Robin Palley, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

March. 8, 2004

To whom it may concern:

It is a pleasure to talk about Rajiv Pant.

It is rare to meet someone who combines the breadth of engineering skills Rajiv brings to the table with great political skills and a solid comprehension of business process and business goals.

Best of all, Rajiv’s unshakeable steady manner and his winning personality make strangers into friends, even in the heat of workplace crisis situations where he is adept at applying cross-functional approaches to delivering robust solutions on tight deadlines.

I have had the privilege of working closely with Rajiv quite a bit of the years in my positions as vice president of Marketing & Communications at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, vice president of Global eBusiness at GlaxoSmithKline, senior vice president of WebMD Health, and an editor and then health editor of Philadelphia Online (web home of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News). Our work together has spanned online publishing solutions, content management systems, and general problem-solving on deadline.

Rajiv brings mature solid leadership and business-focused problem-solving to everything he approaches. He is that rare breed of engineer / businessman who doesn’t just say “Write me a specification and send it along.” Instead (maybe from his years around reporters), he sits with the ‘customer’ for the project and asks enough questions to thoroughly understand the goal. Then he lays out possible approaches to the solution and collaboratively (to the business owner of the project) and picks the most effective and flexible path. As a side benefit, as I served as business lead on many projects with Rajiv, he has taught me enough about the conceptual framework of technologies I work with that I can work easily with other programmers, IT team leaders and consultants.

His solutions are informed by understanding of where the business is going and what the demands on software and technology will be in the future. And by his vision on the new directions technologies are making available and how ‘ripe’ new technologies are. Whether he’s approaching conceptual solutions, programming, configuring or ordering hardware, Rajiv isn’t just designing for today. He’s looking at current and future needs and designing for them — educating his business customer about the practical pros and cons of each approach.

Most recently, Rajiv delivered extraordinary service in the wee hours of a cold January night to the national office of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America — and to the children we serve. The organization had spent months preparing for the launch of its new website and Centennial Year Celebration. The launch plan was heavily tied to a new partnership with Yahoo! that would give BBBSA the front page of Yahoo!, with its 143 million impressions, for a critical 24 hour period. The date and time of launch were fixed with no chance of rescheduling.

But three hours before the site was to go live, disaster struck. The site was down. And no one really knew the whole scope of ‘why’. Our organization’s national IT team along with representatives of many of our vendors — from ISP to CMS, web hosting, et al — all were working on diagnosis. But despite the deep skills and good intentions of all, the situation felt like a circular firing squad. Effort and blame splattered everywhere, but the complex and thorny issues were not yielding to any of the proposed solutions. As the minutes crept by and the crisis deepened, the BBBSA management team worried that the opportunity would be lost. New ideas thinned down. Minutes ticked by. Tempers grew short, and we moved into the wee hours of the morning.

That’s when I remembered to call Rajiv.

Within five minutes on the call, he had calmed down the rest of the frazzled team and begun teasing the problem apart. He listened in turn to each of the United Nations of participants on our 3-hour conference call, undaunted by the multiplicity of accents and sheer number of different perspectives on what might be happening (and by the fact that many of the players were already ‘dug in’ on their own theories). He asked careful diagnostic questions, gently challenged assumptions with probes. Listened carefully before he spoke. Knew when to crack a joke to ease the tension.

He quickly earned the respect of all and convinced all the strangers of his leadership. And his sense of humor and ease settled the grumpy rousted-from-sleep crowd and brought straight-line focus to the issues at hand. Each time the team effort led to a wall, he had a new angle to try. On the way through the thicket, he articulated three different fall-back positions in case Plan A didn’t work. But in the end, they weren’t needed. He kept at it until the site went live.

When our site appeared on the front of Yahoo! and generated 11,000 new volunteers to be Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the national organization on behalf of our 500 local agencies had Rajiv to thank.

And for Rajiv, that’s not an extraordinary moment. It’s just the way he works. I think he figures the really hard problems are brain candy. When my colleagues asked how on earth I’d persuaded him to help and to stay with it when things looked really messy, I could honestly answer that Rajiv would always willingly, helpfully, jump into the fray. And he’s especially delighted to hang on until done when the problem at hand is really, really challenging and requires out-of-the-box solutions.

Rajiv brings a special combination of maturity and innovativeness to his work. He has enthusiasm for supporting the visions and plans of others but also the ability to opportunistically see and explain the places where technology can make business process more efficient or more effective.

In short, Rajiv is mature beyond his years, thoughtful, steady, likeable, a collaborative player, cheerful, willing and skilled.

He’d make a great addition to any team.

Robin Palley
Vice President, Marketing & Communications
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

(Published with permission)




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