Podcast Audio Transcript
Alisha: Hello listeners, this is Alisha; thank you for tuning in to yet another exciting and informative podcast from Infosys BPM. Today, we are discussing leadership, diversity, and perseverance in the corporate world. And to talk about this, one of Infosys BPM’s leading women has joined us – Srimathi K Swamy, AVP & Head of Technology Services. Welcome Srimathi. How are you today?
Srimathi: I am doing great! Thank you for having me, Alisha. How are you doing yourself?
Alisha: I am doing great as well. Thank you. Technology and infrastructure services is a division with a lot of important stakeholders within and outside the organization. So, during the unanticipated COVID-19 pandemic situation, how were you able to successfully manage the function?
Srimathi: Yes, Alisha, the year 2020 brought major challenges for everyone due to the unprecedented global pandemic. It was quite an experience for all of us, but the good thing is that we were able to act fast and in an agile manner to tackle the difficult situation then.
The Technology and Infrastructure Group, TIG as it is known in our organization, is quite well-versed in handling emergency situations. Having to invoke a business continuity plan is not something new to us. We have done it during several major emergencies in the past. Our earlier experiences and long-term learnings have proven exceptionally useful to us during the pandemic-induced situation, including working from home as well.
Alisha: Talk us through your BCP for COVID. How did you go about it?
Srimathi: The BCP of the corporate organization as well as multiple client projects is under the purview of TIG. So, the group was under strong focus during the pandemic.
We took the right steps at the right time to ensure remote working is successful. After the decision on working from home was made, within minutes we formed a smaller group within TIG to define our roles and responsibilities clearly. The team was able to remain motivated to keep focus on our clients. We were clear from the beginning that none of the client activities should be impacted by the pandemic situation.
We were in March, and within 18-20 days we had to close our books. So, the message that our focus is on client projects was systematically driven to all team members. We planned out the BCP in such a way that our global facilities could support one another efficiently and remotely. We defined every parameter of remote working to the last detail.
As such, it didn’t take us very long to enable over 70% of our workforce to successfully work remotely. With the speed that we acted year, we consider ourselves as accelerators.
Alisha: Yes, I learnt that the pandemic had no impact in productivity, which is so admirable. Moving on, Srimathi, you joined Infosys almost 25 years ago. Could you tell us about your journey and experience briefly as a woman leader?
Srimathi: Absolutely. Infosys has always been a dream company for me, as it is for many people. I learnt about Infosys back when I was in class 12th. Back then we happened to visit Infosys, and that experience made me pursue engineering as my preferred career path. I joined Infosys in 1994, and it has been quite a rewarding journey since then. A very memorable milestone of my journey is being one of the founding members of the current Infosys BPM organization.
Currently as the head of Technology Services at Infosys BPM, I have the opportunity and privilege to provide infrastructure support to Infosys BPM clients as well as enterprise support to the back office of our own business enabling functions.
One of the key initiatives that I was fortunate enough to undertake is about improving the percentage of women in leadership roles to 25-30%, at the least. I have been actively working with the Infosys Policy Council to support the gender diversity initiatives we have. We continue to make great strides in this area.
Alisha: Indeed! Diversity brings many ideas and perspectives that will support a growing organization. Specifically about the area you lead, technology and infrastructure services: It’s an area where we see fewer women gravitating to. Why is it so, and why should more women consider it as a career choice?
Srimathi: Yes, lack of women is sort of a norm in this area. From the beginning I have been seeing more men working in technology infrastructure than women. But I have never had any issue working with them seamlessly over the years.
From my personal experience, I believe women should take it up as a challenge to show their capabilities in this area. There are a multitude of opportunities for women here. I believe in educating women about multiple career streams in the technology and infra space and empowering them to take it up as their career path.
