By Ash Patel, Marketing Specialist, The Open Group
On July 27, 2023, The Open Group India Awards for Innovation and Excellence in the Use of Open Standards and Open Source celebrated and applauded the remarkable achievements of organizations in the use of The Open Group Standards.
We recently sat down with the recipients of the Most Promising Program for Women in EA Award; Sheetal Khandkar and Rajashree Das, to discuss their respective journeys, what it was like winning the award, and much more.
Sheetal Khandkar (Senior Director, Automotive, Capgemini)
Rajashree Das (India Capabilities Leader, Capgemini)
Please can you tell us about your occupations, and what made you get into your lines of work?
Sheetal: I am working as a Senior Director and Chief Architect in Capgemini Engineering, in the automotive domain, which is my primary responsibility. I am also an ambassador for the Women in Delivery (WID) Program for Architects. We recently received an award of merit for this program (Most Promising Program for Women in EA Award), from The Open Group. I always like to accept some good challenges within the technological field, to create value for our customers, in technological business (which is what it is called in Capgemini). This is really where my passion lies and the reason that I am here.
I feel the role that women play in this technological world is very important, even though as we go higher, we see less participation from women as the percentage levels are lower on the Architects side. This was one of the reasons why we wanted to highlight that to motivate women to take on leadership roles. That’s why we thought that this initiative will help, because its sole purpose is to innovate women to go above and beyond, have more participation outside, express their views, and connect with other women colleagues to learn more from them as well. In fact, the trigger happened about a few years ago when I was certified as a Chief Architect Certified Level where we had that track at Capgemini and that’s where I found joy in evangelizing for this WID program.
Rajashree Das was the founder of the WID program and has been driving it with full rigour for the past 3 years, with all likeminded people coming together for it.
Rajashree: I currently hold the position of Vice President, and my primary areas of expertise are in Enterprise Architecture, Data Architecture, and Product Architecture. My passion for these fields was ignited by the realization that architecture, in the context of enterprises and products, is the backbone of any successful organization. It’s the blueprint that ensures all parts of a business work harmoniously together. As I delved deeper into the intricacies of architecture and to expand my horizon, I recognized the immense potential of data and AI in shaping the future of businesses.
This led me to specialize in Data Architecture, understanding the pivotal role data plays in decision-making, innovation, and driving business growth. The industries I’ve worked in, namely Automotive, Retail, and Pharma, presented unique challenges and opportunities. Each industry has its own set of complexities, and being able to architect solutions tailored to their specific needs was both challenging and rewarding.
Apart from my technical roles, I’ve always been passionate about promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. As a Diversity Leader, Mentor, and Trainer, I’ve had the privilege of guiding many individuals in their careers, especially women, and advocating for a more inclusive work environment. My motivation stems from my own journey – being the first L4 certified woman Master Architect in my organization. It’s a testament to breaking barriers and setting new standards. I believe that sharing my story can inspire others to pursue their dreams, no matter the obstacles. Throughout my journey, I’ve faced situations that are unique to women in technology. Overcoming these has instilled in me a deep sense of responsibility to pave the way for other women and ensure they have the opportunities and support they need. Technology is one of the most influential sectors in today’s world. When women are part of the tech narrative, they have a say in shaping the future. Women bring a unique perspective, and their inclusion ensures that products, solutions, and strategies cater to a broader audience. A diverse team is more innovative, empathetic, and adaptable. By advocating for them, we’re not just doing the right thing ethically, but we’re also ensuring that the industry benefits from this immense pool of talent. My passion for promoting women in technology and delivery is a combination of personal experiences, the vision for a more inclusive industry, and the undeniable benefits that diversity brings. This is what led me to start off our Women in Delivery initiative, which I am proud to say touched more than 5000 Women technologists.
Did you receive any advice from your mentors before starting in your respective roles?
Yes of course, mentors have always played an important role in the decisions we make, as they are the guiding light. Throughout my career, I have had different mentors who have supported my growth. One such turn was taking on this responsibility for me, because this was quite a different role from what I had been doing until then. This role was completely focused on deliverables, what we do for our customers, suggestions for them, and so forth. This was a bit different, as we had to think about how to tackle problems, with advice from my mentors involving how to balance both of these things.
This included the mainstream career path where we had to deliver what was expected from us at the end of the day, and what is it that contributes back to the community, and back to the people that we work with. So how do we balance this and get ahead?
