Interview

TRAILBLAZERS TALK Ravi Kumar S., President, Infosys, in conversation with Luke Bronin, Mayor of Hartford

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Transcript

  • Ravi Kumar S.
    00:15
    Ravi Kumar S.

    Hello everyone, my name is Ravi Kumar, I’m President at Infosys. Welcome to the Trailblazer series. So, I have with me Luke Bronin, the Mayor of Hartford. You know what fascinated me about Luke Bronnin is his diverse background. You know we spoke about Z skills in one of our past videos. I think he’s a true reflection of what Z skills are. Started with the US Navy Reserve, went to Yale, went to Oxford, and came back to Yale for a law degree. He was posted in Afghanistan, in India, then he went to the Hartford Group, worked at the Hartford Group. Worked with the Obama administration and the Treasury Department, then came back to the state of Hartford. Worked for the Governor, as a General Counsel and then as a mayor of Hartford. Wow! Which role did you like the most?

  • Mayor Luke Bronin
    01:14
    Mayor Luke Bronin

    I don’t know, they’ve all been kind of all-consuming ones, but I love my current job and I feel like we’re making some exciting progress here. So, but I always joke that this job that I’m in right now, it feels like dog years. I feel like I get seven years older for every one minute.

  • Ravi Kumar S.
    01:28
    Ravi Kumar S.

    And, this is probably the most impactful one as well?

  • Mayor Luke Bronin
    01:31
    Mayor Luke Bronin

    I think that’s right.

  • Ravi Kumar S.
    01:32
    Ravi Kumar S.

    I mean how much impact it can have on the society.

  • Mayor Luke Bronin
    01:35
    Mayor Luke Bronin

    At least, impact that you can see immediately, you know, I was lucky to have the chance to work in the Treasury Department in the first Obama term, right in the wake of the financial crisis and work on a lot of the post- crisis reforms and then worked out a lot of international work combating illicit finance, anti-money laundering, working on trying to make a stronger, more transparent, less vulnerable, financial system and that was fascinating work. And, I got the chance, as you said, to work at the state level. That was also fine, you know, fascinating work and we got to make some significant legislative change, but there is something about working at the local level, and about being a mayor that allows you to have an impact that you can see and to try to build a coalition and build a consensus from moving a city in a new direction and it’s a lot of fun.

  • Ravi Kumar S.
    02:24
    Ravi Kumar S.

    I’m actually talking to public service executives like you. Governments are wired for the first 20 years of citizens and they’re wired for the last 20 years of citizens and all the infrastructure around the government is around it. But, significant change and transformation happens in the middle and many governments and many public service executives are not wired for that. Tell us a little bit about what you feel about this change and what government should do in the middle and that’s where the change is.

  • Mayor Luke Bronin
    03:00
    Mayor Luke Bronin

    Yeah, I think that observation is right. I’m not sure there’s anybody who’s really doing that right, any states, any countries, you know, I think there are a lot of places that are getting better at building those partnerships between educational institutions and employers and building sort of customized programs that create pipelines for work but really getting good at lifelong learning and at helping individuals with those transitions in their own lives as transformations in the economy occur. It’s something that I think we as a country and as a world are still getting our arms around and, you know, clearly there are enormous changes that are accelerating as automation accelerates, as there are, you know, digital led transformations in industry after industry. Even if you’re staying in the same industry, that industry is changing around you. So, even if you’re in a job right now, you still have to be focused on how you prepare and lay the foundation in your own life and with your own skills for the changes that are coming and again, you know, I think that the beginnings of that work are happening in the conversations that we have and that lots of others have with educational institutions and with companies. The other thing I would say is that a lot of companies, I think over the last few decades, kind of got out of the business of training. They relied on others externally; educational institutions or others to do the training for them and I think more and more of those companies are finding the need to get back into the business of doing that training, doing that lifelong learning at the company themselves and my sense is that, that’s something that Infosys is taking very seriously.

  • Ravi Kumar S.
    04:40
    Ravi Kumar S.

    Absolutely, you know, looking at lifelong learning which you have alluded to -- it’s a joint responsibility of large enterprises like us, academic institutions, and the government. And the onus is on all of us to make the shift and lifelong learning is a continuum. What do you see as the role of governments there? Is it orchestrating these ecosystems or do you see the role of government being much higher than that?

  • Mayor Luke Bronin
    05:10
    Mayor Luke Bronin

    I don’t really know the answer yet, but I think, you know, if you look at the traditional programs like student loan programs, which are mostly geared towards conventional degrees and they’re important. Even those have fallen short because, you know, most students coming out are burdened with a tremendous amount of debt but those more traditional programs are, I think, missing their middle link. There’s not as much assistance and support and partnership for somebody who wants to go through and not get a BA or not get a Masters but get that training opportunity that’s going to open up a new door and that maybe something that we need to take a look at as well.

