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“Establish a presence for yourself” With Penny Bauder & Rajashree R

Ultimately, a successful leader must create an environment where teams can collaborate effectively. However, this is a bit of a foreign concept for many people.When you’re growing up and in school or attending college, you’re taught to compete, compete, compete. You compete for grades, for seats and all the way until you enter the workforce. […]

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Ultimately, a successful leader must create an environment where teams can collaborate effectively. However, this is a bit of a foreign concept for many people.

When you’re growing up and in school or attending college, you’re taught to compete, compete, compete. You compete for grades, for seats and all the way until you enter the workforce. This type of competitive conditioning could be the reason why I’ve always been competitive and love to watch sports.

Once you enter the workplace, you’re expected to shift to a collaborative mindset. Our education system doesn’t prepare you to collaborate. This isn’t tied to one region either, this is a global phenomenon.


As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rajashree R. the Chief Marketing Officer of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

Rajashree has over 20 years’ experience in the retail and CPG industry. At TCS she led the Retail Solutions Group for over 15 years.

Rajashree has been instrumental in conceptualizing TCS Algo Retail, which is a paradigm shift in the way retailers do business. She has created cutting edge products such as TCS Optumera — AI based merchandising optimization platform and TCS Omnistore — a microservices platform for unified commerce. She has been leading Transformation and Innovation programs for leading retailers worldwide for over 17 years. She also conceptualized the Retail Innovation Lab, which researches and experiments with new technologies in retail. Over 100 solutions have been incubated in this lab.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Rajashree. Are you working on any exciting new projects now at TCS? Specifically are you working on anything that can people through this difficult time?

COVID-19 has forever changed our world, forcing businesses to re-evaluate, reimagine and rebuild customer experiences. While many call this inflection point “The New Normal,” we see it as a “A New Beginning,” because the challenges also create opportunities. Amid the pandemic, we’re partnering with customers to help them digitally transform their businesses to not just recover from the current crisis, but to accelerate shifts in their business models, customer experiences and successes going forward.

A good example is a new transformative operating model framework we developed called Secure Borderless Workspaces, or SBWS, which allows TCS and our clients to take advantage of talent from anywhere to maximize business opportunities. SBWS enabled TCS to successfully transition 95 percent of our more than 450,000 global employees to a secure, remote work environment in a matter of weeks, ensuring their safety and wellbeing as the pandemic spread and lock downs were enforced. Keeping our employees productive through this rapid transition helped us ensure business continuity for our clients, many of whom are in mission-critical industries around the globe.

An important aspect of SBWS is the Talent Cloud. Traditionally, people had to go to work. With Talent Clouds, work goes to people. This approach democratizes opportunities and paves the way for organizations to employ talent from anywhere, regardless of their proximity to a major city. The location-independent model underpinning SBWS has the potential to allow more people — in particular, more women and minorities — around the world to have access to job opportunities that were previously out of reach.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What do you recommend to address it?

The first challenge is establishing a presence for yourself, especially in middle or senior management roles which are still primarily filled by men. This means that any forum, any event, any place you go, any meeting you conduct — women are in the minority. At TCS, providing opportunities for women is part our rich DNA. We are one of the largest global private sector employers of STEM-based female talent.

The second challenge is the long-held perception, albeit a very subtle one in most cases, that women may not understand tech as well as men do. I’m proof that this is not true, and there are numerous other examples. STEM fields provide an excellent career option for women today. The environment that typical jobs in STEM provide is unparalleled and I’ve found there’s equal pay, especially in middle and senior management positions.

To change this perception or really misperception, it’s imperative to encourage women to explore STEM fields and careers throughout their schooling. TCS is addressing the cognitive thinking skills gap through numerous STEM initiatives, such as our programs goIT, Million Women Mentors, and Ignite My Future in School.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech?

It’s like the old right brain/left brain discussion. Women are perceived to be more proficient in right brain traits such as creativity and design, while men are thought to do well in left brain behaviors such as understanding math and science. As a woman, you don’t start fighting this perception/notion when you enter the workforce. This subconscious thinking comes from years of conditioning. It starts when we’re children and sort of flows through various points in your life and throughout your career.

With that said, by the time you start working in the field, most women in STEM-related roles and sectors have learned to deal with that conditioning.

What are your “Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Experience as a Woman in STEM or Tech?”

