Latha Nair

Inspirational Woman: Latha Nair | Vice President & Head of Service Delivery, IBS Software

Latha NairI’ve been at IBS Software since 1997, where I started out as a Software Engineer. I had just graduated with a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and now almost 25 years on, I’m still working for the same company!

For the past 12 years I have led the Delivery Unit of the Consulting and Digital Transformation division of IBS Software. I am leading a team of more than 700 colleagues who are responsible for building, customizing and enhancing transformational solutions for travel industry customers. We routinely use collaborative practices like Agile, DevOps, and automation with emerging technologies and toolkits to improve productivity, quality and capability.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

The only plan I had was to perform at my best.  I certainly wasn’t anticipating spending 25 years working for one company, but that is testament to how much I enjoy working at IBS Software and with the people around me.

When I joined in 1997 the company was just a start-up with a strong vision and values, and I was one of the first 55 employees. Back then, I was inspired by the business’ focus on the travel domain and that we could work with the latest technologies.

I never actually planned to be in the Information technology sector. I wanted to pursue Electrical Engineering but the job opportunities in this field were limited at the time that I graduated. The software industry, however, was booming so it made sense to take that path – and I’ve never looked back.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these? 

This question comes up a lot and every time I think about it, two key challenges always come to mind.

The first is that I’ve always struggled to acknowledge my own accomplishments and often doubt myself. But along the way, I have learned that shying away from speaking about your achievements prevents your voice from being heard or taken as seriously. To this day, I continue to work on facing up to self-doubt with some self-talk routines that help me focus on the task at hand.

Challenge two has been carving my own approach to leadership behaviour, especially trying to steer clear from a stereotypical ‘aggressive’ style. I believe that leadership should not seem forced: over time I’ve learned to keep practicing, and get used to my own unique style so I can give effective advice and leadership to my team.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date? 

I view my career as a series of smaller achievements rather than big ones, but I am proud to be part of a large and talented team of over 700 people. One of my core strengths is being able to accept and learn from failures, and I see this as a key part of my leadership profile.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?   

There are several factors I consider as contributing to career growth and success but if I had to single one out it would be my mother’s influence. She has been the source of many important life lessons that have guided me through my professional life, and instilled in me a positive spirit and a gritty resolve to face up to every challenge.

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What top tips would you give to other women who are trying to excel in their career in technology?  

Earn everything on your own merit and resist concessions given to you simply because you are a woman, and do not take a step back or shy away from challenges. Remind yourself every day that you matter, and that is why you are here. Finally, always strive to be a stronger version of yourself as opposed to a weaker version of somebody else – but always look for opportunities to learn from others regardless of their role or seniority.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome? 

Organisations are focusing on elevating and retaining women at all levels, which is fantastic. If women can show performance, persistence and perseverance, then I am confident that we will thrive in the tech sector as it strives to adopt a more gender-inclusive culture.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology? 

While recognising the gender gap and building more inclusive cultures is certainly positive, it’s important to not be seen as trying too hard. Women should be encouraged to pursue and grab opportunities based on their own merit, not because a company has a gender equality quota to fulfil.

This can be a difficult balancing act. However, my advice would be to hire women because they are the best candidate for the job and let them be themselves once they are in a role. As my journey shows, we shouldn’t apply a pre-cast mould to what leadership should look like.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?  

I would love for Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s thoughts to come true. She said: “In future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I often return to the great Indian epic Mahabharata. Although it was written several centuries ago, there are so many messages and philosophies that emerge through the characters that can be applied to a corporate business scenario today, such as how teamwork can lead you to winning impossible battles, and how finding the right mentor can help carve out a path to success.