Mahalakshmi Santaram started her career at Aspire Systems as a trainee, shortly after completing her MCA, 15 years back. Today she is the Delivery Manager of Java Service Line. In a chat with The Red Mark ,Mahalakshmi talks about her goals and its relevance to the different phases in the development of her career.
Tell us in brief about your professional journey.
I was born and raised in Chennai, the second in a family of three daughters. My family always stressed the importance of a quality education, and as a result, I did my best and excelled in school and college. After doing my B.Sc in Mathematics at Ethiraj College, I went on to pursue an MCA degree.
Shortly after completing my MCA degree, I joined Aspire Systems as a Trainee. I worked hard and made my way up the ladder to my current role as Delivery Manager of Java Service Line through channels of promotion. I have always been focused on constantly driving my career forward. As I learned along the way, I accepted bigger responsibilities and this served as a source of motivation. I have also been fortunate to have received responsibilities that have encouraged me further. Additionally, the management at Aspire believed in my ability to perform well, which helped me a lot.
How difficult is it for professional women to break the glass ceiling?
In my opinion, the primary challenges or factors that women face are: To be available whenever required, to be flexible, and be able to balance various commitments at both home and work, How to continue their profession after maternity leave, and how effectively they can come back after that.
I believe that any woman can rise up to all these challenges, if she is passionate about their career and has the determination to break the glass ceiling.
The first thing to understand is that all these so-called challenges are merely situational, and therefore, one should find a way to work out a solution rather than losing heart and getting ready to sacrifice her passion.
There will be thousands of comments about the time spent at home, kids, future etc., but we are the best judge of the situation as only we know what we want to achieve at work and at home.
“What can I do next?” is a mantra to follow to keep your career interesting and hence, climb up the ladder to be what you want to be.
How has your experience as a technology leader been?
Technology is the heart beat of this industry and keeps us alive, involved and makes us sensible to the team and the customers we interact with. Technology leadership, as always, has given me the fulfilment of learning new things, sense of achievement on providing a solution to a problem and keeps me close to the team, as I can understand a developer’s point of view.
A woman has to play many roles; how do you manage work-life balance?
I make it a point to spend quality time with my family; I also go for western dance lessons, and practice yoga on a daily basis.
How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
My parents had a strong influence on me. My father always encouraged me to pursue and focus on my career. He believed in me and I am extremely grateful for that. My mother, a homemaker, instilled a very strong work ethic in me from an early age and urged me to persevere and never give up.
How much of hard work and luck do you think is responsible in your success?
I would say both are equally important. Rather than hard work I would say smart work. I have always had the luck of getting the right opportunities at the right time, and that in turn has allowed me to invest by means of hard work.
What advice do you give young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
I don’t agree with the fact that just because you are a woman, you can’t do certain things. When you have faith in your abilities and are willing to put in your best at whatever you do, the sky is the limit.
What holds professional women professionals/entrepreneurs back?
There are certain aspects of work that are difficult and test your character in all sorts of ways. There is probably one major challenge that all modern working women face today: finding greater balance between all the different balls that we juggle, both in the professional and personal spheres. There are multiple competing demands at any given moment. You are a wife, a mother, a boss, a colleague, a negotiator and so much more. Some compromises need to be made along the way. But with the right mind-set, it is possible to shift your priorities and make time for the things that matter to you.