Women City


Sadhana Somasekhar

The Journey: Early Days to How I Got Here
As a person I can describe myself quite simply as intensely curious, courageous, conscious/determined towards excellence and value-driven. I have the capacity to face fear in its face and the capacity to handle uncertainties that would have held back overall growth of my organization, its people and mine. In my professional sphere, all these have played significant roles. Without the intensely curious aspect of my personality, I would never have been able to Idette differentiators that were almost non-existent in an over populated and unorganized sector of resource augmentation services within which my organization is categorised.
If I did not have the capacity to face fear in its face, the capacity to handle uncertainties would have held back overall growth my organizations, its people and mine.Underlying all this has been my very own belief and value system that has moderated and balanced facets of my personality and its illustration. I am inclined to people and believe in the power of words to create relationships and the climate for performance. I love my work and I love my role as a woman with respect to home and what it entails. I'm impulsive but have learnt reserve (and still counting). I believe this is a phase in my position in my life-cycle and is not permanent; regardless of its duration- its still a phase!

Insight of My Company and the Role I Play in it
Future Focus Infotech (P) Ltd (FFI) is an IT services organization providing strategic IT HR services and Managed solutions, established in April 1997. Headquartered at Chennai, FFI has its branch offices at Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune and Kochi. It has its wholly owned subsidiaries in the US and UAE, Focus America, Inc and Future Focus Infotech FZE, respectively.
With over 2000 IT professionals deployed throughout India, at organizations which are among the 'who's who' in Software Development and Consulting, Focus is 'arguably' one of the top 5 IT Professional Services organizations in the Country and the first one to have its processes endorsed, for Quality (ISO 9001-2008), by TUV Sud, Germany. I am part of the FFI Board of Directors. In the Executive capacity, I am FFIs Joint Managing Director, heading Business operations with regards to S&M, Delivery, Business Continuity and CC & PR. Additionally, and in keeping with my role across geographies, I am President for Focus America, Inc. & the Business Head for FFI UAE.

Decisions That Mattered
Although initially trained for para-medic career, the decision to augment my education and knowledge with IT skills, resulted in my transition to IT itself. Being a people person, this transition was natural & smooth, although had circumstances been different, I would have been quite happy to have remained in the field of my initial choice. The decision to move into IT as a career was the first important decision and one which was based on the profile of the industry, the growth opportunity available to me and my own potential & personality.Going from there, most decisions have come about based on which phase of my life I was in. One decision that I had made, albeit unconsciously, was never to be an also-ran or mediocre- if I could help it. As a woman, with all the usual woman related matters to work with and around, whatever it is that one has to do, timing plays a very important part for executing the decision once you have arrived at it. For e.g.: planning a family when your company or department is still in its growing stage might not be the best balancing act or a prudent decision. Neither is it good to do this before you have made your mark on the industry. In Sheryl Sandberg's words, "don't leave before you leave". When you are further up the ladder, where you have a team to manage the transactions and your role is providing support and direction, it is a far better plan than one where you are part of the front-end team and cannot take time off. We plan everything in our lives; why is career an exception?

My Vision as a Leader
I believe that a true leader is one who builds leaders all around them in their organization, bringing people together, and engaging them, to create a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. To create the attitude of constructive risk-taking, act with courage and tenacity, and drive extraordinary results is my vision for my organization, team and self.

Resolving Challenges Faced as a Women
The number of challenges I have faced and continue to face (and am sure there's a lot more to come), have defined and sculpted my profile as a person - both personally and professionally. I do not think that the challenges were specially aligned to my gender but more because of the circumstances. For enduring success, there has to be scope for continues improvement. Improvement and learning does not come if there are no failures or mistakes. The capacity to face challenges is attitude dependent to a large extent one of a dyed-in-wool optimist. It goes a long way in recognizing possibilities and benefits beyond the immediate risks perceived.Remaining on track and not facing derailment has come learning through adversity. Most of my most valuable learning has very markedly been in the most challenging times of my life. It realigned me to myself by increasing determination, focus and an even deeper understanding of self - both weaknesses and strengths. I have never called on my strengths or realised its potential as much as I have, had it not been for trying times.
My message for women who aspire for individuality and difference would be welcome and embrace adversity; when you do this, its strength becomes yours to use for overcoming it and winning. The commonality of approach in almost all situations that I have found challenging has been centered around organizing and prioritizing my deliverable around what I can do/need to do myself and what I have to get done. That load-balancing and stretch-capacity is required for scaling in any role.

Work - life Balance
I do not subscribe to the theory of "work-life balance". I believe this divides/separates personalities and capabilities. From when one can recall, the main agenda of women in life were as home-makers or more relevantly home managers. Even the most dominated of this gender had to manage teams, strategies, handle 'HR' issues/matters, resolve conflicts, finance, etc. The extrapolation of these various facets is what comes in to play at the work front too when you look for differences based on gender. The male counterpart is exposed to the compartmentalized capabilities while in the case of the stereo-typed home-maker/woman, the work front and the capability to absorb various versions of the same, is the epilogue to the operations managed at the home front. Just as any experience or background forms the basis of the quality of how it actually translates into action, depending on the standards and complexities at the home-place, so are the work-place matters addressed. The almost obsessive attention to detail, consciousness of responsibility and organization are few of the features that flow as one for me where ever I am. As in the case of any priority list, what I do, have to do, where, why, and for whom, help me stay grounded between workplace and home-place.