  • Ravi Kumar S.
    05:45
    Ravi Kumar S.

    Got it. Absolutely, in fact, Hartford has been a great example of recruiting new corporations to come to Hartford and getting the businesses and the academic institutions to come and help on that recruitment and you were a pioneer in that. When we came to Hartford the reason why we ended up here is because this ecosystem really vouched for what the value proposition of Hartford is. Tell us a little bit about that. I have not seen many states doing that, many cities doing that.

  • Mayor Luke Bronin
    06:19
    Mayor Luke Bronin

    I think this is key to, you know, I’m thrilled that we were able to get you here and this is key to our ability to grow the way we want to grow. You know, Hartford as a community has a tremendously strong corporate base, I mean we have world-class companies and insurance in advanced manufacturing and healthcare. I think for a little too long the partnership between city, state, and business community had atrophied, that it had fallen apart and a lot of our companies thought of themselves as companies that happened to have been founded here a hundred years ago but weren’t necessarily engaged in the project of remaking and reimagining the city around them and I think one of the things we’ve done over the last few years is really rebuild that partnership and work together to think how we can position Hartford to be at the leading edge of the next industrial and economic revolutions and that kind of partnership in recruitment is a key part of it. But, also just in building the innovation ecosystem, you know, over the last couple of years, we went from being a city where there really was no defined innovation ecosystem to speak of, to be in a place where our insurance companies are partnering together with startup boot camp and running the insurtech accelerator bringing startups from around the world here. You have great manufacturing companies like Stanley, Black & Decker that have moved their innovation team here and are building and are running now advanced manufacturing accelerator. That’s also bringing companies from around the world now. We’re doing the same thing, soon on digital health and then you have a lot of homegrown groups like Upward Hartford and others that are doing similar work to bring startups and others from around the country but also to create that community of creators and makers and entrepreneurs and I think at the end of the day, that’s what really makes a difference but what’s a little bit unique about Hartford is that it’s happening in a place that’s small enough, that the opportunity to meet and to engage with and to partner with decision-makers at really big companies is available in a way that it just isn’t in a place like New York. This is what is happening all in downtown Hartford? It’s happening throughout Hartford but, you know, a lot of it is concentrated, you know, right in just a few square blocks in Hartford and Infosys is a big part of it. I mean, I think you know Infosys coming here, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I think it was partly a recognition of that growing ecosystem and from my perspective, it was also hugely important acceleration of that work.

  • Ravi Kumar S.
    08:50
    Ravi Kumar S.

    Absolutely, and I know that all these startups now are concentrating around the insurtech ecosystem you are establishing. Is there an enablement of capital and other enabling infrastructure for the startups which the government is enabling, especially as a mayor of the city?

  • Mayor Luke Bronin
    09:08
    Mayor Luke Bronin

    So, I’m trying to use my convening role, we as a city are trying to use our convening role to do that, you know, I think this is one of the things that we have to do better than a lot of venture capital is focused on three main geographies, you know, they’re in New York, they’re out in California and Silicon Valley and they’re in Boston and I think they sometimes miss the opportunities in places like Hartford where you’ve got world-class startups but most importantly you’ve got world-class startups that are already working hand-in-hand with their customers and with their major, you know, incumbent partners and so working together to figure out how we help get the venture capital out there to pay more attention to what’s happening here is kind of the next step of what we’ve got to do.

  • Ravi Kumar S.
    09:55
    Ravi Kumar S.

    So, Luke, you know, I just wanted to ask you one other question and it’s very pertinent to Hartford. How would you attract young talent to come from adjacent states and what are you doing to make Hartford vibrant enough to attract talent to come here?

  • Mayor Luke Bronin
    10:17
    Mayor Luke Bronin

    So, now you’re gonna have trouble getting me to stop talking, because this is what really gets me excited. I mean, I first of all, I think we’ve got a tremendous opportunity right now because the reality is that in the largest fastest-growing metro areas, people are getting priced out everyday people and businesses are getting priced out, you know, it’s so expensive to live in a place like New York or San Francisco or Boston and so there’s a lot of momentum and movement to cities like Hartford, where you can deliver a tremendous quality of life at a fraction of the cost and where you can also become a part of the fabric of the community in a whole different way, you know, you can be part of making the place and shaping the place in a whole different way. So, I think that’s one of the things that I really pitch and sell about Hartford. It’s why my wife, Sarah and I decided to come here 12-13 years ago. We saw a city with incredible history, you know, beautiful architecture, beautiful parks, incredible arts and cultural institutions, a great company and a great base of companies but also a place that we could make home feel like we were part of it in a whole different way. And, then the other piece of it is as you say, we need to make sure that it’s active and vibrant enough and what that means is people, you know and for us, that means creating enough residential density that you can feel that energy and that activity and feet on the street. We’re doing a lot of work over the last few years, a whole bunch of vacant commercial office buildings have been converted to residential. They’ve leased up like that there’s tremendous demand and we have a long way still to go but you can feel just a very different sense of energy and activity in the city today than even just a few short years ago and that means we’ve got to continue that work and we need to continue to build our innovation, you’ve got ecosystem and build our partnership with our employers.

