The curious leader: Meet Asha Poulose of GE Healthcare who believes in lifelong learning
“The amount of risks that I took moving from one business to the other, embracing roles that I didn’t have full understanding of, and often raising my hand for the difficult job, made the journey exciting and kept me going,” says Asha Poulose, Vice President and Global CIO Data Analytics, GE Healthcare.
In this role, she is responsible for driving profitability and growth to support the firm’s key priorities by putting data to work. Spanning over two decades, Asha’s career has been nothing short of wholesome and fulfilling. Having started her journey in research, she moved to aviation, on to power and now healthcare. Dabbling in different roles not only made Asha feel like ‘working in many companies without having to change the organisation’ but also provided her expertise and a well-rounded experience.
Asha was speaking at the latest episode of the AWS-YourStory’s ‘Her Leadership’ interview series that captures the success stories of India’s top enterprise business leaders.
On innovation and technology
An earnest learner, Asha strongly believes in staying focussed and keeping her technology acumen high. Speaking with Chandra Prakash Balani, Head – Global Enterprise, India, Amazon Internet Services Pvt Ltd, she admits that it’s her interest in learning and curiosity that helps her to evolve constantly, and urges the new generation to be persistent in their learning and understanding of technology. “There is a barrier in people’s minds about learning technology, it’s actually not that complex if you have a background in the field,” she says.
A problem-solver by nature, Asha firmly believes that innovation is all about solving the bigger problems for the betterment of humanity. She candidly shares that early in her career she had developed a great product but since it could not be adopted easily, it failed in creating a wider impact. “You need to make a product that can solve a problem, be adopted easily and have a wider impact, and technology is an aide to that,” she adds.
Empowering future leaders
‘Collaborate’ is Asha’s favourite word, as she takes pride in her ability to work horizontally and collaboratively. A staunch believer in team-building, Asha believes that to make progress “we have to take everyone along”.
She further emphasises on how one should focus on their people skills and distinguish themselves. “You need to empower others and create the next generation of leaders,” she says, pointing out that the key highlights in her leadership journey have been the ability to develop empathy, become a better listener, and understand that everyone’s context is different.
A women’s advocate
Leading the role of diversity and inclusion in Southeast Asia at GE, Asha realised that she was privileged. “It wasn’t at all unusual for women to work in my family,” she quips. Soon she realised that not many women were as privileged as her and she took it upon herself to promote women, especially in senior roles.
She also led GE’s Women Network for Southeast Asia, focussing on developing women leadership. Quoting examples from her own journey, she points out that while there is almost 50 percent representation at the engineer level, it drastically comes down as one moves up the hierarchy.
“In our society a woman is expected to deliver more on the family front, which makes it very tough to keep up with senior technical roles. We also need policies in companies to help bridge this gap and we definitely need more role models,” she states.
Equating it to a culture building exercise, Asha feels that fundamental and constant interventions at every point are needed for a long-standing result, and it needs to start at the grassroot level.
A simpleton at heart, Asha likes to unwind by watching IPL with her daughters, reading fiction novels, and sometimes by doing nothing. She firmly believes that professional and personal lives are deeply connected to each other and one needs to be happy in their professional life to lead a happy life at home and vice versa. “It’s important to identify the right balance at that particular time in your life, since your work and family equations are ever changing. I’m fortunate in how this synergy played out in my life,” she shares.
Asha also loves spending time with students and used to host lectures and question hours at universities pre-pandemic. Her deep passion for shaping the next generation is clear as she says “Our future is in the next generation, and we have a phenomenal opportunity to shape it.”
A people leader, an innovator and an earnest learner, GE’s Asha Poulose leaves us with a rather deep thought to ponder upon as her parting message - “We are the sum total of our experiences.”