Dileep Kumar Pandiya Of ZoomInfo Technologies: How AI Is Disrupting Our Industry, and What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

AI is a rapidly evolving technology field. To stay competitive, it is crucial to keep up with the latest developments. This can be achieved through continuous learning via news, courses and conferences. Attending AI conferences can provide insights into latest technologies development and networking opportunities with industry experts.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer the future; it is the present. It’s reshaping landscapes, altering industries, and transforming the way we live and work. With its rapid advancement, AI is causing disruption — for better or worse — in every field imaginable. While it promises efficiency and growth, it also brings challenges and uncertainties that professionals and businesses must navigate. What can one do to pivot if AI is disrupting their industry? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dileep Kumar Pandiya.

Dileep Kumar Pandiya is a distinguished technology leader with over 18 years of experience in the IT industry. He has held significant positions at renowned Fortune 500 companies, including Wayfair, Walmart, IBM, and currently ZoomInfo. As Principal Software Engineer at ZoomInfo, Dileep spearheads the adoption of cutting-edge technologies to enhance analytics, data accuracy, and user experience. His expertise in artificial intelligence and digital transformation has earned him numerous accolades. Dileep’s innovative contributions and leadership have set new benchmarks in the fields of AI, microservices, and API development.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Thank you for having me! I am excited to share my journey. My love for computers started when I was young and led me to study Information Technology. During college, a project on digital transformation sparked my passion for tech advancement.

After working at a few mid-size companies, I joined IBM in 2008. There, I gained valuable experience working with seasoned professionals. Tackling real-world problems in a collaborative environment broadened my industry knowledge and shaped my career. Working in Europe, the UK, the USA, and India has given me a broad perspective on different cultural and operational styles.

One of the most impactful social projects I led was developing the M-Pesa platform, which provided financial services to millions without traditional banking. Over the years, I have worked on various high-impact initiatives that strengthened my expertise in digital transformation, microservices, API, and AI development. Currently, I lead the design and development of foundational systems at ZoomInfo, using AI to improve data accuracy and make data exports seamless.

My career includes roles at Fortune 500 companies like ZoomInfo, Wayfair, and Walmart. As a Principal Engineer, I focus on integrating advanced technologies to drive innovation and optimize operations. Beyond my corporate roles, I am a Senior Member of IEEE, mentoring the next generation of engineers. I also review papers for journals like IEEE, Springer, and IGI Global, and frequently speak at international conferences about technology trends and innovations.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

ZoomInfo stands out due to its innovative approach to go-to-market strategies, leveraging AI-powered solutions to empower sales and marketing teams. One key factor is its commitment to providing high-quality, actionable data and insights that help businesses identify and engage with their ideal buyers.

ZoomInfo Copilot, in particular, is a game-changer. It unifies a company’s go-to-market data, including CRM data and ZoomInfo’s extensive B2B data, and applies generative AI to identify insights and opportunities. This allows salespeople to receive AI-guided recommendations on who to contact, when to engage, and even what to say across every channel. The solution also provides personalized email drafts, account summaries, and buying group insights, making it easier for sellers to close deals.

For example, Lumen, a medical tech company, has seen significant success with ZoomInfo Copilot. ZomInfo’s platform allows them to “jump right into accounts with knowledge of their buying intent and contacts,” saving time and increasing productivity.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Resilience, strategic thinking, and mentorship — have been integral to my success and have enabled me to make meaningful contributions to my field

1. Resilience

Early in my career, I encountered significant challenges while working on a pioneering AI and API development project. The market was uncertain, and we faced multiple technical setbacks. However, I led my team with a focus on learning from failures and continuously iterating on our solutions. Our resilience paid off when we successfully launched a groundbreaking product, which eventually earned me the prestigious Information Technology — Technical Professional of the Year Platinum TITAN award​​​​. This recognition was a testament to our unwavering commitment and ability to overcome obstacles.

2. Strategic Thinking

As a Principal Software Engineer at ZoomInfo, I was responsible for ensuring the high availability and resilience of our applications through innovative strategies like Game Day Testing. This involved simulating failure scenarios to test our systems, processes, and team responses in real-time​​. My strategic approach to these tests not only improved our system’s robustness but also significantly reduced our mean time to resolution (MTTR) for critical incidents. This strategic foresight ensured that our services remained reliable and scalable, directly contributing to the company’s operational success.

3. Mentorship

Throughout my career, I have placed a strong emphasis on mentoring and guiding others. My involvement with the ADPList as a top mentor and my contributions to the Industry Leadership Playbook are examples of my commitment to nurturing future leaders​​. Additionally, as a member of the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, I provide insights that shape the content and perspectives on management and leadership​​​​.

Let’s now move to the main point of our discussion about AI. Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line?

