The tech industry is being widely progressive and is witnessing many women leaders. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, EFY reached out to Gnanapriya Chidambaranathan, Associate Vice President, Unit Technology Officer, Infosys Private Limited to share her experience in building a career in the technology field and also achieving work-life integration.
What made you choose electronics & communications for education and career?
As a highschool student, my favorite subjects were mathematics, science and technology. I pursued my passion in telecom and completed my engineering bachelors in Electronics and Communications and masters in Communication Systems. I remember my father had a variety of electronics and media systems at home – from the popular gramophone to spool tapes, amplifiers, big speakers, antennas of different sizes and heights to ‘receive’ various channels like Doordarshan and Rupavahini in those days. Fascinated by all these gadgets, I was keen to explore further.
I took part in science club experiments with electronics, HAM Morse code communications and visited media labs and studios at University. Me and my friends were among the first students to experiment with new equipment purchased by our department in college, from the microwave workbench to robots.
What was your ambition while studying in college?
I aimed to specialise in Telecom and be a thought leader in this space. I saw myself as a global telecom leader and decided to pursue a career in Telecom, IT and associated technologies. Needless to say, it is an evolving journey replete with learning and exciting technology breakthroughs. I am happy to have pursued my passion and thanks to the support I received from my family at every stage of my education and career.
Can you recollect your first job (designation, firm) and how did you get the job? Why did you take it?
After completing my masters, I had to relocate near my hometown Madurai due to personal commitments. At that time, I got an opportunity to teach at Mepco Schlenk Engineering College, Sivakasi for 4 years focusing on electronics, communications and signal processing. I was also involved in guiding multiple software and hardware projects. It gave me an opportunity to co-author a book on ‘Digital Signal Processing,’ Edition I and II published by McGraw Hill, which was also translated in Mandarin language. Later, I shifted to Bangalore and joined Infosys in the Telecom vertical.
How is your professional journey in the corporate world and how it helped to reach your current position?
I started my career in Infosys as a software developer and now I am an Associate Vice President & Unit Technology Officer, heading the architecture and technology practice of Communications, Media and Entertainment, Energy, Utilities and Services ADM (Application Development & Maintenance), Business Unit in Infosys. I contribute to unit strategy, focus on driving technology adoption for business solutions across varied programs globally. I am also part of Infosys’ Technology Council.
With almost 3 decades of Telecom and IT experience, I had the opportunity to work with global clients across various areas including development, design, architecture, consulting on Enterprise Architecture, IT Roadmap & Strategy, driving Digital Transformation, Technology Modernisation, Cloud adoption, Open-Source Innovation. I have had opportunities to work with global leaders, industry forums and contributed to TMForum OpenAPIs, ODA, Software Marketplace, Edge, 5G, technology reports, reference architectures.
I had also been recognised with Capacity Media’s, Global Women in Telco & Tech Awards 2020, for ‘Outstanding Achievement’ under ‘Disruptor’ category. Under my leadership Infosys has won 13 Outstanding Catalyst Team Awards since 2016 in the TM Forum. I also received Individual Recognition from the Forum. Apart from that, I am a Senior IEEE member, WIE member, ComSoc Bangalore Chapter Execom Member, engaging in various activities to help in industry – academia collaborations.
In a nutshell, I moved from Madurai to Bangalore and that changed my life and career. Infosys gave me an excellent platform to work and collaborate across varied projects, and programs both within the company and with the larger industry.
What are the focus areas beyond technology? Learnings from them over the years?
I have learnt in addition to my technology skills it is important to focus on
Business Acumen, Strategy and Vision
Career planning & roadmap
Networking & connects, leveraging role models and mentoring
Identifying right opportunities aligned with passion and importantly,
Move out of your comfort zone while ensuring a work-life balance
My guiding principle can be summed up in one phrase – ‘continue to be relevant’. I execute on this through my 4C mantra which includes content, confidence, connect, curiosity
Focus on content (Go deep in what you learn, expand your horizon)
Build confidence (Step-up, speak out)
Establish connects (to get guidance in shaping your career)
Be curious to learn new things (continuous learning as there is no end, look for opportunities to navigate your next)
In today’s digital world, technology is very much needed whichever role an individual plays. ‘Continuous Learning and Practice’ to keep pace with evolving technology is key. Depth in specific technology areas and breadth of knowledge across technology is needed.
Would you like to highlight your strength that you think all women should be aware of?
I found that my innate ability to multitask allowed me to manage my time and efforts effectively across my professional and personal work areas. When we are playing multiple roles in our lives each day managing multiple personal and professional relationships and engagements, I have found planning and prioritising skills as key to my success. Networking and collaborations allowed me to strengthen my ability to deliver on my commitments through leveraging the deep relationships I had built.
Any ONE tip or advice for male colleagues/bosses, that if they follow—could make it a more levelled field for women?
Throughout my journey I had excellent bosses, mentors and colleagues who played a significant role in my success, be it within organisation or in the industry. It would be great for men to recognise and overcome unconscious bias and personal barriers.
Any tips on how to balance personal and professional lives?
More than work-life balance, it’s work-life integration. Some tips based on my experience can help achieve work-life integration
Be passionate: like what you do, else it will become a burden
Identify and position your USP (uniqueness / strength)
Don’t feel guilty: No one can be 100% perfect
It’s ok to say ‘No’ at times
Spend quality time with family
Work hard and smart.
Any message or tips for girls in school who are not sure whether they should pursue tech stream or not?
Technology is in the mainstream today, bringing business ideas to reality. If you focus, deepen your skills and pursue your career path in this space, there are a huge set of exciting opportunities in the market. Keep in mind the 4C Mantra!