Priya Pradeep
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Is playing golf a feeler to others that you have entered the corporate elite? “No!” is the emphatic answer from Muthu Kumaran, 35, of Cognizant. “It is stimulating to the mental taste buds,” he quips. Cognizant is another stimulant. He has been with the company since the beginning of his career after joining as a programmer. A decade in the upward career spiral and he is now a Director heading a 1500 team. He seems completely grounded. Sounds great and inspiring for the young turks who are waiting in wings to take on the baton on different turfs.

Having graduated from Anna University in 1995, Kumaran stepped into a world where IT companies were offering 50 percent salary hikes and switching jobs was the norm. However Kumaran resisted the bait and steadfastly worked on building his career loyally along with Cognizant. “I looked at Cognizant then as a platform to grow into the future while most of my contemporaries in other companies were near-sighted due to financially motivated blinkers,” says Kumaran. His parameter of assessing how happy he was in his career was not just finances, but for the time he spent learning technology. Another factor to judge happiness was how fast he was scaling up within his work in understanding the customer. He is quick to appreciate Cognizant’s organizational culture to give him this maturity at a very early stage of his career to think of the bigger picture.

Kumaran’s ride up was not without commensurate efforts. He ensured that he participated in activities outside his core functions like recruitment, training, developing quality templates and coding standards, which ensured him of visibility among decision makers. Hence it is not without reason that he was promoted within one year of being a programmer and quickly moved on to handle a small team. He reveled in taking other challenging roles like that of an Account Manager later to get a 360-degree view of the functioning of the organization. “It is a myth that other supposedly non-tech roles involve no technology. In fact at the crucial client interface one has to know more technology,” explains Kumaran.

This rise was not easy though. Like any another fresh graduate, Kumaran thought C++ or Java is enough to put you on the upward trajectory. He initially focused only on strengthening his technology armor. With the mentoring he received from his immediate managers, Kumaran was ready to change. He realized enhancement of communication abilities is important to launch higher even if one chooses to remain a pure technology professional. He quickly addressed these chinks with enhanced awareness gained from experience and reading.

Awareness enhancement meant crumbling of pre-conceived notions. For instance, going to the U.S on an onsite assignment is trendy. “Technology base, customer interaction and process orientation should be first built in India,” says Kumaran. He went to the U.S. after stabilizing his career here for about two years. However cultural grooming is better learnt in the U.S. These range from communicating bad news early to being open and less afraid of hierarchy. Such pearls of wisdom can only decorate one’s ambitions to propel a glowing career.
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