AI is significantly disrupting the sales operation technology industry, and this disruption is largely beneficial, transforming various aspects of sales processes, enhancing efficiency, and ultimately improving the bottom line.

By using AI-based data analytics, we can get insights about buyer behaviors and patterns of buying and preferences. This allows the sales team to customize their approach, make personal recommendations, and targeted marketing campaigns for better conversion ratios and user satisfaction..

Data entry, scheduling meetings and following up on emails are manual tasks that are important, but they are time-consuming and laborious. AI can automate such repetitive processes. This will keep the sales teams focused on the strategic things like building overall relationships and closing the deals. This boosts sales efficiency and productivity.

AI chatbots and virtual assistants handle customer inquiries, provide instant responses, and assist with routine queries. This not only improves customer experience but also frees up sales representatives to focus on more complex and value-added tasks.

Which specific AI technology has had the most significant impact on your industry?

Conversational AI is changing the sales operation technology domain. It uses simple tools to create smart virtual assistants and chatbots. These bots help with customer interactions and make overall sales processes easier.

Conversational AI analyzes customer data to deliver personalized experiences and boost overall satisfaction. Virtual assistants offer 24/7 support, ensuring customer queries are promptly addressed, no matter the time zone, which improves the customer experience. They also handle daily tasks like scheduling meetings, sending follow-up emails, and saving data into CRM systems. This allows sales professionals to focus on more important activities.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

An important turning point that demonstrated AI’s significant influence on the sales technology industry was the debut and adoption of AI-driven predictive analytics products.

The sales industry has always been pivotal in using data to guide its strategies and decisions. This was very time consuming to do manual data analysis. It was typically resulting in delayed insights and lost opportunities. Then, AI-powered predictive analytics tools entered the scene and changed the Dynamics in a very significant way.

The Shift: The companies that integrated AI-powered predictive analytics into their
CRM/GTM platforms, like Salesforce, HubSpot and ZoomInfo set a new stage of how revolutionary AI can be. As a result, the tools were beginning to use large volumes of past sales data, customer engagements and market trends to predict future outcomes in real time. Future sales trends could be forecasted, high-potential leads/Signals could be detected, and useful leads to sales teams could be delivered.

Realization of Impact: The moment of realization came when businesses using these AI tools reported significant improvements in their sales performance metrics. Sales teams could now Identify High-Value Leads , Optimize Sales Strategies and Increase Sales Efficiency

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

Preparing the Workforce for AI Integration

Identify Skills and Knowledge Gaps: Assess the current workforce’s capabilities against the skills needed to work effectively with AI tools. Identifying these gaps is important for identifying training and development programs. This ensures our team is well-equipped to leverage AI and it will enhance the productivity and efficiency of the entire team.

Establish Ethical Guidelines: Define clear ethical guidelines for the responsible use of AI. These guidelines will ensure data privacy, fairness, and regulatory compliance. This fosters trust among employees and customers.

Valuable Skills in an AI-Enhanced Future

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: As AI will take over routine daily tasks slowly. Another valuable skill will be improvement on critical thinking and problem solving that is going to be key to solve more complex problems.

Adaptability and Continuous Learning: The fast pace of advancement in AI and technological space, team needs a mindset of adaptability and a commitment to continuous learning and upskilling.

By proactively addressing these areas, companies can better position their workforce for success in an AI-enhanced future.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling the workforce for an AI-centric future?

Upskilling the workforce for an AI-centric future introduces significant challenges. Addressing these effectively is important to contribute to the organization’s growth and innovation.

One of the challenges is the existing skill levels among employees. While some may already have a strong technical background, others might have little to no experience with AI. This difference requires personalized training approaches to cater to different learning needs and paces.

AI technology is developing very quickly. It is difficult to stay updated with the latest advancements and keep training programs current.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

AI introduces several ethical considerations into the sales operation technology industry, where its deployment can significantly impact decision-making, customer relationships, and overall business practices.

Privacy and data security are important when using AI in sales operations technology because it often involves handling a lot of customer data. Firstly it may raise questions regarding data security and privacy as a result. Secondly there is a risk of data breaches and unauthorized access. To address these, implementing strict security protocols to protect against data breaches. Also making sure that we comply with all relevant data protection regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA is the key.

Using AI in sales operations can sometimes lead to unethical practices, like manipulative advertising that collects data in intrusive ways. To handle this, we should create and follow ethical guidelines for using AI in sales, making sure our practices are responsible and fair.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do, If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

AI is transforming industries, including sales operation technology and go-to-market strategies. To navigate this disruption effectively businesses need to adopt specific strategies.

Stay Updated with AI Advancements:

AI is a rapidly evolving technology field. To stay competitive, it is crucial to keep up with the latest developments. This can be achieved through continuous learning via news, courses and conferences. Attending AI conferences can provide insights into latest technologies development and networking opportunities with industry experts.

