Travelling, serving local communities, and promoting gender equality: tracing the journey of Lilly Vasanthini
“Embrace change, look at challenges as opportunities, and make yourself a part of the ecosystem and community,” says Lilly Vasanthini, AVP - Delivery Head Eastern Europe, NORDIC & Switzerland at Infosys. With her rich professional experience spanning over 35 years, Lilly has dabbled in several roles and faced challenges head on to be where she is today.
She credits her formative years to her father’s lessons, which she carries with her at every step of the way and is passing them down to her team and peers alike. Lilly shared her early experiences along with other important milestones, leadership mantras, joys of travelling, paying back to the community, and creating a lasting impact on the younger generation during a candid conversation with YourStory. Her story is a part of the ‘I am the future’ series, powered by Infosys.
Early experiences and influences
Right from learning table tennis to polishing her conversational skills, understanding the importance of being a team player, and taking ownership of work – Lilly owes it all to her father whom she lost in 1997.
Growing up with working parents, Lilly recalls how her nanny – who stayed with her till her death at the age of 90 – brought her up and became her daily companion and guide. “She was almost like a grandmother to me and mother to my parents. She imbibed a sense of discipline in us,” she adds.
Lilly also holds her teachers in high esteem, particularly her Mathematics and Physics teachers, for instilling a sense of humanity in her. And it was her Kannada teacher who was the first to spot Lilly’s memorising capabilities and linguistics skills. Encouraging her to participate in debates, Lilly developed a lot of confidence and won several laurels.
A leader in the making
Lilly firmly believes that the journey is more important than the destination. “At the same time, I feel that when you lose an opportunity, a window shuts, but a door opens up. Losing an opportunity seems like the world is crashing down, leaving you feeling terrible and dejected. However, it is important to know that the moment will pass and there’ll be newer opportunities to explore,” she explains.
Landing herself in sticky situations, Lilly has never shied away from calling a spade a spade but considers them as learning experiences and encourages others to speak up when the need arises.
In her 25-year-long journey at Infosys spanning across continents, Lilly worked in Bengaluru for a few years before she left India two decades ago to set up operations in geographies such as China, Australia, and Germany.
Travel, the best teacher
As a frequent business traveller, Lilly believes that it makes her feel “light-hearted”. Although she feels lonely at times, she credits these experiences as “indispensable” in her growth, both personally and professionally.
What makes her feel whole is her service to local communities. “I love working with and for the local communities. It’s the best way to know the culture and the language,” adds Lilly. Over the years, she has volunteered to work in hospitals, taught English to underserved kids in China, worked in soup kitchens that serve poor, addicts and homeless people, and has also worked with local church communities.
Lilly recounts countless experiences during her travels that have left a deep impression on her personality, instilled a sense of gratitude, and helped her in becoming more inclusive and open.
Diversity and inclusion
“It's about how open you are to accepting everything that is different from your perspective,” says Lilly, explaining that the true essence of D&I is embracing cultural diversity and being inclusive. As a member of Infosys’ diversity council, she hopes to spread the message and create awareness on gender issues. “When you’ll explore different countries with uniquely culturally different people, you’ll feel that you know so little,” adds Lilly, highlighting the need for being more inclusive in today’s polarising world.
On the gender inclusion front, she wants more women to speak up, and answer in the negative. “It is essential to build courage and speak the truth. That’s the only way one can make sure that we get integrated into the whole ecosystem. Otherwise, diversity and inclusivity will just become some days of marked celebrations on calendars across the world. To me, it's an everyday moment,” she adds.
Lilly also encourages women to upskill, keep up with evolving technology, and become resilient. “There are some significantly wonderful women today across the world who have taken on challenges. I'm not saying that there is a lack of role models, but I'm sure there are so many things that we would like to set the clock back and say, I wish I'd done that,” she says, concluding that she would like to leave behind a rich legacy for younger generations and aspiring women professionals through ethical practice and deep experiences.