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June - 2007 - issue > Woman Achiever
Priya Pradeep
Friday, June 1, 2007
Matching Robert Frost’s profundity is Meenakshi Sundaresan’s ‘down-to-earth’ wisdom, which has been her signature. “You know more of a road by traveling in it than by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world”.

In a career spanning 23 years, Meenakshi has traveled the gamut of roles one can possibly imagine in the IT world – programming, designing, requirements analysis, technical training, marketing, program and project management, sales and solutioning – before coming to roost at the helm of quality consultancy in a global arena. Her pendulum of success swings a whole arc between meticulous discipline and analytical precision at one end to creative brilliance at the other end as she fuses the science of quality assurance to an art!

“The significance of quality is amazing”, she opines with enthusiasm. “It is translating to reality and creating what the customer really wants”.

Sounds simple? Not really. For Meenakshi is firm that there must be a disciplined approach to quality – from its conception to implementation of procedures. She draws an off-beat analogy. “People stop at a red traffic signal only when there is a cop around or others stop. We actually need to have inbuilt mental alarms for discipline that makes you stop at the red signal even without a soul around”.

“Quality Assurance is finally about the ability to convince and encourage people to use processes that benefit them - not just certification, not about ‘how much will it cost us?’ and be done with it” – as you hear her, you feel the passion that she pours. “One should constantly see the big picture and not feel small about being a cog in the wheel. After all a cog missing can stop the onward march of the wheel”!

According to Meenakshi, the basic premise in quality is that ‘quality of the product is greatly influenced by the quality of the process. “Most quality professionals focus on teaching people and forcing people to follow the process. Instead we should focus on the principles or the intent rather than the process. People are intelligent”, she says, “they can figure out the best process to achieve the intent”.

She draws an apt literary quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson “If you learn only methods, you will be tied to your methods, but if you learn principles, you can devise your own methods”

It is this passion that she and her team have brought to their mission across global destinations - Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Egypt, Sao Paulo, Rio, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Bahrain. Right from understanding the need for improvements for diverse clients, reviewing existing ones, elaborating and convincing clients of processes that do not just work but benefit, and feeling the satisfaction of client delight more than what they created – these have been her satisfaction highs, not the successful ISO certification or CMMI assessment. CMMI, ISO, Six Sigma, eSCM are just tools, or rather best practices to be used towards including quality in the work. Not the end, but merely the means to the end objective of achieving quality.
Being abreast of changing technology is oxygen for this professional - she reads voraciously, trains with fervor and intensely respects the need to keep learning.

Meenakshi explodes the myth of a staid, unsmiling and intensely ‘cross-browed’ quality professional – her imagination is riotously infectious! “It helps to makes bizarre connections” she smiles – and often does so from cartoons she so avidly pours over. “Attitude”, she says over and over again, “attitude is the key. An attitude to learn overcomes any gap of skills”. She has, time and again, taken people with this positive, ‘gung-ho’ attitude and molded them into highly satisfied, successful quality professionals – and each one of them has acknowledged this on many occasions.

It is this penchant for the right attitude that turns her team meetings into literally a ‘war room’! She is one who invites, enjoys and revels in arguments, and in her team members proving her wrong! In this she leads by example – there is just no hesitation in acknowledging and applauding better opinions from anybody! “Finally it is our decision and not my decision,” she states emphatically. “Experience gained through such discussions is invaluable”.
Would you expect lofty advice as parting shots from this diversely successful professional? She floors you again! “It is absolutely okay to make the choice of being a homemaker and not to choose to build a career - such decisions are intelligent and deliberate”, she says “It shouldn’t be construed in today’s times that women who let their career take a backseat have lost it or have failed to get the bigger picture. In my opinion, it is the ultimate sign of success when women do not regret if they keep their career on the backburner to meet familial responsibilities. Homemakers underestimate their worth whereas they are actually the real leaders in society who give a direction to tomorrow’s generation”

Quality thinking indeed!

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