Get To Know Nadeem Asghar, SingleStore’s New Head of Product Management & Strategy




Get To Know Nadeem Asghar, SingleStore’s New Head of Product Management & Strategy

SingleStore is excited to announce that Nadeem Asghar has joined the team as Senior Vice President of Product Management & Strategy. Nadeem is a tech leader with over 25 years experience working on every aspect of cloud, data, streaming and AI Platforms.

Prior to joining SingleStore, Nadeem was the Global VP Cloud Solutions, Cloud GTM & Global Field CTO at Cloudera. 

We sat down with Nadeem to discuss his path to SingleStore, his experience in public and private cloud, data management and AI —  and his views on emerging tech issues like generative AI.

Tell us about your early life. Where did you grow up? How did you become interested in tech?

I am originally from Pakistan. Growing up there, you tend to fall into two professions: medicine or engineering. I chose engineering. After graduating from the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore, I came to the United States to get my master’s at New Jersey Institute of Technology.

I became interested in Computer Science during my very first semester at NJIT as I saw this field is absolutely the future. I took a computer science course and I was hooked. I switched my major from industrial engineering to computer science. Since then, I have never looked back and continue to enjoy the field 25 years later.

What was your early career like?

My early experiences shaped my growth, approach and perspective to building SaaS, PaaS and Containerized Platforms. To develop an application, you need to look holistically at the overall architecture. Even though I started in database management, I realized that I need to grow my skills in other areas. Over time, I started learning about web development, middle tier, operating systems and architecture. Once I learned all of those areas, I kept going and started learning how to optimize networks, storage, and hardware. This knowledge and experience became the key foundation for my success in application development, data management, cloud (SaaS & PaaS) and on prem.

Ultimately, that led me to become a Chief Architect and Product Leader. Understanding those technology stacks gave me a better picture and allowed me to evaluate the potential to build these complex systems effectively. Most importantly, my early interest in data management remains one of my passions to this day.

What drew you to working in cloud data management and emerging technologies?

After the Financial Crisis in 2008, I worked on a major initiative at Morgan Stanley to make the firm’s decisions based on a holistic data platform. This was such an amazing experience as I got a chance to architect and build a massive horizontal scalable platform for all lines of businesses (LOBs) for structured, unstructured, semi structured, real-time low latency data with complete security and governance. This provided immense value to all LOBs out of the gate and I was totally hooked on the value of data driven platforms.

Following Morgan Stanley, I co-founded a Saas platform to build a complete trading engine and order management system for a new instrument. I clearly see the value of cloud and its simplicity of use and truly believe that the future of technology depends upon the cloud and data.

In 2013, I got an opportunity to join Hortonworks (merged with Cloudera in 2018). This was absolutely one of the best decisions of my career as I saw the massive potential of big data and its impacts across all industries. When I joined Hortonworks, Hadoop was very immature and it required a lot of product and engineering work to make it ready for enterprise use. As Field CTO, I was lucky enough to drive these capabilities working closely with most strategic customers from financial services, insurance, pharma, healthcare, telco and other industries.

Post the merger with Cloudera in 2018, Cloudera Data Platform became a hybrid platform with native deployment on all three major public clouds as PaaS offering and running on K8s on prem as private cloud. I was lucky enough to work with our key customers on both these private and public cloud initiatives for migration and adoption.  

You have had a 25-year career leading major tech projects. What attracted you to SingleStore? What is your vision for this role and what are you excited to work on?

SingleStore (then MemSQL) has been on my radar for many years now as the first truly hybrid transaction/analytical processing (HTAP) and I’m truly amazed by its capabilities. Generally, you sell a product and platform on vision — and deliver those product capabilities — but SingleStore’s architecture and foundation are amazing. It has a best-in-class architecture and foundation. When every other database fails to meet customer needs, SingleStoreDB comes to the rescue for mission-critical applications and platforms.