One of the reasons women find the infrastructure field not so appealing is because of the general perception that it’s a hardware-intensive job, involving tools and repair tasks. But that’s not really true. With all the technology advancements, infrastructure has become more software-defined now. With virtual machines coming into the picture, the role of routers, network equipment, and other hardware is also largely performed by software. So, managing a data centre or a network doesn’t mean you need to use some kind of hardware tools or special equipment. And even in whatever hardware-related aspects are involved, women are increasingly able to take up the same.
Secondly, there is a huge opportunity on creating technology domain-specific proofs of concept. It could be for a cloud-based solution, a voice infrastructure solution, or any other similar requirements. Such activities can be very intellectually rewarding.
So, I have tried to grow awareness about these opportunities and have been able to coach over 10-15 women in the infra space. I continue to try my best to motivate more women to participate in an enhanced manner.
While there has been gradual success in bringing women to this area, there are a few challenges as well. Over time, I have managed to address those challenges successfully. Overall, I believe this is definitely an exceptional and enriching opportunity for women.
Alisha: The initiatives you are taking to bring gender diversity is amazing. What should budding leaders do to imbibe the drive, commitment, and excellence at work to contribute to the organizational goals?
Srimathi: I believe that you need to be passionate about everything you undertake. I live by the 4 H’s of head, heart, health, and happiness.
Believe in taking your team along with yourself and getting involved 100%. You should leave no stone unturned in your quest to achieve excellent outcomes. Also, good leaders should look at strategic aspects very carefully, because, you know, excellence is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a long journey. But that doesn’t mean your focus should not be on short-term, tactical initiatives. Both tactical and strategic sides play critical roles.
I like to celebrate every achievement, but that doesn’t mean failures are unwelcome. I consider every failure as a stepping stone in the path of learning. I try to quickly move forward from every failure as well as achievement, to see what I should do next to avoid complacency and keep strong focus on upcoming milestones.
This mindset is important for all budding leaders to embrace success and growth. Hence, I always believe attitude determines altitude.
Alisha: I am sure our audience would listen and act upon those words of wisdom. You were touching upon the pandemic situation earlier and how BCP was invoked to ensure there is no drop in productivity across the organization. Could you give a glimpse of other BCP invocations in the past?
Srimathi: Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic was only one of the BCP experiences we had over the years. I consider perseverance as one of the greatest assets that my team as well as I have been able to demonstrate over time.
So, let me give an idea about some past BCP situations. The first BCP situation that came my way was in our centre in Jaipur, India, where one of the nearby petroleum distribution units had a fire accident, which necessitated employees leaving to get to safer locations. We rapidly took stock of the situation and charted out a business continuity plan that enabled employees to work from our second facility in Jaipur.
I sat with the team and helped them regain composure from the incident that threatened their lives. We reiterated to them that our client operations are very important and so we needed to bounce back quickly, while also keeping their safety in mind.
Within 48 hours, my team was able to get operations working from the second facility in Jaipur. My team and I took up the responsibilities of facilities and HR, among others, to make sure that everything was in place. The team’s resilience, patience, and perseverance were key in getting that done so quickly.
As another example, we had a water disaster situation in our facility in Pune, India. This affected our centralized voice infrastructure, and we had to rebuild it within 4-5 working days at an alternate location. In this case, rather than setting up locally, we were able to seamlessly set up our voice infrastructure in Manila, Philippines. So, this situation is a true testimony of how we are able to seamlessly connect across different geographies.
These are only a couple of the experiences that we came across over time. The continuous learnings from such experiences has helped us to consistently stay ahead of the curve, during the COVID-19 pandemic situation as well.
Alisha: This commitment you show is so exemplary! Thank you so much Srimathi. It was great to host you in today’s podcast.
Srimathi: It was indeed a pleasure, Alisha.
Alisha: Dear listeners, if you enjoyed our podcast today, please don’t forget to share and like it on social media. Our social handles are mentioned in the podcast page. The podcast will be available on various platforms like Google Podcasts and Spotify, in addition to our website.
Also, if you have any queries, do reach out to us through the email address on the podcast description. Watch this space for more exciting podcasts coming up. Once again, thank you for tuning in, stay healthy and socially distanced. Have a nice day!