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Changing Careers During a Pandemic: Priti Ambani

Divina Paredes

About over 2 years ago By Divina Paredes

Priti Ambani

​The pandemic has upended organisational strategies across industries and geographies. For a lot of business technology and digital leaders, the lockdowns over the past year and a half also meant a change, a transition, to a new role and even a major career shift. So what prompts ICT leaders to take this major step? What lessons can they share with people who are rethinking priorities in life and work? More so, how can one build a career during a time of constant change? I talked to five leaders who applied their experiences in leading ICT-enabled transformation programmes to a more personal area - their career:

- Dr Elinor Swery of Rookout
- Richard Raj of Knights Move Consulting
- Magriet Roos of Downer Group
- Priti Ambani of Tata Consultancy Services
- Christine Yip of C Why International

Priti Ambani of Tata Consultancy Services works across borders and industries from her base in Auckland

​Priti Ambani joined Tata Consultancy Services in September 2020 so the entire orientation to her new job was online. The process would have meant travelling to Australia and India, where TCS is headquartered, and meeting her executive colleagues and her team.

“I have never done an orientation online before. It was a good experience. I was able to meet a lot more people because it was online,” says Ambani, who is director of new business and innovation at TCS.

Her role is primarily in New Zealand but she will work with TCS in Australia, India and the United States. Because of the pandemic, she has been doing the transnational role from Auckland.

“We work across industry verticals. The structure allows collaboration across geographies as well. It is exciting,” says Ambani, who is also faculty business disruption and innovation faculty of Tech Futures Lab.

“We have more than 500,000 employees, our customers are our top priority. We have secure borderless workplaces adopted not just by TCS but also by our customers, [which is] basically a seamless online environment,” she says.

With both teams and customers, this means having an “online first, digital first and remote first mentality.”

She is working with a completely new team, and knowing the nuances of the personalities of people is different in an online setting. “That is definitely one drawback,” says Ambani. On the upside, “It is easy to set up an online meeting with people I met during the induction, not just my team.”

“How do I keep those relationships going?” is an important goal. “You have to be mindful and be intentional in building that. There are challenges as well depending on what organisation you are joining, how big it is. The experience will be different for everyone.”

She is cognisant of the different needs of staff in a hybrid environment, with some working in the office and others remotely, or from home.

She says what struck her was that having a common experience where everybody was online in a meeting, is a lot better than a hybrid setup where some colleagues were in an office, and others were joining remotely. With everybody online, “they are using the same whiteboarding tools rather than someone putting on a whiteboard and people online can’t see it. It levels the playing field.”

There are areas in the evolved workplace, however, that she feels should be addressed, particularly on how it impacts certain sectors. The remote work environment could be an additional challenge for women, who may be dealing with the disparity of income and added responsibilities, she cites.

“If you are working from home, you are also a teacher, a homemaker. As an executive, you are a leader, you are also managing your team who are also in that situation.”

“Suddenly, it becomes a question in the household of, okay, which one of us takes a back seat for a few months or maybe a year till the pandemic is something we can grapple with? Usually it is the woman who has to do that because inevitably they bring in a lesser amount [to the household income]. It is also an economics question as well.”

“That is actually a really big challenge when we come out of this pandemic. We need a much more pragmatic approach and flexibility on how we think about our workforce. It is important now, more than ever, to have an understanding of the skills of your organisation and team. Where can they overlap? Where can they work together more closely?”

“So if you are a leader, it is about being conscious of your team member’s priorities. How are they managing that? How are they balancing that? You almost need to have a bit of a rebalance. I think about a lot more now of how to structure how the team works. It is not a given anymore to expect them to be all online from 8 to 5.”

“You have people taking time in the morning or a chunk in the middle of the day when they are not available and they are available again later in the evening or after the kids are off to bed.

“A lot of companies during the pandemic had a group A or group B that had similar skills. They are working in shift or disaster recovery situations. Those are some things that will become more prevalent.

Another concept is that of jobs sharing, which some Kiwi firms are adopting. “I wonder how that could look in terms of at least keeping the women in the workforce. We need to be very creative about these opportunities. Otherwise we will lose the great power of half of our population, which is not great. Companies need this strategy to make sure that there is diversification [of teams].

Ambani continues to advocate for encouraging the next generation of ICT professionals. TCS has an internship program which is also implemented in New Zealand. She says this internship has shifted to an online experience, with young people working with teams in India and across industries. “Those internships give you not just real world experience but also different cultural experiences. You’re coming from different backgrounds and different ethnicities...It gives young people the local flavour of Eastern economies, not just Western economies.”

This is the fourth of a five-part series on switching careers in a rapidly changing landscape. See other blogs in the series below:

1. Changing Careers During a Pandemic: Elinor Swery

2. Changing Careers During a Pandemic: Richard Raj

3. Changing Careers During a Pandemic: Magriet Roos

Divina Paredes is a New Zealand-based writer interested in #ICTTrends #Tech4Good #DigitalWorkplace #Data4Good #Sustainability #CivilSociety #SpecialNeedsCommunity #SocialEnterprises

Reach her on Twitter: @divinap