God’s Technologists: Learning from Eighteen Years of Olive Technology

Interview with Joseph Vijayam

Joseph VijayamJoseph Vijayam founded Olive Technology 18 years ago. He is the CEO and Managing Director of the company, now based in Colorado, USA and Hyderabad, India. We asked Joseph what got him started, what are some pros and cons of being in IT, and what advice does he have for up-and-coming BAMers looking at the IT industry.

What got you started in business as mission?

My inspiration is Paul in the Bible. Like Paul I wanted to be involved in evangelism and had a plan to use IT as my “tentmaking skill”. With that in mind, I studied Computer Science in college. I started out in the workforce as an employee in a company, but the constraints of my job made it impossible for me to be involved in the kinds of ministry activities that I was interested in. I decided then to become self-employed as a software consultant. The first project I signed required a team of three programmers in addition to myself. Now, I had to incorporate a business entity to employ the other programmers. The first project led to another and then another and soon the team size grew and the business became established.  Since my goal was to be a tentmaker, I started to ask the question, “How do I use this company as a platform for ministry?” That led me down a path that eventually positioned Olive Technology as a BAM company.

What is your business about?

Olive Technology is a software development company. We help our clients take their projects from the concept/ideation phase, through user experience design, into software architecture and engineering, all the way to production hosting, training and maintenance. Part of what differentiates Olive Technology is the full development lifecycle approach that we take. Olive Technology’s services are tightly integrated allowing us to efficiently “right-source” our solution through a hybrid workforce approach. We use a combination of US and Indian engineers to leverage the greatest strengths of each part of our team to our clients’ benefit. This international approach also allows us to find the best talent, regardless of location.

Mission is integrated in our company in many different ways. Our motto is to “empower people with technology”.  We serve a number of great organizations who have a vision to serve people around the world and we help them achieve that vision through the use of technology.  We provide opportunities for those who work with us to have fulfilling work lives and to balance their work with professional, emotional and spiritual growth. As an organization we invest time, talent and treasure in serving our communities while encouraging our employees to do the same in their personal capacities. We adopt practices that are unashamedly ethical so that we may shine light in a dark world.

What do you love about being in the technology industry? What key advantages does an IT company have in BAM?

Information Technology like any technology or human invention belongs to God. It is He who gives us the ability to build technology. We are God’s stewards of the knowledge and skill He has given us. But, technology has real implications for humankind, it can be used to enlighten the world and make it a better place, or it can destroy humanity. As Christian technologists we have the awesome opportunity to bring honor and Glory to God in all that we do. We are here to reflect His character in ourselves and in the technology we build. To me that is the most rewarding part of being a technologist. Think of Noah and how he built a safe place of refuge and salvation using the technology of his day.

What is most challenging about being in the IT industry?

The IT industry has low barriers to entry, but high levels of competition. The IT industry, more than almost any other industry, gives people the opportunity to be entrepreneurial. Any person with an idea and access to a modest amount of resources can jump-start a company. We often hear of great examples of global IT companies that started in someone’s garage. The flip side to this advantage is that low barriers to entry means there is stiff competition from dozens of companies in any given focus area and hence survival over a period of time becomes a challenge.

What advice would you give to an up-and-coming BAMer who wanted to get into IT?

Remember that we are in the knowledge industry. Since knowledge is in the minds of people, our chief asset is always our people. An IT company is only as good as the capacity and commitment of its people. As a BAMer you have the unique opportunity of seeing your own staff as the mission field and developing them over time. My advice is to stay committed to the development of your employees, partners, suppliers and customers – all as God’s children – and to public interest. We need more Christians like Barnabas (Acts 4:36) to help build up and encourage others.

With Thanks to Joseph Vijayam

 Joseph Vijayam is CEO and Managing Director of Olive Technology, a software development company based in India and USA. Joseph, manages the company’s overall business planning and corporate strategy. Prior to founding Olive he served as the Chief Executive of Matrix Computer Consultancy in India. He has employed his extensive track record in empowering various for profit and not-for-profit organizations in India and the USA. Joseph is a member of BAM Global Advisory Board and Senior Associate of Technology for the Lausanne Movement. Joseph is a regular ‘Ask a BAM Mentor’ panelist.