"Failures Are an Opportunity to Grow" - Jamuna Sundararajan

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1. Tell us more about you, your company and your journey.

I, Jamuna Sundararajan, am the President & CEO of Cyberbahn Federal Solutions LLC (Cyberbahn), an award-winning Agilist entrepreneur. As a leader with an agile mindset, I have been able to transform my start-up Cyberbahn into a mid-size small business within 5 years.

CyberBahn is one of the fastest-growing, woman-owned small businesses providing leading-edge solutions in areas including emerging technologies, software development and system integration. Our specialized agile related training and consultancy services help our federal and commercial clients, with high-value solutions that are both scalable and cost-effective.

Our customers include DOT, VA, HHS, DHS, USAF and several others. As a President, I earnestly try to provide a learning platform to our employees that helps them continuously learn new skills and improve themselves.

I manage and oversee the operations of Cyberbahn and meet with the Government stakeholders and business partners periodically to build and maintain relationships. Such collaborations have enabled CyberBahn to win new IT contracts. My focus for success is to be an agile servant leader that can equip my clients with robust, innovative, and high-value solutions.

2. How did you come up with this idea and go about executing it?

My business dream since 1995 transformed into reality in 2014 after gaining nearly 20 years of valuable experience in IT consulting and Business development. The advanced education that I earned from the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) and the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) helped me at all stages in my personal life and career growth.

I began at Infosys Technologies and propelled my career advancements working with various employers such as Texas Instruments, iGATE, BearingPoint, Deloitte and Harris corporation while earning many awards and technical certifications along the way.

I would want to emphasize that I learnt something unique in each of these companies which were instrumental in shaping my approach to leadership and technology. I had an opportunity to learn continually the different ingredients in business development, business strategy and how each agency leveraged its differentiators (business certification, agency contract vehicles and their business capabilities) to pursue Government IT contracts.

This led me to craft the business strategy for Cyberbahn primarily in the Government space.

3. What has been your biggest challenge that you faced and how did you overcome that?

The biggest challenge was quickly coming up to speed with our new multi-million-dollar contract with DOT, developing a rapport with the staff, addressing all the issues, novation of paperwork, etc. 

This is where I applied my Agile mindset to quickly prioritize, resolve, and lead my new team to deliver beyond the customer's expectations. This helped us tremendously and put us in a very good position to compete for more work in other federal agencies as well.

4. What do you think are the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur?

Authenticity, patience, acting with integrity, trust and transparency. Entrepreneurs are the thought leaders of society, so they must demonstrate emotional intelligence, and encourage ideation and innovation amongst their team members. 

They should be open to receiving constructive feedback and also to help others grow in their careers and lives. The key is balancing work-life routines and maintaining the relationship without burning your bridges. 

It is also important to keep your friends and family involved in your journey as they form the nucleus of your life (and could serve as your perfect sounding board). Individuals that are cognizant of their surroundings become socially responsible leaders.

5. What are some of the most important factors for running a successful business?

There are several factors that contribute to success in business: A well-aligned strategy, business model, differentiators, customer centricity and agile product delivery. In facing today’s challenges, especially during the COVID crisis, I feel the most important driving factor for a business to transform and sustain is their business agility; aka. their ability to adapt and implement new strategies quickly and reorganize themselves to fit the changing business context.

6. What are your tips for the first time and aspiring entrepreneurs?

Be prepared that every business you create may not see immediate success, no matter how great your ideas are. Patience is absolutely key. Accept that your business will have both successes and failures, regardless of your experience, intentions, and hard work. An aspiring leader/entrepreneur needs to develop a growth mindset, and continually listen, learn, and adapt to their challenges to achieve their business goals.

Don’t give up. It’s important to have the mindset of thinking along the lines; “I can learn to do anything”, “I’m inspired by the success of others and constructive feedback”, “My failures are an opportunity to grow”. These might sound cliché, but they are all keys to victory. Developing an attitude like this will bring you success and allow you to lead by example.

7. How can one overcome a hurdle of lack of funds when starting up?

Raising funds for a startup is quite a challenge but a strong business strategy and a good business plan can help you acquire the capital to realize your startup dreams. Of Course, the easiest way is to invest your own savings. Various government programs to encourage small business and startups could also be explored.

Technology-enabled crowdfunding has become popular in recent times as it also creates public interest and provides free marketing. Venture capitalists are constantly on the lookout for promising business opportunities and usually stay until the company is either acquired or goes public.

Business loans from various sources like banks, friends, relatives, and other institutions (including credit cards, NBFCs) are the most common way money is raised. Having said that, the contribution of Angel investors in bringing finance and guidance to many successful businesses is well known.

Interview by - Benil Joseph

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