Build a Skilled AI Team:

Hiring AI engineers and ML experts is essential for developing, implementing and Integrating AI solutions tailored to organization business needs.Their expertise not only enhances operational efficiency but also drives innovation and ensures organization remains competitive in a rapidly evolving technological landscape.

Identify and Automate Key Areas:

Identifying pinpoint areas within operations that can benefit from AI, such as automating routine tasks, enhancing customer service with chatbots, or improving decision-making with predictive analytics.By doing so, businesses can achieve greater efficiency, reduce costs, and stay competitive in an AI-driven landscape.

Utilize AI for Analytics:

AI can analyze large datasets to uncover patterns, predict trends, and provide actionable insights. Implementing AI-driven analytics tools can significantly enhance decision-making processes.

Ensure Ethical AI Implementation:

Develop and enforce guidelines for data privacy, transparency, and bias mitigation. Ethical AI practices are crucial for maintaining trust and integrity in your AI initiatives. For example, ensuring that your AI models are free from bias and transparent in their decision-making processes can build customer trust and comply with regulatory requirements.

What are the most common misconceptions about AI within your industry, and how do you address them?

AI will completely replace human

One of the common misconceptions is that AI will completely replace salespeople. Let’s be clear, AI is here to empower human capabilities, not to replace them. AI tools can handle monotonous tasks, such as data entry and follow up emails. This automation can free up salespeople to focus on more important activities like building relationships and closing deals. We provide training programs to help salespeople learn to use AI tools. This approach shows them that AI can make their jobs more efficient and rewarding. It helps them see that AI is not a threat to their roles.

AI Lacks Personal Touch in Sales

Another misconception is that AI lacks personal touch and eventually it will lead to robotic customer interactions. But on the other hand, AI improves personalization by analyzing customer data to provide tailored recommendations and support. Voice AI, for example, can create more personalized sales experiences by leveraging customer preferences and behaviors data. We can address this by educating the team, sharing success stories, and gradually introducing AI tools.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Favorite Life Lesson Quote: “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow is our doubts of today.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

When I was first starting in my career, I was provided an opportunity to run a project using a brand new and cutting-edge technology. Despite my reservations, I was optimistic about the project, but uncertainty lingered in the air. This was new technology for me and I was scared about not being able to use it properly. I thought I am incapable of doing it, will I be able to execute on it?

With all that skepticism in mind, I said, “I accept! I have already given dozens and dozens of hours to understand the new technology, to contact the experts, to educate them and to gather a team around me that shares my dream. The deeper we got into the project the more we came up with barriers and frustrations. On the other hand, rather than allowing such difficulties to put us down, I took them as learning opportunities and continued on.

The project ultimately succeeded beyond our expectations. We developed a Digital transformation solution that not only met the customer needs but also impacted the lives of millions. This experience taught me the invaluable lesson that our doubts and fears are often the biggest barriers to our success. By confronting and overcoming them, we open ourselves up to new possibilities and achievements.

I have used this quote as a guidance throughout my life ever since. It serves as a reminder that although self-doubt is normal, it should never be a barrier to success. Incredible things may happen when we believe in our potential and embrace challenges.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

As a principal engineer, several thoughts and concerns often keep me awake at night, influencing my daily decision-making process. Here are some of the key areas that occupy my mind:

Alignment with Business Goals

I worry about whether our technical efforts align with the broader business goals. I think about how our projects contribute to the company’s overall success and if we are prioritizing the right initiatives. This drives me to maintain close collaboration with executives and stakeholders, clearly communicating the technical vision. This ensures that our work supports the company’s strategic objectives.

Innovation and Staying Current

The tech industry evolves rapidly, and staying current with new technologies and methodologies is a constant challenge. I worry about whether we are leveraging the best tools and practices to stay competitive. Are we balancing the adoption of new tools with the need to deliver faster? This concern drives my commitment to continuous learning, attending industry events. I encourage the team to experiment with new technologies.

These concerns shape my daily decision-making process, guiding me to make thoughtful, strategic choices that balance short term needs with long-term goals. By addressing these areas proactively, I aim to steer the ship towards success while fostering an innovative and motivated team.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Thank you very much for touching words. My advocacy for bringing the greatest good to the greatest number of people would be the Global Digital Literacy and Empowerment Initiative. My Vision is a world where everyone has the knowledge, skills and access to turn their ideas into the power of digital technology, and improve lives and communities. Through the Global Digital Literacy and Empowerment Initiative, we may in fact ignite a movement that impacts millions of people to realize their untapped potential. It will unleash innovation, equality, and prosperity worldwide.

How can our readers further follow you online?

You can find me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/dileeppandiya/

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.