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March - 2009 - issue > Woman Achiever
No More Glass Ceilings!
Vimali Swamy
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Over the years, women have slowly but steadily climbed up the corporate ladder and shattered the so called ceiling, proving that with passion and zeal there is nothing that cannot be conquered. On the eve of the International Women's Day on March 8, we at The Smart Techie decided to bring to you some of the top and promising women IT leaders of tomorrow. The women listed here come from an amazing variety of academic and family backgrounds and have established themselves in an equally diverse range of fields in the IT industries despite the near-crippling drag of home and hearth.
Some were lucky to have been at the right place at the right time. Others have a range of stories to tell about their exploits. One admits that she is 'quite unashamed' to say that she eased up on her career to be with her children when they needed her the most, and another decided to leave a well paid cushy job to venture out on her own only to finally be bought out by one of the largest chip manufacturing companies in the world. Read the stories of some of the amazing women IT professionals in India today, and you will discover that there are no intellectual differences between men and women. Be it at work or home, client visits or parent-teacher meets, women today are wearing many hats and juggling through various roles and despite this are in perfect harmony with themselves.
Here’s to a growing list of women achievers who have moved beyond the role of being just a homemaker and finding an identity for themselves. May their tribe grow, may the list get longer and reach to a point when the gen-next women may never have to tell the best way to deal with a glass ceiling.

Manjiri Ranade, Associate VP, Persistent Systems

After completing her B.E. in computer science from the University of Pune, Manjiri had taken up an academic career and joined an engineering college as lecturer. Six years later, in 1996, in a quest to take up more challenging roles she gave up her academic career for a professional one and joined Persistent Systems. "I was becoming very complacent in my job as a lecturer and was looking to do something more exciting and challenging. It was the time when IT was catching up in India and the prospect of being able to do all the things I had been teaching practically was too tempting. Hence I joined Persistent," she says and considers this as the turning point in her life. Recounting it Manjiri says, "In a way, I think it was a challenge for me as well as Persistent to accept me in a new role, since I was earlier in teaching." It changed the course of her career, as she had to start from scratch as a member of the technical team and also had to work with people who had once been her students at college.

With intense dedication and a will to achieve, Manjiri eventually grew up the corporate ladder and today she leads the Security Practice at Persistent Systems. In her current role she is responsible for customer relationship, team management, execution of deliverables, business development, and is championing key technology initiatives. She handles a team of 200 plus engineers who develop products for leading security and identity solution providers from the U.S. and other countries.

She follows the simple mantra of ‘leading by example’ and believes that there are no excuses when working towards one’s goal, something she imbibed during her school days. “Once during an interschool competition, some students including me had participated in the quiz competition. Coming from a Marathi medium school, we were not very fluent in English and hence did not fair very well in the competition. Once back to my school, I gave the same reason to the principal. Instead of scolding us, she simply told that one should never give excuses for one’s failure. Instead, one should face the consequences, learn from it and move on. If I am not able to achieve something, then I have perhaps not tried my level best,” says Manjiri. This is a lesson that has stayed with her till date and she gives it as her advice to her team as well. A great leader, she says the ‘Arjuna’ program, a yearlong in-house leadership training program at Persistent, has really helped her hone her skills as a leader.

Observing fellow women professionals, especially the ones in the initial years of their career, Manjiri asserts that often women get too caught up in family and career and forget to take time for oneself, which is not good. They need to have a work-life balance and it is very important. Women need to prioritize their responsibilities and find a way to execute them effectively. Also they must build a strong support system, both at work and home, which will help them shuttle between their professional and social roles effectively. This support provided by her family has been one of the ingredients of her success.

Quite passionate about writing, she is fond of writing poetry and frequently writes in her blog in Marathi about her observations in day-to-day life, the learning’s and reflections in all the moments of life. Though her family takes most of her time outside work, she still manages to weed out some hours a week to read the literary works in both Marathi and English.

Padmadevi Volety, Director – Software, AMD

While almost all of her siblings, 11 of them, took the tried and tested career in academia like her parents, Padma was the first one to break the norm and chose for a professional career in IT. A B.Tech in Electronics and Communication from JNTU college of Engineering, Kakinada and M.Tech. in Microwaves and Optical Communication from IIT Kharaghpur, Padma started her career as a design engineer and eventually led R&D teams in the design and development of Digital multiplexers, Microwave Digital Radios and Fiber optic communication systems.

After about 15 years in the industry, in 1999 she ventured out to begin her entrepreneurial journey and founded ARM Ltd. (not to be mistaken with the U.K based MNC with the same name) along with a few colleagues in Hyderabad. Here she headed the development team that designed various components of the optical and microwave communication systems that catered to the evolving needs of telecommunication infrastructure spearheaded by Department of Telecommunication, Govt. of India. Eventually, ATI Technologies bought the company and later AMD took over it. These are some of the peak moments in Padma's 23 years IT career, which involves deep experience in digital communication equipment to, embedded SW development for multimedia application. Today, she leads a team of about 100 engineers who provide support-engineering services for AMDs handheld devices division that it recently sold to Qualcomm.

