How Steve Jobs inspired Vishal Sikka to leave the chaos at Infosys

Made for better things?
Made for better things?
Image: Reuters/Abhishek Chinnappa
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Infosys, a 36-year-old Indian IT giant, just lost its first non-founder CEO.

Vishal Sikka, the company’s former CEO & managing director, who resigned today (Aug. 18), cited ”the constant drumbeat of the same issues over and over again, while ignoring and undermining the good work that has been done,” as a reason behind his decision to quit.

Since Sikka’s appointment in 2014, clashes between the old and new schools of thought at the company have made for a tumultuous journey. In February this year, the firm’s founding members raised issue with the outrageous salaries and severance packages at the company—something co-founder NR Narayana Murthy mentioned again in April. The founders had also vocalised their concerns over the revenue growth target set by Sikka, given the global uncertainties of Brexit and Donald Trump’s election as US president.

Adding to the criticism, calls to bring back Murthy as “chairman emeritus” had picked up traction, too. ”…the distractions, the very public noise around us, have created an untenable atmosphere,” Sikka said in a blog post after his resignation. For the Stanford alumnus, the decision to quit stemmed from a piece of advice Apple co-founder Steve Jobs gave out at his alma mater over a decade ago:

“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

During his three-year run at Infosys, Sikka steered the company toward success: He made strides, pushing both profits and revenues up. Under his guidance, the company shifted from dated software work toward automation, blockchain, and other new-age technologies.

Culturally, too, he was a hit with employees. Sikka rolled out 5,000 promotions. He has time and again asked employees to raise questions and challenge the norms. He set up the “Murmuration” initiative, crowd-sourcing over 2,650 ideas from employees to make everyone feel heard. Easing up on typical corporate hang-ups, Sikka ditched the ties and suits, and allowed employees to access social networking websites such as Facebook or Twitter in office.

Although he has no regrets about his time at Infosys, Sikka feels it is time to move on.

“I now need to move forward, and return to an environment of respect, trust, and empowerment, where I can take on new lofty challenges, as can each of you,” Sikka wrote. “As Steve Jobs said, I must follow my heart and my intuition, build my buildings, give my givings, and do something else.”