The first thing that strikes you when you meet her is her warmth and simplicity. The second is her honesty and humility. Her steady rise in life from very humble beginnings has added a sheen of exuberance to her personality that reaches out to everybody she meets. Shiny Rajan, GM-HR at Sopra Steria is a consummate professional, a doting daughter, dedicated wife and a caring mother.
Her transformation has been phenomenal. From an extremely shy and introvert person all through school and college, to a people’s person today who can address a large audience and hold her own in any given situation.
“People who knew me then can’t recognize me today. Well even I can’t recognize myself today,’’ she says laughingly.
“I never thought that my life would pan out like this. I just did what was needed at the moment and gave it my all. Right after my graduation from Jesus and Mary College I started working as a secretary in a small company. My only thought at that time was that I have to supplement the family’s income. My father was the only earning hand in the house and taking care of a wife and three children was quite tough.”
“Although my father was the sole bread-winner yet he made sure that we did not lack anything. He provided us with the best possible education. He is a pillar of strength in my life. He taught me how to deal with life no matter what the situation. He has given me the gift of calmness and serenity. Nothing in life fazed him irrespective of how tough circumstances were. And I have imbibed that from him,” says the proud daughter.
“I believe that you should be the best at what you do, it doesn’t matter whether the job is of a secretary or a general manager. It is up to you to excel at it and be happy in that space,” says the incredible woman who started as a leave vacancy secretary in this company and has risen to become the General Manager – HR.
She believes that always having a positive attitude, even when things are tough, is important as it encourages others to have confidence in you.
“In the year 2000 – I had been in the company for three years and was working as Executive Assistant (EA) to successive VP- HR at that time. I was offered the choice to be either the EA to the MD (the highest position in my stream) or start as a trainee in the HR department. I consulted my mentors and took a bold decision to let go of my training and experience of being an EA and chose to be a trainee and start afresh. Many thought I was taking a big risk. And as luck would have it and maybe because of my keenness to learn, I became part of an HR shared service team that was sent to London in 2002 for a month long training. As a team, we put together a set of ten processes that became standardized procedure for all the company offices.”
Never one to shy away from challenges,” When I was moved to BPS (Business Process Services) to take on the transitioning client HR processes, it was absolutely out of my comfort zone. To interact with clients and build rapport, train and build the team from scratch and get each of the services up to the business as usual mode was a huge challenge. The working culture of the BPS industry itself was new to me, SLAs (Service Level Agreements), trackers, client management, team management everything was very new, but I was able to manage it so well that I was recommended for promotion within a year of joining in this role.”
Shiny insists that,” having mentors who encourage you to look deep within yourself and trusting your own instincts is very important. I have been fortunate to be mentored by exemplary women. In fact, I have had women managers till about 2007 who encouraged me to accept challenges and remain strong in the face of adversity. Most importantly they gave me opportunities to explore my capabilities and to bring out the best in me. I was not pushed to take any decision but was given the confidence, trust and space to make the right decision.
In 2008, as Senior Manager, Shiny headed the very HR team that she had joined as a trainee. In those eight years she was promoted twice. “I was with HR Operations for almost eight years and was appreciated so much for my work that the People Help Desk (as the HR Shared Service team was called) was identified with me.”
“When I was heading the HR shared services, 90 percent of my team members were women and 35 percent of the overall strength in Sopra Steria is women.”
Being a woman who was mentored by women, she has always mentored and supported other women team members by motivating them to continue working even when many wanted to leave after having children. “I gave extended maternity leaves, reduced their work hours and exempted them from late shifts. We also have a day care-centre at Sopra Steria where women employees can bring their own nannies if the child is less than a year. And if the child is above a year old we have our own nannies to take care of the children while their mothers work,” says the mother of an 11 year old son and a 20 year old daughter.
“I think for a woman to succeed in her career it is very important to have a support system. Like my husband never stopped me from doing what I wanted to do. He always stood by my decisions. My parents were always there for me. In fact, both my children were practically raised by my mother,” she admits proudly.
“My mother has been my back-bone. She first raised me and my siblings and then my children with very strong values and taught us all to be good human beings. I have also had some amazing friends who have stood by me through thick and thin. Now my daughter is my biggest support, advocate and best friend. I have been blessed to have all these people in my life who have contributed towards my success,” reflects Shiny.
Despite her grueling work schedule, she still finds time to pursue her other interests in life. She is a voracious reader and has devoured the whole Harry Potter and the Hunger Games series. “I love fantasy, science fiction and thrillers. I don’t particularly like emotional films as I feel there is enough emotion in real life,” she says with a chuckle.
“I am a person who takes each day as it comes. Always strives to give more than what is expected of me. I never become complacent and am continuously looking for newer horizons to conquer. At the same time, I firmly believe that you should treat people in the same way as you want to be treated by them. That way you earn love and respect of your colleagues and your journey is easier.”
She has built a wide personal and professional network which is essential to a successful career. A supportive family, extreme dedication towards her work and diverse interests in life has made this journey worthwhile for her.
Always looking for new challenges and taking bold decisions and never worrying as to what will happen next, Shiny Rajan is a role model for many women. As she has proved that if you have the spirit and the gumption to take risks, time and destiny will take you places, no matter where you come from.
“In 2014, I took another challenge and moved to HR Business Partner which is my current role and I am giving it my best,” says the courageous woman.
As for the future, well she never worries, as her favourite line by Mark Rylance’s character in the movie Bridge of Spies says, “Will it help?”
Rohini Sharma is a former journalist who has worked with leading print and electronics media groups. She is currently associated with environmental communication.