Sheela Singh

Sheela Singh

VP - Global HR, Consulting & Application Solutions
Perot Systems
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Trusting her Instincts
When Sheela Singh decided to move from being Head of Quality to Head of Human Resources at Perot Systems, she was trusting her instincts and betting on her ability to handle people. The move was coming after nearly 21 years in the IT industry- where she started as an embedded system software developer quickly growing into Chief Operations Officer and Director of Quality Management Services. A proven survivor, there was no obvious reason for this detour except that the challenge was alluring, encompassing her in its charms.

After all overcoming challenges time after time is what Sheela had been busy at in her long tenure as an IT professional. Her kitty of commendable achievements in varied sectors attesting the lady’s worth. Running back to her days as Senior Engineer at Bharath Electronics Ltd (BEL) where she worked with the best minds on India’s prestigious airborne early warning radar system (AWACS), this techie then steered Verifone’s Appliance Engineering team as it developed and delivered its first smart card applications.
Responsible for creating the Quality Management Team
She was also the backbone of creating the Quality Management team of the consulting unit at Oracle India from scratch and helped the company attain CMMI level III certification in the very first shot. ‘Job-hopping’ could be how some view her career graph but she terms them as ‘making use of the new exposure and opportunities - something that was necessary to build strong leadership skills.’

Today she heads the Global HR practices for the 5000 strong Consulting and Application Solutions team at Perot Systems. For her it is not about the challenge only but “opportunities that were waiting to be acted upon”.
Explored Newer Opportunities
The drive to act on such opportunities was innate in Sheela. If it weren’t for the drive, she would probably still be in BEL, oblivious to what she could have achieved. “I was lucky enough to be handpicked for the AWACS project, but then on I had to push myself to explore newer opportunities,” she asserts.

And push she did, all the way to become Project Manager at Verifone’s India R&D center where she handled some of the company’s major smart card application development projects. The team worked on developing a smart card electronic purse application that would be certified by Visa, Mondex and Proton respectively for use across the globe. As the head of the appliance software engineering division, her role extended to establishing effective working relationships and communication between geographically distributed teams.
Juggled her role
The team took on the task of compiling libraries of software utilities that would dramatically reduce the turn-around time in developing electronic payment applications and getting them certified. Impressing on her teams that such development was possible out of India, protecting them from skeptical managers at the headquarters and motivating them, was very demanding. It was a crucial project for the team as they set out to establish their worth. She juggled her role well enough to see through the launch of the product, developed entirely in India. The memory of these successes still bringing back a heady rush of excitement.

But as one phase passed, another challenge showed itself on her doorstep. Verifone, which had been acquired by HP, was suddenly on its own again having been sold to an independent investment group. The team she knew as family was in sudden turmoil as uncertainty loomed at every corner. Nobody was sure what was happening with the company or their jobs. She guarded her team and kept them together, continuing to deliver to commitments even as the entire organization went through a major transition. Several local and global companies expressed interest in hiring the talented set of VeriFone India engineers.

As part of the local leadership team, Sheela was able to get through the management with this idea. HP ISO later took over the application software team at Verifone under its wings and appointed her as head of the delivery team. For the woman who loved challenges, she terms this transitory phase as among the most fruitful. “Those were very difficult days where nobody was assured of a job, and they looked up at me for answers. For them I was the ‘mother hen’,” she remembers fondly.

In more ways than one, this was a crucial stage in her career and she was suddenly looking beyond the small. The manner of handling this crisis with no prior leadership expertise boosted her confidence and when the right time came, she took the bus to the next big step in her career. Her stop being GE India’s post as Chief Operating Officer (consumer production).
Challenges kept her on her Toes
A bigger role, it gave her ample room to test and train her newfound practices in the areas of Six Sigma, vendor management and recruitment- matter that was to form the crux of her future professional life. Without realizing, she had successfully transformed herself from a hardcore techie into manager and now a leader. “If you do not disengage yourself from macro level technical details and trust your team members to provide the tech expertise, you would never be able to grow”, she says.

Her continuous need for challenges kept her on her toes where no opportunity was too big or small. She gave up her role as COO to become Director of Quality at Oracle. It was never planned, she went with the flow taking with her lessons and leaving the rest to her instincts and of course, her abilities. Albeit an individual contributor in the beginning- extending the North American Quality services to India division- her leadership persona could not been contained for long. Soon the North American team assigned her charge of creating a Quality Management team in India for Oracle’s consulting services. A huge confidence boost for Sheela, it only assured that every step she had taken till now was a good decision.
Utmost Confidence is Necessary
The journey that began as a technical engineer was resting at almost the other side of the world and despite every change; she started as the head of the pack and never at the bottom. “I did not deliberate too much while making the transitions. I saw the need and I was supremely confident that I could help out fulfill this need.,” she affirms.

Not surprisingly, the lady has not planned anything for the future and she a reason for it: “A set and stubborn vision would stop one from attaining so many otherwise successful ventures.” Tomorrow she might take a ‘smaller role’ in a ‘smaller organization’, but as long as it is meaningful, she is a happy woman.
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