Ultimately, a successful leader must create an environment where teams can collaborate effectively. However, this is a bit of a foreign concept for many people.

When you’re growing up and in school or attending college, you’re taught to compete, compete, compete. You compete for grades, for seats and all the way until you enter the workforce. This type of competitive conditioning could be the reason why I’ve always been competitive and love to watch sports.

Once you enter the workplace, you’re expected to shift to a collaborative mindset. Our education system doesn’t prepare you to collaborate. This isn’t tied to one region either, this is a global phenomenon.

Another lesson I’ve learned is the importance of being self-reliant and remaining true to yourself. As a leader, you need to be very clear about what you want to achieve and how you want to approach every situation. In all honesty, being a leader is quite lonely at times — and it’s nearly impossible to be the most popular person. Going into a leadership role, you need to understand that no matter how nice of a person you are, you will always end up displeasing somebody at some point.

What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?

In the face of COVID-19, I found what I call, “ambient awareness,” to be especially helpful in fostering collaboration among my team. Ambient awareness is a concept where you are in a physical place and you hear a lot of “noise,” around you — noise about your company, your projects, your colleagues. These very subtle sounds of knowledge reach you and help you make decisions as a leader.

Now that we’re all working remotely, I knew it was very important for TCS to recreate as much of that ambient awareness as possible in a digital manner, so we launched the #OneTCS channel. This is an internal communications channel where employees collaborate about topics other than work. In less than a week, people began creating live sessions offering cooking lessons, hobby tutorials, fitness tips, live events, and suggestions for keeping kids occupied during conference calls. We also host interview sessions with celebrities and notables from numerous fields. In fact, we’ve had an astronaut, chefs, economists, COVID-19 survivors, and others.

As part of our Secure Borderless Workspaces strategy, I wanted to bring the organization together to talk about topics that matter to them. Cross-engagement and employee visibility helps recreate the ambient awareness that’s missing from being away from the office, but which can inspire future innovation. Not just for me, but for teams across the entire global network. It appears to be working because we currently have more than 100,000 employees on our #OneTCS channel, and the number keeps growing.

I urge other leaders to incorporate ambient awareness into their management style to help rebuild that in-person community that can easily be lost through remote work.

What advice would you give to other women leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

I really believe that leadership has a lot to do with transparency. Successful leaders must be honest and open, especially when you’re dealing with large teams, in order to gain the trust and respect of the many people in your network who rely on you day in and day out. People will know if you’re not being your true self, and a vital layer of trust and respect will be ultimately lost. This leadership approach has led me to host virtual townhalls each quarter where I join via video conference and offer my colleagues an opportunity to ask me tough questions in an open setting.

Leaders also need to take more accountability for culture. Employees can be the best brand advocates and by creating a strong culture, you’re building the foundation of a successful company.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

It takes a village, and that’s especially true for women. After working for 20 years, you kind of figure things out and know how to do things, but you have a network to rely on. Especially when it comes to balancing your personal and professional life. It’s a tough thing to handle when you’re first starting out. Sometimes women make career choices that allow them to take a much more active role at home — whereas men don’t normally feel that type of inherit obligation due to societal norms. I was dedicated to excelling in my career, so it really required the collective efforts of my family, close friends and colleagues for me to pursue this path.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

This quote from Bono fits me really well: “I want to change the world, but I want to have fun doing it.” I can’t bring myself to come to work if I’m not doing something that promises to have a positive impact on the world in some form. I’m not saying I’m going to eliminate a global conundrum, but I’m ambitious for myself, the company, the brand, and my team, and it’s important to slow down sometimes to find moments of levity, foster camaraderie and a few laughs among the hard working teams whenever possible.

Is there a person (currently living) in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Can I say Bono, again? I really want to meet him or Bruce Springsteen to discuss their abilities to communicate and connect with thousands of people at once. Before the pandemic, I loved going to live concerts. Now I binge concerts on YouTube. In any event, it always fascinates me that one person or band can captivate an audience in an instant. It’s a great lesson in communication.

I would love to find out what goes through the mind of a famous musician who can captivate an audience. How do they prepare themselves to go on stage? I always wanted to be a musician, but unfortunately, I could never learn how to play an instrument. That’s why I went into marketing. At the end of the day, successful musicians and marketers are both able to create lasting impressions.

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