This helps growing in one’s own career as well, because you know you can’t separate from what you do, as that has a positive impact on your mainstream work. Therefore, advice like taking a leadership role or delegating work really helped, as one cannot do everything by themselves. This is what I try to deliver and reciprocate on, as it is what I tell my team as well. Moving out of your comfort zone is another thing, somebody needs to tell you that, for over a period of time you decide what you are good at in order to focus on it. Taking a challenge is something that should be done to empower ourselves, which is something I have been told, and have seen that really works. The first couple of times may be tough, but challenging ourselves is something that will take you far, which is really the key takeaway from all the discussions that I have had with my mentors.
Rajashree: One of the most impactful messages I have received from my mentors was: “Whenever you begin something, have a vision and believe. Always lead with a vision even though you might need to start with baby steps, but keep moving along to reach your goal. Then stay true to your vision, remember you are designing futures and your work has the potential to shape the trajectory of businesses, industries and most importantly, people. Always be adaptable but never underestimate the ripple effect of the decisions you make.” As we go up the corporate ladder, we realise that our circle of influence increases immensely and good leaders always have their vision and purpose as their north star that guides them.
What does collaboration mean to you both?
I think the world we live in is very complex and collaboration is key. Although Individuals can really succeed, one cannot do much on their own, but if they are backed by a strong support system, they can do a lot. For example, for us Indians we have our family at home as its quite a common practice to have that. But at work, with an initiative like this, architects from different business units work together for the benefit of the women’s architect community, where collaboration gives you those opportunities to generate good ideas, provide the energy to execute them, and much more.
We are really an inspiration to each other, which is something we recognize and practice within our own business units in a way that helps to develop the community further. In fact, I am from Capgemini engineering, and there are some people from Cloud and Infrastructure, Insights and Data too, so all these technological fronts, is where we come together which helps us to grow our own horizons, and really leverages individuals’ chances at the same time. All to achieve what is good for the community, but also for the company.
Rajashree: Collaboration, to me, is more than just working together. It’s the amalgamation of diverse thoughts, skills, and experiences to achieve a common goal; it is the embodiment of the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; and it is a continuous learning process. Interacting with colleagues from different backgrounds, expertise levels, and viewpoints provides an opportunity to grow both professionally and personally. When you collaborate, knowledge transfer happens organically. Additionally, effective collaboration fosters trust among team members. When individuals work closely, understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses, understanding the value proposition of every member in the team, it creates a bond that’s essential for the success of any project or initiative. In large organizations, especially in the domains I specialize in, it’s easy for departments or teams to work in silos. Collaboration ensures that there’s a free flow of information, breaking down barriers and ensuring that everyone is aligned towards a common vision, something that is essential for the success of the organization. As someone who has led largescale transformation projects and diverse teams from multiple geographies, I’ve always emphasized the importance of collaboration in shaping the future and achieving success.
What does communication mean to you both?
Sheetal: I think it’s a critical aspect for any community and it is so for the WID program. We meet virtually quite often (once in two weeks at least) as it’s a periodicity that we have tried to maintain to exchange views and talk about what is happening in the world. So, effective communication is essential to keep the community alive, otherwise everyday pressures can take over quite quickly. This enables best practices that we share, or any challenging assignment that somebody has done to break conventional thinking, or pose some new approach, or driving innovation that architects are expected to do. That’s the reason that we try to exchange ideas effectively through these meetings along with newsletters that we publish, to inspire and motivate more women to join the community. This creates an environment to share knowledge, mutual respect, and improvement within the company.
Rajashree: Communication, for me, is the very foundation upon which relationships, projects, large programs and visions are built and realized. It’s not just about conveying information, but about connecting, collaborating, understanding other’s point of view, and inspiring. However, communication is a two-way street – it’s as much about listening as it is about speaking. This feedback loop is essential for continuous improvement, understanding challenges, and adapting to changing scenarios and crucial at a time when the world is changing so rapidly. When individuals feel they are kept in the loop and their opinions are valued, it creates a foundation of trust that’s essential for teamwork. Finally, in my roles as a leader I have realized that communication is a very important tool for advocacy and transparency. It’s a means to highlight issues, promote mindsets, and champion causes that are close to my heart.
In essence, communication is the thread that weaves together ideas, people, and visions. It’s the mechanism through which visions are articulated, challenges are addressed, and successes are celebrated. For me, it’s not just a skill but an art – an art that plays a pivotal role in leadership, mentorship, and achieving excellence in any domain.
Please can you tell us a little bit about how it was receiving the Most Promising Program for Women in EA Award and what it meant to you?
Of course, everyone from the WID team is a passionate individual that excels in their own field of work, but this is something that is over and about their job, so definitely this boosts our confidence and the rigour that is required, that is pushed by this kind of appreciation. At Capgemini, it’s continuous encouragement from everybody in management at India level and management level, so it’s kind of an endorsement for that. Furthermore, coming from an organization like The Open Group, which is well recognized at global Forums, is something that will definitely encourage us.
