[Women in Tech] Cultivate relationships with your peers and seek mentorship from other women, says Padmapriya R of Fiserv
Padmapriya R was born and raised in a small village called Ettayapuram in Tamil Nadu, the birthplace of a freedom fighter, Mahakavi Bharathiyar (famous poet Subrmanian Bharathi). Her love for science began while she was in school.
By the time she joined college, satellite television and internet had become popular.
“These new technologies made me curious about the science behind them and the new computer languages, such as WWW. That’s when I joined my first programming language classes (BASIC),” she recalls.
The growing availability of computers and internet pushed her curiosity and interest further. As she progressed in college, electronic devices, and circuits (EDC) and microprocessors became her area of interest. While experimenting, she managed to develop small projects like Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) and traffic signal controls, to name a few, apart from the usual curriculum. It was in the final three semesters that she became interested in high level programming languages and Database Management Systems (DBMS).
By the time she graduated, she realised her strength in STEM, and prepared to build her career around it.
Padmapriya R is now Director, Information Technology, Issuer and Output Solution Group,Global Services. She speaks to HerStory on her career journey as a woman in tech, mentoring women and working through the pandemic.
HerStory [HS]: Please take us through your career journey…
Padmapriya R [PR]: I started my career in Bengaluru, Karnataka in 2004, which was also my first experience of being alone in a new city! This was a complete shift from my academic life, and I was alone with no family surrounded by a huge language barrier.
We were all part of a truly agile team where everyone worked on everything - from requirements to development to testing to deployments, addressing changes in real time, and delivering on expectations. This exposure to automating manual tasks helped me learn new languages, tools, databases, and server management activities, integrating programs with different devices like barcode readers, Radio-Frequency Identification Devices (RFIDs), dot matrix printers, and so on. The ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) implementation experience was amazing, and I fell in love with what I was doing.
After getting married in 2008, I took up a new job in Chennai. This was again a new experience of working for global clients and learning SDLC (system development life cycle) processes, planning and enterprise-wide release of projects, budgeting, auditing, and monitoring, to mention a few.
Before I joined the banking and finance industry, I worked for a few years in the healthcare domain. My experience in the BFSI (Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance) industry is something I will always cherish. It was here that I got great exposure to business and worked to execute large scale programs in retail banking and process automation.
It was in November 2019 that I joined Fiserv with the Issuer Solutions group, and the journey has been thrilling. Here I have the platform to work with global leaders who inspire me with their energy and passion to achieve excellence in everything we do. I also have had the opportunity of setting up a strong engineering team over the past two years, with people eager to and now excited to deliver on client commitments.
HS: Tell us about your roles and responsibilities in the present?
PR: Currently, I’m part of the Issuer and Output solution group and manage client deliveries for distributed surround systems and our premier loyalty platform. I’m responsible for project deliveries, providing production support, smooth batch cycle completion, and so on. I also contribute towards managing business priorities for the year, project deliveries for distributed applications, overall product and platform deliveries, application modernisation efforts, security and vulnerabilities fixes, disaster recovery, and managing changes and priorities, along with my global counterparts.
HS: How did you face the challenges of working in a pandemic?
PR: It was tough in the beginning with most team members being new joiners. It can be challenging to drive a sense of belonging and camaraderie within the team in a virtual environment. I decided to ensure multiple connects with each member to make them feel welcome and part of the team, beyond project deliveries.
I am especially proud of the support we provisioned to our impacted associates during COVID-19 through our holistic benefits program, which addresses the physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing of our people at Fiserv.
HS: What can be done to attract women and sustain them in the workforce?
PR: As a woman in tech, I too have been through phases where I felt it was difficult for me to manage my work and personal responsibilities. Support of my peers and family and the guidance of women leaders with whom I worked truly reaffirmed my belief in the value of ecosystems for every working woman.
I would recommend this for every woman who is passionate about their career, tech or non-tech. Cultivate relationships with your peers and seek mentorship from other women leaders who can help you navigate through personal and professional challenges.
At Fiserv, our employee resource group Women’s Impact Network (WIN) does just that. They work through mentoring and networking to support our women colleagues and help them manage their work and personal life. Wellbeing at Fiserv is a holistic concept, and provision of counselling sessions to manage overall wellbeing, child-care facilities for working parents, and flexibility have been key success factors to enable our associates to be at their best in both their family and professional lives.
HS: What have been your biggest successes and challenges? Please share anecdotes if any
PR: Successes and challenges are relative, one without the other cannot exist. I believe integrity and passion are key factors to transforming challenges into successes.
Over the years, I have enjoyed multiple successes and challenges as an individual and as a team member. In one of my previous roles for a critical retail programme, we had multiple challenges in requirements and fulfilling the client’s demands. While the product testing took place over a year, I was required to travel internationally, having to leave my seven-year-old son in India. But despite the hurdles, we made it to production and processed about 800 onboardings on day one, for both loans and credit cards, which was a success.
HS: Do you mentor women in tech?
PR: I have been mentoring women for years, both formally and informally. But over time I have noticed that while women hesitate to seek mentoring, men are more proactive. I believe in proactively reaching out to women in the team and regularly checking with them if they need support of any sort.
Also, mentoring is a bilateral concept, it not only helps the mentee but also benefits the mentor to improve themselves professionally and sharpen their own skills. At Fiserv, we have a strong mentoring program where we strengthen opportunities for our women in tech for continuous learning and skill enhancement.
HS: Why do you think there are very few women in leadership positions in tech?
PR: Women in tech tend to take a break from their careers due to marriage, family planning, kids, and elder care. Eventually, by 10-12 years into their professional journey, only a few women move forward in their careers, and we end up with fewer women in leadership roles.
Social conditioning and pressure from family is a key component in funneling down the number of women leaders in tech. Women are not able to prioritise their careers over family responsibilities due to limited support and the lack of a robust ecosystem.
That’s why an ecosystem is important; with the right support at the right time, I truly believe women can overcome this hurdle too.
HS: Why should every organisation have an equal opportunity mindset?
PR: I believe that when everyone is encouraged to bring their best selves to work, they feel valued and then creativity and productivity arise. At Fiserv, our corporate culture ensures that everyone is respected, creating an environment with room for all their ideas to be brought to the table and opportunities creation without bias. We all thrive, we all grow and achieve success together.
HS: What do you like to do in your spare time?
PR: I like to spend time with my son. I am also passionate about gardening and making a positive impact on the larger environment.
I also love creating rangolis or kolams – which is an Indian traditional way of making designs with natural colours.
Edited by Anju Narayanan