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Issue Date: June 2010, Posted On: 6/8/2010

Padma Allen: Dollar doctor

MD jumps from medicine to finances as TechnoDyne CFO

By Martin Desmarais

From the file

Company: TechnoDyne

Chief financial officer

Medical degree from Bangalore Medical College and the University of Connecticut; executive MBA from New York University

WAYNE, N.J. – Not many could make the jump from medicine to financial management, but Padma Allen did and TechnoDyne has benefitted tremendously from her move – in over a decade from its start the technology and consulting services company has raced toward the $100 million-a-year plateau.

The 41-year-old Allen is TechnoDyne’s chief financial officer. She co-founded the Wayne, N.J.-based company with her husband Reddy Allen in 1998. Her husband is a technology and entrepreneurial vet and was working at Ernst & Young LLP before he decided to venture into the startup world.

At this time, Padma Allen, a graduate of Bangalore Medical College in 1991, had just finished up a medical degree at the University of Connecticut and decided to put her medical career and interest in cardiology on hold for a bit to help her husband start a business.

“We both took a deep dive at that time and started TechnoDyne,” Allen said. “Once I got in, it was very interesting … I figured I would take a break from cardiology and try it and just see if I liked it, but it took off.”

Allen focused on the back end office work for the fledgling TechnoDyne, including a lot of human resources administration and a substantial effort recruiting employees to try and build up the company’s team. Today, TechnoDyne, which counts many clients in the Fortune 500, as well as numerous government customers, has a staff of approximately 450. The company focuses on areas such as application development, systems integration and project implementation.

While her husband used his experience in package software and SAP to guide TechnoDyne’s business model and focus, Allen is largely credited for developing the company’s financial infrastructure, as well as creating diversity, career development, retention and client relationship building initiatives.

When TechnoDyne first got into the government sector in 2003, Allen was the force that handled the labor intensive and lengthy process of getting the necessary small- , women-owned- and minority-business certification that is crucial to winning contracts in the industry.

According to Allen, the tech bust necessitated seeking other revenue streams and made TechnoDyne’s brain trust feel as if the company had “too many eggs in one basket” when only focusing on the private sector.

However, Allen admits that working with the government sector is very challenging and time consuming, especially on the administrative end. “It is not easy,” she said. “It is a lot of paperwork and you really have to go by the book … but the payoff is there.”

TechnoDyne got its first big break in the government sector when it secured a deal with the City of New York working on Java development for its police and fire agencies. The company has since worked with state agencies in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

One specific service Allen says is in hot demand from the government sector is custom application development. “They like to build from the ground up,” she said. She anticipates that green technology related and cyber security related services will be areas of high demand from government clients in the future.

TechnoDyne continues to work with private clients and has two distinct teams – one focusing on the government sector and the other on private industry.

“The private sector is much quicker and the revenues kick in sooner,” Allen said. “The government type is slower, but longer.

“You must mix both, so that you always have revenue coming in,” she added.

Over the last several years, Allen admits that the private sector work has been pretty bad, while the government work has held steady and kept the company rolling. “The majority of our revenue comes from the government at this time,” she said.

Though Allen’s jump from medicine to management is a sharp one, she believes she was prepared for it by her upbringing in Bangalore.

She said her household was an entrepreneurial environment and both her parents and grandparents had family-owned businesses. Her parents had a drilling rigs business and later a clothes manufacturing business, and a young Allen helped out with human resources, payroll and watched her parents meeting clients.

“I had that experience being at home seeing my parents 24/7 in business,” she said. “So it kind of started off at an early age.”

When it came to making the jump with her husband with TechnoDyne in the late 1990s, Allen credits her presence from the start and understanding the specific needs of the business as key factors in her ability to go from doctor to CFO.

“I really knew what it takes to get the job done, so I really knew how to manage people,” she said.

She also believes that her personality has suited a management role and she points to her experience in the medical field for teaching her to be calm under fire and to not get stressed. The high stress and frequent life or death situations she faced during her medical residency give her levity when faced with the typical business and financial situations.

“I am able to step back from things and, basically, I always think to myself this is not a life or death situation. All we have to do is figure things out,” she said.

Allen is also a very firm believe in having an open door policy with her employees and coworkers and she says that she always listens to the team, works hard to motivate them and, above all else, is always there for their needs.

She and her husband are also omnipresent at TechnoDyne, including most nights and weekends, because of their passion for what they are doing. “We spend long hours in the office. It is a lot of fun,” she said. “We are not looking to build it up and exit. We are in it for the long haul.

“We are enjoying the journey,” she added.

This is not all to say that Allen’s transition into the CFO of a $100 million business was not without effort. She is currently wrapping up an executive MBA degree from New York University. “That has helped me a lot,” said Allen. “I have used a lot of those principles, especially the strategy.”

Her graduate work has also given her the confidence to know that, as TechnoDyne continues to grow, she will be able to handle her role as CFO.

Allen isn’t the only one who thinks she can handle the future of TechnoDyne, no matter what it might bring. She was recently honored by NJBIZ newspaper as one of New Jersey’s 2010 Best 50 Women in Business. The award recognizes women who share a commitment to business growth, professional excellence and the community.

The publication says honorees are also influential in shaping the economic future of New Jersey.

Recognized at an award ceremony in April, Allen was also lauded for being a co‐founder and sponsor of a non‐profit institution that provides education to over 400 underprivileged elementary, middle, and high school students in India, as well as a donor at iMentor, an organization that facilitates the development of high‐quality, high‐impact mentoring programs that address the most critical challenges facing underserved youth through an innovative combination of partnership, technology, curriculum, research and ongoing support. Allen is also a member of Women in Defense, National Association of Professional Women and National Defense Industrial Association.

Of the lessons she has learned in management, Allen said she has foremost been struck by the straightforwardness of conducing business in the United States and the open path available for most to be able to start their own businesses. Negatively, she admits she has been surprised that often employees that are considered top talent from big companies struggle when joining a startup environment at smaller companies. She believes that in a startup environment a “roll up the sleeves and get it done” attitude is needed and those that don’t have it or don’t have a strong entrepreneurial spirit may struggle despite their experience.

Looking to the future, Allen has nothing but the highest expectations for TechnoDyne. She said the company’s financial goals are to hit the $1 billion mark in the next seven years. She believes with the company’s track record of close to 40 percent yearly growth, this is attainable. “It is definitely pretty aggressive, but it is definitely not impossible,” she said.

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