At Mindtree, the Chairman's Award is the highest honor that recognizes Mindtree Minds who consistently outperform, thereby adding significant value to Mindtree over the years. These winners have a vision of the future, and they are the path breakers. Talking Cranes is pleased to interview this year's winner of this elite award - Chetana Durgadas Kallianpur.
1. The Chairman’s Award is the highest recognition in Mindtree and you were chosen the winner under the category ‘Risen Above the Tide’. Did you know about this award? Can you tell us why you believe you were selected to receive this award?
Yes, I did know that I was nominated for the Chairman’s award for the category ‘Risen above the Tide’ and that I had been shortlisted to sub-jury round as well. I believe I won this reward simply due to the fact that I tried to do something new and different which helped Mindtree to win the Equifax account.
I was playing the role of a delivery manager in AmEx account and I have managed projects in the Credit Risk and Fraud spaces for nearly 6 years. When I first heard that Equifax – a leading Credit Bureau (from the same core area) was looking at Mindtree as a potential partner for a 5 year engagement, I volunteered to pick up some customer presentations, case studies and proof-of-concept projects to be demonstrated to Equifax when they visited Mindtree. We had to prove to them as to why Mindtree could be their next strategic vendor across other 18 industry leaders in the software services space.
After we heard Mindtree was among the top 3 contenders, the legal and contracting process had to be kick-started. I am a student of business law, and I thought that the Master Services Agreement was a fantastic project I could deliver. I was the single point of contact for all the various teams involved – Quality, Finance, Delivery, Pre-sales, Sales, CIS, Security and Risk etc. and had to make all stake holders agree and sign up so we could win this prestigious account. We closed the extremely complex MSA in a record time of 3 weeks, which is a really difficult task for large deals such as Equifax ( 120M$ TCO over 5 years). They key challenge that I faced at this time was that everyone wanted to win the business. But each stakeholder wanted to win the account at their own terms, which was the tough part to get all the stakeholders to agree on the clauses that Equifax wanted us to sign up on! Making so many stakeholders to agree and finally close the deal was a herculean task for me!
Soon a floodgate of RFPs were opened up for Mindtree and myself and my team had started to work with Equifax to submit our proposals to take over the business from an incumbent vendor. We needed to understand the entire portfolio landscape and how these systems interacted and built insights into the powerhouse of data that Equifax was. We had to submit key value additions across various service lines. I played the role of an SME (Subject Matter Expert) and we decided to bring out a 30,000 feet level big picture view of Equifax’s business, tying up all the systems together, with a little that we had learnt after quizzing them about their products. It was a risk and a potential deal breaker, but my manager Rohit supported me. As this was presented to a team of nearly 20 VPs and Directors, the first feedback we got was that our business understanding of their products was nearly 70% accurate. We were thrilled! Within a week, we got to know that Mindtree had won 15 out of the 18 RFPs that we submitted. This meant an annual revenue of 8M$ for the BFSI vertical for the FY 2017.
In a nutshell, the fact that I rose to occasion when I volunteered to take up various new challenges despite my existing roles and responsibilities for the AmEx account is what lead me to win this award.
2. What was your reaction when you found out you won?
Frankly speaking, I knew I was a strong contender and that if I lost, I would be losing to someone who was far more deserving than me! I was nominated for the award by Rohit Srinivasan. The announcement was made in an event in the west campus and Rohit knew that I had won, but he setup a meeting on my calendar just to ensure that I am present when the announcement was made. When they called out my name, I just remember catching a quick glance at Rohit in sheer surprise. I saw that he was really proud and jubilant! I was quite surprised! I walked onto the dais, shook hands with Mindtree leadership, the jury etc., and was remember looking onto a vast crowd that kept cheering for me. But honestly this experience was surreal. It took me quite a while for the fact to sink into me that I had indeed won the award.
The announcement of the Chairman’s award was made on the 29th June and I flew out to the US for a customer visit on the very next day. So I really did not have any time to celebrate the winning with my team members and friends at Mindtree. I still owe most of my friends and family a treat and have remained extremely busy. This event is definitely one of the most memorable days of my life.
