Alpine’s Director of IT Bhupen Tandel is accustomed to urgency. In his 25 years in the industry, the father of three has managed his fair share of unexpected challenges at companies as varied as major tech players, centuries-old pharmaceuticals, and now, in private equity. We caught up with Bhupen to hear how his disaster-readiness mindset helped Alpine prepare for COVID-19 shutdowns before they happened, what he’s learned about management from Alpine so far and what’s next on his leadership journey.
What initially drew you to IT?
I have been passionate about technology from a young age. Early in life, I had friends and families who were small business owners and needed help with IT. I’ve always strived to help businesses grow, which often means optimizing their IT service landscape while ensuring that they have strong infrastructural foundations. Later, I worked with large companies like Sony, IBM and Polycom, and a 200-year-old Japanese pharmaceutical ophthalmological R&D company. I learned that setting up the security framework is key to helping any institution stay secure while they scale.
I love partnering with teams and individuals to take on departmental business challenges. It’s rewarding to put my head down and tackle complex problems while getting to know teammates personally.
How did you know that Alpine was a good fit?
Joining Alpine was a growth opportunity and a chance to work with excellent leaders. Alpine was expanding and needed internal IT to support that scale. While interviewing, I saw a chance to step outside my comfort zone while drawing on my past experiences partnering with companies in similar stages. There were only about 25 employees at Alpine when I joined as a consultant, and I came on board in 2019 as the first full-time IT hire.
I’ve always been drawn to great leaders, which is why I jumped at the chance to work with Alpine founder Graham Weaver and Alpine Partner and CFO Dorothy Walter. Management at Alpine truly listens. They’re supportive of the decisions I make regarding firmwide security and cyber initiatives; they’re always available to talk through an idea or approach, and I have a lot of freedom to solve problems in creative ways.
Management at Alpine truly listens. They’re supportive of the decisions I make regarding firmwide security and cyber initiatives; they’re always available to talk through an idea or approach, and I have a lot of freedom to solve problems in creative ways.
Dorothy, in particular, is committed to helping me improve as a person and professional. She often coaches me to focus on better work-life balance and to truly take time off. She reminds me to set my automatic OOO reply, turn off notifications and unplug. Stepping away with my family allows me to refresh and recharge so I come back ready for the next big thing.
What were some of the first things you tackled when you joined Alpine?
Coming from the video conferencing and tech collaboration industry, I understood the importance of disaster preparedness and being able to move quickly in a hybrid environment, so that’s one of the first things I knew we had to tackle.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down offices, we set up Enterprise Zoom accounts and gave every employee a laptop with a camera. It’s a bit of an investment to ensure everyone has remote capabilities, but it works out better in the long run. We’re always thinking about disaster recovery and backups. Everyone should be able to do their work from anywhere, work from home securely and remain productive.
2020 will go down as the year of the largest shift in work culture for generations. At Alpine, we closed the offices in response to the shelter-in-place orders and the entire firm was able to go remote immediately. The steps we took earlier helped make a difficult time easier.
Overnight my house became Alpine IT HQ. We quickly leveraged FedEx and local courier services to perform fixes on the fly. I maintained my existing IT support role, but I also took on new initiatives including vendor management and procurement to strengthen our new remote workforce.
At the start of the pandemic, cybersecurity was top of mind as data was now mobile and at a heightened risk. Moving everyone to remote work meant treating every individual as a satellite office. We added security measures like virtual firewalls on all the machines, and we brought in more policies, like password changes and multi-factor identification which we audited regularly. Investors often ask us about our remote capabilities and we are proud to share our heightened security.
Had you always been so thoughtful about preparing for the unexpected?
I think preparedness is inherent within IT. I’m focused on keeping the firm running at a rapid pace, while also relating to users and providing them with technical expertise. In IT no one ever calls you when everything is going well. Everyone calls when they need something quickly. The trick is figuring out the issue and addressing it so everyone can get back to work. I love being able to see around the corner and take pride in keeping us secure from all cybersecurity breaches out there.
I think preparedness is inherent within IT. I’m focused on keeping the firm running at a rapid pace, while also relating to users and providing them with technical expertise. In IT no one ever calls you when everything is going well. Everyone calls when they need something quickly. The trick is figuring out the issue and addressing it so everyone can get back to work.
What have you learned and how have you grown over the past three-plus years at Alpine?
Last spring I completed management training, consisting of a three-day workshop that helps the management team learn how to lead. We built new skills, such as how to be honest and open when giving feedback. We talked a lot about building relationships based on trust and truly getting to know everyone we work with so that when it comes time to give professional feedback, it is well-received and the conversation can be productive. Being able to have difficult conversations like that is not something I’ve learned in past roles.
I get to work with every single person at Alpine. I know everyone on a one-on-one basis; I know what type of laptop they have, as well as their email preferences. But now I’m adding a piece to my career where I’m building trust by getting to know everyone on a personal level, too.
What are you focused on right now?
I’m trying to use what I’ve recently learned at Alpine to hone my management skills and have my voice heard in larger groups. I want to create policies and procedures that will help build synergies within departments. I have fun working regularly with our portfolio company leaders to share our best practices. Leading these types of calls has been a great way to find the right solution today, for tomorrow and beyond.
Keeping up with day-to-day work while also thinking ahead is a balancing act, but it’s one that energizes me.
Keeping up with day-to-day work while also thinking ahead is a balancing act, but it’s one that energizes me. We’re growing and looking to hire a few people on my team to help support the entire Alpine family of companies.
What’s next for you?
I can’t wait to see what’s next for my career, and I look forward to taking those steps at Alpine. I want our IT team to be self-sufficient and contribute using their strengths to help the firm level up. I aim to hire people who are smarter than me and have skills that complement mine. It’s a great feeling to be confident in my role and to know that if I build an amazing team, I’ll be able to keep learning and growing as Director of IT. I love what I do here. I want to keep improving myself and the things I can do to contribute to Alpine for a long time.