Since its incorporation in 1988, video and networking product provider Harmonic Inc. has been working to give operators faster Internet services in the most efficient and cost-effective ways possible. Today, this means moving beyond cable hardware to their new CableOS virtualized cable access solution, the industry’s first software-based solution for operators who need to manage the delivery of IP-based data, video and voice services around the globe. Companies with such a strong portfolio of solutions require comprehensive, experienced financial leadership and a strong corporate culture, tasks that chief financial officer Sanjay Kalra happily takes on.
Before joining Harmonic in 2016, Kalra developed decades of accounting and finance experience, particularly in the technology sector. Spending nine years at professional services firm Ernst & Young auditing public and private tech companies of various sizes, Kalra then went in-house in progressively larger roles at public technology companies in the Bay Area. These include companies such as Silicon Image, Model N and TiVo; now, at Harmonic, he brings this considerable experience to bear in his current role at CFO.
Kalra’s work comes at a fascinating time for Harmonic, as their virtualized cable access solution CableOS is gaining traction in the industry, and as Kalra asserts, “leading the way in defining the next generation of cable access networks.” To date, the cable network management of most IP traffic is hardware-based; CableOS permits operators to have a software-based solution for cultivating improved data delivery and broadband supply with higher quality of service. In February 2018, Harmonic announced their first CableOS deployment at Com Hem, Sweden’s leading provider of television, internet and fixed-telephony services, and is currently working with companies of numerous sizes to deploy the technology—whether Tier-1 companies such as Comcast or Tier-2 and Tier-3 companies such as Buckeye Broadband.
This technology has the potential to provide incredible value for cable providers and customers alike, says Kalra. “Cable operators have an existing footprint that they continue to grow and improve,” he notes, “and they can do a much more effective and efficient job at driving growth by deploying our technology.” With CableOS, he says, companies can expand their central control system capacity only when needed, which is practically revolutionary for an industry that often relies on preemptive building out of cable hardware before companies can improve on their performance.
Of course, none of these advances would be possible without the company’s strong business environment. Kalra takes great pride in Harmonic’s “people first” culture, one focused on the professional development and motivation of its employees. Whenever possible, Harmonic prefers to give existing team members opportunities to move to other interesting roles within the company or promote to the next level, rather than hiring externally; Kalra himself was promoted from within the company to CFO in 2017 (having come to the company as Chief Accounting Officer the year before). “In order to retain and attract top talent, we need to treat our employees as our customers,” Kalra remarks, resulting in a culture that takes a sincere interest in not just what everyone on his team can do, but what they want to do.
“In order to retain and attract top talent, we need to treat our employees like our customers.”
One of Kalra’s biggest priorities in helping to cultivate this people-first culture is establishing high standards of transparency for his work and that of his department. “Sharing our vision for the future helps everybody in the company be an essential part of the team,” Kalra notes, “with a deeper connection to the work.” Executives like Kalra regularly update the entire company on strategies and current events and organize quarterly all-hands meetings to answer employee questions. Harmonic also reviews its quarterly results and shares its strategic and financial goals with the entire employee base. These attributes are of great interest to Kalra. “Transparency and employee happiness are part of one chain that leads to the company’s success,” he says.
Transparency and putting people first are just a few of Kalra’s overall leadership philosophy, one that places trust in his team to think creatively and rise to meet new challenges. “I’m a big believer in strong cross-functional collaboration and believe that taking some reasonable business risk in some decisions is important,” notes Kalra, often working closely with his teams and with other departments such as sales and R&D to find the best pathways and solutions to issues that arise. Kalra values his team’s ability to change the traditional structure of processes or methodologies if the need arises, based on the evolving demands of their business.
Kalra also prides himself on setting tough goals for the company, such as when he sets up annual budgets, or bonus and compensation plans. He takes a very structured approach to monitor the process of pre-set goals, and drive his future decisions based on their progress to date.
Despite these strict goals, he also encourages new ideas and input from his team with an open-door policy, which often results in greater opportunities for their professional development. He consistently checks in to ensure that his team is taking relevant training and courses for either professional development or the required credits to become licensed CPAs. This way, Kalra can take advantage of his team’s skills while also encouraging them to properly steer their career growth.
With the initial success of the CableOS system, and his own role in perpetuating Harmonic’s strong corporate culture, Kalra believes the future for the company is bright. “We are the leaders of world-class video streaming solutions,” he stresses. Harmonic’s innovative software-based video solutions, including cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings, power everything from high-efficiency video encoding compression of ultra HD video, to cloud media processing for OTT delivery.
Given these advances, and their continued emphasis on solving their customers’ biggest challenges, Kalra sees Harmonic maintaining its global market leadership in video delivery technology and services for years to come.