Geetha Panda has donned many hats with elan. She charted her own course and stood by her choices in the face of all the challenges life threw at her (trust us, there were many). There is much to learn from her story.Tanvi Dubey
The one way to take on life is to make your choices and stand by them. That is the mantra Geetha Panda, a woman who dons many hats, lives by. Whether it is as the Director and Global Capability Leader at DXC Technology, or as the Southern Deputy Regional Chair for the Confederation of Industries (CII)-Indian Women Network (IWN), Geetha makes hard choices every day.
With five patents to her name, Geetha has scripted a success story that is about how to best push forward one’s professional and personal aspirations, be it as a business leader, a mother, or an artist.
As the old adage goes, you make lemonade when life gives you lemons. And Geetha has taken everything that came her way only to turn it around. And there is a lesson here for all of us reading this: take life as it comes but let your choices define how you live it.
Geetha shares some great insights with HerStory on how women need to put their heart and time behind the right objective if they want to succeed.
When she was 16, Geetha unexpectedly lost her father, who was the sole breadwinner of the family. In the face of grief and loss, she realised she had to take charge of the family. Her mother, though a strong woman, was a homemaker, and her two younger brothers needed support. “I made the decision on behalf of my mom, and despite different opinions and thoughts from family and relatives, I took the stand that we would take care of ourselves,” she recalls.
With that objective in mind, while still in Class XI she started tutoring students a little younger than her - from a few, she scaled up to 20 students, and two batches. A state-level table tennis player, she continued to invest her time and energy in classical dance and didn’t give up on it while also continuing to be a pillar of support for her mother and a mentor to her brothers.
"My undivided attention to achieve a solid foundation for my brothers, and a comfortable living for my mother kept me motivated and helped me achieve sustainable results."
Keen to ensure that her brothers had the best and she excelled at all she did, Geetha finished her studies and started working. Armed with a master’s in management degree from IIM- Bangalore, and a postgraduate diploma from INSEAd, Paris, for Managing Services in International Business, Geetha’s career has spanned multiple and diverse sectors, such as shipping, the BPO industry, and even biotechnology. She gave each of the roles she took up her best.
For instance, setting up BPOs in rural areas that lacked basic amenities and infrastructure made it difficult to travel, but Geetha gave it her all, calling perseverance a key metric for her success. She reveals, “I'm extremely passionate and I don't do a half-heared job of anything. When something is done wholeheartedly and if you are the first to do and excel in it, that's when you will be able to get the recognition and a sense of achievement. It is something that's always driven me,” she says.
Her way of thinking applies to not just the big things in life, but also to the smaller things. “I'm a movie buff, I make it a point to go and watch a movie every week. You know, even if I'm alone, it doesn't matter. I want to watch a movie. Similarly, if you are into your work and you enjoy it and are consumed by it then you will be working longer hours and forget about it,” Geetha says.
She is quick to point out the things she doesn’t like doing and has never done because she didn’t enjoy them. “I never liked cooking. I never entered the kitchen, no matter what. I will not expend my energy on something that I am not good at, and don’t enjoy doing,” she explains.
It is the same logic she brings to her current role. At present, Geetha is Global Director for Service Desk & Large Platform Security Capability, at DXC Technology. She drives the company towards becoming a leader in providing outstanding outcomes to the customers and helping customers derive cutting-edge industry leadership through technology. Geetha says,
"I am motivated by the challenge of introducing an unknown industry and building it from the ground up, and making a difference to the community."
Geetha is, among other things, also Southern Deputy Regional Chair, CII-Indian Women Network (IWN) where she is shaping and implementing the organisation’s efforts to help increase the number of women professionals in India. She works with industry champions to ensure suitable policies are in place to make this goal achievable. She also works on spreading awareness among women professionals through various forums to ensure greater participation of industries and to enhance their commitment as well.
On what needs to change to ensure more women join the workforce, Geetha points out that a fair share of household responsibilities is the need of the hour. And the fact that women are constantly undermined, both at home and at work, does not help either. “It is also due to this we see a lot of senior positions in workplaces occupied by men, and the vicious circle continues. It is absolutely essential for us to recognise the many fine skills women naturally possess, and leverage them without being misguided by archaic perceptions,” Geetha says.
She exhorts women to never back down despite the many obstacles in their way, and to never perceive challenges as burdens. From the time she lost her dad, to a marriage that didn’t work, to being a single parent, and being a support to her mother, and a mentor to her brothers, Geetha has stood by her choices. In the cycle of life, she feels that what kept her going has been this steadfastness in the face of challenges. She says,
"Whether you want to be a doctor or an engineer or a chartered accountant or a housewife, you need to channel your energy, decide what you want to do, and what is important to you. Once you know what is priority and what matters it should have all your attention and energy. I haven’t done anything moderately. I picked up what I wanted to do and didn’t feel guilty about the other things."
Geetha lost her mother four years ago to cancer, and it brought a deep sense of loss. “Someone who really stood by me for everything good, bad, and indifferent in my life passed away, and that was tough.” She honours her memory by doing things she loved, be it meeting family, spending time with cousins, or investing time and resources in charities such as cancer research. “I wanted to ensure the legacy continues and do whatever she was passionate about,” she adds.
My biggest takeaway from the interaction with Geetha is this: chase things you like to do, and excel at them. There is nothing greater than having a sense of purpose that drives you to lead the life you want to lead.