You have been with TCS for almost two decades. How has been your journey so far?
My journey at TCS has been like many journeys. It has been filled with several positive experiences and others that, although challenging at the time, offered me the chance to learn and grow. I was lucky to have entered the workplace when the software industry was still niche and exclusive. Generally, people did not know much about TCS and I recall my family asking me what company I was going to work in? That turned out to be a blessing for me and many like me. We just put our heads down; and under the able stewardship of amazing leaders, we grew, grew, and grew – slowly in the beginning and audaciously at the turn of the century. I joined HR with a unique background in behavioural science, backed with a doctorate in psychology. I call it unique because I was getting into a company without any management degree. Being a student of behaviour, working in a services company, it was easy for me to connect with people. I learnt nuances of HR from my very first boss Jose Abraham– how to be firm, handle uncomfortable situations, communicate with top leadership and more. The first decade was spent in learning and growing, the second was more about creating platforms for the future and the third decade was spent in building on leadership.
Were there any major challenges you faced as a global HR leader?
Culture conflicts: These may be subtle nuances but in a global organization, cultural differences can create tensions and reduce the effectiveness of teams that are working together. In these circumstances, it is extremely critical to navigate the differences by effectively communicating the shared purpose and collective goals that we are all working towards and ensuring behaviours are guided by the organisation’s beliefs and values.
Leading change: Change can create uncertainty and apprehension. It is important to create a trust-based, empathy-led, and value-driven culture so people can openly communicate their fears and find the support, guidance and enablement needed to accept and embrace change.
How effectively is inclusivity being implemented in the Indian corporate sector and what are the gaps that we can fill?
Inclusion is about recognising and respecting the multiple facets of each person’s identity. Today, where we are in the world, inclusion is an ongoing process. No company or community can claim to have reached the destination in this journey. The Indian corporate sector is certainly very cognizant of the need for greater inclusion. There are several remarkable programmes and initiatives that the corporate sector has undertaken to ensure the greater inclusion of diverse segments in the workforce. For instance, greater representation of women at all levels in the organization, the extension of support such as insurance to cover partners, more opportunities for growth and leadership for people with disability.
The greatest opportunities for inclusion is to raise awareness, strengthen acceptance and enable access- Combined, these three dimensions can ensure inclusion is an integral part of both companies and communities and drive sustainable and inclusive growth for all.
Are there any drawbacks to the concept of diversity at workplaces, and how do you deal with them?
I don’t think you can address these as “drawbacks”. Diversity of gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, race, and diversity of the mind – all result in different perspectives, ideas, approaches and experiences. When people of such diverse identities come together at the workplace, or even in society, there are bound to be natural tensions.
But the ‘solution’ lies in the ‘problem’ itself. The more people accept and embrace differences, the greater will be their opportunity to drive change, innovation, and growth. Ensuring this thinking is deeply embedded in corporate culture is the best way to bring out the advantages of diversity.
Understanding human psychology is important for being an effective leader. How frequently do you see managers or leaders in India do that successfully?
Understanding human psychology can certainly help people become more effective managers and leaders. The principles of effective leadership draw on the foundation of human psychology.
There are two parts to learning – one is the most structured learning courses, through Books, Podcasts, programs. The other is lived experience. As managers, people often find themselves in situations where the nuances of human psychology can help them guide, engage with, support, negotiate by encouraging their teams.
With the Indian industry’s rapid expansion to global markets and the ecosystem shifting significantly to include players of diverse identities, leaders and managers within the Indian corporate world have found themselves (often subconsciously ) leaning on the principles of human psychology to ensure the effectiveness of their teams and the outcomes they deliver.
Students who are inclined towards inclusivity studies have a wide scope now. What should be their key focus areas for a rewarding work life?
Being a relatively new subject, students must tread carefully when dealing with a subject like inclusivity. These studies offer such divergent perspectives that they can easily seem overwhelming.
When I was growing up, this word had no meaning. Even in the first decade of my career, inclusion was just the opposite of exclusion. It’s only when I went through the experiences my narrative formed that I could live this subject. However, this generation has unparalleled access to information and what I learnt in decades these students can capture at a very young age. The most critical part about inclusivity and building a career in that space is balancing out the learned content with lived experience – observing and understanding different behaviours, cultures, getting oriented to various abilities and points of view. When you have gained information and gathered some experiences, then getting into the inclusivity aspect will be meaningful and you will be able to contribute in progressive ways. I am hoping for the day when inclusivity studies will be taught in schools with a focus on perspectives and cultural nuance.
You have had a huge impact on the people-power of TCS. What are the top 3 principles you have followed over the years?
Learning is a journey: Keep your mind open to learning (and unlearning) and make every experience count towards making sure you walk away with wisdom from a negative outcome or learning from a positive one.
Change begins with me: We all have the opportunity to influence and drive change, whether it is within our homes or our workplaces.
Challenges are in our mind: A lot can be overcome when you have a dream and aspire and work towards it with belief and determination. A lot of the challenges can fade away or become insignificant in the face of a bold and audacious dream that is powered by belief.