From the army trenches to upskilling herself for the corporate world, meet Capt Shanthi S of Infosys
“While my classmates either got married or pursued professional courses like engineering or medicine, I knew I had to do something different,” says Shanthi, who not only knew what she wanted to do next but was also filled with a sense of purpose.
The urge to do something extraordinary led Capt Shanthi to pursue statistics in her graduation, eventually leading her to a newspaper advertisement about the recruitment of women in the Indian Army for the first time. And Shanthi found her calling.
This was around the time when Kiran Bedi had just made news and Shanthi recalls how thrilled she and her family were to see the full-page newspaper advertisement. And, after a rigorous training and selection process, she was among the 25 who got selected out of 35,000 applicants.
Captain Shanthi S, who is the Senior Director, Marketing Operations, Canada for Infosys Limited was commissioned among the first batch of women in the Indian Army in 1993.
In a candid conversation with YourStory, as part of the ‘I am the future’ series, Capt Shanthi S spoke about being “self-motivated” and a “lifelong learner”, who has straddled all kinds of challenges and emerged victorious.
Early experiences affect lifelong learning
Capt Shanthi grew up in a diverse atmosphere in Shahbad, a city in North Karnataka where people from all walks of life and cities came together to work in cement factories. “It was a multicultural setting and the ecosystem consisted of people from all strata of society. So, I learnt the art of interdependence from the very beginning,” she tells YourStory.
Shanthi grew up in a home of working parents who supported and encouraged her in more ways than one. She narrates stories about how her father used to take her to the market, encouraging her to interact and lead conversations with shopkeepers. “He used to give feedback on how I could have navigated the conversation better,” she adds. The experience helped her gain a lot of confidence and enabled her to connect with people effectively.
Shanthi fondly remembers how these small life lessons from her father strengthened her understanding and importance of building human connections and being empathetic towards others.
As a studious person, Shanthi had “a great quest for learning”. During her early years, her maternal grandfather read out mythological stories, while her father kept her updated about current events.
Today, Shanthi has gathered over two decades of experience across fields like IT enablement, delivery, competency, and marketing operations; and her learning mindset has been her biggest enabler.
Since she belonged to the pioneering first batch of the army that inducted women, it gave her a completely new perspective on the potential women possess and instilled in her a responsibility of paving the way for future generations who wanted to join the forces.
Recalling memorable instances, Capt Shanthi shares that when she was posted at her first unit in Uttar Pradesh, not many believed she could make it through. Many were also not comfortable with “taking orders from a woman”, and were unsure of her capabilities because they felt she was young and inexperienced for the job.
“I turned it around within three months … Those same people later came to me with grievances because I gained their trust and developed a reputation for getting things done,” Shanthi tells YourStory.
Her father’s lessons on building connections and being polite yet assertive came in handy during her time in the Army, and she learned qualities such as multitasking and time management which are helping her in every step of the way during her journey in the corporate world.
From Army to Infosys
“I was looking to join an organisation that had a similar work ethic (like the army) and culture, and that’s when I decided to join Infosys,” tells Shanthi with a smile on her face.
She started out in the internal IT department, moved to infrastructure development, pre-sales, and also headed the competency development in that unit. As Shanthi moved from one role to another, she hit a roadblock when she couldn’t move to the next level in IT, because of a lack of technical qualification. “I took it up as a challenge, and I had to understand the basics of each technology. I pride myself on having made it a success,” she shares.
Her journey at Infosys has also made her more patient, tolerant and she feels that she is a far better and more effective listener now. “I have tried to further build my connection levels, while keeping the basics right and strong. I am still open to learning and I don’t think that will ever change,” she explains.
Empowering aspiring professionals
Believing in equality and practising it everyday in every thing you do in life is crucial and Shanthi is a firm believer of the same. Following inclusive practices is like a life skill that Shanthi feels should be inculcated in the next generation right from their formative years.
“We have to teach them that we are on an equal platform. My husband and I have lived by example and tried to impart this to our sons. It is important to inculcate these teachings in their lives,” she quips.
Capt Shanthi strongly advocates the need to create awareness on inclusive behaviours and practices in men and women alike. As someone who has always been able to navigate such scenarios using her skills to communicate and connect, she feels that it is important to educate both men and women to not have apprehensions about the opposite gender.
Signing off, Captain Shanthi S says that there is nothing more important than leading by example. For aspiring professionals, she advises, “One has to be very open and apprehension-free in taking risks, and adapt to change. Also, be strong in the face of adversity.”