Meet Surita Bains, New Director of Product Management at Exan Software Interview
Q: Hi Surita, thank you for joining me today. Could you please begin introducing yourself by briefly explaining relevant career history, giving us an overview of your current role, and perhaps an interesting fact about yourself?
A: Hi, I’m Surita Bains. I’m the new Director of Product Management here at Exan, a Henry Schein One company. I have over 20 years of experience in technology in various roles in product management and program management. I also happen to be a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), so I have that perspective. My focus is on technology and solving business problems. My most recent history came from spending a decade at a cyber security organization, Absolute Software, where I drove their education business. So, my experience working with both higher education institutes and K-12 on various business problems related to asset management and security has helped prepare me for my role at Exan.
My interesting fact is that I think my home represents the Commonwealth quite well. Myself, my Australian husband and our kids live here in Canada, and we are happily Canadian, but I was actually born in England, so I am British as well. On top of that, I have Indian heritage as my parents were born in India. So, we like to say that we’re a bit of a Commonwealth household.
Q: What is your approach to building a high-performing team?
A: The foundation for me in building a high-performing team is trust. It is imperative within the team that we understand and trust each other. And on top of that, we form exceptional 360-degree communication. So that’s not just talking at people, but it’s taking steps to understand and confirm that we know what we’re trying to say to each other and then exploring further. That communication is crucial to me, and those skills also leverage our team when we speak with customers because the better we can understand them, the better we can help them solve problems.
On top of trust and communication, I like to layer innovation, thinking creatively, and healthily challenging statuses and norms. I think that links back to curiosity, constantly questioning “why?” to understand the primary causes of any challenge better, look at that problem in a different light, and tackle it at the root.
Q: In your new role at Exan, you have had the opportunity to define the product plan and make strategic hires to build it out. What was important to you when adding Product Managers, Product Owners, and Analysts to your team?
A: One of the first steps is the jelling, norming, forming, and storming of the team. I ensure the team understands everyone by having them participate in determining the strengths and weaknesses of each member to know how to support one another and who to reach out to for help. The better we can do that, the more effective and powerful we become as a collective unit. Further, it’s been refreshing to focus on clarifying what is essential for our customers. We have a reinvigorated focus on understanding the market, our customers, and critical topics.
Q: How do you approach a big problem, and how do you solve it?
A: When I approach a big problem, I think the first thing is to understand who needs to address it. We need to ask, “who are the players that need to be involved in this discussion?” Then, we need to decide if we do understand the problem, can we fix it? And suppose we don’t know the problem. In that case, we need to evaluate whether we know it well enough to address it and constantly communicate updates to pertinent stakeholders as we solve the problem. Once that is established, we can get that communication going.
Q: How do you approach coming up with a product strategy?
A: We can spend days talking about this, but in summary, the product strategy is an output of many inputs driven primarily by the market. The product strategy is not just what customers are looking for today; it looks at what customers will need in three to five years. We are researching our customers’ strategic plans, goals, and future challenges. Understanding that is a significant driver in our product strategy because we don’t want to simply fulfill needs today. We want to proactively satisfy needs that will be coming up to prepare to be shoulder-to-shoulder with our customers in the market. In addition to that, we are prioritizing how Henry Schein One and Exan can offer unique value compared to other solutions in the market where we can leverage technology to be innovative. We have a solid bench of engineers who are constantly coming up with great ideas. We always want to be open-minded and listen to what they bring to the table to assess what is possible and pair those solutions with the customers’ problems.
Q: What is your high-level vision for axiUm today?
A: I think it is essential to recognize that schools may be operating differently now than they were pre-pandemic. While some of the covid-centred processes or learning models were temporary, now many may become operational and part of a school’s regular workflow, redefining how dental schools do business. We want to ensure that axiUm is pivoting with the dental education industry as it evolves. axiUm continues to be the leading academic dental software that over 90% of the market relies on while evolving to support in-person, virtual, and hybrid curriculum models as well as modified clinical workflows.
The features and customization that our schools rely on, know and love in axiUm will remain. Still, many components will be offered in a modernized and enhanced state to reflect new learning models and adjusted clinical workflows. Every institution will have the ability to flip a switch to update components that apply to their unique workflow and environment if they choose.
For example, we know we need a better patient portal solution, so we modernize PatientAccess. Our goal is to continue presenting our leading academic dental software while taking steps to support dental schools as they navigate the current global landscape.
Q: How are you going to make decisions on what gets improved about axiUm?
A: Historically, axiUm was development-driven. While our roadmap has always reflected customer feedback, we are now further emphasizing the customer’s role in the future of axiUm.
This initiative is Henry Schein-wide, and Exan is now completing the company’s journey of becoming product-led. Improving axiUm is rooted in understanding our customers’ goals and navigating the barriers they face. Notably, Henry Schein One has also hired a new Chief of Product Officer, Paul Howe, a strategic move that aligns with the company’s product-led vision.