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McKesson’s Radha Jivangikar grows into leadership

A steep learning curve in a new world didn’t stop this techie from pushing forward. Mentors taught her how to own her career, and now she’s confidently leading others


'If you grow up in India, you must have a certain level of college before you do anything,” explains Radha Jivangikar, “so my parents wouldn’t let me work, have a part-time job, or think about anything other than an engineering or accounting degree, or an area of science.”

Jivangikar grew up in Hyderabad, India, and earned a BS in accounting from Osmania University. “In the mid-nineties, computers were very new. Everybody wanted to get into computer science to work with them. And I wasn’t any different.”

Today, she is an application manager for support applications at McKesson Technology Services (MTS, Alpharetta, GA).

Finding her way in a foreign land
“I got married, and my husband was in the United States working for TBS in Atlanta. When I came over, I didn’t have a visa, so I attended Georgia Perimeter College (Decatur) to learn Microsoft .NET technologies.”

In 1998, Jivangikar got her green card and began looking for a job. “I was from the other side of the globe,” she remembers. “The interviewing process was new. From a cultural standpoint, body language, communication, everything was different.

“I had to learn a lot very quickly. My husband was my guide and mentor. He taught me how to interview because I was intimidated by the whole process.”

Jivangikar received an offer from GE Capital (Norwalk, CT). “The job had components I was studying and they were willing to train me as a junior web developer.”

At GE, Jivangikar developed and implemented an intranet-based inquiry tracking system application for tracking Exxon credit card customers.

She soon got a call from a startup called nFront Security (Alpharetta). “This was also very strange for me,” Jivangikar adds. “In my experience, my family and friends took jobs and planned to stay on until they retired. For me to move to another company made me feel like I was being disloyal to GE. Even so, I went to the interview and they offered me a job with more opportunities and compensation.

“While I was learning IT, I also learned how to work in America. At nFront, everything we did had a rushed deadline, so it was long hours. I got a good taste of the dot-com environment.”

Not long after she joined nFront, the company was acquired by Digital Insight Corporation (Menlo Park, CA).

Facing adversity
She went to work at software developer Clarus Corporation (Suwanee, GA). “At the time, if you had experience working in web development, you were golden,” says Jivangikar. “Clarus was doing B2B and B2C applications, the hottest areas in the industry.”

Then 9/11 occurred. Within six months, the company was bought out and Jivangikar, along with everyone else, was let go.

She returned to India for three months to spend time with her family. When Jivangikar came back, she started looking for a job. “We just had a child and we had just bought our first home. My thinking was, ‘How can I help my family have a more secure future?’”

Even though the job market was not good in 2003, Jivangikar found a position at the Atlanta office of Sage Software as a developer. In 2004, she had a second child and stayed home through most of 2005.

Bouncing back… at McKesson
In 2005, Jivangikar joined McKesson. “I was happy since a lot of people I knew from Clarus worked here at the time.”

In 2006, McKesson reorganized and her organization was transferred to a sales effectiveness group. She reported to the vice president of sales effectiveness. “She was the first person to show me the power of mentoring,” Jivangikar recalls.

“She taught me that my work had to be purposeful. It had to satisfy me and I had to own it. She helped me look at my job as a career and made me feel good about myself at work. It wasn’t long before I realized that I’m really good at this stuff! I just needed her affirmation.”

After another reorganization in 2007, her sales effectiveness group became part of McKesson Technology Services. “I had many skills that I hadn’t fully utilized,” she says, “and I found the confidence to tell my bosses I was ready for additional responsibilities.” Jivangikar became a QA lead for one of McKesson’s web tools.

Exposure leads to opportunity and success
IT moved to a new building in Alpharetta and the company needed someone to manage community events at the new location. Jivangikar was nominated and eagerly accepted. “McKesson is a very community-conscious company,” she explains, “and I wanted to be a part of it.”

In 2010, Jivangikar was the only woman to receive McKesson’s corporate leadership award for her contributions to the local community. “It was a big moment for me,” she says. “I’ll never forget it.”

Her work on the community team gave her a lot of exposure to management. By chance, Jivangikar ran into the MTS general counsel at a local post office, and she offered to be Jivangikar’s mentor. “She has provided great insights,” Jivangikar says.

Jivangikar’s manager recently moved on in the organization, and Jivangikar assumed her former boss’ role, overseeing a portfolio of eight different applications. Currently she has eleven direct reports, six in the U.S. and five in India. “I help set up governance teams for each of our core applications,” she explains. “I’m the IT partner to the business side. We work together to optimize their systems.”

Branching out
Jivangikar is a board member of OWN IT Georgia, McKesson’s employee resource group for women. She chairs the personal and professional development subcommittee.

Outside of McKesson, she is a member of Women in Technology (Fairfax, VA) and the Technology Association of Georgia (Atlanta). Jivangikar has a project management professional certification from the Project Management Institute.

She’s not sure where her career will take her next. “Every two or three years, I find myself at a crossroads,” Jivangikar says. “I know I want to be in IT and engage with people as the bridge between technology and the business. IT is my future. I know there is so much to do besides write code. I’ve just scratched the surface.”

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