January TechnologyGrit: Happiness is What You Think of Yourself
Written by Mala Gupta
With a glorious career that spans 28 years, Shalini Misra has worked with Sopra Steria, NIIT Technologies, and Tata Consultancy Services. She strongly believes that one can have it all through hard work, focus, and perseverance. With a postgraduate degree in Computer Science from Delhi University and a Bachelor’s degree from the Miranda House, she has exceptional business acumen, leadership, and an innovation-led mindset. As a woman leader, mentor, and speaker, she hopes to inspire more women to excel in technology.
When we asked her about the failures and achievements in her career, she shared, “Just as any other professional, I have also encountered a mixed bag of highs and lows. All these failures were personal learnings for me that have helped me reflect upon and carve out a path for success. Sharing one specific instance, around 2010, we were creating a mobile app that was used to manage events — both internal and external. Feature-wise, the app was very rich — it could be scaled for nearly 50,000+ users and could handle multiple languages. Despite all this, the app could not achieve the success we had envisaged. After the initial disappointment, I realized that adoption is the key. Your best app/product will not succeed if people don’t utilize it. Focus should be on end-user experience. Digital is not purely methodology, but also the associated people, business, and most importantly, culture. End-user engagement was what I had missed, and that would have been the key to success. From then till now, in our portfolio of customers, projects, patents, and products in BlockChain, AI/ML, IoT, and other emerging technologies, end-user engagement takes the primary focus, and it has been the most exciting journey where we have learned and grown.
During my career, I had the opportunity to play some very exciting roles — from leading delivery for some critical global customers to leading technology initiatives for the organization to setting up the Digital Transformation team. Undoubtedly the most exciting role I had was setting up the Digital Transformation team and building platforms, products, patents, and delivering digital projects. We started with a small team of four, but today the Global Centre of Excellence is based in India with nearly 300 team members. To the technophile in me, this has been the most exciting phase.
On facing challenges as a woman, Shalini shared, ‘managing work-life balance during certain phases of my career were perhaps the most challenging times. When my child was young, it required a lot of commitment and hard work to manage both aspects of life. What helped me in this endeavor was simplicity, clarity of thought in terms of priorities, mindfulness, and perseverance.
Over the years, I had the opportunity to work with some great leaders who have both inspired and motivated me. I had leaders who had faith and trust in me. They provided a lot of opportunities, and I grabbed them with both hands. From being a keen technophile to being the Digital Transformation Officer and the face of the organization on technology, none of this would have been possible without my brilliant team. At a personal level, my parents taught me to aim high but stay grounded; my spouse is the wind below my wings, and my son always tells me to “go for it.” All of them have encouraged me to stay focused and on track.
Her advice to all women is, “If I can do it, you can too. My advice to all women is that we can have it all — be a good wife, mother, and a thorough professional without sacrificing any aspect of life — the key is perseverance and hard work. Look for role models and learn from them. Be agile, be willing to change, be adaptive, and keep your learnability high. Technology is a changing goal post, and you need to invest in yourself to keep abreast with the changes and to ace it as well. And above all — “Be your favorite person.”