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Deepa Deo

Deepa Deo

Head, Leadership Development
ThoughtWorks
 
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A Brief Introduction
I joined ThoughtWorks in 2004 in Bangalore, our first India office. While my primary area of work has been in the People Engagement and Development space, I have had the advantage of being in an environment that encourages one to go beyond the usual role and functional barriers. It has been very enriching to work with people having different world views and be in spaces that helped me challenge my personal capabilities across different dimensions.

I am, more than ever, convinced that it is necessary for humanity to be ecologically sensitive and do my bit to live a little more consciously, every day. I am also in awe of India’s rich traditional and cultural wisdom that is applicable even today, and am trying to rediscover more of it.

About The Company & My Role within it
ThoughtWorks is a global IT consultancy that helps organisations across industries and domains to maximize their business impact. We pioneered the agile way of software development, and these best practices are valued widely in the industry today. Our Studios division makes products that help Agile teams deliver value faster and more effectively.
ThoughtWorks is best described as a social network whose purpose is to be a force for revolutionising the way software is built globally, and to be an active proponent of social and economic justice.

My work at ThoughtWorks involves working with people to build their leadership skills and capabilities through regional and global programs such as the India Leadership Development Program and the Global Women in Leadership Development Program. In recent times, I have had the exciting and very mind-opening experience of visiting various countries in Africa, accompanying the Founder and Chairman of ThoughtWorks, to explore how we could do our bit in Africa’s Information and Communications Technology journey.
Important Career Choices Made
Through my career and experiences, and from working with and watching others, I have learnt quite a few things. One of them is uppermost in my mind currently. Never say no to opportunities that come your way, especially if they seem wildly different from your idea of ‘normal’. When I was interviewing with ThoughtWorks, it seemed like a bit of a crazy company with opinionated people, and divergent and somewhat idealistic views. Something about the place spelled adventure, so I joined. Today, when I look back, I have grown as a human being and not just as a professional, thanks to that decision.


Visions as a Leader
My guiding principle in life is quite simple: I want to continuously be involved in making life better for everyone or in helping someone grow, develop and become happier.
Challenges Faced as a Woman
Many of us women want to be superwomen, by doing our best in everything and achieving multiple things at the same time. I have wanted that at times in my life, but have been forced to make concessions driven by circumstance. I have learnt that I cannot be a great professional, perfect wife, highly responsible daughter, etc. all at the same time. This actually put the control in my hands, and it has become possible to focus on these different dimensions at different times, in a balanced way. This is perhaps contrary to the ‘We can get it all’ school of thought, but personally, it has been a happier and more rewarding route in the long run.
Striking A Balance
Personally for me, work-life balance is something that needs to work out over a period rather than over each day. There are times when work consumes everything and other times when personal life is priority. I ensure that from time to time, or when one starts to threaten the other, that I relook and re-adjust my priorities based on need. If we try, we find that colleagues and co-workers are surprisingly accommodative and supportive if we are clear about what we can and cannot do.
Doing it Differently
There were a couple of times in my career when I tried to single-handedly manage some frustrating challenges I was facing. When I look back now at the nature of those challenges, it would have been perfectly reasonable or even essential, to reach out to colleagues and leaders for help. I am better prepared today to recognise such situations and reach out to others faster. 
An Opinion: Women Leaders Act as a Driving Force for Powering Businesses.
Women and men have complementary roles to play in society as equal partners. Extend that principle to the work place and it still applies. Women bring that much needed balance in the organisation. Someone once said that the world would have had fewer ‘evil corporations’ such as the infamous Wall Street ones, if more women had been controlling the directions of organisations over the generations. I agree.
Lessons Learned from a Professional Life
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned and see playing out every day around me is that a positive outlook and conviction outscores talent and skill. Some of the best leaders are leaders not because they have the technical skills, but because they think positive and are always looking to see how things can be done rather than why they cannot.  Strong intent and belief in a cause is more powerful than I believed in the past.
Dreams and Ambitions
I take life as it comes, and it is important that whatever I do is either challenging my self-image, is lots of fun, or both! At the risk of disappointing readers, I have to confess that I don’t have any specific targets.
An Achievement to Feel Proud About
When we started off the leadership development program in India, we had not done anything like it before. There was some cynicism and some doubt about how seriously it would be taken and if people would actually learn and grow with the experiences it had to offer.  But to the credit of many people involved, they gave it their best and two years down the line, there are a bunch of people who can pat themselves on the back for having made a step change in their personal and professional development. ‘Happy and fulfilled’ is more representative of how I feel about this, rather than proud.
A Message for the Ladies
Women are generally more apologetic about their strengths or unsure about what they can achieve. We need to believe in ourselves a lot more, and trust that we can achieve whatever we wish to; only, we need to allow ourselves to! Another liberating tip is to allow only you to judge yourself and decide what is right for you. Be a courageous and honest judge, though. At the end of the day, if you are happy with yourself, nobody can take that away from you!
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