How she made it: Success lessons from Senior VP SAP
From being the only woman engineer at an automobile plant to represent the global executive team of a multinational organisation like SAP, Uma Rani has come a long way in her career. Here, she talks about how the decisions she made worked to her favour and the qualities that define a leader.
Born and brought up in a humble middle class background in India, Uma completed her engineering from College of Engineering in Trivandrum and went on pursue her MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
She started her career as a trainee engineer with Ashok Leyland where she was the only woman in the plant. Today, she has grown to be Senior Vice President at the multinational organisation SAP.
Here, she looks back at the moments that defined her career and shares with us her success secrets. Read on...
Origins in small town
I was born in Ernakulam in Kerala. I was born into a family of teachers. My mother was also working.
I come from a middle class family, and it was deep-rooted in me that everyone had to work.
I went to College of Engineering, Trivandrum, in 1986.
I have a younger brother who now works at Cisco.
We did not have anyone to give us career guidance. Everyone was doing engineering, so we also followed.
Excellence as motto
In school, I was very clear that I had to excel. I used to come first. I follow the same philosophy through my career. I like to excel at everything.
Being the only woman on the factory floor
Via campus placements, I joined an automotive company in Chennai.
I was the only woman on the factory floor. However, they didn't want a woman there. So they asked me to move to their IT department.
At that time, I was hurt. But, in hindsight, it was a blessing.
I loved computers. For the first time, I was exposed to the entire software development life cycle.
In 1992, I moved to TCS, and from there to SAP.
I have been with SAP for the last 15 years.
When I joined SAP, there were only 40 people here in the Bangalore team.
Path to leadership
I always liked defining my course of action and how I wanted to do things.
This helped me as I always took the lead to set my own conditions and boundaries.
I guess this attitude helped me to get into leadership.
Every year my career has been about new challenges and opportunities, and that has made the journey very exciting.
I have always laid huge emphasis on learning throughout my journey.
I have done my certification courses from IIM Bangalore, INSEAD and Harvard Business School.
Learning continuously keeps me going.
Milestones at SAP
In 2010, I was awarded 'Leader of the year' title at SAP Labs India.
Today, I am part of the global executive team at SAP and I am responsible for a huge business.
Focus is key
100 per cent percent focus on the task at hand is key.
Building a team of extremely capable people really helps.
As a leader you need to succeed at gaining your team's trust because your success depends on your team's.
Success secrets: Planning ahead and working hard.
Big excitement today: Big data.
Stress buster: When in stress, I always talk it out.
I talk to my family and my spouse. They have been a bedrock of support for me. You need to identify your mentors and coaches who can act as sounding board when needed.
Tune in: I do a lot of business reading. Harvard Business Review is a must-read.
You can't follow and implement everything you read, but it helps you broaden your perspective.
Work-life balance: There is no balance, it is all about integration.
Believe in yourself: I would strongly urge all professionals to believe in their own potential. That is the beginning of everything.
For me, what matters is your willingness to prioritise what you want to do.
Uma Rani is Senior Vice President of SAP, a German multinational company that creates enterprise software applications for businesses across the globe.
When SAP was launched in India Rani had joined the company as a developer.
SAP currently has about 64,500 employees worldwide.