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February/March 2013

Diversity/Careers February/March 2013

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Madhavi Mukherji works in validation solutions at Infosys

As a woman and a techie, Madhavi Mukherji dispels stereotypes and keeps up with technology to develop a big-picture knowledge of today’s business-tech relationship

'My life has been spent in technology,” says Madhavi Mukherji. “I was trained in it and I grew with it. It has evolved tremendously since I got out of college. I have seen industry trends change over my career and I can really relate to them.”

Since 2007, she has been the head of client services for energy, utilities and communications in the independent validation solutions business unit of Infosys (Bangalore, India). Infosys provides consulting, technology, and outsourcing solutions to clients in more than thirty countries.

Mukherji works at Infosys’ Fremont, CA office. “In layman’s terms, ‘validation solutions’ are quality assurance and testing practices,” Mukherji explains. “I support existing clients and new business from the testing perspective. We also focus on upfront quality, looking to improve our products and productivity.”

Mukherji’s team supports the clients of Infosys’ energy, utilities and services, and communications, media and entertainment industry segments in North and South America. “At a high level, quality assurance across different industries appears very similar,” she notes. “But deep domain knowledge in each vertical industry area is a real differentiator and value for the business.

“For instance, the testing of websites for media companies and oil and gas companies has lots of basic similarities, but you need real domain experts to do their business process testing.”

Mukherji is also responsible for supporting new client acquisition in the testing area. She says she enjoys the direct client engagement. “I understand what their technological challenges are, and my team works hard to provide relevant solutions for all our clients,” she says.

Mukherji came to the United States from India in 1999. “My dad ran an engineering company,” she remembers. “Our family included many engineers, and I knew nothing but engineering when I was growing up.” She attended the Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS, Pilani, India), one of India’s top schools for engineering. “It was a five-year integrated program and I did my masters work there.” She earned her MS in mathematics in 1984.

“When I got my degree, computers were still very new in India,” she says. “The Computer Society of India had only about two hundred members! My dad told me that engineering might require a lot of manual labor, so computers might mean a softer life for me,” Mukherji smiles. “Compared to the factory floor, it was a very comfortable lifestyle.”

Breaking ground, breaking barriers
After graduating, she joined Hinditron Computers (New Delhi, India) as a senior engineer on the systems support team. “Not only were there very few people in computers, there were even fewer women,” she recalls.

“My first day on the job, people thought I was the company’s new admin. It was hard for them to reconcile to the fact that I was a software engineer.

“One of my first assignments was to go configure machines at a client’s premises. At that time, computers weren’t ‘plug and play,’ and didn’t come assembled in a box. I had to go in on the weekend to put together the systems.

“My client let me into the building but wouldn’t let me into the data center. We sat and talked and had coffee. Finally, I asked him if I could get started with my work and he said that we were waiting for ‘the engineer.’ I told him that I was the engineer! He let me in, reluctantly, but sat in a chair next to me the entire time until I was finished.

“After a few months, this client became my best reference. In fact, he was influential in getting me my next job.”

Mukherji left Hinditron to start a family but when she returned, she found that her choices were a full-time job or no job. So in 1993, she started Infiniti Consulting in New Delhi. As the principal partner, she supported large government organizations and banks, managing client relationships and negotiating client contracts and strategic alliances. She also supported some Hinditron clients.

Mukherji created a virtual pool of consultants, peers she could call on in specific situations for particular clients. “India was not a mature market for computers. Not many people were familiar with the new technologies, so we also did end-user software training programs,” she adds.

A big transition
“There was a lot going on in technology at that time,” she recalls. “For example, Y2K was a big thing in the United States, and I decided I wanted to explore and see what it was like to work overseas.”

In India, she had worked as a development manager for Perot Systems for a year. Her first job in the U.S. was with Perot at its Plano, TX headquarters. For the next seven years, she supported large Perot customers.

“I was very excited to come to the United States,” she says. “Technology companies in India were always learning from U.S. companies. When I came here I didn’t think I’d stay this long,” she says with a smile.

Next she became a client partner and business unit head with IT services firm Keane, Inc (Boston, MA), managing delivery and sales teams.

Her last job before Infosys was at Barclay’s Global Investors (San Francisco, CA). As a principal reporting to the managing director of global operations technology, Mukherji was responsible for IT strategy and governance.

Combining technology and business
Mukherji recently joined the CIO Network. She also heads up the Bay Area chapter of the Infosys Women’s Inclusivity Network (iWIN).

Mukherji is passionate about applying technology to help solve business problems. “Over the years I have worked to understand the business of technology,” she reports. “Technology is helpful only if it can address larger business challenges. I have tried my best to work in many different industry segments and learn where we can bring value. You get a sense of what they have in common.

“This has also helped me relate to my business stakeholders. If something goes wrong, it isn’t a technology discussion; it’s a business challenge.”


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