Dare to reach out and dream big

Dare to reach out and dream big

Shalini Chaudhari, AVP - Senior Industry Principalis one of the inspirational female leaders helping to pave the way for other women to achieve success and go up the ranks in this field. Read her inspiring story...

This month I complete my first year at Infosys; I also completed 9.5 years, and 23 years of being associated with Infosys! Confused, much? Join me as I take you along my professional journey

January 2018… After 20 years in professional services, I decided to leave Accenture and I had a daunting task ahead of me. I was unsure what the future holds for me. My LinkedIn page showed my designation as ‘Shalini Chaudhari, Managing Director – Technology, Accenture’. On January 19, 2018, I changed it to ‘Recharging’ with a promise to myself to update it in the coming three months. As I looked back on my professional life and explored what I was passionate about, I came up with three sets of words that best described what I was and what I stood for – Business and Technology leader, STEM evangelist and Storyteller.

Business and Technology Leader (23 years)

The foundation of my career in technology was laid at Infosys. I joined the company in December 1997. We were one of the largest batches, with over 100 people. We trained, learned and unlearned together. I forged some lifelong friendships along the way.

A turning point, early in my career, came during my second project in 1999 (I was onsite by then). I was part of a team that was working on maintaining and enhancing a warehouse management system. We were doing weekly bug fixes and monthly releases and for each release, we would invariably get into a war room situation. This one release, I was responsible for a new program that went live without a glitch! Our client director asked me what I did differently, and my response was “I tested it thoroughly”.

The rest as they say, is history – she asked me to take it up as my full-time responsibility. With another person from business, we became two-in-a-box that brought business and technology together. That’s how I became a lifelong tester even before IVS was born. So, when the IVS unit was formed, it was only natural for me to join the group. We worked in a charged-up startup-like environment where the team ideated, argued, strategized and built IVS.

Since then, I have played all roles in testing and quality engineering space – Marketing, Sales, Solution Design, Consulting, Delivery, Practice building and Transformation management. From C/PL-SQL/Oracle to Cloud, Digital Architecture, AI, Machine Learning and SaaS, it has been a continuous learning journey and it continues till today.

STEM Evangelist (10 years)

As I picked up leadership roles that allowed me to extend my scope of influence, I discovered a passion for doing my little bit for girls and women in technology. Having been fortunate myself and being able to pursue my dream career in technology, I felt strongly about paying it forward and I found many avenues to contribute.

From driving diversity initiatives within my organization to being a volunteer and community leader for AnitaB.org, I have worked with amazing girls and women and we have connected, shared and inspired each other. In the last three years, I have been able to take this to rural children via my association with a charity (Timeliness Lifeskills) where we work with underserved children to make them future-ready and life-ready. It’s a heartwarming and fulfilling experience facilitating their learning and skill building on area like analytical thinking, problem solving, creativity, communication and topics like Cloud, AI, BOTS, Genetic Engineering and more. Every interaction with these young kids always leaves me energized to do more. This has become my way of balancing my work and life and I know it will be a constant for years to come.

Storyteller (All my life)

Growing up in a small town in central India, power cuts were a common feature. And whenever that happened, children free from homework, came over. We would huddle up in our garden and I told stories; stories that I read and stories that I crafted – of fearless boys and girls, exploring new lands, climbing mountains, crossing oceans, deciphering secret codes and conquering it all. Since then, the storyteller in me weaved her way into all my conversations, both personal and professional.

Looking back, especially the last 10 years, I see that whether I was addressing my delivery teams, conducting practice town halls, speaking at conferences, presenting to clients or leadership, I was always using the power of storytelling. I realize that one of the key reasons of my successful and satisfying career has been my ability to connect with people and be a trusted advisor. And my storytelling has been at the heart of it.

I grow richer every day because of my core strength – my family and my team. They are my fuel for getting out of bed every morning determined to do more and learn more. Through all my experiences, ups and downs, I have always relied on them and asked for help.

I want to leave you all with three core beliefs I have – Define your success and be your only competitor. A little goes a long way. And dare! Dare to reach out, dream big and you know – miracles happen to those who believe in them.