Women don't need special treatment and are immensely talented: Vijayashree Natarajan, Omega Healthcare
Vijayashree Natarajan has more than 20 years of experience in the technology space with a career built primarily in the healthcare, life Sciences, banking, financial and insurance domains. She heads the technology team at Omega Healthcare, accelerating the adoption of technology and automation in the organisation.
After completing her BTech Electronics from Anna University she joined as a Java developer in the BFSI domain. Her strong belief in constant learning aided her in pursuing an Executive Programme in Artificial Intelligence, specialising in Implications for Business strategy, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management.
Her life, presently, she says, is all about AI, automation, and ML (machine learning), and finds it an absolute delight to be able to work on systems or programmes that can mimic the human brain.
“As a person who loves tech, I can't help but admire the length we have travelled in terms of the advancement of tech, and I am excited to see the things we will accomplish through technology in the future,” she adds.
In a conversation with HerStory, she takes us through her journey in tech, working at Omega Healthcare, and mentoring women in tech.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
HerStory (HS): Was there anything specific that drew you to STEM and technology?
Vijayashree Natarajan (VN): Yes, I have always been interested in STEM; Science and technology have been my core interest since my school days. While I initially wanted to pursue a career in Astrophysics, I did my undergraduate in Electronics Engineering, where my passion for physics helped me build quite a strong foundation for engineering.
Although I did want to pursue physics, I was fortunate enough to get admission at the Madras Institute of Technology, one of the most prestigious institutions for engineering in India, with reputed alumni like APJ Abdul Kalam. Therefore, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and decided to pursue my career in engineering.
HS: Please take us through your careeer
VN: After completing my engineering degree, my first job was as a Java developer for a BFSI firm. I had the opportunity to lead many re-engineering projects in the financial domain for BNY Mellon (earlier called Credit Suisse). Following that, I joined Cognizant, where I had the chance to lead product development for an information media customer and build practice management systems for law firms.
Soon enough, I got the opportunity to lead mobile product development. We launched a product called TruMobi as part of Cognizant's product venture in SMAC (Social, Mobility, Analytics, and Cloud) technology.
Later, I got a chance to dive into the world of software through RPA as an Intelligent Process Automation practice head. Finally, today here I'm with Omega healthcare as Head of Technology
HS: Tell us about your roles and responsibilities at Omega Healthcare.
VN: My primary role involves aiding the digital transformation journey of our customers. We work on improving business outcomes for our customers and the top and bottom lines by implementing various automation tools and building platforms that aid automation and workflow solutions. In addition, we help our clients leverage and utilize AI, ML and RPA technologies to boost their returns, streamline the end-to-end process, and enhance their business outcomes.
At Omega, we have been a leader in providing technology-enabled RCM services, and through recent acquisitions, we have expanded our scope of services in healthcare, covering Payer and Pharma with provider services.
Currently, head a team of over 300 people, and a lot of learning comes with working with a mixed generation of techies, as I get the opportunity to interact with senior tech professionals and the younger generation of freshers who have recently joined the industry.
HS: What more can be done to help women in tech?
VN: I feel that the technology field has been encouraging and welcoming toward women leaders.
However, the lack of work-life balance is a key reason for women leaving the workforce in any industry. Many remote working opportunities in the technology sector significantly reduce this challenge. Strengthening this and ensuring flexibility at every hierarchy stage is key to attracting and retaining women.
HS: What have been your biggest successes and challenges?
VN: I do not believe in 'chasing' success as an end goal. Instead, I cherish all the challenges that confront me and try to overcome them. This feels like success to me: the more challenges I overcome, the more successful I feel.
As a tech leader, every milestone propels me forward, from product delivery to finding the perfect solution to a client's problem. Challenges must be perceived as steps of a staircase you must climb to reach the top.
HS: Do you mentor women in tech?
VN: I am passionate about mentoring anyone who wants to pursue a career in technology and exhibits the motivation and drive to stay ahead of the curve.
Regarding women specifically, I feel it is important for aspiring technology professionals to see other women who have faced similar obstacles and how they overcame them. I like to share my personal experiences, my journey, and the challenges I faced as a woman in tech to help young professionals navigate their careers well and make decisions that help them become better tech professionals. In addition, I always like to share how the field of tech has helped me as a woman to accelerate my career trajectory as well.
HS: Why do you think there are very few women in leadership positions in tech?
VN: I have observed that the first five years will likely be relatively stable when women enter the workforce. After that, the decision to leave the workforce tends to occur at a mid-management level when they struggle to find the right work-life balance.
To combat this challenge, it is essential to amplify the success stories of women leaders and give them a platform to show other women that advancing their careers in this field is possible.
We need to give other women a reason to believe in themselves and be confident in their ability to make a difference and climb the ladder, even when they rejoin after taking a break in their careers. Increasing female representation in senior leadership is only possible by sustaining and maintaining the middle management years and empowering women by giving right opportunities and responsibilities.
HS: Why should every organisation have an equal opportunity mindset?
VN: Women don't need special treatment and are immensely capable and talented. However, the need of the hour is to empower women with the opportunity to work to their maximum potential. Not being treated differently will automatically lead to equal opportunities.
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti