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Janaki R B, Head of Service Delivery – MEA and APAC, Consulting and Digital Transformation team, IBS Software, Trivandrum, India

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Hello Janaki, tell us a bit about you, your role and what you enjoy

I'm from Trivandrum, Kerala; I lead the delivery of digital transformation solutions for Middle East, Africa and Australia regions for customers in the travel and transportation sector.

At a job level, what I enjoy is finding an apt solution for complex problems, it's very satisfying.

On the organisational front, I am fortunate to work with a diverse set of customers and colleagues. I love the energy of young teams, it is so infectious!

How did you get started in tech? 

It wasn't my original path, I studied mechanical engineering. I enjoyed working with lathes in the labs and I surprised my teachers and classmates by completing lab assignments almost perfectly.

However, I couldn't get a job in this field as employers at the time were reluctant to offer roles to women working on the shop floor. This was very disappointing.

So, I changed track. There was a buzz back then about the Y2K bug and the opportunities that it would bring to the Indian IT sector. I enrolled on a software diploma course at Aptech and after completion, started at IBS Software in 1998, which back then, was a start-up. The software world was very new to me, but I've enjoyed every bit of this journey. I was in the second cohort of recruits to the company, and I've been there since!

What was it like working at IBS Software in those early days?

Back then, we were a small family of less than 100 closely knit software professionals. The internet, Google and social media weren't part of our lives as they are now; we learnt syntaxes by-heart and worked extremely hard to get the desired output from our software programs. Most of us were freshers, we tried to learn from each other, and from our own mistakes. 

When I look back, I can see the transformation in IBS Software, its work culture and corporate behaviour. The family has now expanded to thousands of employees, and the world of software has drastically changed.

What has kept you at IBS Software all these years?

It's like my second home. It's the warmth of the work environment, the friendly colleagues, the amazing team.

I find the travel domain and its dynamic nature to be stimulating. I've had opportunities to work with some great people along the way; I will always treasure the wealth of learnings from the last two decades at IBS, it has played a major role in shaping me as a true professional.

Tell us about your first experience with tech 

It was a Wipro desktop computer, a thoughtful gift from my husband, Kumar, soon after I enrolled at Aptech. Having a computer all to yourself in the 1990's wasn't very common.I practised programming in BASIC, COBOL, PL/SQL, C, C++ , and I completely immersed myself in the world of software!

Who are the people who helped shape your career and inspired you?

My parents, they were both very particular in instilling in us that girls should be independent and they encouraged us to build our own careers.

My father worked in the Rural Development Department of Kerala State; I saw at first-hand his efforts at enabling women's empowerment through various programs. He would take us on site to camps to help women from rural communities showcase their products; these ranged from eco-friendly bags made of bamboo to hand-woven textiles and farm produce.

To this day, he encourages me to take on responsibilities and shares the management lessons he has practised in his career.

My mother has also been a great inspiration. Her original ambition was to become a doctor but was denied the college education even though she came first in her school, the only reason being she was a girl from an orthodox family. She didn't give up on her aspirations and with my dad's encouragement, she built a successful career in the statistics department of Kerala government. I'm proud of her achievements.

From her, I have learnt to multi-task, how to remain emotionally strong, calm, and composed in difficult situations. She's taught me to take bold decisions and move on in life. 

How do you support other women in your professional circle?

I'm fortunate to have smart young women in my team. I encourage them to take up additional opportunities that come their way and guide them to progress their career. Occasionally some of these women struggle to balance work and personal priorities. I explain my story to them and give them suggestions on how to manage these challenges. I advise them to remain emotionally strong, not to give up at a moment of weakness and deal with the problems in an objective and practical manner.

What are some of the career challenges you've experienced as a woman?

I have to confess, it hasn't been an easy journey – tight project schedules, new domain areas, late nights, tiring travels, having to take care of two small kids but the success at the end of each project has made me proud. I owe it to personal perseverance and the support from my family.

What career advice would you give to the next generation of women entering the sector now?

Work with a goal in mind and you will not be troubled by obstacles.

Work with passion and face challenges courageously.

These approaches will take you to the pinnacle of success.

My next trip will be to ...

…Italy and then Scotland where my children are currently working/studying. It will be great to have some family fun time. 

I recently visited Kashmir, which I had always dreamt of visiting. I enjoyed the beautiful sight of the snow-clad valleys during the cable car ride in Gulmargh.

Janaki in Canada and with family

I'm currently enjoying…

…looking after my vegetable garden. Nurturing my plants and the sight of them bearing fruits and vegetables is a great stress reliever. I spend my weekends pottering in the garden and chatting with my dog Spike, he's very good company.

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