Find the Connection Between Knowledge and Purpose, Corporate Coach Sadhana Somasekhar Advises Aspirants
The CEO Magazine ● New Delhi
Six old-fashioned attributes — self-belief, perseverance, seizing opportunities, innovation, betting on your talent and constant learning — play a pivotal role in determining our value & ultimately the wealth of success. Chennai-based Sadhana Somasekhar, CEO & Managing Director, of two distinct organisations, albeit in the related domain of People & Leadership, viz. Platinum Infosystems Pvt Ltd and Zeus Career & Performance Coach Pvt Ltd, respectively, has played the business & innovation game leveraging each of these six attributes.
"I have been and am, a people person", says Sadhana. She leveraged her communication skills and excelled in various business roles though she has never been formally trained in sales & marketing. With a PG in microbiology from the University of Mumbai and a two-and-a-half-year post graduation in software technology from the National Institute Of Information Technology, what were her chances of success in sales & marketing? Of course, Sadhana had other ideas.
Fresh out of life growing up in Mumbai, after her family relocated to Pondicherry, in 1990, she signed up with Aurelec Data Processing System, Pondicherry. "My CEO wanted me to be an analyst while my reporting officer wanted me to join the sales team," says Sadhana. The branch manager had his way and Sadhana found herself in the sales team.
Her salary then stood at Rs 2,500 per month. That's when her infectious passion, people & communication skills began talking results. Within six months, she was promoted to area manager and sooner than you think, she became a branch manager. Under her leadership, the Pondicherry branch was voted the 'Branch of the Year' for three consecutive years. She received several business awards in her individual capacity from her company, a trend that was to follow in the years that came to be.
In 1991, Sadhana moved to Nexus Computers, Aurelec's new avatar after reconstruction. Here, from regional director, she was promoted to Vice President – International Operations. She was not only instrumental in setting up Nexus' Networking division, but helped it touch a turnover of INR 70 million in its debut year. Again, her talent for out-of-the-box thinking, strategy and engagement, bore results.
In 2002, she bid adieu to Nexus and started her own company, Platinum Technologies. In January 2003, she converted Platinum Technologies to a private limited company, Platinum Infosystems Pvt Ltd., at that juncture, a true blue IBM business partner.
In the first year of operations, Platinum Infosystems did business worth INR 50 million and also won the 'IBM Business Partner of the Year' award.
"Business was always about people first for me. If I believed in what I had to offer; if I was inspired and could inspire, the rest just fell in place".
Sadhana's people skills were now in full bloom. Around the same time, she began consulting with Focus Infotech and joined the company & its BoD as its chief marketing officer in December 2003.
In three years, the firm's revenues of INR 90 million more than doubled. This and the ensuing period of over a decade, paved & witnessed a trajectory phase both, professionally and in personal value.
Being asked to comment on the important decisions, she took, Sadhana said, "Although initially trained for para-medic career, the decision to augment my education and knowledge with IT skills, resulted in my transition to IT itself. Being a people person, this transition was natural & smooth, although had circumstances been different, I would have been quite happy to have remained in the field of my initial choice. The decision to move into IT as a career was the first important decision and one which was based on the profile of the industry, the growth opportunity available to me and my own potential & personality. Going from there, most decisions have come about based on which phase of my life I was in. One decision that I had made, albeit unconsciously, was never to be an "also-ran or mediocre"- if I could help it! As a woman, with all the usual woman related matters to work with, around, or through, whatever it is that one has to do, timing plays a very important part for executing the decision once you have arrived at it."
While talking about challenges, she said, "The capacity to face challenges is an attitude of a dyed-in-wool optimist. It goes a long way in recognizing possibilities and benefits beyond the immediate & perceived risks. Staying on track, avoiding derailment, in my experience, has been learning through adversity. Most of my most valuable takeaways & lessons have very markedly been in the most challenging times of my life. They realigned me to myself by increasing determination, focus and an even deeper understanding of self – both weaknesses and strengths. I have never called upon my strengths or realised its potential as much as I have, had it not been for the trying & most challenging times."
As an accredited & seasoned CEO/Executive Coach, Sadhana's passions have fructified into working almost exclusively with people, in that, through her company, Platinum Infosystems, she helps senior management &leadership evolve& transform. Backed with experience of close to 3 decades in management, Sadhana leverages her skills and credentials – whether from Corporate life, as an Entrepreneur, or as Executive Coach, to help people, strengthen leadership styles and team performance.
Similarly, yet uniquely, as Managing Director & CEO for Zeus Mentors, a path-breaking service that's disrupted one of the several glass ceilings, the focus is singularly on the mid-career hi-performer. Zeus provides direct access to established & experienced leadership, to explore and identify "THE" Mentor-Coach of individual choice, to support, advise, guide and help realise full potential. The tangible value proposition in the Zeus approach lies in the fact that coaching & mentoring is not a previlege or opportunity restricted to senior management & leaders but encompasses the all-important "futureleaders" of this generation.
In summary, we can only conclude that her journey has been one with a difference. While most "leaders" are recognised as extensions of their "corporate brand", she has travelled a less beaten path of establishing a brand that's all her own. A fact reiterated in the various recognitions and awards, she received. To name a few, "Best Woman Entrepreneur Across Sectors" – in the Dun & Bradstreet Leading SMEs of India Awards (2014-15), "Woman Leader for Innovation" in the 5th Annual Women Leaders of India summit (2014-15), "High Intensity Entrepreneur" from AWN, a Micheal Potter & Harvard Univ., initiative, Harvard University, USA, NASSCOM Special Recognition Award for contributions to Innovation & to the cause of Diversity & Inclusion, etc.
Just as many, who touch the lives of the people around you every day, leaders like her do so in ways that most of us may never hear about, but we all benefit from the effects of their leadership. And that, is a tribute in itself. A tribute to the women who inspire others to do better work and live better lives every day.
The journey continues, and we flag her off with a salute & Bon Voyage!