20 Years of Experience Will Help This Leader Scale Centerfield’s Tech Team
Kuntal Shah is no stranger to leading and scaling large tech teams.
The leader has more than 20 years of engineering leadership experience. He earned his stripes at companies like eBay and Realtor.com, where he led international teams of more than 200 engineers and data scientists as they built data ingestion frameworks and other technical solutions.
Today, as Centerfield’s executive VP of technology, he’s tapping into those skills to lead tech strategy and architecture at the big data-driven marketing and sales technology provider. There, he leads a team of 70 cross-functional engineers as they build automated, end-to-end customer acquisition technology that’s powering more than 2 million annual sales for companies like AT&T, CenturyLink and ADT.
His key to scaling big, efficient teams? Balancing predictability in software delivery with speed and innovation.
“Rigor in planning, execution, software release and post-release activities play a big role in achieving that predictability,” said Shah. “It is my goal to bring that focus to Centerfield while making sure it does not negatively impact the agility with which the company has been operating.”
Shah said an integral part of walking that fine line is aligning the tech team with other stakeholders across the business, rather than keeping engineers siloed.
“It’s important for technology teams to act as partners and not just as service providers to business functions,” said Shah.
With this comprehensive mentality, he helps his cross-functional tech team build and optimize Centerfield’s engineering, IT, data warehouse and data science efforts while scaling the team in the process.
What does the tech team you’re leading at Centerfield look like?
Our technology team has about 70 engineers. We have a good mix of Centerfield old-timers — people that became Centerfielders via acquisitions over the years — and people we hired in recent months to strengthen the team and support our growth.
There are different teams dedicated to specific functions, like managing the evolution of our web-based shopping experience; building our big-data infrastructure; and developing our data-driven marketing and sales technology. There’s also a team that ensures our systems continue to run in a stable, secure and scalable way. Our teams are structured so that they can easily align and collaborate with the business teams they support.
What is your overall vision for the work Centerfield’s teams will accomplish in the years to come?
As the company grows and expands into new verticals, our technology team will play a crucial role in building new customer solutions as well as helping our business scale and run efficiently. Their work will require deeper adoption of new technologies like artificial intelligence and workflow automation, as well as continued focus on experimentation and optimization.
Culturally, we constantly challenge ourselves to get better by learning and adopting new technologies, tools and ideas. And everyone on the team has a unique role to play and ideas to contribute. Leveraging and supporting each other allows us to do our best work.
How have your experiences leading huge tech teams at big companies like eBay and Realtor.com helped you as a leader at Centerfield?
Big companies focus a lot on the predictability of software delivery and invest in tools and processes that help achieve it. Rigor in planning, execution, software release and post-release activities play a big role in achieving that predictability. It is my goal to bring that focus to Centerfield while making sure it does not negatively impact the agility with which the company has been operating.
Leveraging and supporting each other allows us to do our best work.”
A tech team can only be successful if it’s fully aligned with other major functions of the business. What’s your strategy in collaborating and achieving alignment with other teams across the business?
It is important for technology teams to act as partners and not just as service providers to business functions. Full transparency and frequent communication regarding goals, priorities and challenges makes it much easier for us to stay in constant alignment with other teams.
Secondly, technology teams need to have a good understanding of business, which will allow them to build lasting solutions, solve hard problems through innovation and take pride in delivering business results.
What’s an exciting project your tech team is working on right now?
We interact with our customers in a variety of ways to help them make purchase decisions through our web experience, phone calls, SMS or chat. We are in the process of building a first-party dataset that brings information from these various interactions to one place in a structured form.
The project will allow us to understand our customers and their needs better and intelligence derived from this will make our marketing and sales tech more personalized and efficient. I expect all our future AI efforts to rely heavily on this customer data platform foundation.