Onus is on women leaders to groom and mentor more women: Sonal Ramrakhiani of Tata Technologies
Sonal Ramrakhiani is President, Sales, Global Automotive Non-Captive Business at Tata Technologies. She believes the restrictions women place on themselves are born out of constraints that one can potentially work around.
Sonal Ramrakhiani has over 17 years of experience in business and management, and is recognised as one of the top 100 leading women in the North American automotive industry.
As the President, Sales, Global Automotive Non-Captive Business at Tata Technologies in Michigan, the US, Sonal is currently the head of the global auto vertical.
Before Tata Technologies, Sonal held several key leadership roles for IT outsourcing major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), where she managed high-end accounts across various verticals, including manufacturing, energy, and banking. Sonal has also worked for Tata Teleservices, and watch and jewellery maker Titan Industries.
As someone passionate about management, Sonal has been part of TAS (formerly Tata Administrative Services), the Tata Group’s flagship leadership programme. She’s also a senior Tata Business Excellence Model (TBEM) assessor, and has led a number of assessments of Tata companies.
The TBEM is adapted from the Malcolm Baldrige model, which suggests that strategic business leaders should focus on some core values such as agility and resilience, organisational learning, and more, to ensure effective management of business performance.
With a BSc in Biochemistry and a post-graduate diploma in management, her area of expertise is customer experience management in both B2B and B2C contexts.
Excerpts from an interaction with HerStory:
HerStory (HS): Take us through the highlights of your career.
Sonal Ramrakhiani (SR): I was always keen on a career in general management and was very fortunate to be selected for the TAS (Tata Administrative Service) in my first role at TCS, where I was working as a management consultant. TAS is the flagship leadership grooming programme of the Tata Group and encourages TAS officers to maximise various cross-functional and cross-industry opportunities that the Tata Group has to offer.
After a one-year rotation programme, I joined Tanishq as a Brand Manager. A couple of years later, I joined Tata Teleservices in an operations role, managing contact centre operations. I transitioned to TCS a few years later, where I played multiple roles covering the spectrum of business development and P&L management. Through these years, I was also actively involved in the Tata Business Excellence movement.
I have led a number of TBEM assessments, and truly enjoy and thrive on the holistic approach to business leadership and excellence that it inculcates.
In late 2016, I joined Tata Technologies as President, Sales; and COO for its America Business, and in 2021 transitioned to a global role managing the automotive business for Tata Technologies. Each of these changes in my career was triggered by an overall goal to ensure an eventual transition to a leadership role.
HS: Tell us about your current roles and responsibilities and what you enjoy the most.
SR: I manage the automotive business for Tata Technologies globally, with a responsibility to grow our customer relationships, and managing the P&L. The aspect that I enjoy tremendously is the ability to connect the dots for customers globally—offering solutions that make a true business impact.
I also enjoy my interactions with customers, employees, and partners across the world, and understanding various cultures, and local nuances of doing business.
HS: While several women are entering the sales and tech domain, what more can be done to retain them in the workforce?
SR: Overall, I believe there is a need for greater recognition and that diversity is not just "good to have", but a must-have. It makes economic sense, and is also truly a differentiator for businesses. In addition to what companies are doing to drive programmes that help increase the number of women in sales and tech,
I always encourage the women that I mentor to keep asking for more, even when they are only 70% ready. Don’t hold yourself back!
HS: What are your biggest successes and challenges?
SR: My biggest successes have come from a deep commitment to teaming and collectively bringing out the best of everyone. My challenges tend to be that I want to move faster than others are either ready for or can implement—at times like this I need to be reminded to slow down.
HS: Why do you think there are few women in leadership positions in tech?
SR: As I look at the pipeline of talent, I feel there is a drop-off in the early stages. It was for multiple reasons--some people cite family commitments, but I genuinely believe it is also due to a lack of sufficient role models, or a potential perception of a glass ceiling.
At the same time, the onus is also on us, as women leaders, to groom and mentor more women, and for the mentees to ask for more, and put themselves out there. All too often the restrictions that we place on ourselves are born out of constraints that we can potentially work around. I am not saying it is easy for everyone, but unless one explores options, one won’t know if there was a missed opportunity.
HS: Why should every organisation have an equal opportunity mindset?
SR: At the fundamental level, it just makes economic sense—we need to be tapping into the larger talent pool. But also, diversity brings so much excellence to the way we operate. For example, I always feel that women are better at reading body language, and that can be an invaluable skill in a sales role.
HS: Who are your biggest inspiration?
SR: I always struggle to respond to this question!
There are so many people who have been my inspiration and role models throughout my life. My father for his positivity and calm demeanour, my mother for her high-energy execution skills, my husband for his ability to focus on the bigger picture, various bosses who instilled the qualities of customer centricity, striving for excellence in everything you do, taking teams along and ensuring no blind spots in your strategy, and even my children who inspire me with the way they enjoy every moment, and bring their best to both academics and tennis.
HS: What do you like to do in your spare time?
SR: Given a choice, and weather permitting, I love to swim a couple of miles in the pool. Books have always been great companions. And of course, spending time with my family.
Edited by Megha Reddy