After the successful launch of our trailblazing women leader’s series last week with Christine Mexis Moutsos, this week we sat down with a talented rising star and new people leader, Akshatha KS, Practice Lead – Modern Work M365 Team (Wellington), Intergen. We discuss her early career in technology and her advice for aspiring female leaders in the industry.
How did you come to start working in the technology space?
I grew up in family of four kids and had one shared computer during our schooling days. My older brother was heavily influenced by technology, and he used to have several hobby projects of his that amazed me. I would always jump onto it during my free time. Eventually, I started to understand the potential of what technology could do and realised it could be a career I could get invested in. I found it liberating and empowering at the same time.
I started off with an Engineering degree in Information Technology where we worked on few projects that revolved around solving real world problems, learning about the power of coding and how it can influence business outcomes. I found this to be something I was very passionate about and once I completed my Bachelors, I started working in a professional services organisation as a Software Developer. My first project was an internal project working directly with the company’s CIO and Corporate team as our customers to build an enterprise intranet. As a fresher out of college, it was great first experience to be working with the senior executives, observing, and contributing directly to the organisation. For the first three years in this role, I was on a huge learning curve, which included working closely with Microsoft on a project, which ultimately led me to a consulting role within Microsoft. I resonated deeply with the mission to leverage technology in empowering everyone on planet to do more and applied that to some amazing projects that I was leading. I also learnt about the power of Technology Community forums that helped me meet some great mentors and I could eventually build on my personal brand.
Have you faced challenges in your journey and experience in technology?
Early days in the career, there were tough stakeholders to deal with who had high expectations from us as individuals. However, my nature has always been to focus on the positive aspects in any situation, even in chaotic situations I am able to stay calm. I have worked hard to continue to build on this innate strength of mine and learnt to engage with different communities of practice to help me along the way. Whenever I have had challenges, in moving roles, or moving countries, I’ve been grateful to have strong support system backing me up, both at home and at work.
Embracing growth mindset, I have regularly attempted to step out of my comfort zone, and this has helped me evolve as an individual. I have recently moved to into a people leadership role which is an exciting challenge for me. I have been very comfortable in technical leadership roles in the past, but now managing people’s experiences adds a whole new dimension to it. I am drawing on my support network at work and my leaders, to help me work through any conflicts or challenges that arise.
The last challenge I will bring up is the art of delegating appropriate work to team, especially coming from a quite hands-on technical role to leadership. This is still in motion for me, and I have started structuring and planning my day to work better for me and my team.
What does leadership look like for you?
The key highlight or value proposition for me is the feeling that I get from being able to lead a team and deliver meaningful solutions. That's something that really motivates me every day. And I think since the beginning of my career, or even while I was transiting to different leadership roles, it's always been a matter of asking myself: How do I go and address the current problems and create great outcomes and purpose in everything I do? And now that I have taken on a people leadership role, I find it very gratifying making a difference in people’s lives daily. One of my focuses has always been being ‘better together’, making sure the whole team looks good and not just focusing on individuals. I am passionate about coaching the emerging talent and have invested some of my time helping ‘next one in the line’ to progress in their career roles.
What does leadership mean to you?
For me leadership has been about helping people to play onto their inherent skills and develop on those strengths, while picking up newer competencies. Technology skills are the easier bit to master, it is inculcating the soft skills that usually takes a lot of time.
When I moved to Intergen, I have had some great managers mentor me; and during some recent coaching to take up my Practice Lead role, I was introduced to this concept of think like a business owner. This idea has really stuck with me, and I relate my myself being in the position of running the business, where I have people, projects, and relationships to maintain while being profitable. The challenge is making sure this is cohesively met without crossing over each other’s professional aspirations – end of which you have happy people and happy customers. To do this, we need to have apt projects that line up with our expertise and help build strong relationships. This idea helps me to put into perspective what my role is within the bigger picture.
What advice do you have for aspiring young female leaders?
I am still learning so much as a new leader, however in my recent experiences I have the following advice:
- Know your allies – these are people who believe in you and can vouch for your work.
- How powerful a support network and community can be – for me the networks have been handy when I run into a problem or when I have been contemplating my next career move.
- Understand it’s going to be hard work – you will be signing up to a lot of things that are going to require persistence and sometimes compromises in your personal life. Prepare yourself mentally for this challenge - it won’t be a cakewalk.
- Seize every opportunity – make use of every opportunity that comes your way to achieve your goals - there is no rulebook really!
- Know that it’s okay to be ‘selfish’. It’s essential to keep some time for yourself and to prioritise your own needs with respect to any help you might need in your career or any other acumen you might want to develop.
- Go loud – share your stories and experiences. There is a lot to learn from other people’s experiences, especially from women who’ve been through different scenarios in their life where family challenges and personal challenges have come their way.
- Understand the role you aspire to become – visualise or emulate the role you want; imagine how you will perform in this role and what you would do. Potentially look for a shadow opportunity or try to see if you can get on some meetings with people in this role, where they’re running the show and just listen and learn.
- Everyone has their own journey – understand that everyone’s journey is different. As women, sometimes we find ourselves comparing ourselves to others, but please don’t do this! When we compare ourselves, it can become very overwhelming, and it just isn’t necessary.
We would like to thank Akshatha for her time and insights. If you would like to connect, please find her profile on LinkedIn.