Prasanna Gopalakrishnan: Creating an Open, Inclusive, and Thriving Environment
As Group Chief Technology Officer, Prasanna Gopalakrishnan oversees and shapes the technology systems, cyber security, network, and infrastructure that underpins Sky’s day-to-day customer facing technology. As well as creating an environment where her colleagues can work on inventive, forward-thinking technology, she is also focused on creating a culture where people across all levels have their voices and ideas heard.
Q: What does your role at Sky entail?
A: As Group Chief Technology Officer, I work across all our territories – the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy - to develop Sky’s technology vision and strategy. We also have teams in India, working alongside Comcast at our Indian Engineering Centre in Chennai.
The scope that my teams cover spans right across the Sky business. From overseeing the technology systems, cyber security, network, and infrastructure that underpins day-to-day customer facing technology - including Sky’s broadband and mobile, to the technology that supports future business developments - what we call Sky Labs. Given the breadth of what my team and I cover, no two days are the same, and we get to partner with some incredible people right across Sky’s group-wide portfolio.
Q: How would you sum up your first year as CTO?
A: Fun, fulfilling and very busy! It is an incredible time to join Sky, under Dana Strong’s leadership the business is thriving and is committed to innovation and growth.
We’ve launched Sky Glass in the last 12 months which is a game changer when it comes to the world of TV, offering our customers every channel, show and app over WiFi. No dish, no box, no fuss.
Part of my role is leading Sky Labs and this year saw the opening of our brand-new Innovation Centre on our West London campus in the UK. The new building is state of the art and is a real marker of Sky’s dedication to developing inventive, forward-thinking technology. Our team also look after Group Enterprise Technology Solutions and we have put some of the best hybrid technology for our teams in the new building and across campus.
Q: How did you get into the technology industry and were there any barriers or hurdles you faced?
A: I started my career on the ground as a software engineer. I loved designing and developing systems that can improve customer experiences. My role soon stretched into broader strategy, operational and commercial areas and I held some really interesting roles, including at Harvard University, Boston Private and Bank of America.
Throughout my career I have had a number of roles within financial services too. This can often be a predominantly male dominated industry and I had my fair share of challenges during this time. For a while I struggled to find my voice and I’m incredibly thankful to many leaders who put their trust in me and enabled me to grow and reach new heights despite this. Because of this experience, I see my role here at Sky to be more than just the day-to-day. I want people to feel supported and able to progress in their careers and do so in a style that stays true to who they are.
Q: What is your proudest achievement since joining Sky?
A: I have been with Sky nearly a year now and there have been a lot of key milestones and deliverables during the time. But, as a woman of color in such a big role, one of my focuses has been creating a culture where people feel that they can bring their whole selves to work at all levels. This means ensuring everyone feels empowered and able to have their voice head. 30% of our senior leaders in technology are now female and across Sky UK and Ireland we have a target that the leadership team will be 5% Black, and 20% Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic by 2025.
I wanted to ensure that across a Group level, people feel they can share their opinions with me and that everything is an open dialogue. I hold ‘Office Hours’ where I block out time each month and, regardless of level, you can come to me with a question or for advice, showcase a piece of work or talk about an idea. This openness epitomizes the culture we have created in Group Tech.
Q: What are the next big projects you are focused on?
A: There is always lots going when it comes to tech at Sky, but I have three big focuses at the moment.
Firstly, the launch of Sky Glass within Europe – as we saw in the UK, this is a really big moment for Sky, but also the TV and streaming industry as a whole. Ireland will be the second market to go live with Sky Glass launching this summer - this is a huge milestone in Sky’s 25-year history in Ireland. That will be followed by Italy, Germany and Austria.
We are always focused on customer experience and ensuring that this is always evolving – we have a few digital programs in the pipeline that will be centered on making this user experience even better.
We are also working closely with Comcast to make Sky the place to work when it comes to technology. We work with a huge range of technologies across so many sectors and within the team we design, develop, build and deliver these, so there really is nowhere better to get such vast experience. Coming in September is the return of our Tech Summit in the UK, where Sky and industry partners get together to showcase the amazing platform and connectivity technology we work with and I am very excited about this event.
Q: How do you think the sector as a whole will develop over the coming 12 months?
A: It’s mentioned so much at the moment, but I do truly think the metaverse offers so much scope for all kinds of industries, not just tech. It’s also not just a new revenue stream for businesses but will actually offer opportunities for learning and upskilling like we have never seen before. In the same way, augmented and virtual reality will continue to evolve to be a more central part of customers lives.
How we connect with customers will continue to be a key focus – the tech industry has lots of data at its fingertips and over the next 12 months it will continue to be about using this in the optimum way to benefit the end user.