TCS has always acknowledged that at the heart of its success stories are its people. Ravi Sundaram is one such individual – someone who has essayed various roles within the organization. He has been a technical lead, an offshore lead, a project manager, as well as a program manager at TCS over the past 25 years. Ravi’s experience could well be the benchmark for project manager experience in an IT company. In fact, it is widely known in TCS circles that the study of Ravi’s profile is akin to understanding the job of an IT project manager.
A BTech from BITS Pilani in Electrical and Electronics, and an MTech from IIT Bombay in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, Ravi is passionate about computer science and technology, economics, mathematics, physics, and the Theory of Constraints. We tried to decode the enthusiasm and the optimism that has kept him going and get a glimpse of the passion that has spurred him to perform at the workplace.
Excerpts from an informal chat:
Q: Describe a typical workday?
A: In my formative days, I used to prepare a detailed to-do list daily that I followed to the T daily. Later, as my confidence grew with each assignment, work also became more dynamic. I do still prepare a backlog of tasks I need to accomplish, but I work in an agile manner -- trying to keep a buffer for unplanned and random creative work, at the same time trying to be effective and efficient in meeting targets.
Q: What are your top five reasons for loving work and your place of work?
A: I would say the leeway to experiment; many opportunities to learn and grow; flexibility in operations; well thought out workspaces; and the scope to care and share. TCS has encouraged me to be a part of project teams that used multiple technologies to build solutions on the client-server, mainframe, cloud and mobile platforms. I had seen the power of microprocessor-based automation and artificial intelligence during my undergraduate and graduate academic projects. So, it has been wonderful to watch computer science and digital technologies grow in power and scale, whereby they can support both business and individual lives. Extended stints with internal TCS groups such as Corporate Groupware and the Corporate Software Engineering Process Group (pre-Delivery Excellence/Agile Ninja Transformations) have inspired me to appreciate the passion, rigor and thinking that goes into our strategic and tactical initiatives across the organization.
Q: Tell us a little about your role, performance management and the goal-setting process.
A: Like every other TCS process, goal-setting, performance management and role clarity too have evolved. Firstly, there is a consensus between my supervisors, myself and my team in terms of our roles, goals, and the time it will take to achieve these. This leaves no room for ambiguity, and we know what is expected of us, although many engagements are progressively demanding flexibility and the ability to change goals mid-stream and often.
Q: Have you ever encountered a difficult situation at work, how did you handle it?
A: I think good learning can best happen in difficult situations. Tough situations don’t last, but they tend to toughen the one who goes through them. It is difficult to pick any one difficult situation that I overcame. But the overcoming of crises typically involves taking the time out to think deep, getting started, collaborating, and maintaining focus while executing strategies. What is also important is to take care of one’s health and ensure that the team takes care of their health too. In terms of dealing with personal crises, TCS has always supported me in times of difficult personal situations.
Q: How would you describe TCS’ initiatives geared towards the health and safety of its employees?
A: There are always ongoing efforts and initiatives to keep employees engaged in terms of health and fitness. Furthermore, there is continuous sensitization of the associates about their safety and all-round wellness. Recently, we had an open session about mental health and happiness of associates as part of the ‘TCS Cares’ initiative. The organization also encourages sports and cultural activities. I have dabbled a bit in cricket, carrom and chess, and I do know I could do more of this!
Q: Do you feel that as a TCSer, you have the ability to make a difference in people’s lives or society?
A: Yes, avenues like Fit4Life and Purpose4Life within the organization, constantly present opportunities to make a difference to humanity. I have observed the spread of an organization-wide fitness culture through Fit4Life, and the increasing associate contribution to social causes through Purpose4Life. I have also felt an immense satisfaction in contributing to several disaster relief funds through TCS.
Q: As an experienced professional, what are the key TCS differentiators you have observed?
A: I have been associated with the organization for 25 years and have not felt the need to look beyond TCS. It is common knowledge that TCSers have the advantage of belonging to the “Tata” name. The Tata Group is among India’s most renowned, and known for its contribution towards nation-building and society as a whole.
Q: What avenues within TCS have helped you grow beyond the scope of your work?
A: Periodic challenges as part of The Philacodist Club (TPC) allow me to be an integral part of one of the best and largest global coding contests, CodeVita. Through this platform, I can create coding challenges for next-gen programmers. Besides, I am quite a regular in the activities of TechCom, a unit that has been helping TCS projects to communicate their solutions and services effectively; TCS’ library service called the Information Resource Centre, and other groups within TCS by participating in internal events like writing, quizzes, puzzle-solving etc.
Q: Are there are any health and wellness initiatives for TCSers and their families?
A: The medical coverage for TCS employees is one of the best in the industry and is quite comprehensive too. This benefit surely stems from TCS’ genuine concern towards the health and wellness of its associates and their families.
Q: TCS has an education assistance / reimbursement policy for its employees. How has this helped you grow professionally?
A: Thanks to TCS, I have acquired professional memberships at the Computer Society of India, Operational Research Society of India, IEEE, ACM, SIAM, American Mathematical Society, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, ASQ, and the International Indian Statistical Association. The experiences I have gained with these professional associations has been immense and has helped me grow.
Q: An important lesson you have learnt from your leaders
A: Be calm even in hardships. Just to reiterate, tough situations don’t last, but people can emerge stronger through them.
Q: What is an important life philosophy that you stand by?
A: Do it today and do it in the best possible way. Do what you enjoy doing and enjoy what you have to do!