Date: Tuesday , August 01, 2006
Behind this successful woman there is a story of grit”–This is what Prasanna Moses thinks every time she meets a successful woman-compatriot. 14 years in the tech-industry, with a stint in marketing and data management, Moses was chaperoned to be the Director of Quality Assurance at Unisys India by sheer destiny.
While she looks at other inspirational women, Moses has fortitude of her own. “I don’t believe in women claiming for special benefits,” she vindicates. Women have the natural ability to multitask but they must communicate back to the family, she emphasizes with a bang on the table. “Communication must run down to children as well, be it your ambition or even reasons for returning home late from work. It’ll take time for the family to adjust but they’ll understand, tone down and cooperate.”
Fostering the art of communication to her leadership style, Moses adheres to transparent two-way communication. “A leader has to communicate to team members about what is happening in the higher echelons. You can’t keep your team guessing about supposed happenings in an organization.”
Recalling her early days, Moses reveals that she never desired to be a career woman. Following her marriage to a theologian, she settled as a homemaker after her graduation. But she felt a lack of direction in life. “I knew I was capable of more and decided to do something for the society that had nurtured me.” In 1986, she earned a one-year scholarship at the U.S. and planned to do a course in counseling. But with no basic degree in psychology or arts, Moses was recommended to do Computer Science. And she realized her aptitude for it. At the end of one year, she returned to India and joined a course in Systems Management from NIIT.
That Post-graduate diploma from NIIT found her a placement at Sonata Software as a marketing executive. “I was inexperienced to debate if a technical or marketing role would suit me. I’m glad I took up marketing then. It has taught me to showcase my strengths while underplaying my weaknesses,” says Moses. For a long time she lived under a glass ceiling that she built for herself, believing that she neither had the educational qualification nor the leadership in her to create a difference. “It took some time and imagination for me to realize how wrong I was. I realized I needed to break the glass ceiling to rise up in life,” she fathoms.
Moses, however, had to quit her job and relocate to Delhi as her husband was transferred there. With the family growing and infants to care for, she worked part time at the Christian Medical Association of India on programming and database creation. But the family gained precedence over all else. With unsuitable weather conditions and kids falling ill frequently, the Moseses relocated to Bangalore in 1994. “This is when my career journey began,” recalls Moses.
Back at Bangalore Moses was ready to get back to work. “Somewhere deep down I still felt a void and I needed a vent for my ambitions. The kids were quite independent then and I felt it was the best time for me to make a career,” she recalls. Luckily, Sonata needed someone to work on ISO certification and they approached her.
She broke the confines of the glass ceiling and there was no looking back.
Many women, believes Moses, suffer under the myth that they will not be able to get back to work if they have a break in their career. It’s when women try to do too many things at once that conflicts arise, associated with self-doubt and failure. A woman must prioritize the role that she wants to play whether it is related to work or family and give her 100 percent to it. “I took up a job when my first child was ready to go to school and I quit work for three years when my second child arrived.
Both were decisions that I took independently and I am glad I took them.”
“The day I joined work, my boss gave me a file and said: This is your job - PE and QA. And I was sure I was in the middle of a deep sea,” she flashes a smile. Lots of reading found her especially attracted to the emerging field of Quality Assurance. ISO, CMMi, Six Sigma became an inherent part of her even before she realized it. She played an instrumental role in the ISO certification of Sonata before shifting to iGATE.
Rising from a Quality coordinator to head the Quality department at iGATE spanning the next seven years of her career, Moses played an important role in earning them successful CMMi Level 5 certifications before moving to Unisys as Director of Quality Assurance in India.
A Qualified Lead Auditor of ISO 9001-2000 and a trained CMM Assessor, Moses qualified for a new offer at Unisys within six months of her stay there. Her growing visibility in quality management and quality assurance found her an offer to head the Methodology department of the U.S. based Solutions Development group in Unisys. “They’re a complete software development organization who wanted me to assist them in the CMMi certification.” Over the next few months, Moses’s responsibilities expanded to more than CMMi related activities.
She started gaining a visibility into the business process framework of Unisys.
“But all this luck comes at a price,” says Moses, recounting the barricades that a woman faces in networking at office. “It’s easy for men to network as it is for women to multitask. But let a woman let down her hair a little or drink at the same pub with men, you’ll find them becoming shifty.” Men do find it intimidating at times to relate to women who are confident and sure of themselves. A barricade goes up visibly, she feels.
Talking of her new role, she says networking with virtual teams across seas that are culturally different is an art that she’s been trying to master. “Dealing with people across cultures, who run multi-million dollar projects, you need to realize that similar situations in different contexts need different treatments. You need to be able to get your point across without actually seeing them. An art that gets better with practice,” says Moses.
Learning has been a continuous process in Moses’s life. She’s very conscious of the fact that she’s never had a godfather. Keeping her eyes and mind open, she’s learnt to absorb “quality” stuff from everyone around her. “One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt is that you have to bulldoze your way through sometimes, while it’s necessary to go slow when required. Imbalances on either side would lead to friction.” The other is the acquired ability to listen. She attributes some of her leadership qualities of dealing with crises, raising issues in the right manner and at the right moment as lessons learnt from her bosses and team—mates in the different organizations she has worked with.
“There may be certain strengths in you that are latent because you think they are not important. But in the course of time and learning those very strengths become essential for your personal and organizational growth,” says Moses–a doctrine she administers to every dormant talent.