BENGALURU: When Sindhu Gangadharan walks into a meeting room, she is used to the audience anticipating the entry of a man. “There’s initial apprehension conveyed through their body language, but they soon realise she knows what she’s saying,” says Gangadharan, managing director of SAP Labs India, the first woman at the top of the German tech giant, leading an 8,000-plus team.
Despite that distinction, Gangadharan, who took charge in September, feels it’s what you bring to the table, articulating what you know, and bringing your best self to work that takes you to the top, gender not being a consideration. While there have been times she has been overlooked, she chooses to move on without dwelling upon it. “People in Germany used to ask if it was any different for me, growing up in India, and I always said it wasn’t. Growing up in Bengaluru, my mother had the same expectations from me that she had of my two brothers. Women are evolving away from compartmentalisation. Our focus is on achieving a flow between all aspects of our lives,” says Gangadharan, who studied in Bangalore University and started her career with SAP Labs India in 1999 when it was located in ITPL.
While she’s often asked about work-life balance, the mother of two – who relocated to Bengaluru after spending 18 years in Germany – feels that it is “so last century.” For her, it’s about enjoying every part of the journey and learning from it. “These were often discussions on this in Germany, and I always felt there’s nothing like work-life balance. Work is also a significant part of one’s life,” says Gangadharan, adding that as a young girl on the debating team in school, she learned skills that she uses every day in her current product management role, making innovations easily understandable for people.
A lesson she learnt early on in her career is something she holds close. In 2001, when she moved to Germany, she would always enter discussions with a clear idea that everyone would speak English. “When I was on my maternity break, I came across many who would make an effort to speak in English. At that point I realised that when others were making an effort to make me feel comfortable, I should also be doing the same.
When I made that mental switch, it was like embracing the culture,” she says. She soon realised how it could break barriers and create a sense of inclusion. “It’s about overcoming inhibitions within yourself,” says Gangadharan, whose focus is on collaboration with a customer-centric approach, thought leadership and building a culture of inclusion.
Gangadharan is often spotted with a diary in hand, capturing her thoughts. With work keeping her busy, she admits that she doesn’t get as much time as she would like to for writing, which she eventually hopes to pursue soon.