There are also other programs too, as women in Capgemini is a bigger umbrella and WID is one program, but this is working as a trigger for other groups. For example, there is Women in Sales, Women in Innovation, and other initiatives which are also quite excited by this news as well.
Rajashree: Receiving the “Most Promising Program for Women in EA Award” was both an honour and a validation of the efforts we’ve invested in championing women in the field of Enterprise Architecture (EA). It was a testament to the initiatives, programs, and mentorships we’ve been involved in to uplift and support all the women of EA. It sends a message that efforts towards diversity and inclusion are valued and recognized. It was heartening to see that our collective efforts were making a tangible difference and were being recognized at such a prestigious level. While the award was a moment of pride, it also came with an increased sense of responsibility. It reinforced our commitment to continue pushing the boundaries, advocating for more inclusivity, and ensuring that women in EA have the resources, opportunities, and support they need to thrive.
On a personal level, the award was a poignant moment of reflection. It made me look back at my journey – the reasons for coming up with WiD initiative, the learning’s, the challenges faced, the leadership support, the barriers overcome together, and the milestones achieved. It was a reminder of why I’m so passionate about promoting women in technology and delivery and how I can pay it forward.
How do you inspire fellow Women in Enterprise Architecture and what advice would you give to those, who are just starting out in this area?
Sheetal: When we started three years ago, we struggled a lot to get the core team in place and scout for women architects who can take out time and be on their call of duty and then still spend time with their families. But slowly and in steadily we kept at it, and about a few months in, we saw a good success by taking those baby steps, and then we started with definite initiatives.
These initiatives included having an external outreach where we would go and talk on external Forums. So definitive structure and the community is one. Secondly is to give a definitive program to execute with some goals and targets, which is definitely working for women’s benefits so, be it on the soft skills front, be it on the technological front, all of that is what we think our aim is, so having a definite goal definitely helps. I think that is what we have tried to do. I would also say it’s not just individual career growth, but it is for holistic career growth, as our experiences at this works as an inspiration to aspiring architects. This is because we have seen more and more women getting attracted to technology as a career in the past two, three years, which is not a very conventional trend.
I would also encourage more women to consider technology or architecture as a career, and to excel in what they set out as their goals and what they do. There is no short cut to success, everyone must take great efforts in starting one day at a time, follow their ambitions, and achieve what they aspire to do.
Rajashree: I believe that personal stories have a profound impact. By sharing my experiences, challenges, and milestones, I aim to show fellow women that it’s possible to overcome barriers and achieve success in EA. As a mentor, I provide guidance, support, and insights to women navigating the complexities of EA. This one-on-one interaction allows for personalized advice, helping them shape their career paths. I’ve been involved in initiatives and programs that provide women with opportunities to learn, network, and grow within the EA domain. By creating and promoting these platforms, I ensure that women have the resources they need to excel.
I have some advice to women who are starting out on their leadership journey – be empathetic, be humble, be selfless and be giving. The strongest of women often need your hand, and you will often need help from others – so create your own tribe, invest in people, network with the purpose of helping, create your own support system and celebrate each other – always. And finally, while it’s essential to do good work, it’s equally important to ensure that your contributions are recognized. Don’t shy away from showcasing your achievements and taking credit where it’s due – too many women underestimate themselves – you should not underestimate yourself.
Are there any other comments that you would like to add?
Sheetal: I think being an inspiration is one thing that I have said before but will say again, because it is not only within Capgemini. There are deep learning and deep mentoring sessions that are happening, (those kinds of programs we run even outside of Capgemini for women here, and they are also involved in some social activities). All of that adds to us being together as a group that the feeling increases when we do such activities together, and that really helps the company. After all, when the community grows, the individuals benefit from there, so I think it’s what helps such initiatives.
Rajashree: The field of Enterprise Architecture offers immense opportunities for growth, innovation, and impact. For women just starting out, remember that your unique perspective is invaluable. Embrace challenges as learning opportunities, find mentors who can guide you through the intricacies, believe in your capabilities, be resilient, don’t be afraid to voice your ideas and opinion, seek support when needed, and always strive for excellence. The path might be demanding, but the rewards, both personal and professional, are well worth the effort.
Ash Patel – CDMP, Marketing Specialist, joined The Open Group in 2020, initially working in the Certification Team as a Certification Services Agent, before moving into the Marketing Team where he now works on email mailers, content for the staff intranet (O-Zone), SEO (Search Engine Optimization), to monitoring stats for email communications. Ash holds a First-Class Bachelor’s Degree in Media Production (BA hons) from Coventry University and has a background in content writing, copy writing, script writing, photo editing, and video editing. He is based in the UK.