Article (July-2018)


Breaking Barriers

Sucharita Palepu

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I grew up in a small city in a middle class household. My parents were extremely hard working and came up from a very modest background. This was the bedrock of the values that I grew up on - there is no substitute for hard work, always question status quo and continuously keep challenging yourself. I wasn't too fond of studying during my school days. However, I knew that I had talents and preferences that were different from my others and it was absolutely fine to be different.
After having completed my Chartered Accountancy, I couldn't find myself restricted to a desk job. While I started off as an Account Manager in Financial Services. I shifted gears by handling operations for an IT services start up. This then led to me leveraging my business and financial knowledge to specialize in HR with Compensation and Benefits, initially. I traversed across several functions having worked in large IT firms like Satyam Computer Services (Head of HR Frameworks), Infosys (Head HR of Manufacturing and Engineering Services) & TechMahindra (Global Head HR).
Over the years, I was able to build substantial expertise in establishing robust HR frameworks, systems and processes in a globalized environment, playing a significant role in institutionalizing best and next people practices. Yet, despite over 18 years in HR, people still ask a question whether I want to go back to Finance. It continues to baffle people and me! All this didn't come easy. I took up every challenging opportunity that came my way, seeking help and support whenever I needed it both from my team as well as others.
It took me time to move from emulating male aggression to becoming assertive. As women in HR, we have a unique power to listen with empathy, understanding as well as provide a more nurturing approach. Having fashioned my way across various functions of HR, continuous learning and staying relevant has been a major contribution to my success. Upgrading ones knowledge and skills on the job or otherwise is critical especially in today's VUCA world.
I have always volunteered myself for any new initiative or handling a crisis. That helped give me tremendous experience and recognition. What truly drives me is a new challenge - to be given a blank slate and being able to draw on it.
As a woman (daughter, wife and mother), I have gone through the life-cycle changes and the day to day conflicts over the rigors and demands that we all face. It's very important therefore that the spouse has an equal responsibility to "share the load".
While there is a huge debate on whether there is a glass ceiling and whether organizations really provide an ecosystem for women to reach leadership positions, on the other hand surprisingly, women are also less optimistic about their prospects to get there. They therefore, don't aspire and those who do also are not really confident to get there. And of course the lack of enough role models also contributes to this.
My Mantra's
  • Differentiate yourself - Identify your unique qualities and strengths that set you apart.
  • Dream Big - If you don't aspire, you will never reach anywhere.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. Take risks and learn from your failures.
  • Take up any challenge that comes up your way to give you enriching experiences.
  • Don't make excuses that you are a woman to get to where you want to be.
  • Ensure you are treated as an equal and not different irrespective of the situation.
  • Customer orientation is paramount and the ability to convert their problems into opportunities is key.
  • Cross functional exposure is essential to be agile in today's dynamic environment.
  • Make continuous learning a part of your DNA.
  • YOU are as important as your family. So take care of yourself too.