Sukanyya Misra presently leads Mastercard’s India Tech Hub, the company’s largest Tech Hub outside of the U.S. Her key responsibilities include aligning operations at the Hub with Mastercard’s overall global strategy, powering business growth, operational efficiency, talent acquisition and development along with fostering a culture of innovation and excellence at the Hub, with a focus on diversity and inclusion.
With over 24 years of global and domestic market exposure, Sukanyya has extensive experience across best-in-class data management, data mining and artificial intelligence technology for solving business information needs. She recently received the ‘Next Gen Woman Leader’ award conferred by Zinnov, in recognition of her achievements in business and leadership.
In a candid conversation with People Matters, Sukanyya Misra, Senior Vice President - India Technology Hub, Mastercard, shares her views on the current state of cybersecurity, initiatives to bridge the skills gap and how can organizations build a culture of continuous learning.
How aware and prepared is the industry to deal with emerging cyber-threats in the face of rising digital transactions?
We live in a hyper-connected world and are witnessing connected commerce become a reality. According to a NASSCOM report, the number of IoT devices in India is expected to increase significantly from about 200 million units in 2016 to 2.7 billion units by 2020. While the connected world opens plenty of opportunities for consumers, merchants and banks, cybercriminals are also not far behind. They are always looking for vulnerabilities in the digital networks to cash on it. My experience suggests that the collective awareness about cybersecurity in the payments industry is growing steadily. We also need to understand that cybersecurity is not a milestone but a constant journey.
Companies, regulators and institutions are partnering to stay ahead of the curve to fight this menace. I believe that an important trend in the cybersecurity space is to ‘Threatcast’ in order to flip the script on cyberattacks. Mastercard is doing this by bringing together different stakeholders, learning from their experiences, and implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to understand the nature of cyber threats around the world. This collaboration will also increase the speed of response to cyber threats and make the ecosystem secure. Mastercard also hosts various events focused on Cybersecurity to engage, educate and explore collaborations with partners and key industry stakeholders. A great example is the Mastercard Cybersecurity Summit that was recently held in India.
Employees act as the first line of defence when it comes to enterprise cybersecurity and a well-trained and vigilant workforce forms a great shield against malicious attacks and hackers.
A recent LinkedIn report highlighted how academic courses today are at risk of becoming redundant by the time students graduate. How can companies bridge this gap to ensure Gen Z is prepared to face the upcoming job and skill challenges?
Skill gaps can be of two kinds primarily – one that is caused by low quality of skills. A recent employability survey reported that only 4.6% of Indian job applicants possess good coding skills. With numerous institutes producing thousands of engineers every year, it is extremely important to focus on quality. The second kind is due to rapid developments in the technology space. This is especially true with fast developments in the space of AI, Machine Learning, and Big Data etc. With many new skill needs being added, it is a challenge for techies, educational institutes and corporates alike to keep up with the pace.
What needs to be looked at is to make engineering graduates more and more ‘industry ready’. I believe the key is to enable students to move out of the classrooms and have real work exposure right from the first semester. This could be in the form of lab activities, projects, internships, immersion programs, visits to tech and industry events etc. Exposure to skills in demand and an understanding of the level of expertise needed is important for students. I encourage students to own their career and educational journey and proactively seek out exposure and keep themselves updated, especially with the range of powerful resources online. Having said it, I believe it offers a great opportunity for companies to partner with universities to co-design curriculums and help students be industry ready.
With so much focus on technology and skilling, what key skills must an individual possess/acquire to stay relevant?
The key to staying relevant is to be informed and to proactively sharpen and enhance skills that are in demand. One can only do this if one is passionate and eager to learn continuously. The technology world is extremely fast paced with something new happening every other day. Willingness to learn not only from books but experiences and people around, goes a long way in developing as a professional. One of the best ways to learn and stay inspired is through the right network. Connecting with like-minded professionals, leaders you admire and interesting people from related fields is of utmost importance. This not only helps build reference but also allows one to stay informed and adaptable.
As far as specific tech skills are concerned, currently, skills related to AI, Cloud Computing, Machine Learning etc. are in demand. However, there is a dearth of good talent in many of these areas. Cybersecurity is another area that will demand talent owing to the digital revolution.
According to the Cybersecurity Workforce Study 2019 by (ISC)2, the shortage of cybersecurity professionals is close to 3 Mn globally, with around 2.15 Mn shortage in APAC alone, owing to its growing economies and new cybersecurity and data privacy legislation being enacted in many APAC countries.
Be it specific coding skills to build technology or designing user experiences and interfaces, this digital economy will create more demand for such skills. Last but not the least, to lead in a global workforce, great communication and interpersonal skills are more vital than ever.
How can in-house programs address the widening skills' gap?
Well-structured, in-house programs are a great way to upskill employees, especially because they can make learning very relevant to the needs of the participants as well as the organization. These trainings also allow for many collaboration opportunities as various teams interact with one another on a common area of interest.
In addition to external trainers and experts conducting sessions, at Mastercard we also focus a lot on our internal experts. Employees, who are subject matter experts, double up as internal trainers. We have had a very successful program with this model.
It is important for organizations to promote and strengthen their internal training and development capacity by formalizing peer-to-peer learning mechanisms. In addition to specific trainings, various engagement activities focused on innovation and collaboration become exciting platforms for learning.
Can you share some tips on how can organizations build a culture of continuous learning?
I believe that an involved leadership, along with a focused and inclusive approach are key to fostering a culture of continuous learning. It is important for leaders and people managers to reinforce the importance of learning not just in words but in action, by setting examples. This means that learning is not limited to just training sessions. Every interaction, meeting and platform becomes a source of learning. In such a culture, employees are eager to learn as well as teach, help and coach others. A focused and inclusive approach helps identify specific skill gaps, set learning goals and a roadmap that aims to include employees at all levels of the organization. A great learning culture encourages employees to be open and willing to share feedback and empower them to take ownership of their learning and professional development journey.