The world of work is changing at lightning speed.
New technologies are constantly emerging, disrupting businesses of all shapes and sizes across the globe. So, in a still predominately male-dominated technology field, how can women keep advancing their skills and careers?
Managing Director Sailaja Bhagavatula shares her remarkable career journey and her take on why inclusion fuels innovation at Accenture.
Q: You started your illustrious journey with Accenture 15 years ago. Tell us about your time so far.
Sailaja: Back in 2003, I moved from an established organization to Accenture which was still setting up its operations in India. At that point, I was involved in the setup of processes, vision and strategy for our growth in India. The vision came true and over the years, we’ve grown from 50 to 150,000+ people strong in India. The industry also has evolved throughout my tenure—from Y2K and mainframe to internet, cloud and now digital.
Taking full control of the wheel, I went on to play diverse roles—setting up centers of excellence for emerging Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technologies, managing delivery for large-scale projects and driving client-centric innovation programs.
I navigated through my career successfully by taking calculated risks and leveraging opportunities that came along the way. I’ve had a fulfilling career journey, with abundant opportunities to be at the forefront of innovation.
Q: Cloud is becoming an increasingly important strategy for our business. How are you helping clients innovate?
Sailaja: The cloud ecosystem has really evolved over the last decade. There are multiple options in the market and every product vendor offers a cloud solution. The key is to understand what’s available in the industry and advise clients on choosing the right cloud solutions and products.
In our client landscape, there is a multitude of available on-premises and cloud apps. So, we also need to think about how it all ties together, along with the overall enterprise architecture. It's critical to visualize that architecture and imagine what kind of integration solutions are available for both on-premises and multi-cloud environment scenarios.
There are constant opportunities to advise clients, keep learning continuously and be ahead of the curve. That's something I have tried to do throughout my career journey and will continue to do.
Q: How can women advance their careers in the competitive technology industry?
Indeed, it is a competitive environment, but I believe it has opened many doors for women to thrive. Emerging technologies around artificial intelligence, automation, extended reality and quantum computing are creating numerous new opportunities to grow and evolve in your career. Anyone who wants to advance must be ready to learn new skills, continuously adapt and take calculated risks.
As successful leaders, we must build our personal brands, which can go a long way in shaping our careers in new technology areas. Also, networking is key; Accenture offers forums such as Vaahini to network with peers and mentor juniors.
We must be the change we expect from the organization and the industry. How? By being more conscious about shaping our careers and staying optimistic.
Q: Given that it is a great time for women technologists, is there anything holding them back from advancing their careers?
Sailaja: Perceptions and stereotypes. Tech careers are complex, as they involve working with new technologies and platforms. The most common perception is that women can’t balance their work and personal life if they take up such challenging jobs. Such perceptions have often influenced women to leave at different stages of their tech careers.
There are also not enough role models available to mentor and offer career advice for women. This is why Accenture is deeply invested in creating an empowering culture for women.
Q: Can you shed more light on the work Accenture is doing to help women break barriers and bolster their careers?
Sailaja: As an organization, we are doing the best we can to build an equal and inclusive environment—one that unlocks women’s potential and inspires them to thrive.
I am personally very proud of Accenture programs such as Returning Mothers and High-Tech Women. The High-Tech Women program is a great example of our commitment to women technologists, where we are enabling them to scale new heights in their careers.
Q: When you’re not hard at work innovating at Accenture, what are some of your personal interests?
Sailaja: I tried dabbling with the guitar in my childhood days. Whenever I get time, I enjoy listening to music and singing.
I also love swimming, which is an excellent exercise for the body and a great way to relax the mind. We must add some physical activity in our daily routine, as it’s immensely important to take care of our health and maintain a balance.
I have two boys, aged 9 and 14. I enjoy spending time with them, especially when I get to cheer for them in a badminton court or on the football field.
When equality is a priority, a woman rises. She is more likely to rise in a company that values diversity, where there are women in leadership and where there’s a women’s network. And when a woman rises, we all rise.
Watch the full interview with Sailaja here.
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