Millennials talk careers: Umang Sota
Human Resources

Millennials talk careers: Umang Sota

20-01-2018-umang-sotaName: Umang Sota

Age: 29

Education: MBA, Marketing Management from S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research

Current role: Global Head of Business | Cloud & Managed Hosting Services

Ideal role: The ideal role for me keeps me on my toes and challenges me to grow beyond my comfort zone – like my current role.

 

Are the stereotypes about millennials true?

As a woman under 30 working in a B2B technology environment, the stereotypes I have encountered are more to do with the fact that I am a young woman rather than a millennial per se.

I have had an immensely supportive upbringing so being a woman has never impacted my confidence in my personal life, and fortunately, I have had the same positive experience with my immediate team at Tata Communications too. They have never bat an eyelid about me being a woman or being younger than many of them. Overall, Tata Communications has always struck me as a place where talented people receive the appropriate investment, support and resources they need to flourish.

Having said that, I must admit that I have had to deal with stereotypes about my age and gender in the broader tech sphere. The industry is still largely male dominated, so I have had people say things to me like: “Do you realize you’re the only woman in the room?” at a data center conference. A customer also once referred to me as “girlie” in a meeting, which I had to handle tactfully. It was odd to have to drive home the point that my gender was not a disadvantage.

Then there is also the perception that I don’t have enough grey hairs to command a seat at the executive table or that I am too young to add value, but I am very hard-working and persistent – so rather than letting it bug me, I use it to drive me further so that my work can speak for itself.

 

What benefits most attract you to a new position?

Before Tata Communications, I worked for around two years doing various roles across the wider Tata group as part of Tata Sons’ flagship leadership program called TAS. I already felt that my interests were gravitating towards the technology space – so when the opportunity came up to work here, I knew it was for me.

It’s important for me to work in a fast-moving, driven environment for a company that is doing something bold, disruptive in its market. That’s what attracted me to Tata Communications too, as the company is doing some amazing work in the cloud space. Tata Communications has close to 10,000 employees worldwide, all committed to delivering on the company’s ambitious strategy. It has given me the opportunity to be hands-on and experience a more dynamic, start-up like culture as technology transcends borders, industries and cultures.

I have never strived for a 9-5 business life – I get an insane kick out of my work! I have realized that I am a workaholic out of choice. I keep looking for new challenges that stimulate and develop me as both a professional and a person.

 

In the long term which of the following is most important to you? (Please explain why?)

  • Career development
  • Work/ life balance
  • Salary

Hands down, career development: stagnation, monotony bores me, suffocates me – it’s tackling challenges and working across cultural barriers that drives me and excites me. So, I want to continue to build on my existing experiences and hope to build a truly global business that is both cutting edge and sustainable.

 

What do you think most companies are getting wrong when hiring/ retaining younger workers?

I think many organizations miss a trick by looking for candidates with experience in that specific sector. I had no experience in technology, let alone data centers or cloud, when I joined Tata Communications four and a half years ago. But I was like a sponge for information and worked closely with my team and hit the ground running. Within two days of being on the job, I’d packed my bags and moved to Singapore for a career in data centers! The right candidate will adapt and rise to the challenge if they have the right attitude, team and resources available to them.

More companies should foster a culture of creativity too, to empower new employees – regardless of their age – to introduce new ways of working, or even new services, without a fear of getting shot down. At Tata Communications, we’re encouraged to be daring in how we approach our projects and our work generally. I find it inspiring, because I know that I too can affect change in a company of 10,000 people.

 

Looking back, is there anything you’d change about the route you took to your current career?

When you grow up in a small town in a developing country, you are not trained to think about fancy career options but about earning a livelihood. I have been able to do both, make a living and have an engaging career path. So I have no complaints.

But in a parallel universe maybe instead of technology, I could have been an actor, poet or a journalist?! Honestly though, some might think that I took a bit of a topsy-turvy route to get to where I am now –  working across industries like retail and hospitality – but I think that gave me a well-rounded view of the business world.

Succeeding in business has always been plan A for me, although I still sometimes wonder if I would make a good lawyer, as I enjoy the art of negotiation! But right now I am enjoying my career and am learning all the time.

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