Darshana Pai is the Vice-President and Head of the Hyderabad Delivery Function for Virtusa, a well- known information technology services provider with global reach. Her team delivers IT solutions to customers in the US, UK, EU, Middle East and Asia. She is responsible for enhancing customer experience through delivery excellence, employee engagement and growth of the centre.
Darshana has a varied professional experience from the IT industry after having worked in leadership positions for organizations such as Wipro, CapGemini and Patni Computers over the last 20 years. She has led large teams delivering multi-million dollar IT solutions to customers in retail & CPG, finance, energy & utilities, travel & leisure, logistics and government sectors spread across Europe, the US, Australia, Singapore and Japan.
She was recently honored as ‘Best Woman Corporate Leader’ by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) for helping Virtusa’s clients solve business problems they faced with her experience and industry perspective. She has a B.E degree from Mumbai University and has done her Masters in Technology from IIT- Mumbai.
She told YourStory how she build a great career navigating through all her constraints.
CHILDHOOD AND FAMILY
I am from a middle class family and was brought up with high emphasis on values and the power of education. I grew up with a strong close family and was taught to be independent from an early age. I would say that this had a profound influence on my life with respect to the decisions and choices that I have made. My husband works for the Indian Navy. My parents, husband and son have been instrumental and supportive of my growth as a women leader.
LESSONS FROM EARLY CAREER AT PATNI, CAPGEMINI AND WIPRO
After graduating from IIT Mumbai, I joined Patni Computers as a software engineer. College to corporate was a huge transition for me and the biggest learnings were about corporate culture and working in a large team. I was part of a large migration program for a leading CAD software design company in the US. I stayed with Patni for 8 years and enhanced my technical competencies and sharpened management skills. I was managing multiple projects as project manager when I left Patni in 1999.
In my early days, my focus was on learning new technologies and keeping abreast with emerging trends in the IT industry. Adapting to various organizational cultures and changing business situations in a short span of time helped me climb the corporate ladder.
My philosophy thus has been ‘Follow your passion and build on your strengths’. High performance is an outcome of putting together right team by aligning roles to interests. How well one works with people makes or breaks one’s career. My interest in understanding customers’ business has also helped me build strong relationships resulting in great customer experience.
After 12 years of experience in various technical and management roles, while I was with Capgemini in Mumbai, I was responsible for solution deliveries to customers in the UK region. That was the first move from core delivery to leadership. At Wipro, I was managing delivery function for transportation, logistics and government verticals.
I am very excited to be part of Virtusa’s fast growth journey as we take the organisation to the next phase of innovation and success. It’s a great opportunity for me to contribute and make a mark.
EMBRACE CONSTRAINTS, THEY PUSH YOU FORWARD
My husband works for the Indian Navy where he gets posted to a new place after every 5 years. The biggest decision my husband and me jointly made was about me continuing to work in the corporate IT world in spite of this constraint. Five years in one organization in the IT industry is a good period to establish and grow. In hindsight, I believe that the leadership role I am in today has been because I made the right career moves at right time, and the 5 year constraint made me move very fast and push myself to learn as many things as possible. When I look back, I feel proud about myself and my family who always supported me in my career moves.
PERSONAL PRODUCTIVITY TIPS
Do what you like, follow your heart and be the best in whatever field you like. Remember the 3 Ps for success – Positive approach, Perseverance and Passion.
You need more energy and not time to climb the corporate ladder with great work life balance. Keeping high energy levels would help you accomplish your dreams and hence learn to identify what replenishes your energy and what saps it. Physical exercise is a must for all age groups. I follow a very strict fitness regimen which helps me keep my energy levels high.
Take time to rejuvenate and replenish yourself. Choose your personal method, whatever works for you — music, sports, gardening, meditation, travel, or just not doing anything at all. This rejuvenation time will give you the fresh perspective and energy that helps you persevere and remain aligned to your purpose. Always surround yourself with people who energize you especially in challenging times — they will help you persevere.
Ask for help –- have a strong support system. Asking for help is usually not something that comes naturally – especially to women. But we must reach out when we feel we cannot manage things on our own.
Constantly review your goals and achievements, invest in self development.
Create your team — you will need it at all times, begin doing this very very early- this team is a mix of family, friends — both personal and professional — and mentor/s, or coaches, who will see you through the highs and lows of your life.
Always have a point of view. Be an achiever, make things happen, set yourself stretch goals, and take up challenging assignments. In every project you undertake, leave your signature: the unique program, product, service that can be recognized as your contribution.
Celebrate your successes both small and big. Give credit where it is deserved, share credit all the time. Take time to review your purpose and intent – make the required changes in time — do it yourself, don’t wait for someone else to tell you to do it.
Learn to communicate early in your career and learn to handle the visibility that comes with success and sometimes failure as you traverse the corporate environment. Aim to be an interesting person. Be curious about a multitude of things, read, watch and listen. Read a variety of topics, not only those that are directly connected to the issue or task at hand, you never know where your mind will pick up an idea and it helps build your point of view.
Finally, live an integrated life. Review from time to time if you are giving back as much as you got.
HAPPY CUSTOMERS, HAPPY EMPLOYEES AND HAPPY FAMILY
I get a sense of accomplishment when I spot a talented person who could be a couple of levels down within my team and then place people into positions that motivate them, allowing them to function at their natural best and grow in their career.
I like to study my customers’ pulse and understand their objectives and vision. This helps me to direct my teams effectively resulting in high customer delight. Happy customers and happy employees energise me and keep me going.
Also, being with my son and nurturing my hobbies – Hindustani classical music and my fitness regimen — always keep me going.