Tech companies come in all sizes, from the one-person startup to the multibillion-dollar enterprise. No matter how big they are, however, these companies all rely on technology to create their products and sell their services, and the costs to stay at the top of their games can add up fast, especially so for larger enterprise-level organizations. This is why companies like Virtusa exist, and why people like Mark Ohrvall, the new SVP and Indianapolis Center Head at Virtusa, contribute their knowledge and experience to the Indy tech ecosystem.
Mark’s first exposure to tech was his computer class as a sophomore in high school at Muncie Northside, where he was introduced to the BASIC programming language. He discovered a deep passion for computers that kept him in Muncie as he completed his bachelor’s in management and information systems, and then his master’s in information and communication sciences at Ball State University. At the time, his master’s program was brand new, on the edge of where tech was, and that encouraged him to remain in Indiana after his schooling ended. “It’s important for me to be here in Midwest,” he said. “It means a lot to be one of founding fathers of that program.”
Right out of school, Eli Lilly and Company picked him up, and he would spend almost 30 years in various roles of increasing responsibility at the company. His natural curiosity took him through many facets of IT at Lilly, managing programs and people in teams around the world. He tackled IT challenges for an organization with tens of thousands of users, working with executive-level leadership on projects ranging from Y2K preparations to the massive implementation of Microsoft Sharepoint to create LillyNet, an employee collaboration tool. By 2017, he was finishing his career at Lilly developing an enterprise-wide program in computer security.
During his time there, he learned lessons on how large enterprises push for innovative ideas and account for their tech debt, or the development costs that come with refreshing older technical systems and code. The needs to think innovatively and operate with agility always rose to the top. “My work showed me a lot about the tech debt and how much tech is involved in an organization,” he said. “There’s not a single process in pharmaceuticals that doesn’t involve a blinking light, from producing insulin all the way up through collaborative systems. To reduce the company’s tech debt, I needed innovation, automation, cutting edge technology because that’s the only way to keep tech debt from spiraling exponentially. I would often seek a strategic partner and end up reviewing proposals that recommended more servers, more people and ever-increasing expenses.”
When he retired early from Lilly in 2017, Mark anticipated a sabbatical, but he couldn’t resist thinking about what would be next. “I had a hunger to do something different, and my curiosity wanted to help me transition and get on the other side of the game,” Mark said. “From my time at Lilly, I had experience in IT teams across continents. But what else could I do?”
Those needs of companies to be agile and innovative while reducing their tech debt churned in Mark’s mind as he considered his future. His career at a big company had demonstrated some of the challenges in pushing for innovation, which laid in stark contrast to the startups he learned about in the Indy tech ecosystem. “The barriers to entry are getting lower and lower. The time to market is getting so fast, and innovation is something we want to measure in weeks and days. Startups don’t carry that kind of tech debt, so how you be competitive when you’re the big guy?”
He began a search for future opportunities, but ultimately, the next undertaking found him. After being recruited by Virtusa, a digital engineering firm focusing on enterprise-level technology solutions, he realized a significant potential to transform Indianapolis. “Here’s a company that engineers technology innovation,” he said. “Virtusa’s not a commodity broker. We’re going to take what you are and drive you toward the future.” Fourteen weeks into his sabbatical, Mark was back at work.
He was quickly integrated into Virtusa as the new SVP and Indianapolis Center Head, collaborating with his teams to build out innovation-as-a-service initiatives and expanding the consulting and management work the company provides. “Virtusa is a billion dollar company with 20,000 employees that’s well-known on the East and West Coasts, but is unknown in the Midwest. We really want to introduce our brand here,” Mark said. “Before this, I was driving projects globally, but now I can bring that knowledge home. I can take all of my background and invest it into our state with Virtusa’s incredible brand.”
In short order, Mark has striven to build enthusiasm around Virtusa when it comes to tech in Indiana. Larger companies around the state are learning about the importance of incorporating innovation intelligently into their work and relying on Virtusa’s teams to accomplish those tasks. “I’ve been on this job for 10 months, and I’ve had about 50 different tech firms in my building exploring their tech innovation, looking for partnerships, and seeking cross-pollination,” he said.
From these meetings and more, Mark senses a lot of promise in where the Indiana tech scene is developing in the bigger picture. Having been exposed to tech around the world, he’s gleaned some key insights on where tech here is and where it sits globally. “Indiana businesses are starting to understand the global perspective,” Mark said. “There’s tech knowledge all over the world, and it’s not all going to move to Indiana. You have to have global teams to actually win this war on tech debt. But knowledge and ability need to be on the forefront here at home.”
Mark and Virtusa’s redefinition of a digital, global workforce is resonating among the state’s largest companies. “We’re getting access to very large organizations, and our message is landing,” he said.
Mark also believes Virtusa understands how it can best prepare itself internally as a company for the changing needs of Indiana tech, and he’s been working with his staff to create a company culture centered on forward thinking. “We’re looking for a very high level of employee here,” he said. “We want folks who are curious about people, processes, and technology. People that want to be strategic partners, not task takers.” Mark welcomes new opinions and ideas to his teams and sees the future in the younger talent joining Virtusa. “Young people in our offices are getting heard by leadership, and those leaders are discovering the best and brightest here,” Mark said. “We’ve been seeing light bulbs on both sides of the table.”
You can discover more about Virtusa in their Featured Company of the Week profile.