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December - 2007 - issue > Woman Achiever
With impetus to innovate and succeed
Jaya Smitha Menon
Sunday, December 2, 2007
When Impetus Technologies kicked off its Outsourced Product Development operations in 1996, they decided to put one of their software engineers, Rachana Salgia, as the first offshore client contact for 3M, its first customer. This was not only because she had been with the organization for two years but also because she was considered as one of the smartest technical resources at Impetus. She proved the decision of the company right when she won the best offshore team member award from the client in 1998. This was the first achievement for this young computer science engineering graduate from the Govindram Seksaria Institute of Technology and Science, Indore, who joined Impetus Technologies immediately after her graduation. Rachana’s winning streak saw her adding more laurels to her crown and today she is the Vice President - Engineering, Research & Development at Impetus Technologies with a successful track record of over 12 years in managing and executing large and complex projects.

Her journey saw her donning the roles of a Technical Lead, Project Manager, and then proceeding to become the Director of Engineering before finally taking up the role of Vice President - Engineering, Research and Development. Apart from having strong project management skills and technical expertise in architecting distributed enterprise applications and products on both Microsoft and Java platforms, she proactively worked on providing ideas, direction, and valuable inputs to the company’s processes, systems, engagement models, and growth plans. This blend of technical and managerial skills synergized with her spirit of learning and her quick adaptability saw her climbing the ladder with ease. “I am never satisfied in my pursuit of knowledge”, says Rachana. The statement “I am focused in life and curious to learn new things”, explain her. Rachana feels that the curiosity to learn and the openness to adopt new technologies have been very crucial in her career.

Owing largely to her keen learning ability, today she heads iLabs, the internal Research lab of Impetus with a team of 40 Software Engineers working under her. iLabs is an initiative to stay aware, informed, and ahead of new developments in the technology space. Rachana was involved in iLabs right from its initiation, and in iLabs she has completely realized her dream of technology exploration and research. Hence, her current role entails managing new innovations and technology explorations, creating IP for Impetus, demystifying emerging technology areas, providing the direction and focus for R&D initiatives, helping new projects with consultation on optimal technology utilization, and actively supporting technical pre-sales. “Here we are nurturing technology to create new IP and help the company continue to stay at the cutting edge, says Rachana.

Though she loves to be known as a technical expert, her experience as a team member and as a team leader has helped her develop sound management capabilities. “To gain the confidence of your team you have to trust your team members”, says Rachana. “You have to give them the freedom to explore, experiment, and create”, adds Rachana. And this is exactly what she does in iLabs. As a leader, Rachana encourages her team to think out of the box and her team is continuously on the path of exploration, experimentation, and innovation. “Genuinely care for your people and their individual aspirations and try to get the same in sync with the organization’s goals.” This is her tip to managers. According to her, a leader should also be a consistent person who should keep track of what he or she says and does.

An able manager herself, she feels that people manage themselves. “All you need to do as a senior is to act as a facilitator and provide them a direction and ensure that these are in sync with their individual aspirations”, reflects Rachana. As the workforce in the IT sector is growing rapidly, there is a great need to identify and groom leaders to meet business and technology challenges. Rachana feels that the key role of a manager is to groom leaders. According to Rachana, leaders are identified on the basis of their performance, commitment towards their own work, company, and its people, besides ethical behavior, creativity, and sincerity. Their potential is truly measured when they are taken out of their comfort zones and forced to be decisive. “This is done in a subtle way on the job. You can always instill principles. “But unless it is backed by real experience it will not stay in the mind,” explains Rachana. She tells her team members to not just think of problems and be bogged down by them, but also think of suggestions and solutions to solve the problem.

In an industry where job hopping is rampant, Rachana preferred to stay on in her first job itself. “I didn’t find a reason to jump. The company always helped me grow and realize my potential and also valued my contribution”, says Rachana. She feels that these days there is an unhealthy trend of jumping jobs for monetary benefits among young techies. She says that one has to identify and define his or her career objectives well before taking the decision to move on. She warns techies against this unhealthy trend and urges them to concentrate on developing a clear understanding of the fundamentals as well as to keep in touch with evolving technologies.

Rachana was awarded the best employee of the year award in 2005. But it is the statement about her by the CEO Praveen Kakaria at the annual event of the company that she values the most. He said, “She is the sharpest and smartest techie I have come across till now”. It rings in her memory more than any award or recognition she has received. But, all these achievements would not have been possible without the strong support of a family. Rachana emphasizes the role played by her family in helping her build a successful career. She says, “Behind every successful woman is a supportive family.” A mother of two, she takes time out for family whenever they need her. For this, she thanks the flexible working hours and “work from home” option provided by the company.

Ask Rachana what she does beyond coding and her reply will surprise you –“ I dance”. Though she never had any formal training in dancing, she is very fond of the art form and even indulges in public performances often. She has been a regular performer at the annual event of Impetus for the past 5 years. Apart from a hobby and a passion, dance is a stress reliever for her. Whenever she is stressed out she eases herself and relaxes her mind by dancing. Rachana also loves traveling and adventure sports such as mountaineering and trekking. She goes out on vacations twice a year to exotic locations. With a relentless pursuit of sophisticated technologies and an undying passion for product engineering and strong technical expertise, Rachana is well on the road to becoming a regent and reign in the world of technology.

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