Purchasing a book may seem like a very simple transaction. However, behind the scenes of a consumer’s latest book purchase, there are interconnected systems that must all work together for that book to get to the reader. These systems are essential in tracking orders, distributing the books, and helping publishers understand a book’s audience while the author pens another great work.
For over 50 years, Ingram Content Group (Ingram) has handled the publishing and distribution of physical and digital books. Headquartered outside of Nashville in La Vergne, Tennessee, the company has distribution and facilities around the world. Ingram is considered one of the primary engines powering the industry and the company’s 4,800 global associates keep things running smoothly.
Of those 4,800 employees, Ingram’s tech team makes up about 10 percent of the company. These individuals create and deploy the tools Ingram associates use every day to help get books in all formats to their destination.
Rewriting How the Book Industry Works
Shruti Sharma is the manager of application development at Ingram’s IT department. There, she’s responsible for leading a team to gather and model data from different Ingram systems. This team works with the business to create marketable economic assets.
Shruti has previously served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Greater Nashville Technology Council (NTC)—separately serving as the Chair for Diversity and Inclusion—as well as an Advisory Board Member for Middle Tennessee State University’s Women in STEM (WISTEM) program.
In 2020, Shruti was recognized as a “Woman of Influence” by the Nashville Business Journal. This recognition came to Shruti for both her work at Ingram, and her efforts to help make Middle Tennessee’s tech ecosystem more inclusive.
“I’ve had a lot of people help me make this transition,” Shruti says. “They’ve helped me grow, helped me progress… I want to help others make a similar career journey into technology.”
Shruti says that her career in technology really started in Nashville. In her “previous life,” Shruti was a biochemistry researcher. Originally from New Delhi, India, she earned her Ph. D. at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München while working at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich, Germany. She graduated magna cum laude in 2007. Later, in 2008, Shruti relocated to Nashville with her then boyfriend (now husband) finding work as a research associate for Vanderbilt University.
Towards the later part of her projects and tenure at Vanderbilt, Shruti developed interest in the rapidly expanding field of data science. To her, it seemed a natural extension to apply the analytical and critical thinking skills honed during her research to this nascent field. In 2014, she decided to pursue technology for all its exciting opportunities.
Turning the Page to a Tech Career
During this time of transition (2014-2015), Shruti attended a web development boot camp offered by the Nashville Software School (NSS). Because her resume stood out from the others, Shruti was offered work by Ingram in 2015. Accepting this role, Shruti became an application developer to manage a data visualization and reporting application for Ingram.
In an odd way, going from biochemistry research to data visualization for book publishing was the obvious choice for Shruti.
“I was always interested in data,” she explains. “That was one of the reasons why I was interested in joining Ingram.” Though not related to her field of study in school, the methodological skills she learned as a biochemistry researcher were put to good use in data visualization. They also came in handy when Shruti took on greater responsibilities in Ingram related to application architecture, data architecture, and data modeling.
To become more familiar with the tech tools necessary to understand data, Shruti went back to NSS in 2017 to enroll in a data science boot camp. This training not only helped with her own work, it also helped her communicate better with others on her team.
Rising to the role of manager in November 2021, Shruti explains the responsibilities of her new position at Ingram. She shares, “Having the right contextualized data is important to decision-making across the world. That’s not any different at Ingram. My new position deals with revamping our data structure, how we ingest, process, and interact with data.”
Shruti and her team are currently in the process of setting up both a data lake and an enterprise data warehouse. She explains that other parts of the company have also undergone innovative transformation, such as print-on-demand. This service enhances overall distribution capability and book availability by printing books “on demand” and shipping them quickly to consumers, to booksellers, or to libraries. Ingram provides direct fulfillment options to consumers through retailers such as Amazon, Target, Walmart, independent bookstores, and other specialty retailers. Libraries also depend on Ingram to fulfill their demand and for a number of other services to curate the right collection of books for their patrons.
Booking Great Tech Talent for Ingram
Ingram relies on its talented global workforce to move the company in the right direction. Employees at Ingram leverage company data to its full potential, getting as much out of this information as possible in order to chart business decisions for the company. In order to do this effectively, it’s essential that Ingram hire the very best.
“We’re actively hiring,” Shruti says. “We’re looking to fill roles for data analytics. Just like me, they’ll be responsible for feeding data into our data lake, and building data models that provide us with the right information.”
Technology-wise, Ingram has initiated an ambitious data strategy initiative to develop and grow the data culture at Ingram. According to Shruti, this budding culture will “democratize access to data and take analytics closer to business to create greater opportunity and growth.”
Employees well versed in data analytics are in strong demand. Shruti is confident that employees relocating to Nashville will find an area that values their tech talents and welcomes them to the area.
Shruti says, “I love being part of this community in many ways. It’s open and it’s collaborative. Nashville is this small, big city. You walk into a supermarket, and chances are you’re going to bump into someone you know. In a lot of big cities, that doesn’t happen as much.”