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July - 2006 - issue > Woman Achiever
Doing what she was designed to do
Keerthana Venkatesh
Saturday, July 1, 2006
How do you figure a young woman in the mid-90s, with a child to care for, travel alone to the U.S. in search of a job, and return to India as a manager of an MNC?

Glimpsing at her 16-year career, Pallavi Muralidhara, Manager, Voice Technology Group at Cisco India, smiles triumphantly. A little son to care for, she took the crucial decision to fly across the seas in 1996. Running the risk of quitting a comfy-job at Wipro didn’t deter the professional in her. “Opportunities don’t come when you want them. So grab them when they knock your door,” she wisecracks.

Day-care replaced grandparents for the baby, and Muralidhara was pressed to multiplex- a talent that emerged when time pressed against her daily schedule. She realized that working away from home challenged her professionally too. But she wouldn’t give up, would she? Reduced sleep-hours and lunch-hours found her scaling the career-ladder and also running on time to pick up the baby from the crèche. She elucidates, “Skills emerge when you’re challenged.” It isn’t surprising that she took her son to office to attend late evening calls.

Working in a product industry, a satisfying job in the U.S., fine work-home balance. What more would a woman want? How about becoming a manager? That was her next goal. Finding her first mentor in her manager at California, who tutored and taught her how to handle crises at office, she realized her aptitude to network and plunged into the management vertical. “Networking and empathy towards colleagues are two things a good manager possesses. Something I learnt from my managers throughout my career,” says this dynamic woman who can now draw a fine line between being a manager to her team and a mother at home. To the women out there, Pallavi calls out loud that you can be better managers with your natural ability to multi-task.

She peeks through keyholes to pounce on challenges. The desire for an over-all career growth found Muralidhara changing groups within Cisco. While this would mean reestablishing skill-sets, almost like a new job, she defers it, “You tend to rectify your earlier mistakes and implement new methods which enhances career-prospects.”
Knowledge enhancement, for her, doesn’t mean guzzling books. Networking being her inherent skill, she and her colleagues master a topic and pool their knowledge to help the team grow.

Diversity makes for a rich tapestry in Muralidhara’s team. Vociferous to quiet, technical geniuses to marketing experts, creativity to criticism- all find room under her managership.

With plans to establish a soft-skill training center and writing an autobiography from a tech-woman’s perspective, this fan of Jack Welch doesn’t confine multitasking to the work-home balance. Look at any department at Cisco, and you would probably find her etching. Her knowledge skills have been flowing down to the infantiles in the company, enlightening them to set and accomplish goals. Also an active member of Cisco’s Women Action Network, Muralidhara sardonically says, “Suddenly people have discovered women all over again.”

Techie to manager, with a persistent desire to progress, a company and a book in the offing, this woman achiever does have a career to appreciate. A bubbly cheerful colleague-cum-manager with two hundred percent passion towards her goals and an undying flame in her heart- she has rocketed to where she is designed to be.

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