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Hot tips to be a successful manager!

Shobha Warrier | April 06, 2005

As a young girl, Jaya Vaidhyanathan dreamt of many things she had to achieve and accomplish.

She could never settle for second spot. She had to come out first in everything she did -- academics or extracurricular activities like debating and Carnatic music.

Jaya VaidhyanathanBefore she joined college, she was sure she wanted to do her engineering and then an MBA from a topnotch B-School in the US.

She knew the importance of work experience to get admission to a good B-School in the US.

As a first step, she moved to Chicago as a software analyst. After working there for a couple of years, she wrote the GMAT.

She had created two new products outside her job, so she won very good recommendation letters from her employers, a requisite for admission to a B-School (see below: Tips to get to a B-School in the US).

She got admission letters from both Cornelll and Wharton. She chose Cornell, since they offered her a scholarship.

Today, she is Director, Business Unit Head, HCL Technologies Ltd, Chennai. She is also the Madras Management Association's Outstanding Woman Manager Award, 2005 (she prefers being called Best Manager, rather than Woman Manager).

She now dreams of entering the Fortune 100 and Forbes list of successful CEOs.

This is her story:

From Cornell...

Cornell was a completely different ball game from what I had in India.

Studies were case-based and the entire team participated in it.

During my engineering days, nobody questioned the professors. But at Cornell, questioning was highly encouraged. They welcome new thoughts, and that helped me a lot.

Today, if I am a management consultant to the Fortune 50 companies, it is because of what I imbibed there.

The strength of our business is in creativity and innovation, which I attribute to my days at B-School.

But yes, India encourages logical and analytical thinking and a process-oriented approach. We offer excellent technical education too. 

A combination of what I had learnt in India and the US is what I am right now.

Jaya VaidhyanathanTo Wall Street

After Cornell, I went into investment banking at Wall Street. There were seven rounds of really tough interviews. I worked there for nearly six years.

I joined HCL Technologies in New York in 2002, and set up its operation by bringing in the first few clients. Then I decided to come back to India for personal reasons.

In investment banking, you have to work 18 hours a day. But when I had my son, my priorities changed. It was a decision I took with both my eyes open. It was a kind of a conscious joy.

I would have felt bad if I had continued working 18 hours a day and let my son be raised by a nanny.

In a sense, I am happy. I am also happy that I made a success of the decision I made.

When is a woman successful?

I prefer to be called Best Manager and not a Woman Manager. But the fact is, it is not a gender neutral society.

We (women) have to face certain tough challenges compared to our male counterparts.

i. A guy is successful if he does well in his career, but a woman is successful if she is accountable and has a great work-life balance.

ii. She has to constantly assess herself. That is the way we judge ourselves. And that is the way society also judges us.

We want to be superwomen and we also want to be successful.

So the award is a good acknowledgement because women are not the same as men. Women have come through tougher challenges that typical men never face.

iii. A woman has to always overachieve to be on par with a man. Kalpana Chawla (the astronaut) might have worked 100 times harder than a man to achieve what she did.

At Wall Street, I was the only woman on the entire floor. Why was there only one woman on the floor?!

I remember we were supposed to do internships on rotation. This was spread over different floors. On the training floor, the language was really bad. It can make you uncomfortable, especially if you are from a different culture.

These are some of the challenges we face -- some are physical; some, environmental.

iv. For women, it is not all about easy camaraderie. When men network, they have a couple of drinks, share a couple of jokes, and they bond.

But that is not how it is for a woman; there is always some distance. So networking is much harder.

There are not that many women around, too, after the middle management level.

To be a successful top level woman manager

1. You must realise there are challenges. Look at each as a stepping stone to success.

2. Deal with the challenges with a smile on your face.

3. Keep your focus. We all have diversions, more so in the case of women.

Even if you want to take a year off for your child, it is essential not to lose your focus.

4. Be aggressive if you really have to, but it has to be a short-term solution.

5. You have to be adaptable. You must do different things.

Five mantras for a successful manager

1. Use your natural leadership style. For women, empathy is a natural leadership style and it works.

2. Be adaptable. This is very important.

Take on multiple roles. It gives you a sense of what different things are. It is always the survival of the fittest.

3. Innovativeness and creative thinking are paramount.

You have to have something to say that others have not thought of. That gives you instant credit.

4. Think out of the box. That is the shortcut to success. But there is no shortcut for hard work!

Jaya VaidhyanathanSix things a manager should do

1. You must have a hands-on approach. Be part of the team.

People don't like the tough managerial style anymore. It does not work.

If you are working late and everybody's working hard, don't push off. You could help all by bringing a cup of coffee!

2. Use a lot of empathy.

3. Freedom is always based on trust. Nobody will exploit you then.

4. Be courageous to be innovative and creative.

5. Be passionate about your work.

6. Communicate.

Communication can be lateral, upwards and downwards. But communication is essential for a good manager.

7. Unless you have a dream, you are not going to achieve anything in life.

What a manager shouldn't do

1. Don't try a very aggressive style. If you are bossing around, it doesn't really help.

2. If you don't show passion for your work, nobody will. Your passion for work is what people absorb.

3. Don't encourage polarity or regionalism or conflicting ideas.

4. Don't ever have a light-hearted approach to work. It will affect the team, too.

To quote Rosalyn Carter, 'A good leader is a person who takes the others to where he/she wants to go.

'A great leader is a person who takes the others where he/she ought to go. That's the difference between a leader and a great leader.'

Tips to get into a B- School in the US

As far as business studies are concerned, India is not on the world map at all.

1. If you want to get into an Ivy League B-School, it is preferable to have three years of work experience.

2. Your GMAT scores must be in excess of 700/800.

3. You need to have very good recommendation letters.

It is better to get it from a US body itself. Any recommendation letter from a local person in a senior position holds a lot of merit.

Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj


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Number of User Comments: 28

Sub: Jaya Vaidyanathan

Most inspiring article even for senior manager/specialist like me.The success is due to being generalist of business school product. Would you throw light on being ...

Posted by Harish Chandwani

Sub: An inspiring success story of a lady

Dear Mr./Ms. Editor, Even though i keep reading the articles on but really the brief story of Ms. Jaya Vaidhyanathan, Director, Business Unit Head, ...

Posted by Pankaj Talwar

Sub: an inspering story

hello to all, Being a working women and a student to all this i can say about this artical is it is really inspering and ...

Posted by priya

Sub: Ideal message ...

Its most inspiring and educative... specially to the women folk who feel earth is the limit when their priorities switch back to personals than the ...

Posted by Suchitra Vishwanath

Sub: successful manager

It is very much inspiration for the young generation the story of joy will inspire us in all respect

Posted by dilip


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