The Vice President and Country Head at Innovatia India IT & Knowledge Management Solutions, Dr. Sai Kavitha Krishna Iyengar is a results-oriented business leader. With over 24 years of experience in Information Technology, Kavitha is a multi-faceted personality who has won laurels as a public speaker on diversity and inclusion, parenting and leadership.
Kavitha is a learner and one example is learning she draws from Leaders Excellence at Harvard Square. As a single-mom of a special needs child, she speaks on parenting from her personal experience and the expertise she has gained. A true symbol of how a person with determination can manage to achieve anything she sets her eyes on!
Gender issues are very real and there are areas which we still need to work on.” - Dr. Sai Kavitha, Country Head of Innovatia, in her chat with Clearly Blue. Read more of the interview here. Click To Tweet
Below are the excerpts from an interview that Clearly Blue had with Sai Kavitha.
Clearly Blue: What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
Sai Kavitha: Some of the books which have really impacted me are ‘Tipping Point’, ‘Blink’ and ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell. My recent favorite is ‘Tribe of Mentors’ which I bought around six months back. Some other favorites are ‘Lean in’ and ‘Her Place at the Table’ by Sheryl Sandberg. I use my learnings from these books for the coaching sessions that I conduct.
Clearly Blue: How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure”?
Sai Kavitha: When I was in Wipro (during the early formative years of my career). We were a team of 8 and we thought that we did good work for a customer. It was. We worked on the project for almost 6 months and one morning we were told that the customer had pulled back the project. Though taken by surprise and thoroughly disappointed, I tried to understand what went wrong. It took me almost a month to figure it out.
The learning that came out of it was very important for me. I realised that in the services sector, paying attention to detail and looking at the trigger points that cause a discomfort to the customer, are of paramount importance. The takeaway for me was that I developed very strong insights on the requirements of the services sector.
Clearly Blue: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Sai Kavitha: What I really focus on is discipline, and that has played a very significant role in my progress. I started it in 2001 and it has helped me create a lot of balance in my ecosystem. In the last five years, I’ve added exercise and fitness to my routine. I attribute this largely to my son because he wanted to get into fitness and he said he would do it if only I did it too.
Clearly Blue: When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
Sai Kavitha: I have built this skill of not losing focus on whatever my prime responsibilities are, and what I need to do. So, focus is not much of a problem. But ‘overwhelming’ happens a lot, and I try to re-prioritize based on what the situation demands.
Clearly Blue: What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?
Sai Kavitha: My son is in the autism spectrum and he was diagnosed when he was nine months old. I didn’t know how to work and what to do. So, I invested my time in learning about autism and went to a lot of conferences, getting myself skilled and certified in working with an autistic child. I think that’s one of my best investments.
I also help once a week in my son’s school to counsel and help parents of autistic children to understand and work with them. Because the biggest challenge that parents like us face is how to communicate with our children and how to understand them.
Clearly Blue: What advice would you give to other parents whose children have just been diagnosed with special needs?
Sai Kavitha: Never lose courage and be extremely bold in terms of what your child needs. Always have faith and positivity and give all that to your child with a smile. Don’t be broken or shattered. Learn to accept reality and once you do, start working on the solution. And make sure you give a normal life to your child, because for your child, the world is normal.
Clearly Blue: Could you tell us about the women workforce at Innovatia?
Sai Kavitha: We have close to 60% women in the writing sector. In the tech support sector, which is in the night shift, we don’t have the required compliances right now, so we haven’t onboarded women in this sector. But we will do that shortly once we have all the systems in place. We plan to grow up to 500 in the next three years.
Clearly Blue: What does your typical day look like?
Sai Kavitha: I’m a morning person but that does not mean an early end to my day in the evening. I wake up at 4:45 and work out with my son, who is also a morning person. I get started with work by 8 am with the help of my support staff. The day then goes by with my team in the service sector, looking at what our talents are doing and where we need to engage. Back at home in the evenings, I get on calls to get work done so that I can be around to support my son who has several therapy sessions at home. It is generally 9:30 pm, or latest by 10 pm that I log out for the day.
Clearly Blue: What are some time management techniques that you use and would recommend to others?
Sai Kavitha: It is very important to have discipline and stick to it. I don’t accept any social engagements Monday to Friday. My day is packed not just professionally but also personally for my son. Initially when I started being strict about this in 2002-2003, several people in my social circle found it difficult to accept. They thought I had an attitude problem! But with time, they understood my reasons and expectations from me were toned down. So, I would say it is very important to manage your time, understand your needs and prioritize them well.
Clearly Blue: Can you tell us about your support staff? This question stems from the need to assess the image of an ideal woman as one who does everything at home and at work.
Sai Kavitha: Let me tell you from my personal experience. I strongly feel that women can’t have everything, so I have worked around with what I need to prioritize. I don’t cook, I have support staff to take care of that and I have in fact employed two people – one in the morning and one in the evening. This was required largely because of the therapy sessions at home for my son and my work calls in the evening. Both are important, and my presence is needed for both. So, I couldn’t spend too much time in the kitchen. I credit a lot of my success to my support staff, because success doesn’t come easily when you’re doing everything at home too.
|“Gender issues are very real and there are areas which we still need to work on.” – Dr. Sai Kavitha, Country Head of Innovatia, in her chat with Clearly Blue. Read more of the interview here.|
Clearly Blue: Did you face any gender related roadblocks in your career?
Sai Kavitha: Gender issues are very real and there are areas which we still need to work on. But from a leadership role, I have a slightly different point of view. As a woman, I have never thought that I’m a woman first and then, a leader. I’m not here because I’m a woman, I’m not a VP and Country Head because I’m a woman. I got into this role because the organisation believed that I possess whatever competencies they needed. That’s how I would like to look at it. But it’s not the same with everyone.
Clearly Blue: What would you tell people to steer away from?
Sai Kavitha: Perceptions get formed very fast, especially in the corporate world, it is very hard to change a perception. For example, once someone is perceived as an average performer it is hard to shake the label off. Take care to stay away from influences that are likely to give you a bad image or interfere with your productivity. Let this be your mantra for both professional as well as personal life.