For Infosys’ Hema Rainaa, building a strong ecosystem of allies is a key success mantra
There is perhaps no greater motivation in life than self-belief. And Dr Hema Prem Rainaa, Vice President - Insurance, Europe atswears by it. Highly influenced by her fierce and independent grandmother, Hema considers fearlessness as one of her strongest traits.
Hema has been motivated by several challenging situations in life and people who have questioned her capabilities. Labelling them her “silent motivators”, she highlights that such experiences have been a significant part of her formative years.
She shares her milestones, learnings, and challenges while participating in YourStory’s ‘I am the future’ series that puts the spotlight on successful women leaders at Infosys.
Facing challenges head-on
As someone who wanted to pursue computer science engineering, Hema recalls an incident when her neighbours suggested to her father that he should rather encourage her to pursue a typing course so she could easily land a job. “Those words steered my passion to challenge the status quo and pursue computer science [that a lot of girls weren’t doing all those years back],” adds Hema.
Sharing another incident when she was challenged by her colleagues in one of her earlier organisations, Hema reveals, “I enquired about these internal awards that were considered like Oscars within the organisation. I was told it was too difficult for me to win them and I took it up in my stride. My team and I ended up winning that award for three consecutive years.”
Hema had also taken the Short Service Commission for the Indian Navy as an engineering student. She got selected after several rounds of tests but faced a challenge in the final stage because of being overweight. “I was told that I have a temporary rejection, because I was overweight by 22.5 kgs. I met the president of the academy and though he gave me some relaxation, I eventually lost 6 kgs in 42 days and got selected,” she says, adding that the way she overcame a physical barrier is testament to her resilience and self-belief.
Hema’s long struggle with fertility issues before finally conceiving helped her become more resilient and confident of her goals and ambitions.
Building an ecosystem of allies
Having men as her allies is one of the highlights of Hema’s success. One of her first allies was her father who encouraged her to pursue meaningful goals. “He always told me it’s okay to fail. What matters is how someone bounces back from failure, and keeps running with their confidence intact,” she says, adding that her husband has also been a constant source of motivation.
At work too, Hema has had the opportunity to work with male leaders who have created an ecosystem that fosters leadership. In her role at Infosys, she has been provided with a platform to interact with people from all over the world, without any barriers of nationality, ethnicity, hierarchy, etc.
In her 17-year-old career at Infosys, Hema considers her workplace as her family from where she has imbibed key life lessons. Recalling her stint in London with Infosys Labs, one of her early projects, Hema shares how she went up to her superior and asked him if they could create an IP commercialisation role in the EMEA region, based out of London. She says that she could do so because the leader himself taught her to overcome the fear of people answering in the negative.
“I am very grateful for all my experiences, as they have enabled my personal growth. Don’t be too hard on yourself; you can always ask for help. You can be a superwoman, but it is not a sustainable model at times. So, just choose your priorities,” she adds.
Leadership and success mantra
“As a leader, when my team and I take up an assignment, we look at the outcome and the journey to the outcome using the same lens. This means all of us are truly bringing our individual best and collective strength to the table,” she explains, referring to the process of achieving a desired outcome instead of worrying about the result.
For Hema, it’s important to seek out support and role models. “When you are choosing to follow a role model, observe the person who you would like to follow and evaluate if your wavelengths match,” she adds.
For aspiring professionals, Hema urges them to gain specialisation in at least two areas/skills and not be a generalist. “You should have at least two things to your credit that nobody can beat you at. It is also critical to keep investing, learning, unlearning and relearning, so that you are always at the top of things,” she says.
It is up to you to find a platform where you can shine and give your best, so “bring your chair close to the table. If you don’t find a platform then wear your heels and create your own platform and stand tall,” says Hema, signing off.