“This one is focused on one of the hard problems, which is actually to build the schools,” he said. “That's a lot of work because we have to go out there, work with the local governments and scope out things. We have to get the construction done. And then we have to work with the governments to make sure the schools operate and that the staff has funds to keep operating.”
So far, the organization has built 50 schools, all with volunteer labor. The schools serve small towns and rural areas scattered across the country.
“You can imagine the level of effort it takes to supervise construction there” with an all-volunteer workforce, he said. “That is very appealing to me.”
The COVID-19 pandemic drove many schools to use remote learning technologies.
“They are going digital because students couldn't come to schools anymore.” There’s a lot more work to do, but volunteers are working on getting the digital infrastructure in place. It’s not exactly like the challenges confronting Ramaswami’s commercial customers, but it’s in the ballpark.
Finding Meaning Beyond Infrastructure
Ramaswami spent much of his childhood in multiple cities across India because his parents worked on one of his homeland’s most important infrastructure components: the national railroad. Their jobs required frequent transfers and resulted in multiple school experiences for him and his sister.
“I think that certainly developed a wanderlust in me,” he said. “I speak like three Indian languages just from that experience of moving around.”
As he grew into adulthood, he picked up an appreciation for bridge (the card game) and competitive tennis.
“I got into bridge when I was a college kid,” he recalled. “There were two things about it that really intrigued me. First, it's a thinking person's game. It’s not a blind game and there's a lot of combinations. Second was the social camaraderie.”
Ramaswami isn’t the kind of guy who goes on solo backpacking trips in the High Sierra. He wants to be around people. The teamwork of playing doubles tennis appeals to his social and competitive sides.
“Whether you're playing doubles tennis or whether you're playing bridge, it's actually very important that you work together as a team,” he said. “When you do these team sports, you learn and then start appreciating that people have to come together to make things happen.”
Ramaswami sees a parallel between his passion for tennis and his rise to CEO of a company that sells digital infrastructure.
“You learn to play very hard and give it your best when you're out there on the court,” he said.
Still, building a life has to transcend all that. He raised a family in the United States. He and his wife enjoy traveling the world.
“It’s what you do off the court that defines you as a person,” he concludes.