As more women reach out for leadership positions within the proliferating innovative companies, mentorship plays a crucial role in nurturing their talent. We spoke to Geetha Panda who contributes as a mentor in her dual roles as the Global Director, Service Desk & Large Platform Security Capability, DXC Technology and Regional Co-Chair of industry body CII-IWN.
With 5 process patents to her credit in niche fields such as predicting customer satisfaction, Panda tells Subhalakshmi Roy, “I put my customers and employees in the forefront when I think of innovating new stuff, and all my patents are focussed on them. My team has also got an equal number of patents because I make it a point to drive innovation as a part of the agenda every year”.
Panda’s motivation has been to build a new industry from the ground up; she “always wanted to be the first one to do something.” After pioneering India’s nascent BPO sector in the early 2000s in India, and contributing to its growth from $7.2 million in 2004-5 to $150.2 billion in 2017, she’s worked in diverse sectors such as shipping and biotechnology. In each of these industries, she found herself to be either the only woman or amongst the very few women in the leadership team.
A natural progression was to accept an invitation from the Indian Women Network, a wing of the Confederation of Indian Industry. Working in several roles, she was chairperson of IWN Karnataka last year and this year, she’s taken on more responsibilities as Regional Co-Chair.
IWN’s focus areas include health and wellbeing, policy and advocacy, learning and development, and training in self-defense, awareness about prevention of sexual harassment at work (POSH); personality development and skill building are some of the organisation’s activities. It has extended its focus to mentorship, and runs customised programmes for both women professionals and entrepreneurs. She hopes that organisations like IWN will scale up and act as enablers for individuals aspiring to become entrepreneurs.
A social impact project that she has recently started is a new, personal initiative to mentor female juvenile criminals. “The rate of juvenile crime has increased 3 times in the last decade, and this is only the rate of recorded crime”, she says. This worrisome trend has led her to put together a team to understand the nature of such crimes and their triggers.
The larger vision is to enable reforms by working with organisations engaged in juvenile rehabilitation and to ensure that available government funds are effectively used to build employable skills. “I believe that we can reform, transform and pre-empt crime,” she says resolutely.