Profiles in Tech
Meet Raja Musunuru — long-time tech leader and president of SIM Charlotte
Raja Musunuru smiles when he describes where he’s from. He’s “a Southern country boy,” he says, “but from a different country.”
Musunuru grew up in a remote part of India, born to a farming family in a small village. His generation would be the first to venture beyond the farm and try something different — to go to middle school and high school and then college. There was no precedent among his family or his friends for that kind of life, so in many cases, he leaned on the generosity of strangers to acquaint him with a different reality and, eventually, a love for computer science and coding.
For many of us, our experiences define what we do and who we become, and it is in part because of the guidance he received from this informal network of acquaintances and mentors that Musunuru has devoted much of his time to providing others with the same support. That work began, in a formal capacity, a decade ago when he joined the Nashville chapter of the Society for Information Management (SIM).
“Every time I changed a job within the U.S., I moved to a different state and city and a different industry, and it meant any time I changed, I was starting over building my network,” said Musunuru, now president of SIM for the Charlotte Region. “When I moved to Nashville, I got introduced to SIM and got to experience some of the community work they were doing, and I fell in love with that. For me personally, if I look at my success, I attribute it to all the people who guided me.”
Musunuru has leaned on that network in a variety of ways since then. When he moved from Nashville to Charlotte seven years ago, he leveraged SIM to build a new network. Twice in those seven years, he’s used SIM to find new job opportunities, including his current role as CTO at Amicus.io, a fintech company that aims to make philanthropy as easy as online banking,
“At the leadership level, these are not advertised roles. Finding them is a matter of knowing that someone is looking to fill that role, and having someone who can connect you can go a long way,” he said.
Musunuru has also leaned on the SIM network to solve challenges within his roles. For instance, when he was working in the retail sector, his company wanted to replace its network infrastructure across more than 60 retail storefronts. It was an expensive, highly complex project with the potential to disrupt business operations.
“If you do it all well, it’s like nobody notices, but if it goes wrong, they can’t open the store,” he explained. “So before we engaged any vendors, I reached out to my fellow SIM members to ask who had done this recently, who were the players I should look at, what the support experience looked like and what problems they ran into. The real-world experience you get from that is invaluable.”
A handful of calls and a few hours later, Musunuru was well on his way to a solution, bypassing hours or weeks of research and vetting.
Having experienced the value of the SIM network firsthand, Musunuru has dedicated his year as president of the organization to strengthening the three core pillars of SIM:
- To provide a one-of-a-kind community for technology leaders so they’re able to build trusting, valuable relationships
- To provide leadership development that will ensure the next generation of technology leaders is strong
- To make a difference in the community.
That last pillar has been a particular challenge in 2020, despite a strong start. This year marked the 10th anniversary of SIM in Charlotte, a milestone the organization toasted in January with a celebratory gala. It brought together the founding board members, as well as the presidents from every year for the past decade. It was a last hurrah, so to speak, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a scaling down of all events, including SIM Charlotte’s annual golf tournament, its biggest fundraiser.
Fortunately, a scaled-down event didn’t result in a scaling down of impact.
“The last couple of years, we’ve been raising $90 to $100,000, and we donate all that to STEM causes in the community,” Musunuru said. “This year, we set a target of $75,000 and raised more than $90,000. We were very grateful for our sponsors and leaders for that.”
Now, as he prepares to hand the reins over to the incoming SIM President Todd Buelow, Musunuru is continuing to think big about what SIM can do for its members and the community.
“We want to create more stem awareness and skills so that there are more people taking on STEM-oriented education to fill the gigantic gap in terms of number of job postings. So many jobs go unfulfilled every month, so we want to grow that talent pool,” he said. “We have some ideas we are testing about how we structure our fundraising and programs like scholarships and summer camps. And we want to double or triple our size in the next five years so our impact grows substantially, as well.”