3. What does receiving the award mean to you?
The Chairman’s award is the highest recognition that any Mindtree Mind can ever expect to receive. Only 8 people win this award every year and our company strength is ~ 18000, so one can only imagine the stringent process that goes into the selection! It is Mindtree’s 18th year of existence, and yet there are less than 100 winners of this coveted award. This year out of the 8 winners, 3 of us were women! The fact that my contribution has been recognized at this level, indeed makes me feel proud! There was a beautiful award felicitation ceremony and my family was also invited. It’s a great gesture on the part of Mindtree’s leadership to note that the family members make small and indirect contributions towards the company’s success.
To me personally, it is definitely one of the biggest milestones of my career. I realized that I did the right thing by volunteering to take up a new challenge and small risks to move out of a comfort zone that I had built for myself. This award has made me visible across the organization. It has made me realize that there is still a lot more ambition left in me to continue to perform. It also means that I need to continue to push myself harder to achieve that little extra, which makes all the difference in my deliverables.
4. You have been at Mindtree a little over 7 years now. Can you tell us about your current role and responsibilities?
I am playing the role of an Offshore Program Manager PLUS a Subject Matter Expert cum for the Equifax account in the BFSI vertical. From the point of view of the account setup – I was the SME to put up a secure Offshore Delivery Center at both the campuses in Bangalore, a Disaster Recovery Site at Chennai, Managing of Procurements for Infra for our centers, hiring and onboarding the new team for the skills that meet Equifax’s requirement, etc. From the point of view of business sustenance, I am responsible for the having the project contractual SOWs signed off on a timely basis. I also review all the delivery reports, SLA dashboards to ensure there are no hiccups from the delivery stand point. Equifax being a new account, I am working with my PMs to setup Mindtree’s standard processes and best practices. I also have a customer relationship responsibility. So these are just some of the things that I am responsible for in my current role.
But luckily for me, I work with a great line of leadership. The Equifax account also has people who are extremely talented and have a great attitude towards work, due to which I am able to take up this role which requires me to wear these many hats.
5. What do you enjoy most about your current role. What are your greatest challenges?
The Equifax account is a new account that Mindtree has won. It brings in a wide number of business opportunities and business proposals which is ours to win or lose. So there is a lot to learn everyday!
Mindtree has won the Equifax account at a time when some of the remaining accounts that exist in BFSI are seeing tough days. Hence, there is a lot of pressure for the Equifax account to perform well, win more business, etc. The 6 month old account is now a 100 member team. There is a lot of visibility that the Equifax account is getting even from the top leadership at Mindtree. So every good deed is noticed, likewise, every small mistake we make also will be noticed. Hence we need to tread carefully.
Our customer is primarily based out of US but we are now looking to expand into the Australia and UK markets as well. So the multiple time-zones across we need to engage with customers and our onshore teams also adds to the complexity. Our customer expects a lot of attention from the account and delivery leadership. We have customers visiting us every week at Mindtree and we have to be on our toes at all times. So there are no really light days and heavy loaded days anymore. Sometimes the work hours in a day exceed 14 hours.
Personally, I am finding time management, striking work-life balance and constant onshore travel as some of the key challenges.
6. Tell us about your career at Mindtree. How did you start? How did your career develop?
I have a little over 17 years of work experience. I started my career with Mindtree in March 2010. I joined the company Mindtree Wireless (erstwhile Kyocera India). Before Mindtree, I had worked in the telecom domain for a little over 10 years, but mainly in a strong technical role.
But soon after I joined, Mindtree wound up the wireless business. I immediately moved into the AmEx account into a that dealt with AmEx’s mobile application development. Slowly I took over a key portfolio in AmEx in the Fraud and Risk space, in which I specialized over a period of 5+ years. That’s where I developed interest in the domain for Credit Risk. Given the dynamic market situations, recessions etc., over the last 10 years, the need for Credit Risk Worthiness has increased bounty-fold. Hence I and my team had the opportunity to deliver some key projects in this space. Meanwhile the Equifax opportunity came up and here I am!
