“Keep at it, don’t give up. Women need to internalise this. There will be inflection points in both your personal and professional lives and you need to be equally wedded to both,” says Nandini S, SVP and Group Head – Organisation Development, Infosys.
An expert in the field of talent management, Nandini is a passionate and outcome-focused leader who has achieved several milestones during her 22-year-long stint with Infosys. “Striking a balance between personal and professional goals” and “going with the flow, manifesting what you want” have been the mantras she swears by.
YS caught up with Nandini to know more about her milestones, learnings, and the impact she aims to create through her leadership, under its ‘I am the future’ series that spotlights dynamic and successful women leaders at Infosys.
Nurturing women professionals
Encouraging and supporting women professionals has been a core focus area for Nandini. From being a “timid and shy introvert” to understanding the importance of celebrating herself, Nandini recalls overcoming several barriers to develop a “bullish” attitude towards building a successful professional career.
While Nandini understands the multiple external factors at play such as a solid support system at home, responsibilities of kids, maternity break, and more, she wants women to step away from the mindset of “being okay with taking breaks”.
“Women need to stop thinking that their husband’s career is the primary one. Both the partners need to respect each other’s careers. While there are multiple factors at play, try to find solutions and don’t give up easily,” Nandini tells YS.
Nandini recalls her own journey of being influenced by powerful women leaders as an important factor that has led her to develop a nuanced attitude towards issues such as participation of women in the workforce, merit-based appreciation, healthy competition, and more.
Navigating gender politics
The gender ratio at the institutions Nandini studied at was very healthy and were “merit-based”, with girls excelling in various subjects. She witnessed acute gender disparity, especially in senior leadership, upon stepping and spending as long as two decades in the corporate sector. Moreover, Nandini realised that women give up on their careers because of their inability to balance both personal and professional responsibilities.
“It is about treading that thin line and maintaining that balance, instead of chasing perfection. That’s how you can continue the journey,” she shares, adding that when her personal life was more demanding, she ensured establishing boundaries and communicating it to her manager and team.
She also feels that while women can certainly strike a balance and overcome their mental barriers, organisations must also not create artificial barriers such as gauging women by the number of hours they clock in vis-a-vis their performance and output.
Nandini calls Infosys a “phenomenal organisation” that propagates a culture where women feel comfortable and secure. She also recalls working with progressive leaders, who have measured her performance based on outcomes, and have consistently led by example.
Today, Nandini is a senior leader herself at Infosys and a role model for many men and women working at the organisation. This current avatar, however, is a product of her own passion and determination.
How her college shaped her perception of diversity
Nandini was brought up in a conventional household where the focus was on academics and education. Over the years, she came across several challenges that helped build her confidence and shaped her personality.
She pursued MSc and BE Mathematics, and Civil Engineering – a double degree from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani (BITS Pilani).
When she first moved out of Chennai to BITS Pilani, Nandini was shy and timid. “When I moved to BITS Pilani from Chennai, I was exposed to different situations and challenges, because [this was the first time] I stepped out from a sheltered environment at home to a far-flung place where I had look after myself, navigate through situations on my own,” adds Nandini.
It was here that she met people from different backgrounds and some best-in-class minds, so the “fear and discomfort” turned into “excitement”, because she began to see the world from a different lens.
“You are no longer an introvert. You are comfortable in social circles, you enjoy meeting people and spending time with them. It gives you a lot of confidence. Those experiences played such an important role in my life,” she adds.
She opted for a doctorate in human resource management from IIM Calcutta soon after her time at BITS Pilani. Nandini believes that all these experiences have helped her strengthen the drive to be determined, and be more goal-focused.
“Along with the determination, I realised that you have to be passionate about achieving your goal. If you are not passionate, you will not enjoy what you’re doing, and there is no way you would see the end result,” she adds.
Today, Nandini is a strong professional who is living her life for her passion and dreams. She hopes to continue enjoying doing her work and create something that is impactful, and adds value to both her individual self and her organisation. “Don’t overfocus on outcomes, just do your work honestly. Go with the flow and be bullish about your career,” says Nandini, signing off.