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Sukla Chandra: The woman who manages 300+ scientists at GE Global Research Bangalore

Varsha Adusumilli
20th Nov 2013
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Sukla Chandra (1)

Sukla Chandra is the General Manager, Global Research, Bangalore, and Director, PACE (Patents and Analytics Center of Excellence) at JFWTC, Bangalore. As the General Manager of Global Research, Bangalore, Sukla is responsible for all the operational aspects of a research group of 300+ scientists.As the Director of PACE, she is responsible for managing a team of IP professionals providing strategic IP support to GE Global Research and several other GE businesses. Sukla has several patents, and is registered with the USPTO. She also co-leads the GE Women’s Network Initiatives for India.

Sukla graduated from Jadavpur University Kolkata with a BS degree in Chemical Engineering, following which she worked with companies including Nalco Chemicals in India. Subsequently, she received her Master’s degree from the US in Chemical Engineering, and worked in Air Products and Chemicals in Attentown, PA, in their process engineering group.

Sukla moved back to India in 1999, and headed the Process Engineering group at British Oxygen. In 2000, she joined John F Welch Technology Centre, Bangalore, as a research scientist for GE Plastics. After three years there, she joined the legal team in Global Research, and took over as a director for the group in 2008. She rose to become General Manager, Global Research, Bangalore, recently.

We find out what makes her a unique leader –

Back from the US

I grew up in Kolkata. I finished college in Kolkata in 1989. I then went to the US to pursue my Masters. I worked in the US till 1999, then had to come back to India to be with my family.

I have worked in the chemical industry. I loved science and being surrounded by other scientists. In 2000, GE was setting up their John F. Welch Technology Center in Bangalore. It seemed like a perfect fit for me. I joined the early team as a research scientist.

The process of IP always intrigued me. Three years after I joined GE, an opportunity came up to participate in the legal team, and I took it.

Today I head a team of 300+ scientists and also manage a team of IP professionals.

When I was moving back from the US, everyone said I was making a big mistake and nothing was happening in India. But I saw the potential early on.

Being part of cutting-edge research

Our Ph.Ds and scientists are doing cutting-edge research here at GE Bangalore. Being around smart people at work challenges me intellectually. We work on projects that are of strategic importance to GE from a global perspective. For example, we are working on some really advanced renewable energy projects that can have a huge impact on the world. It is amazing how much you can do with technology when coupled with the right strategy. Today my role of working with scientists as well as IP professionals helps me do exactly that.

Women at GE

In my research group today 17-18% are women and in the IP team we have 30% women. We hope to see these numbers growing.

I also run the women’s initiatives for GE. We see that early 30s are where most women are dropping out. Within GE, we run various tangible initiatives to keep women in the workforce and help them grow. Our research shows that women need to see a lot of role models right now. So we have started an initiative called “Own My Growth” wherein GE women get to interact and take interviews of their role models. That way they get to spend quality time, understand the people they admire, and get inspired too. This is working out really well so far. We have a lot of structured mentoring, we bring in many external speakers to come and address our women.

Currently, the leadership pipeline of women, be in India or abroad, is not very strong. We need to make many systemic changes to achieve truly fifty-fifty.

Who are your personal board of directors?

I have always had my close mentors who act as my personal board of directors. These are people who care for you and can tell you when you are being silly or stupid or doing something wrong. Time and again I go back to consult my personal board of directors. They have helped me grow through my career. I encourage all women to create a personal board of directors for themselves.

“Keep learning continuously, work on your skill-sets and follow your passion,” Sukla leaves us with these thoughts.

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