By Srividhya Sireesh
18 years back, a group of 30+ engineering graduates underwent one of the best trainings on an IBM Mainframe, to address the then most baffling IT issue – the Y2K bug, which resulted from the practice of abbreviating a four-digit year to two digits. I happened to be one of those bug busters and thus began my journey in IBM.
Sometimes, one embarks on a journey without knowing how far one would go and what treasures one would gather along the way. Mine, has been no less than an adventure, with treasures in the form of people and knowledge combined with unique experiences that all make me feel fortunate.
Back to the Y2K project. By the time we were nearing the finishing line, I had realized that I needed to move on to the next level, honing my skills and acquiring new ones to standout in the crowd. It was time for a change, a change that I recognized a need for, in myself. Thankfully, help was not far away. With my manager’s support & encouragement, I underwent a series of technical training in Java & the then recently acquired Lotus Notes which went on to open new vistas for me in IBM.
With rapid advances in technology and more importantly with the industry driving a need for higher availability of services, our service models changed. What was originally a 9 to 5 job evolved into a shift-based, 24 x 7 operation. Interacting with global colleagues with years of experience behind them, helped me step up my own experience – both, in terms of handling customer expectations as also enhancing cultural sensitivity. By the time I was in my 7th year with IBM, I had moved across projects covering multitude of technologies and services. During those 7 years, I had consciously built my network with professionals and senior IBM colleagues which gave me access to professional help & advice. Incidentally, that would also be MY top advice to the younger generation of hires – to expand their professional network and never to shy away from approaching their seniors for advice & mentoring.
More milestones followed – with I being selected for the role of the executive assistant (EA) to an IBM Vice President. This was as a part of my training – to prepare myself be the next generation leader in IBM. This role not only opened up my true understanding of IBM as a global company but also gave me the chance to observe the top leaders in the organization go through the process of decision-making in various meetings. These were the decisions that would shape the coming years for IBM and hence watching these unfold from close quarters proved to be an invaluable learning.
After a golden stint as an EA, I decided to move from Global Business Services to Strategic Outsourcing arm of IBM which catered to infrastructure services for clients with mission critical operations in the distribution sector. This was the first time I walked into an IBM High Availability Datacenter which hosted servers for our clients across the globe. This was a singularly an awe-inspiring experience as I got an opportunity to work with the high-end technology and skills that IBM had invested in, for its clients. The journey thus continued…as exciting and enriching as ever.
Fast forward to 2015. I now lead a team of 400 professionals and key IBM vendors worldwide, supporting a customer with presence across 60 countries globally. I believe, leading a culturally heterogeneous team of people has made me realize my potential as a global leader with the ability to lead by being sensitive yet agnostic to cultures and be able to derive the best of all worlds.
Today, IBM is transforming at a rapid pace in line with the needs of its clients. IBMers are empowered and entrusted with learning opportunities that help us transform to the needs of IBM and make it successful. As we speak, I continue to acquire knowledge in leading technologies and services which is imperative for a leader in IBM to create winning opportunities for IBM. Additionally, IBM’s award-winning leadership training programs have helped me to address various aspects of my leadership skills through personalized grooming sessions including soft skills.
What I also find remarkable about IBM’ is its constant endeavor to empower women in workplace by giving them ample opportunities to groom themselves as leaders in the field of their choice. I was an active member of the India Woman Leadership Council which is committed to attracting, retaining and developing women leaders in support of IBM’s strategy and also represented India in the Women leadership forum at Deauville, France in 2008 and despite this demanding me to stretch my availability beyond my core responsibilities, I loved every moment of the role.
Like everyone else, I have had my fair share of seemingly insurmountable personal challenges – which required to put my family first and at the same time not lose focus of my career. In such moments of personal exigencies, IBM has been a rock-solid support with its employee friendly policies and facilities that helped me cope with such adversities.
Standing at the cusp of 2 decades in the organization, I can only say this – as a woman professional, life throws many a gauntlet at you. The trick is to take each one of these as an opportunity. In IBM, you precisely get to do that. How else could an engineering graduate, realizing her long cherished aspiration of joining her dream company, successfully traverse her professional journey from being a Y2K programmer to becoming a leader of a globally integrated team?
It has been one incredible journey. And it goes on…
Srividhya Sireesh (Vidhya) is a Delivery Project Executive in GTS, for one of the largest industrial clients for IBM in Nordics and currently based in Stockholm, Sweden. She is an engineer by profession, a budding writer and mother of a 16-year-old son.