Starting Over from Scratch, What I Would Like to do Differently
I don't think the challenges aspect would ever change and nor would I want it to. It's what keeps the mind and spirit constantly open and charged. Even though its never too late for a good thing, if I really had to change something, knowing what I do now, I know I would have had a lot more time & opportunity for a lot more exploration and calculated risks. One price that one pays with maturity is the added responsibilities and lack of time. Since my by-line is all men die, only some live. I would have liked to have more time to do all that I really could and would like to do. Had I the knowledge of all that I have now; I would have travelled a much longer road.
I have started my life from the scratch more than once, and in different arenas. One take away has been to never compromise or bank on the much hyped 'adjustments'. They almost never work as disgruntlement within yourself or among others, will surface. Any work or business can be successful only if there is a meeting of the basic value systems & attitudes.

Women Leaders: Driving Force for Powering Business
Women do not decide to opt out of the workforce; most cannot afford to. They too leave specific jobs for others in pursuit of personal achievement, more money and recognition just like men. They hold themselves back to pursue greater satisfaction across all parts of their lives but not just to fulfill family responsibilities. These are the myths that need to be debunked.
Women often decide to remain in jobs if they derive a deep sense of meaning professionally. More than men, women prize the opportunity to pour their energies into making a difference and working closely with colleagues. Women don't generally look to trading that satisfaction for what they fear will be energy-draining meetings and corporate politics at the next management echelon. Of all the forces that hold women back, however, none are as powerful as entrenched beliefs. While companies have worked hard to eliminate overt discrimination, women still face the pernicious force of mindsets that limit opportunity. Boards/Management and managers, male and female continue to take viable female candidates out of the running, often on the assumption that the woman can't handle certain jobs and also discharge family obligations. In a McKinsey report, business executives globally were asked what they believe the most important leadership attributes are for success today, each of the top four intellectual stimulation, inspiration, participatory decision-making and setting expectations/rewards were more commonly found among women leaders. Having survived the first cut in the talent pipeline from individual contributor to manager, women have already demonstrated superior capability. They retain their ambition and confidence and are quickly acquiring skills and know-how. They also have a better understanding of what it takes to succeed than when they entered the workforce and have a stronger belief that opportunities for promotion exist.
The general capability to manage in adversity, creativity and attention to detail are important to the success of any business. These are traits that are natural to woman regardless of where she functions. The opportunity just needs to present itself with less mind-set based barriers to ward off.

My Learning Along the Way
One of the most important leadership lessons I have learned personally and by observing other executives is to cultivate a strong understanding of "self." To be a good leader I must (and do) invest time taking stock/reflecting. This time spent in reflection on the past, reviewing experiences, analyzing the present and setting goals for the future is very important.As I have said earlier, the understanding of Self allows leaders to acknowledge and learn from mistakes, to recognize strengths, to make decisions about surrounding themselves with people who hold complimentary skills, and to create a clear vision for the future for themselves and for the people they lead.It also increases the likelihood that as a leader they will "walk the talk" - to use a cliche. I strongly believe that personification of effective leadership is about modelling the behaviour we expect. And, as much as I am a very strong advocate of the principals of learning & development for the on-going development of leadership skills, the most effective way to promote good leadership is to demonstrate it in everything you do. That has been my personal KRA thus far.

Two Years Down the Line
I see myself more or less doing what I am doing now with respect to my role but at a much larger scale and complexity. The transactional aspect though will be vastly different from what I do now as the quality of organizational leadership would have matured to make it so.

An Accomplishment You are Most Proud of?
Every accomplishment just sets the trend or more appropriately, the expectation, for the next and even undermines what has just been achieved. This is my experience and is also the way society functions. The victories of the yester year are not what businesses dwell on or assess you on; it is what you do today and for the tomorrow, that matters. Proud moments have been both at the organization and personal level. I cannot say which was more than the other as both were "proud" moments. The 'proudest' has probably yet to come!

There are several inputs that one can offer, however, one advice that I believe is common and cuts across industries and business, no matter what area of business she works within, is take the time to deeply understand "the business" of your organization beyond just what meets the eye- the revenue streams, differentiators in the business place and major cost parameters. Only this will help in creating the differentiation between leadership and professionalism. The identification of a mentor with whom you can confide, and from whom further learning is possible, is definitely an advantage as leadership tends to be a very crowded platform and it can get lonely. I would advise that the mentor be someone from outside of the organization so that there is no compromise on objectivity but definitely someone who understand the business under discussion. This is an amazing source of support and can help answer the important questions about the business and answer them at ever deepening levels of complexity.
Finally, and most importantly, you have to find the connection between the knowledge and your role, and act accordingly. As mentioned earlier on the basic approach to managing challenges, I believe that business is not really a business devoid of challenges. And to succeed in the midst of this and when more often than not, you are in the eye of the storm, setting for yourself and your department is the recourse. Business is all about finance and its derivatives, hence it is always important keep up to date on the financial picture, and adjust priorities accordingly. This is because no matter what area u work in- if its business, there is always a connection.


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