do you consider your biggest personal achievements?
What I think of as my biggest personal achievement is the way my professional career has been unfolding. Starting from a lecturing background, then moving on to the technical side of things and after that taking a leadership role and helping others grow and change their lives for the better.
What do you think are the ingredients of a successful partnership with a technology vendor?
Communication is key in any relationship, be it marriage or partnering with a technology vendor. The world we live in is not perfect, there may be incidents and delays. But the way in which we address these problems at different levels and solve them in a timely manner through effective communication is critical to partnerships. It’s about communicating with people and not to people.
What are Connex Information Technology’s primary markets and areas of focus?
Universities and enterprise customers are our primary focus. Since Sri Lanka is a small market, we need to focus on other customers as well in order to achieve our sales targets. My big goal is to expand our services beyond the Asian region.
How is your own experience and technical prowess helping you position Connex as a trusted advisor and a successful Extreme partner?
Nowadays, almost every piece of hardware in the market has fairly similar features, so we need to be offering a solution to the customer’s pain points rather than just trying to sell product. To do that, we design our solutions mainly around ExtremeCloud IQ and Ethernet Fabric – our two strongest products.
Which Extreme solutions or product areas resonate the most with you personally as an engineer?
My personal favorite would be the Wi-Fi solution powered by ExtremeCloud IQ. It can be managed from anywhere and any device. Thanks to the power of AI and ML, features like Client360 and Network360 are very impressive. They make the life of a network engineer much less complicated.
You have a lot of experience with Brocade equipment, technology that became part of Extreme Networks through acquisition. How has your relationship with Extreme technology evolved over the years?
Even though I have been working with different brands, the products didn’t change that much, so my first moments with Extreme products were very easy and straightforward. I had everything I needed – good product documentation, support, and training. Also, the Iris configuration tool made things much easier and faster in the first few weeks. Currently I’m working very closely with the Extreme team in India.
How does Extreme support you in your efforts to guide customers through the buyer's journey?
Amey and Narayan have been providing us with excellent pre-sales support. Also, the Extreme Wizard program is an admirable initiative to educate us on the ongoing changes to the products and technology advances. The pre-sales team also supports us when we conduct customer presentations or clarification meetings. Thanks to this kind of support, we are able to achieve the incredible things that we do.
Also, since we’re operating in a price-sensitive market, customers tend to compare the cost of products from competitors. It means that not only must we position the products accordingly, but the price tags on the products should also remain attractive for the buyers. In that context, I’d like to send a special shout out to Dinesh, Deepak, and Lavanya who have been giving us a tremendous amount of support.
Recently, you were instrumental in winning a new Extreme customer in the healthcare industry – a hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka, a country with a challenging economic situation. What were your customer’s primary challenges? How did you help them address them?
Winning this customer certainly took a lot of effort from our team. The hospital wanted to provide their patients with high-quality Wi-Fi access so that they could stay connected with their loved ones during their stay in the hospital. Another goal of the new wireless network was to facilitate the delivery of telemedicine and to connect medical devices to the network to enable patient monitoring in real time.
The primary challenge was coverage issues since only two products were in use throughout the building and there were gaps in network availability. Hospital authorities were also looking for a solution that would allow them to remotely access network devices. We addressed this using the ExtremeCloud IQ platform.
How do you celebrate your wins? How do you bounce back from a challenging day?
I kick back and enjoy a film or a show on Netflix most days. I also play some badminton, so a game or two really helps me clear my mind. I also love to go out and try new food. Whenever I want to celebrate something – be it with my team or my family – we head out for a meal.
What’s your biggest dream in life?
To develop an e-learning solution to educate young minds and develop people to become better versions of themselves. The only way that we can leave behind our legacy is to share what we know with others. I would love to share the knowledge I have gained with others, In shaa Allah [if God wills it]!
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