An excellent track record in team building, new technology development and implementation with strong problem solving skills, is what Padma is well known for in the organization. A person, who believes in the big picture, she constantly lays emphasis on developing and maintaining long-term relationship with people and motivates her team to work towards it.

Padma believes that attaining a balance in all her endeavors is what keeps her ticking. She does not believe in sacrificing one's career just so that she can prove that she is a great homemaker. "I believe if a women wants to have a career then it is a duty of her family to extend ample help and motivate her to go after her dreams but at the same time a woman know how to strike the balance between her various responsibilities," says Padma. Over the years she has mastered the art of work life balance, thanks to her family who help her in times of crisis. Although her work is very important for her, she spends her leisure time with her family taking care of their education. She likes to shop around when time permits, loves watching movies and is an avid reader of good books.

Rama Sivaraman, SVP & Head – Corporate quality, Polaris Software

When a young Rama approached her previous company, DSQ Software, for a job as senior developer after a few years of experience in programming, the interviewer casually asked her if she would be interested in joining the quality division and be involved in deploying ISO certification in the company. Struck speechless for a moment, she was quite tempted to take up the opportunity and get a taste of what deploying quality regulations actually involved. Today, Rama heads the Corporate Quality division and is responsible for deployment and continuous improvement of CMMi and ISO 9001:2000 based processes across Polaris. With a career spanning over 16 years including 9 years of software quality assurance experience, she coordinated the COSL GSU process merger in 2001 and was actively involved in the Polaris-Orbitech Process merger subsequently. With about 100 Director and VP level people across the world reporting to her, Rama’s job is one continuous struggle to deploy and maintain quality check in all the company’s business processes. A Certified Function Point Specialist and a Certified Quality Analyst, Rama has provided process consulting services to several organizations like Citigroup, AIG, and the World Bank and has made several presentations at Chennai SPIN, Woman in IT conference of CSI, SEETAC 03, and ISACA Chennai chapter.

The challenging job needs her to be on her toes all the time and be aware of the latest developments in the international security and quality standards. Though her office timings sometimes do cut into her family time, she has learnt to manage well. "Career had always been important for me. That is why even an early marriage while pursuing my engineering degree from Anna University and the birth of my first child in the final year of MBA did not make me decide to quit my ambitions and stay back at home. With ample support from my family, I managed to balance my life well," says Rama. But this does not mean that she neglected her family responsibilities at any time. Wanting to be with her kids during their early years, Rama decided to ease down her career for a while and settled for freelance work for a period of three years.

Though not having encountered the glass ceiling her self, she believes that hard work, commitment, and caring in word and deed help people overcome obstacles. She believes that a good leader not only leads by example but also spends time on bettering oneself. Wanting to reach more women and help them climb the professional ladder, Rama is actively involved in various NASSCOM based quality initiatives as well as eWIT (empowering Woman in IT) initiatives. In leisure, she religiously pursues her training in classical music, apart from reading and traveling with family.

Viveka Ragukumar: VP, Enterprise Unit, GlobalLogic

Soon after completing her engineering in Electronics and Communications from PSG College of technology, Coimbatore, unlike her colleagues who opted for a career in electronics and communications, Viveka was drawn towards software development. She started her career as a systems programming engineer with Philips India and today 22 years later, as a VP, she spearheads the Enterprise Business Unit at GlobalLogic, with a 700 member strong team. Her responsibilities include business and operations management for unit delivery centers across multiple locations and she also incubates centers of excellence for data warehousing, finance and product support. “I have always wished for having my entrepreneurial venture but some how could not work on that idea. However my throughout my career I have always got the freedom to do things my way n this has some how made up for the thrill I had dreamt of,” says Viveka.

Prior to joining GlobalLogic she has held various leadership positions at Tata Consultancy Services and HCL Technologies. Her strong leadership skills, technical expertise and global product development experience have ensured a consistent delivery of quality products for GlobalLogic’s clients and create a name for herself amongst them.

Handling the operations of a large business unit and managing her household responsibilities without giving in to pressure is an art that Viveka has learnt well. But primarily she believes that it has been the support of her husband that has helped he reach so high in her career. “Through out my career, my husband has been the pillar of strength for me. Since both my parents and in-laws stay in south, it has been him who has helped me and supported me through the high tides of challenges that I have faced at work and home,” she explains. Viveka believes that skills and qualities like multitasking, adjusting to others, perseverance, patience and flexibility, which are inculcated in women since childhood are their biggest strengths. “If we women learn to bring these qualities to work and learn to prioritize their responsibilities, there is no reason why they can not succeed in this competitive world,” says she.

She says there is a very fine line between one’s professional and personal life and one must not allow it to mix into each other. While she aptly juggles her role as a doting mother and a business leader, she makes sure she also spends enough time for herself. In leisure one can usually spot her following her passion for gardening. Apart from that she also loves reading, especially management. She is also a very spiritual person and often spends time reading about karma and other holistic topics. This is just another side to someone who has an advanced diploma in Management and is a PMP Certified professional.

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