With generative AI, real-time decision making and data mesh top of mind, organizations are looking to simplify their architecture and get near real-time insights. Today they use separate tech for Online Transaction Processing (OLTP), Online Analytical Processing (OLAP), real time, JSON and vector which makes it extremely difficult to get near real-time insights due to complexity of extract, load and transform (ETL) and data movement.

SingleStoreDB is able to solve all of these problems, and I feel it has a massive opportunity to showcase its capabilities to simplify architecture for generative AI and data mesh applications.

SingleStoreDB has support for all major data formats (unstructured, semi structured, structured, JSON, etc). It has row and column format support to optimally store OLTP and OLAP data. On top of this, SingleStorDBe has support for vectors and time series since 2018. Additionally, it provides an extremely simple hybrid architecture to run anywhere (Edge, on prem, K8s, AWS, Azure, GCP).

Our vision is to make SingleStoreDB the de-facto data platform for next-gen, real-time AI and data apps running in cloud or on-prem. This will have a huge impact on reducing the customer’s total cost of ownership (TCO) by drastically simplifying the architecture and operational cost.

The best analogy to describe SingleStoreDB is it has a lot of similarities with Databricks. Databricks massively simplified end-to-end lakehouse implementation using one language, SPARK.  This is the exact opportunity I see at SingleStore from a data platform perspective. SingleStoreDB has the capability to meet all your data needs, and I am excited to use my experience to make it a reality.

From your perspective, how have cloud platforms benefited clients? How have those client needs evolved in recent years due to the popularity of this technology?

Cloud platform management systems have brought a wide range of benefits to clients across various industries. These benefits include: cost efficiency, scalability, accessibility, speed and agility, reliability and availability, security, disaster recovery, global reach, innovation and elasticity.

Overall, cloud platform management systems have revolutionized how businesses operate and deliver services. By leveraging these platforms, clients can achieve greater efficiency, flexibility and innovation while reducing costs and minimizing operational complexities. TCO is absolutely top of mind for enterprises now due to economic pressure so all products, platforms and databases need to run very effectively to maximize TCO for the customer.

Customers want smart data platforms with simplified architecture and optimal TCO — without massive ETL and data movement. Customers are truly looking to optimize their systems for cloud and this is where all the SingleStore innovation comes into picture. We are working on some core capabilities that will make it even more appealing in coming months, including integration with Apache Iceberg.

Generative AI is the big new thing on the market. How can AI benefit cloud database systems and their customers? What are some opportunities that you have seen and are looking to implement in this space?

There are two key aspects of gen AI, and AI/ML in general. One key aspect is model development and training, and there are tons of models and platforms that specialize in this category. The second key aspect is model serving and operationalization. Organizations will demand access to fresh data in real time to provide the right context for the foundational models.

LLMs and other multi-structured foundational models will need to respond to requests in real time, and process and analyze data in diverse formats within milliseconds. To execute on real-time AI, enterprises will need the ability to continuously vectorize data streams as they are ingested and utilize those for AI applications. Organizations will increasingly move towards zero ETL philosophy to minimize data movement, complexities and latencies to power their AI and data apps.

This is where SingleStoreDB has a massive advantage and is uniquely positioned due to its diverse best in class capabilities in real time, OLTP, OLAP, vectors, JSON, geospatial, search and time series.

What challenges have you encountered as a leader? How did you overcome them?

As a leader, you will face many challenges and I think there are multiple ways to solve these depending upon the situation. Here are some major challenges and solutions:

