Seema Chaudhary’s success story of ‘180-degree’ career shift from architecture to tech
Think work is something that you need to suffer through? Not according to millennials. A 2018 survey by global job site Indeed revealed that 60 percent of millennials voluntarily left their job in the last 3 to 10 years due to lack of meaningful engagement at work.
Seema Chaudhary, Director of Harbinger Systems
However, job-hopping to gain new experiences wasn’t quite common back in 2002, when Seema Chaudhary made a career shift. At a time when most people treasured having a secure job, Seema went on an ‘uncommon’ quest to apply lessons learnt as an architectural designer into the marketing and sales profession at a software company called.
“I had already been in the design field for almost 22 years in the US, and just wanted to get into something new. A career change wasn't common about 20 years ago, there wasn't the trend of people changing careers and jobs as often,” she tells HerStory.
Finding her feet in tech
Seema had been a good friend of Vikas Joshi’s, the CEO of Harbinger Systems, since their graduate days in the US when she was pursuing further studies in architecture and urban landscape.
While Vikas had returned to India to build Harbinger Systems in 1990, she says, “Our common interest in the field of design kept us together. And when I was looking to venture into something different, he gave me the opportunity to take charge of the marketing and sales for Harbingers in the US.”
Founded in 1990, Harbinger Systems is a Pune-based software technology company that provides services for independent vendors and enterprises.
According to Seema, design is focused on the process, innovative creation and evolution while “technology seemed pretty different.”
Doing a ‘180-degree career shift’, though, did not happen without challenges. One challenge, Seema says, was her lack of experience in both the fields of technology, and in sales and marketing. Learning how to study the business aspects, and more importantly how to launch a software product in the market posed a challenge.
Realising that one needs to get inside the market, she looked at users in the industry and their expectations. They were building e-learning software products at the time, targeted at trainers, teachers, and educators.
To get a better understanding, she says, “I didn't go ‘internally out’ I went out ‘externally in’ by attending various conferences, including the ones organised by American Society for Training and Development.”
She would interact with people, introduce the product, and ask for their feedback. Seema says that their tech product was being developed for a non-technical person. That proved to be a boon and turned the challenge into an opportunity to understand things better.
At times, Seema says, she also felt biased against as the only Indian among American and Caucasian designers during her initial years.
“People may be prejudiced because they have been brought up differently. But I never hide the fact that I am an Indian or a woman but the only way to conquer is addressing and communicating it,” she says.
A natural leader
Nearly two decades later, Seema now heads the Harbinger Systems as its director. She says that she does not draw a line between her work and her personal life because she enjoys the work that involves interacting with various people.
At the same time, she believes that one must invest time for activities other than work. Seema says that while she does not have a dedicated work and personal time, her calendar is marked with evening workout time and outdoor activities like hiking and biking every weekend.
That’s also where Seema’s leadership and organisational qualities come through. “I see that there are many people who want to go hiking but has no idea where to get started. So, I created groups where people can join and guide them through the processes,” she explains.
Gradually, she started biking and hiking to rally and raise awareness for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Asha For Education. Based in Walnut-California, the NGO invests all its proceeds towards providing education in rural India.
“It is okay to get out of your comfort zone, experiment with life. And one must believe in people in their life,” she says, adding that one must stay true to themselves.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)