7. Can you share some personal insights? How do you balance having a career and enjoying personal time or family?
I am born and raised in Bangalore. I am married to my best friend – Rohan who is my friend from my PU College days. I have a 10 year old son – Omkar. My mother-in-law is an entrepreneur herself and has close to 35 year of experience. My parents raised me with the ideology that I need to be independent to the maximum extent possible, yet the ground rules are that the family should not have to compromise too much to help me sustain my career. Mindtree gives me that unique platform where I am able to manage both my career and provide the love and care my family needs. In order to spend some quality time with my son, I consciously take the day post 6 pm everyday from home. After I spend a couple of hours with my son, I login back to work from home, participate in late evening meetings/calls etc.
Weekends are strictly for family and home, unless I am on business travel. At this point I am doing my best to ensure that I give my family adequate time that they need everyday..
But honestly, I would need to do a much better job, as I need to make time for myself. The “me time” is really missing at this point. Any free time that I have goes towards my family, as there is always something to lookout for every weekend as my parents and my in-laws are based in Bangalore. My mother-in-law’s presence is a constant support system for all of us.
8. What are the tough challenges in this balancing act and how do you prepare for them?
To balance my work and home, I need to be on top of everything that is coming up for me. Everything as simple as what should be sent in my son’s lunchbox, what preparation he needs for his upcoming tests/exams, his weekly piano and drums classes, parent-teacher meetings, the movies we intend to watch over the weekend are planned; not really on a project plan, per say, but definitely everything is well thought out. There is a conscious effort that both I and my husband put in, to ensure that we don’t miss some of these simple, yet important things. I try hard to compartmentalize my thoughts – and not take my office tensions home and bring my home pressure to the workplace.
9. What advice do you have for someone trying to achieve a healthy work-life balance?
I already admitted that I am not doing a great job on my “me time”. But yes, I would suggest to everyone who is out to achieve work-life balance to seek some familial support to help on the home front (if the help is available), give up the need to do everything perfectly and clearly understand one’s top 5 priorities for that day and focus on those. One need not fret over small things like cooking a perfect meal everyday, but focus on the family dinner time conversations perhaps. One need not focus on the child scoring a 100/100 in every test/exam, but ensure the interest levels and the learning aptitude is maintained.
I think we women always try to do too many things too well and kill the work-life balance. I also think it is important to identify some tasks that can be moved out of one’s plate to create time to do/learn something new everyday. As an example, In India – an average woman spends close to 3.5 to 4 hours a day in her kitchen cooking a perfect meal for her family. I’ve recently hired a cook and it has helped me earn back the time and spend it on important work or improve my quality time with my son. This worked for me, not necessarily for everyone. But we need to look at our lives taking a step back. Once the priorities are set, we need to make the right choices, as everyone only gets 24 hours a day.. So it is best to go to bed each day with some sense of achievement.
10. What do you do to decompress after a tough day at work? How do you relax – any hobbies, creative activity or a dream, etc., that you think represents another facet of you?
I love reading a crisp paper the first thing every morning with a cup of hot coffee. I am also a singer and I can pull off some of the old Hindi movie songs to a reasonably good extent.
After a tough day at work, standing at my kitchen stove and cooking a simple fresh meal for my family is simply the best way I decompress. I love to cook and host people for lunches and dinners at my home during weekends. I cook pretty good North Indian, Konkani coastal and local Bangalorean food. I also read a lot on human psychology and how our food/dietary habits impact our way of life and our mind specifically. If I were not an engineer, I would probably have been a passionate chef or a cook, but definitely in the business of the food industry.
I also watch a number of movies, as my husband is a great movie buff and movie collector. I listen to BBC podcasts on current affairs and politics. I also like to listen to stories that people tell on a platform called The Moth. I have a great collection of comic books and I am ready to accept any quiz on Indian mythology, thanks to my library of Amar Chitra Kathas that I read even to this day.
11. What gets you excited about starting each new day?
I end each working day marking what was done/achieved and therefore what needs to be taken care of on the immediate next day. So my plan for the next day is already carved out, to the best extent possible before I wind up. I literally sleep over this small plan of mine. As I start my new day, I revisit my to-do list and reset my priorities based on whether any overnight changes need to be incorporated into my plan. And then I just go for it!