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Nurturing Female Leadership in the Tech Industry Swati Mishra

Volume 4, 2016

By David Yu

Swati Mishra disagrees with the long-held stereotype that the tech sector is a male-dominated industry.

“Actually plenty of opportunities are available out there in the tech sector for women,” said the CEIBS MBA 2018 student. “It depends on how every individual pursues them and takes the challenges forward – it’s the same for men and women. The number of women in the workforce has been steadily increasing globally. We now have more diverse career choices than our mothers did. This change is quite visible in a developing country such as India.” 

Mishra earned an engineering degree from one of India’s leading tech institutes. After graduation she began her career in business intelligence and data analytics by landing a highly-coveted job with Tata Consultancy Services, where her career flourished. She delivered complex business intelligence solutions for major clients, handling projects with budgets upwards of 4 million British pounds and managing a 30-person, cross-functional team spread across multiple locations.

The responsibilities and challenges of managing such a diverse team allowed Mishra to hone her leadership skills. “I am a performance-driven individual with a strong inclination to establish and nurture relationships; I do enjoy my role as a leader,” she said. “As a female leader I bring ‘social sensitivity’ to the table. It is essential for managing a global and cross-functional team, and requires a team leader to have a high level of emotional intelligence in order to read the social contexts and cues of the team. A true leader must not be indifferent – you should know and understand what makes your team members happy and unhappy. This enabled me to earn a lot of respect from my team members who were both junior and senior to me.”

Mishra believes that practicing participative leadership, which engages team members in becoming leaders themselves, can foster more innovation within a team. “When leading several projects at the same time I have to multi-task, entrust my team with the operational details, and give them the freedom to try and innovate,” she explains. “But I always took personal responsibility for any mistakes in front of the clients, which elevated the trust the team placed in me.”

After spending more than four years at Tata, Mishra left to join a business intelligence start-up where she was the only female. She led product innovation for two of the company’s major cloud products which generated 40% of its total annual revenue.

The leap into entrepreneurship gave her a new set of challenges. She had to learn how to switch from a process-oriented, task-assigned corporate leadership role to leading within a dynamic start-up venture with few processes and constantly changing responsibilities. This is what led her to enrol in the CEIBS MBA Programme. “I used to wear different hats at work every day – being a sales person, technical expert, project leader and client relationship manager,” she said. “These different roles actually made for a great learning experience. Since there are no assigned roles, leadership demands a proactive and action-driven approach which involves taking bold initiatives and risks. This is what I wish to learn here at CEIBS.”