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December - 2006 - issue > Woman Achiever
Confidently Choosy
Vidya Balakrishnan
Friday, December 15, 2006
Achiever. For many, the word creates a vivid image of a survivor, fighting against odds to emerge victorious, taking the un-trodden path to achieve his/her ambitions in style. For a select few, it indicates a journey, made fruitful through choices and decisions—or in the words of Sumeeta Hari, Assistant Vice President, Quality at Satyam—“Just by being the best that one can.”

Fresh out of college, Sumeeta decided to gather job experience than opting for higher studies. When her peers were packing their bags to cross the oceans in the hope of fulfilling their ambitions, Sumeeta set out to chase her dreams at home, armed with only a Bachelors degree and a Diploma in Computer Applications. She rejected a seat at a top institute and started working as a Software Developer in a computer firm. Her naïve but assured mind was not the least scared.

Twenty years down the lane, a mature Sumeeta muses at her ‘yester-year’ enthusiasm. “I got carried away with work experience, something I would not have done today,” she admits. But the choice stands testimony to her leadership qualities. “As a leader of a highly qualified team, I tell myself that I may not have grown this way if I had considered education. Real merit lies in the ability, the capability and the kind of attitude you show.”

Thanks to her abilities, today she is leading the global quality consulting business at Satyam Computers, with over 180 consultants and 70 plus live consulting projects. Her expertise is reflected by her title as a Carnegie Mellon certified CMMI Trainer and CMMI Candidate Lead Assessor. After all, she is credited to have played a pivotal role in large organizations like DSQ Software, Citibank Technologies and even Satyam in achieving the ISO 9000 and the CMM Level 4 and CMM level 5 accreditation in Quality. And she is probably among the youngest to reach this high seat.

Reminiscing, Sumeeta describes her career as one roller coaster ride, where it was never about planning, but choosing to take the bus when the opportunity arrived.

She took one such opportunity to make a transition from product development to software testing. Six years into her career as a software developer at OMC— Sumeeta was looking for a change Quality was an emerging area and people with development experience who could write processes were required. But there was always this dilemma of switching from the firefighting mode of development to the tamer world of quality assurance; not to mention her lack of prior knowledge in this field. A passionate pitch by her mentor on how processes can impact consistency in quality, convinced Sumeeta and she was ‘sold’ to Quality. Thereafter she surrendered herself to the job on the condition that she won’t have to travel too much.

But Sumeeta soon realized that the job was anything but relaxing and suddenly she was traveling and working much more than before. While leading a consulting team at one of the largest electrical company in the U.S, she was handed one of the most important assignments of career. Her Quality team had to use CMM as a common thread to establish a single process in development across six functional units spread over geographies. The problem charter was to compare and measure the benefits the company was getting in terms of Quality including the ROI. CMM had just replaced the old ways of ISO certification, which meant stumbling on to new stuff while executing the project. The tough job had Sumeeta’s team monitoring the processes of each of these six units, picking their best practices. After ten months of research and a year of implementation, her team achieved the desired results. For Sumeeta, the victory was the confidence boost on leading this success story.

For a woman who had ‘no plans’, Sumeeta’s career was showing remarkable growth. At this point, her acceptance of a job at Satyam was the second most important decision in her professional life. She says. “There were times when I wanted to drop my job and manage my life, especially when I had my daughter. I had this offer from a leading degree college to teach computers and I would have been a happy lecturer.” But the sheer motivation received from her family ignited the lost spark and soon she found herself back to what she knew best—Quality. It was only after Satyam acquired the CMM level 4 accreditation, did she decide to join them full time. Along with the challenges of dealing with a new culture, a new team and meeting demands, she also inherited the business acumen of the company.

Agility, she claims, is the key to success in this field. The changing landscape in technology, gave her research skills a push and she was steering million dollar projects that required the integration of latest frameworks & best practices in CMMI, ISO 20000, ISO 27001, Six Sigma and CoBit for large global organizations. “Today when we work with Six Sigma we are already looking at what’s next. How do we leverage an organization to get leveraged with best practices, with best multiple models? I cannot sustain myself or grow if that research bent of mind to enhance our portfolio and agility is lost,” she says. When Carnegie Mellon University and Satyam brought out a model she had the honor to be considered among the authors. But the task required her to relocate to the U.S. and she chose to stay back and let her team go instead.

She applied the same agility in her professional ascent as well. Due to an oversight on her part, she once lost a couple of her best employees. But it did not deter her from the leadership role. She describes it as a work of tact to manage and convert people into the systematic path. After all Quality and processes is about a systematic approach. Even at home this process orientation is rubbing off on her children. At 12, her daughter organizes her schedule on an Excel sheet! For Sumeeta, success and growth came with the right attitude and ability to learn—a lesson she constantly drills into every one of her employees. She learnt new principles and her belief in her ability gave her the necessary faith.

And she walks the next few steps of her career with this firm belief. Even after owning a professional graph that many crave for, Sumeeta is the silent high-flier she was yesterday. “Ambitious, yes, I do see the peak. But truly speaking I’ve always dreamt of doing what satisfies me and to the best of my abilities, never really aspiring to grow higher and higher,” she confesses.

For the girl who held nothing but her ability as merit, the journey has only just begun.

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