The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal

August 8, 2020

When the CEO Can’t Get on a Plane, Deputies Step Up

By Kathryn Dill, The Wall Street Journal

Vetri Vellore, chief executive of enterprise software company, used to travel quarterly from Seattle to his company’s office in Chennai, India, but he has no idea when he will be back. With his newly hired Chennai site lead also stuck in Seattle, Balaji Seetharaman, the company’s director of product management in the Chennai office, has helped fill the role of on-site leader. He, along with a handful of other local managers, has hosted virtual happy hours for staff there and regular meetings to update employees on the company’s vision.

The 12½-hour time difference between Seattle and Chennai already made it a challenge to connect with Mr. Vellore. Now, Mr. Seetharaman says, staff in Chennai do more muscular brainstorming on their own—and test new features under local oversight—so that time with Mr. Vellore can be spent on final signoffs and conversations about strategy.

“Discussions would have happened when he was here for three days. Now we’re doing them here,” Mr. Seetharaman said, adding that even when travel makes a comeback the CEO may not need to visit as often. “We have to assume this is how we run as a team.”

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