By the end of it all, one thing was very clear, as Dr. Saundarya Rajesh, Founder-Director AVTAR Career Creators & FLEXI Careers India, rightly put it, “There is no stopping an idea whose time has come!” This was the overwhelming feeling at the end of another successful edition of SEGUE Sessions. Bengaluru played host to the latest edition of India’s first large-format skill building initiative for women seeking transition in their careers and right from the outset, the enthusiasm from the participants to be part of such an exclusive event, one that has transformed many a career over the years, was quite evident.
Despite the long lines of women queuing up to register, the event got off to a smooth start as per schedule with Dr. Saundarya Rajesh welcoming the participants, corporate organizations and dignitaries to the latest edition of this path breaking event. She went on to deliver her opening address in which she spoke about the journey of Diversity and Inclusion in India, how far we’ve come and the role of AVTAR I-WIN (India’s first career service for women) in this tremendous improvement of the situation. Overall, setting the tone for the positive change and input the participants felt and imbibed by the end of the event.
Dr. Saundarya Rajesh gave a brief introduction to ‘WINSKILLS’ from AVTAR I-WIN- a set of skill-building programs that not only help you in making an effective comeback but also prepare you for a wonderful career ahead. She was soon joined on stage by Ms. Sandhya Vasudevan, Managing Director, DB Group India and the keynote speaker for the day, Ms. Darshana Ogale, Senior Vice President, Capgemini Consulting India Pvt. Ltd.
Ms. Sandhya Vasudevan needs no introduction. As one of India’s most prominent woman leaders, she delivered a special address and the participants hung on to every word of hers. One of the things she highlighted in her speech was ‘the power of networking’ and how to get the best out of it. Ms. Darshana Ogale’s keynote address included many experiences from her own life which ensured she was able to strike a chord with the participants.
Next up was a Panel Discussion on ‘India Inc’s need for women managers to hold sustainable long-term careers in order to bridge the skill gap’. The panel was a star– studded one comprising of Ms. Gayathri Ramamurthy, Lead – Leadership Development, D&I,Capgemini Consulting India Pvt. Ltd., Ms. Rajashree Natarajan, Chief Operating Officer, Cognizant Foundation, Mr. Suresh Kumar, Operations Director, South Region, Vodafone India Ltd and Mr. SriRaj Kantamneni, Global IT Lead, Cargill Business Services. The discussion was quite intriguing and surprisingly, two of the biggest takeaways came from the men on the panel! First, Mr. Suresh Kumar, whose line “Organizations are slices of society” stood out and then Mr. SriRaj Kantamneni, whose advice “Clarity is the key. Be clear about your goals!” could apply to every aspect of life
The short tea-break after the discussion gave the participants the opportunity to interact closely, albeit briefly, with some of the senior leaders present. It was an opportunity they did not miss. “It was very positive, useful and most importantly it was motivating! I’m happy to see this untapped potential showcased to corporates. It’s a superb initiative by AVTAR I-WIN,” said Namita Koria, one of the I-Winners
Mr. K. Umasanker, co-founder, AVTAR had taken up the MC duties for the day and introduced to the participants a few women who had been there, done that and were some of the best role models for women looking to make a comeback after a break in their careers.
The women comprising of Ms. Usha Pillai, Chief Consultant – WINSKILLS, FLEXI Careers India, Ms. Shantha Maheswari, TLC Head, Apps Two, Capgemini India, Ms. Shilpi Das, Senior Manager, Cognizant and Ms. Aloka Verma, Head – Finance & Accounts, Vodafone India Limited conducted a workshop on ‘The essentials of a successful comeback’. Apart from sharing their own experiences and interacting with the participants, the women leaders present were also able to highlight a few key points. According to Ms. Shantha Maheswari,”Commitment and self-belief are two important factors. Obstacles have to be taken as opportunities.” Ms. Shilpi Das brought up another key point. “There can be a break but there shouldn’t be a break in learning!” she said. Ms. Shantha Maheswari echoed this belief and stated that “Continuous learning should be in our blood.” Ms. Usha Pillai, whose experience in terms of making a successful comeback was one of the key reasons she was brought on board as Chief Consultant – WINSKILLS was also praised by the participants for her contribution to the workshop.
The end of the morning session saw another break, this time for lunch. This was no ordinary lunch; it was a networking lunch which certainly lived up to its name.“It was an excellent session which was very useful. It’s always good to meet great women who have been successful in their careers even after a break. Everyone was very nice and polite. The whole event was very well organized,” said Bindu Malhotra, another I-Winner.
Post-lunch the event resumed with the Corporate Showcase where each of the participating organizations delivered 15 minute presentations on their D&I journey. They shared their best practices and how they have been able to successfully pursue a focused gender diversity agenda.
Representing their organizations were Ms. Gayathri Ramamurthy, Lead – Leadership Development, D&I, Capgemini Consulting India Pvt. Ltd, Ms. Priya Madhavan, AVP – Venture Leader: ERSS Practice, Cognizant, Ms. Nisha Verma Head – Talent Management, Vodafone India Limited, Mr. SriRaj Kantamneni, Global IT Lead, Cargill Business Services and Mr. Anoop Hiwalay, Staffing Lead, Microsoft Global Technical Support Center.
Mr. Karthik Ekambaram, Asst. Vice President-Consulting Service, FLEXI Careers India finally brought the curtain down on the event with his Vote of Thanks but there was still time for a meet and greet session.
The meet and greet session was further evidence of the participants’ enthusiasm and appetite for improvement. Women participating in the SEGUE Sessions presented their credentials in a brief elevator pitch and submitted their resume. The recruiters representing the sponsoring organizations shortlisted candidates to be called for a detailed final selection on campus.
“It is an excellent way to interact with companies in one go. I look forward to a positive response,” said Shanta, an I-Winner who took part in the meet and greet session. Another I-Winner, Dipshika, agreed, “It was a great session. We got an opportunity to meet the recruiters directly so a big ‘Thank you’ to AVTAR I-WIN. I’m looking forward to getting a few job calls.”
A remarkable turnout saw almost every participant stay back for this and end an eventful day on a high note. Truly, “There is no stopping an idea whose time has come!”