Keerthana Srinivasan - Product Head, API and Data solutions at Probe Information Services talks to Women Restart about what inspires her, how did she restart her career after a break; corporate challenges she faced being a woman and how she overcame them; how is it working with companies like Probe, Cisco, Wipro & IBM. She tells us about her career in early years, motherhood and more. Read on:
Tell us more about yourself.
I lived in Thanjavur, a small town in South India, for the most part of my childhood and schooling. I graduated from NIT, Trichy (formerly called, R.E.C Regional Engineering College), in Computer Science. We were the third batch of Computer Science, and it was just about the time when Computer Science courses were beginning to be known.
I joined TVS Electronics, in Tumkur, in the R&D division from campus. When TVSE came to our college campus, they did not interview girls as they did not have any policy to employ girls in their group companies. A friend of mine and I wrote to the CEO of TVSE, asking them to consider us, as we believed that we were competent enough. And that’s how we became the first batch of girls in TVS Sundaram group of companies. After that, I had successful stints in companies like Tata-IBM and Wipro.
The early years of my career gave me a lot of exposure to amazing mentors and different technologies. I had the opportunity to bring projects to India from the US and start managing an offshore team, in Tata IBM. We moved to Canada, got deputed to Corel Corporation from WIPRO, and I was a part of their product team.
When did you become a mother? How did that affect your career?
My son was born in Canada, and we returned to India soon after. I took a year off from work as I wanted to spend more time with him and enjoy his childhood. When I expressed my desire of wanting a part-time job, my manager in WIPRO - Mr.Ramesh Emani (a huge Round of Applause from Women Restart!), supported that and gave me work from home option. Those were the days of a dial-up modem, and I took on an individual contributor role so that I could get more flexibility. Three years later I had my daughter and took a year off. I started working part-time, and when she was about five years old, I took a longer break which lasted about four years.
What did you do to keep your skills relevant during the break?
I began to volunteer in my local community, setting up a website and internal communication forums for my apartment complex. I also helped NGOs and small businesses with their websites. It was a great learning for me to realize my interests and potential in that period. That was also the time, I expanded my network beyond my professional network and was beginning to understand that I need to keep my personal, family, community and professional interests in balance to find fulfillment.
When did you decide to restart your Career and was it challenging?
My husband joined a start-up, and the kids were a bit grown that I thought I had more time to be in a full-time job. Yes, it was quite intimidating, as I did not know where to start. Also, being on my own, I had not got appraised in a long time! I prepared a list of tasks that could be outsourced at home and got support from my family to manage the transition.
With my contacts that I built in my break, I came to know of opportunities in eGovernments Foundation, which was working towards e-governance in Indian municipalities. I joined there as a Program Manager and got to manage their largest government account then. Subsequently, I joined CISCO, realized that I wanted to be a part of the API economy and now I’m currently in Probe Information Systems as a Product Head of API and Data Solutions.
Is the Industry changing towards Women Restarters?
Yes. Several Corporate Organizations have Returnee Programme for Women Restarters and several other diversity initiatives. Also, the start-ups which are in need of talent and have flexible organizational structures can potentially employ women, and I have seen some examples where some of my friends were hired in smaller organizations.
What is your Advice to other Women Restarters?
Use your break to reflect on your strengths and your long term life-plan. Try to reskill in areas of your professional interest and see if there are any local meetups where you can connect with people to expand your network.
After you have restarted, make time for yourself to exercise (at least 20 minutes) or pursue a hobby that keeps you calm and consumes you. And delegate things as much as possible. Only do the things that will add value to yourself and your family.
Just remember, professional identity is an integral part of who you are –look at yourself holistically and try and attempt to integrate that seamlessly.
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