  • Ravi Kumar S.
    12:08
    Ravi Kumar S.

    Is this becoming a partying place?

  • Mayor Luke Bronin
    12:11
    Mayor Luke Bronin

    You know, I think we’ve still got some more to do to make sure that there’s enough nightlife, but there’s a lot to do here, you know, there’s I mentioned our arts and culture, we have two phenomenal producing stages right around the corner from here. The stages that, you know, create shows that go down to Broadway now on a regular basis. You’ve got a world-class museum just down the road in the Wadsworth Atheneum. You’ve got the largest Performing Arts Center in Connecticut, Bushnell theatre right across the park from here and you’ve got a very active and vibrant local arts and cultural scene as well, you know, we don’t have our pro hockey team anymore but you’ve got a lot of spirit and excitement around our local minor league teams you know, the Hartford Yard Goats, which is a name that I didn’t like at first and now I love it, you know, it just creates a sense of community and in some ways I think it’s even more fun going to games like that than it is to go into a, you know, a 40,000 - 50,000 person stadium. We’ve got pro soccer coming in next year, Hartford Athletic coming into Dillon’s Stadium. You’ve got, you know, the Rangers affiliate, the Wolfpack and you’ve got, of course, UConn Sports as well. So, whether it’s arts culture, whether it’s sports, whether it’s the breweries that are springing up in neighborhood after neighborhood, there’s a lot going on in the city on any given day, any given night. And, you know, what we need, I think, is for everybody who’s here and a part of this community whether you live in Hartford or whether you live around Hartford to help spread the word because changing perceptions requires all of us to do the work. I was talking to a group of people yesterday, a couple of days ago, who are very involved in Hartford and someone said, “Well, you’re preaching to the choir.” I said, “Yeah, but the point is we need the choir to start preaching” because there is a really true and powerful message about what’s happening here and we need to all be part of making sure people know about it.

  • Ravi Kumar S.
    14:08
    Ravi Kumar S.

    The pursuit of young professionals looking at public service, who could be this new breed of leaders in comparison to traditional politicians who have come up the ranks? What’s your message to young professionals who want to look at public services and high-impact platforms for themselves?

  • Mayor Luke Bronin
    14:34
    Mayor Luke Bronin

    Well, first of all, I always say that you know, there are many ways to serve the public and not all of them are in traditional public service. I mean you build a company, you grow a company, you’re doing a public service. And, you work in the nonprofit world and you serve others, you’re doing public service. There’s lots of ways to serve the public. I happen to love, you know, the job I’ve got right now. I happen to love the ability to help shape a community and make policy decisions and, you know, encounter tough, kind of naughty tangled questions of, you know, policy, law, politics.

  • Ravi Kumar S.
    15:08
    Ravi Kumar S.

    Are you looked at as an outsider?

  • Mayor Luke Bronin
    15:10
    Mayor Luke Bronin

    I don’t know, I mean, you know, I’ve been between roles of the state and the federal government, have been involved in government for a little while but I think the most important thing that I would say is you don’t have to just pick one path. It’s what’s true in business now which is that you can make many, many different changes and make many zigs and zags in your career. That’s true even if your passion is in public service and so I think the most important thing is just find something that you’re passionate about and do it and as you say, you know, one of the virtues of the American public political system is there are lots of routes to have an impact in government and you can do it as an elected official or non-elected official. You can do it if you came up through the ranks as a civil servant or if, you know, spent 20 years in business and then decide to make an impact and vice versa too which is important. So, you know I think that we’re lucky to have a system with economic and political system that you know allows many days. Lines can be blurred, in the sense, that you can build skills in one on one area that can translate to another but the other thing I would say is I often talk with people, young people who say that they want to get involved in public service and they’re very focused on the national level. They’re very focused on what’s happening in Washington DC but, back to where we started earlier, I personally think you can have an even more powerful and profound impact working at the local level. You can, you know, you can make a difference that you can see and that has a really powerful impact on people’s lives in a really immediate way, at the local level. So, I encourage everybody to get involved whether it’s as a full-time career or just something that they’re doing in addition to their full-time career.

  • Ravi Kumar S.
    16:56
    Ravi Kumar S.

    Thank you so much, Luke. This is a big bet for us and we’re very excited about it.

  • Mayor Luke Bronin
    17:01
    Mayor Luke Bronin

    We’re excited too and look forward to continuing to work together.

  • Ravi Kumar S.
    17:03
    Ravi Kumar S.

    Thank you again, thank you very much.