Technical Leadership Career Path spotlight: Geetha Gandhi
- Posted on January 20, 2021
- Estimated reading time 5 minutes
In 2020, Avanade launched the Technical Leadership Career Path (TLCP), an opportunity for our deeply technical talent that allows them to mature their business leadership while continuing to allow for their pursuit of technical expertise. Technologists will no longer have to choose between their passion for technology and advancing their career as a business leader. On this path, they will do both.
In this series, we will be highlighting the careers of the members of the TLCP. This entry spotlights Geetha Gandhi, North American Lead for Modern Application Transformation, Global SME for banking and payments domain, technology strategist and part of the global Architecture Center of Excellence. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Jyothish, and enjoys hiking the national parks and mountains and cooking global cuisines.
What’s your earliest memory of being interested in technology?
I’m fortunate that my dad is a rocket scientist, so my love of science started early. In the house, he would explain science and technology in fun ways. We had people from his team working on weekends, coming into our home. From a very young age, I heard about cryogenics technology for rocket fuel and things like that. He would teach things in fun ways, like fractions by dividing a dosa, an Indian pancake. I built solar distillators to separate fresh water from sea water.
How did your career in tech start?
My love of coding and solving logical problems started in high school computer science. I was introduced to that at that time, and the passion propelled me to get a master’s degree in computer science. I got recruited from campus into a global ERP product company. The company was just starting out, so I wasn’t just writing and designing code, but I was able to go to different client implementations all over the world – Indonesia, India, Switzerland, Germany, England. My exposure really early on started with coding, but I was also interacting with clients internationally.
Was there ever a time you considered doing something else?
Actually, yes. Science and math were always what I wanted to do. But everybody thought I was going to become a doctor or a surgeon. I was very interested in biology too, and everyone was always telling me, “You’re good at that so you should do it.” But even when studying for the medical school entrance exam, I didn’t like the process of memorizing facts to get through a test. Whatever career path I took, I would have gravitated to applied innovation. Because I really like new technology, but I also want to ground it and solve a problem and see it in action. That’s why I like building systems, solving a problem that can actually make an impact.
What obstacles have you faced along the way?
Early on in my career, I would say because I worked in technology in a large, corporate setting, it was navigating a very male-oriented work environment due to gender-based stereotypes and perceptions. You had to prove yourself as a technologist. Secondly, lack of sponsorship and buy-in for ideas and projects. So I would be very passionate about building things, coming up with out of the box solutions, but early on in my career, because of these perceptions and lack of sponsorship, it would take a lot of time to convince people. They would do the same thing a year later. Early on, that was a problem. I was able to mitigate it as I grew in my career by getting allies, the ability to articulate my technology solutions with business outcomes, and learning to challenge the status quo more diplomatically and by getting a network of trusted sponsors and mentors.
What are you most passionate about in your career now?
Bridging the gap between business and technology for clients and helping them in their journey to modernize their business for the future. I think software runs almost every industry and aspect of human life behind the scenes. So being able to make a large contribution is exciting for me. The other thing is the ability to work on cutting edge technology. My role is looking at Modern App transformation, how do we take machine learning and have real-time insights. Quantum computing blockchain, cybersecurity – I always keep myself up to date with technology. I enjoy, in my free time, reading about those things. And I love mentoring, sponsoring, inspiring young technologists by sharing my experience.
What does the TLCP at Avanade mean to you?
To me, it means that as a technologist, I can be a catalyst part of the core team, the team that influences the direction and the future of Avanade. I don’t have to give up my passionate for technology to be in a leadership role, to influence how we do business with the clients.
Avanade gives you a safe environment for exploration and experimentation. Personally, it has given me an environment where I can challenge the status quo. I don’t have to fear about that. I have worked with a lot of very smart people, but the culture here is most of these smart people are very collaborative and help each other, and that’s a culture you don’t find at most companies.
What do you envision for the future of your career?
It’s not about a certain title. It’s about using tech to solve real world problems in different industries. I just built something for remote patient monitoring for ICUs, so it actually has a human impact. I want to work on those types of projects. And I also want to be a brand ambassador for the broader technology world, giving presentations at conferences and furthering Avanade’s brand.
What advice would you give to someone looking at your career and wanting to walk the same path?
I don’t believe in giving following someone’s path; everyone has unique talents, and they should carve out what they feel will work best. But I can share what’s worked for me: curiosity and a thirst for knowledge; always asking questions; the ability to not just solve problems, but the ability to identify and recognize problems; being open to constructive feedback; challenging yourself to adapt.
Take calculated risks. Sometimes you will have to make a lateral move. I used to manage huge teams at JP Morgan and decided to take a totally different path into emerging technology. Be open.
Being smart and hardworking is the foundation. To grow your career, it’s necessary to build a trusted network of trusted allies, mentors and sponsors. I want to cap it with what Satya Nadella has said. As developers, as technologists, in the current world, you cannot say, “I know it all.” You have to be open to learning constantly. And to be successful in this nonstop world of technology, find ways to destress and add some hobbies. You reach a point of burnout where you’re concentrating so much on work. The time away makes you more productive and more satisfied with your work.