Every job irrespective of its nature is more demanding today
Published by : Industrial Automation
Neha Sharma, Digital Manufacturing CoE at Mahindra and Mahindra ADC Group.
What prompted you to pursue a career in engineering?
It was a natural choice after doing High School in Science discipline, but I will admit it was not always the first choice when I was a child. Being curious about most of the things, engineering education gave exposure to a multidisciplinary broader view on things and then I found my interest in Automotive Design and R&D, hence so far it has worked out well.
Having obtained the qualification, what was the experience in getting a job?
I got selected as a GET for my first job right after my college, so it wasn't very difficult. More difficult was the transition from a newbie who came from a small city, middle class environment to the white collar Corporate culture and a role which needed interaction with people from several countries; things have moulded and shaped up with time and I believe I have had some great experiences and learnings to give credit to for the same.
Is a career in engineering more demanding vis-à-vis other options?
Yes, sometimes it might need longer hours at a job because that's the need and nature of the work, but I have never faced a severe work life balance issue in any of my job experience. I also want to add that every job irrespective of its nature is more demanding today than ever, like if I have to quote, my friends who work as Lecturers or Teachers today have equal stress to keep themselves updated all the time and work more hard with students than in earlier times.
Often projects demand stay away from home. How is that experience?
I have spent some time in Japan for work and have also had short travels to other countries and within India and it has been quite enriching to know about different cultures and meet people from diverse backgrounds and interests at work and outside work. Yes there is always a human need to be back to one's home at the end of the day but that's a trade off one can afford for gaining a more mature and broader view that helps with connecting with the extended work partners and teams and also helps in personal development.
Have you ever missed a career opportunity or promotion due to gender?
No, I have never faced a situation like this in my career so far. I don't deny that I have come across people who start with some bias, but I have always believed that once your work starts speaking for you, then everything gets diluted with time for any bias or a gender prejudice. So focus and grit to bring results is always needed and that always works for every person out there irrespective of gender.
Are workplaces today more sensitive to gender issues than a generation earlier?
Yes, definitely there is a very positive change in the last few years, Corporates have brought in all policies and measures to never let any person feel out on anything based on gender. Having a working mother and witnessing some hardships she had gone through in her times I would say things have drastically changed in India in this scenario at the workplace and inside homes too.
Is there a glass ceiling when it comes to leadership roles in engineering?
No, I don't think that this statement holds true as of today. Today knowledge and work speaks for any person and not the gender, I continue to see many Inspiring Women leaders in Engineering Leadership positions across many organisations. One needs to be ethically uncompromised and best suited with knowledge and capabilities to lead. I don't deny that it could have held true some years before and therefore the need of Gender Diversity policy and other factors helped improve the situation, but for now Sky is the limit for any person be it a man or a woman to excel as leaders.
What has been the experience with seniors at works and the management?
I have been lucky to come across some great leaders and managers who mentored me at various points in my career. I would also mention that it's unlikely that someone never receives feedback, which can be used in a constructive way so I have walked that path as well, but it’s more important to pick up from those points, upgrade yourself with knowledge if needed and take the next step up.
How did the Covid pandemic affect your working routine and what are the learnings?
I think this pandemic has forced everyone across the globe to take a pause and look at things with a little different view. It calls for a rethinking on the way of working, accepting hybrid ways of partnership and team management (sometimes in person with colleagues on-site, sometimes working remotely). What we can take away from this is there is a need to be more flexible and agile in the coming future and I believe humans are adaptive, and life is more flexible than we think.
What would be your message to those seeking career guidance?
From now on for years to come and beyond, survival will be tough, we will see a lot of automation around and hence its very critical to keep upgrading ourselves with technology and advancements in our respective fields. Another key thing is having a good network and finding the right mentors at the right time in one’s career journey. It can be a family member, a friend, well-wisher or even a senior at work, as discussing career goals with someone always helps in calibrating the goals and putting focus into the picture.
It is said if you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family, generation (nation). Your views?
Yes, I think I would have agreed more with this around a decade back but I would also add that in family set ups like India, having both parents understand the value of education helps a lot. In the last few years, I have personally seen people even from the lower economic classes making fantastic education plans for their children with much clarity than before. So I believe we have moved from the need of ‘Women getting Education from Nothing to a certain level’ to the need of a ‘Girl child getting Equal Opportunities and Support from Parents’ to lay down the basic principle foundation of gender unbiased education.
Would you like to share information about your other achievements?
Role model : Though they never coached me directly in life or I myself saw them struggle, but I take a lot of inspiration from my grandparents, who worked really hard to get their children educated in the best way they could and that's something 60 years before from now I am referring to. At one point my maternal grandmother has worked as a daily wage labourer in fields to provide for the best education to her children who went on to become administration officers, doctors and teachers (my mother). If I could continue with a small portion of that grit and determination, I would definitely reach somewhere.
What are the three words that best capture the essential you?
Conscientious. Flexible. Honest.
Neha Sharma is currently leading Digital Manufacturing CoE at Mahindra and Mahindra ADC Group. She has over 16 years of experience working with Automotive OEMs Design and R&D centres like Nissan, John Deere, L&T and Knorr-Bremse. She has been instrumental in bringing the right strategy and focus in the Digital Transformation domain pertaining to Manufacturing processes and Operations from R&D. Her interests lie in IoT, Digital Connected Smart Factory and Data Analytics.