  • Communication challenges: Leaders often encounter challenges related to miscommunication, misunderstandings or lack of clarity in conveying their vision or instructions. To overcome this, effective communication strategies such as active listening, clear and concise messaging and encouraging open dialogue among team members can be employed.
  • Tunnel vision: Leaders need to keep big picture perspectives all the time and train his/her team to do so as well.
  • Collaboration: Managing conflicts among teams is a common challenge. Leaders can address this by fostering a culture of respect, encouraging open communication, facilitating healthy discussions and implementing conflict resolution techniques.
  • Rigid & outdated thinking:  Leading change initiatives can meet resistance from team members who are comfortable with the status quo. Overcoming this involves clearly explaining the rationale for change, highlighting the benefits, involving team members in the decision-making process and providing necessary support and resources.
  • Time management: Balancing multiple responsibilities and tasks can be challenging for leaders. Effective time management techniques, delegation of tasks and prioritization can help leaders manage their workload more efficiently.
  • Decision-making pressure: Leaders often face pressure to make important decisions quickly and effectively. Developing strong decision-making skills through data analysis, consulting with experts, considering various perspectives and seeking input from the team can help alleviate this challenge.
  • Prioritization: Leaders may need to navigate situations where resources are limited. Creativity in finding alternative solutions, efficient resource allocation and transparent communication about constraints can be helpful in managing this challenge.
  • Building trust: Establishing trust among team members and stakeholders is essential for effective leadership. Consistency, transparency, accountability and leading by example can contribute to building and maintaining trust.

It's important to note that leadership challenges can vary depending on the context, industry and individual leadership style. Successful leaders often develop a combination of interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, problem-solving abilities and a willingness to learn from both successes and setbacks.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in product management?

Product management is truly about innovation with a focus on solving real business problems. Product managers are responsible for “why & what” based on Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle model. Engineers are generally responsible for “how” part of the equation.

Here are some key recommendations for aspiring product managers:

  • Understand the role: Begin by gaining a clear understanding of what a product manager does. Product managers are responsible for the strategy, development and success of a product throughout its lifecycle. They need to balance customer needs, business goals and technical constraints. This is the era of product-led growth (PLG), so as a product manager you really need to be able to provide core value and capabilities quickly with delightful user experience.
  • Learn the basics: Familiarize yourself with the foundational concepts of product management such as market research, user personas, feature prioritization, roadmap planning and agile methodologies.
  • Develop a business plan: Understand your product market fit, competitive landscape, personas and conduct market research using design thinking and prototyping.
  • Gain relevant skills: Develop skills in areas like project management, data analysis, communication, user experience (UX) design and basic technical understanding. These skills will be crucial for collaborating with cross-functional teams and making informed decisions.
  • Develop problem-solving skills: Product managers often deal with complex challenges. Cultivate your ability to analyze problems, break them down into smaller components and find innovative solutions.
  • Customer obsession: Always keep the user's perspective in mind. Understand their needs, pain points and preferences to ensure the products you manage truly address their requirements.
  • Communication skills: Effective communication is essential. You'll need to communicate with developers, designers, stakeholders and customers. Being able to articulate your vision and decisions clearly is key.
  • Be adaptable: The product management landscape can change rapidly. Be open to learning new tools, methodologies and technologies as they emerge.
  • Show initiative: When applying for product management roles, highlight your passion for the field, any relevant experience and your eagerness to learn and contribute to the success of products.
  • Continuous improvement: Embrace a growth mindset. Seek feedback, learn from failures and constantly seek ways to improve your skills and knowledge.
  • Innovation: The technology and business landscape is always evolving. Keep learning about market trends, emerging technologies and industry developments.

Remember that product management is a multifaceted role that requires a combination of technical knowledge, strategic thinking, empathy and effective communication. With dedication and a commitment to learning, you can build a successful career in product management.

What are your favorite hobbies/interests?

I love spending time with my family and two kids. My daughter is already in college, my son is 11 years old and I love to spend time with them. I also enjoy hiking, swimming and sightseeing.

I have a passion and curiosity to experiment and learn new things regardless of whether or not they are related to my field. These topics vary from working on projects around the house to understanding new tech developments.

Do you have any final thoughts that you would like to share with your colleagues and SingleStore customers?
I am extremely impressed to see what the SingleStore team has developed and accomplished under Raj’s leadership. I'm looking forward to working with internal teams and customers and taking the product to the next level to meet customers’ future needs. I see a massive opportunity here as we continue to build on new capabilities for our customers. This is absolutely the perfect time to join SingleStore and I am thankful to Raj and the SingleStore leadership for providing me this opportunity.