[Women in Tech] Grit, passion, and making the right decisions can help you achieve anything, says Gagan Sodhi Menon of Teleperformance India
As a young girl, growing up in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, Gagan Sodhi Menon helped her father extensively in his trucking business.
“Optimising costs and manging driver routines and truck routes gave me my first taste of STEM application tied to an outcome, which also resulted in more income and a happier dad. This early lesson led me to the field of data-driven Six Sigma profile, and that’s how my career started and still continues,” she says.
After completing her bachelor of science degree, Gagan also pursued a master’s in international business. As Chief Transformation Officer, Teleperformance India, Gagan stands out as an achiever in the highly male-dominated BPO industry. The company has evolved from a provider of outsourced omnichannel customer experience to providing digital integrated business services and transformation solutions, serving 190+ global clients.
In a conversation with HerStory, Gagan tells us why she she doesn’t believe in the common thinking that tech and women don’t mix, and the three things people need to succeed.
HerStory: Please take us through your career journey.
Gagan Sodhi Menon: Over 19 years’ experience in the outsourcing sector has led me to my current position as Chief Transformation Officer at Teleperformance India. My insights into business transformation, project management, and process excellence have allowed me to fulfil various senior roles, starting with what was originally my dream job at Genpact in 2000 – formerly known as GE Capital.
I was learning about Six Sigma from a team of legendary leaders, which enabled me to then become a Project Manager at Fidelity International, an investment management company.
Between 2007 and 2010 I fulfilled the role of Senior Service Delivery Leader at American Express India, and soon advanced to Assistant Vice President of EXL service. More recently, I was responsible for business excellence as Vice President at firstly Fareportal, and then Accenture, before joining the TP family in July 2020.
HS: Tell us about your role at Teleperformance India.
GSM: Across India and Middle East regions, I combine my domain expertise to drive transformation through implementation of technology solutions, analytical assets, and process-enabled improvements. I steer the harmonisation of processes, procedures, and practices for existing and new clients, and internally across all functions. I’m always looking and activating new ways to simplify, improve, and standardise operating models.
HS: How many people do you oversee, and can you detail any interesting experiences?
GSM: I manage a team of over 1,000 people with more than 10 direct reportees. In my kind of role, one has to have an eye for detail, quick-thinking ability, and problem-solving skills - that’s the basic expectation. I also see training and upskilling as extremely important for teams to deliver as per expectations.
It really doesn’t bother me where my team sits or how many hours they put in – it’s the end result that counts.
I must admit I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but our job is all about thinking out-of-the-box, crafting solutions that fit, and uncovering areas of improvement. We are change agents, here to bring about the change with people and technology, and deliver advanced solutions.
HS: What are the challenges of working during a pandemic?
GSM: From clients switching to work from home to associates who did not have enough space in their homes for taking calls, the crisis taught us how family support is paramount for anybody to succeed in any sphere.
The most interesting part of this pandemic experience is how I see my colleagues’ faces more than I ever saw them before. While the pandemic has us hiding in masks, I’m able to reach and collaborate with my team so much more via video than merely hearing voices. In terms of morale and productivity, this has been the best experience.
Undeniably, I sometimes struggle with Zoom calls – which to my surprise, my kids adapted to much more easily than me when their classes started. But the challenges of working in the pandemic pale in comparison to the wider issue.
HS: What more can be done to attract and retain women in the workforce?
GSM: The IT and BPO industries are welcoming more women, but it’s common that career stagnation and other inequalities unfortunately push many to leave within the first few years.
The pandemic has taught men to work remotely, a domain that women have mastered, yet never been admired and credited for.
Tackling the barriers to entry for women comes down to creating a more nurturing work environment, particularly for young mothers and pregnant women craving continuity and career development. The female workforce needs to know they have paths laid out that give them the best chance for career growth and will be supported and encouraged to advance.
Businesses should be ready to arm their employees with the right technology, training, coaching, and personal development programmes to upskill in the digital economy. When made accessible through cloud-based platforms, these tools can be leveraged from the home, allowing women to maintain a healthy work life balance.
Gagan with her family
HS: What have been your biggest successes and challenges?
GSM: When I look back at my career, there have been many incidences that gave me a taste of success and made me the person I am today. When I completed my Six Sigma black belt in 2004 for example, or when I help my company make millions and deliver added value to end customers.
Life is full of challenges of all kinds, you have to be your best version, find your way out of hardships, and keep moving.
HS: Do you mentor women in tech?
GSM: It may be a male-dominated industry, but I don’t buy the common thinking that tech and women do not gel. In 2016, I didn’t know what the term RPA meant, but within a year, I won an award for my company for creating the best RPA solution. If you are passionate about what you do, you will make it big.
The three things I believe can get you to achieve anything are grit, passion, and making the right decisions at the right time. If you have grit you can climb any peak; if you are passionate about what you do, you will taste success; and right decisions at the right time can take you places. I don’t regret the two years I took as sabbatical to be with my children – it’s always about looking ahead.
For women who want to make it big in tech, Applied Intelligence (Automation, Analytics, AI) isn’t a domain that women cannot get into. Believe in yourself and you will excel.
HS: Why do you think there are very few women in leadership positions in tech?
GSM: It’s no secret that the tech scene has looked more favourably on men than women, particularly in India, but I do believe that it’s the deserving who become leaders. The shift to remote work is disproportionately leaving women with less opportunity due to different personal responsibilities, if left without the right tools.
The pandemic has raised the critically important decision that tech companies must now make in providing driven women with varying circumstances and greater access to work in the remote world.
HS: Why should every organisation have an equal opportunity mindset?
GSM: In closing the gender skills gap, businesses can encourage talent to contribute their best - beyond prejudice. This will have a snowball effect in attracting a more dedicated workforce over time, which is crucial as competition in the tech space is only growing – and reflecting a more diverse customer base.
Having an equal opportunity mindset and representing women at all levels demonstrates organisations are understanding the challenges.
HS: What do you like to do in your spare time?
GSM: I’m an avid reader and a fitness enthusiast. With two growing children, living with in-laws, and my parents nearby, I steal moments I can from my busy routine to stay physically and mentally healthy. I wish to keep learning and grow as a person, a mother, a daughter, a wife, a professional, and as a woman. With every passing day, I wish to experience life fully, share a few laughs, and keep improvising.
HS: What are your future plans?
GSM: In the work sphere, I want to help our clients be future-ready. On a personal level I simply live in the present and want to stay fit to face whatever the future has in store.