(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)
Nirupa brings 14 years of international experience with a career that started in the Power Generation sector in India and Australia. She led the team that has successfully delivered some of the most transformative projects in the energy sector employing ABB’s flagship technology in Energy Storage and Microgrids and has worked across several industries.
She now leads ABB’s digital business & portfolio – ABB Ability™ in South East Asia and works closely with customers to identify technologies that transform operations and business models. She is passionate about moving the needle on gender diversity and is actively changing perceptions, addressing unconscious bias and working with other champions in the organization.
What makes you do what you do?
I am an engineer by education and always had a bent of mind towards science. Engineers have transformed lives. Just to compare my life to my own grandmothers’ – She never left her village. Today I have traveled the world because of aviation. She only spoke to us when we called her on her neighbor’s phone. Today, I am always connected to family, friends and literally a ‘click’ away. She lived with access to very a few hours of electricity. Today, I live in the city with the world’s most reliable grid network. So, an engineer’s impact to lives is enormous and there are still a lot problems to be solved!
How did you rise in the industry you are in?
There are always many stories behind an individuals life.
Your first job is your foundation.
I started with an Indian Public-Sector organization, in a time of a lot of investment in the power sector. I learnt the ropes of working in a large company, working on mega-projects and dealing with multi-disciplines. The role set me up with the right technical and commercial competence very early on. Watching the senior management team in that organization, I envisioned my own future. I moved to Australia and that’s where I started working for ABB. Working on projects all around the country, across different sectors, with large teams, on challenging projects – I could see that this what I want to continue doing. And every experience, whether a success or failure, shapes us up for who we are and where we will go next.
Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I don’t let my gender or what society’s view on what a leader should typically look like, defy my contribution to the organization. This attitude is further supported by the open-culture in the organisation that I work for. To give you an example, I was offered this role last year. I also found out I was pregnant with my second child, literally the same day. Even I was a little concerned at first about the triple threat – geography change, new (bigger) role and a new child. But with planning, a supportive environment inc work, family and friends, it was possible. And the best part about this experience was for other women to see that it is possible.
Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I believe in finding inspiration and motivation through everything around us. A “one mentor” model can be self-limiting at times. In my career, fortunately, I have had the support of many well-wishers and guides. Sometimes these mentors were family and at other times my managers or other senior leaders in the organization. The key is to build a network – a wide one. Not limit yourself to just a few people but spread links, whether weak or strong, all around you. And actively build your own support team.
Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
Absolutely, talent is easy to spot, hard to continue to grow! But I believe that small impactful conversations can help realize the potential of any individual. The micro but powerful discussions I have had with my mentors have shaped my career and life.
Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I am a vocal advocate for diversity. My own moment of reckoning came after I moved to Australia and noticed the lack of women in management roles in engineering companies. Although, my parents consciously inculcated the value of education and the thought that girls can do anything, the issues didn’t really ‘hit home’ until I saw it with my own eyes.
In my organization, we have established targets / KPIs or you can call them ambition levels. This is usually a first step to let the entire organization know that we are serious about this. Then we have taken smaller steps like ensuring there is 1 woman on the shortlist for interviews. Modifying our adverts to target a broader audience. We are also actively working on policies that allow people to have a fulfilling career and home-life.
What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
2 Fundamental characteristics – Passion and Integrity
Advice for others?
Inspire the next generation of girls and boys to become engineers! In order to leave a better planet in the hands of our future generations, we need all the creative ability and passion of engineers to solve some of the biggest problems of mankind – whether that’s climate change, plastic pollution or energy and water conservation. And to solve these problems, we need the best minds and the most diverse teams.
If you’d like to get in touch with Nirupa Chander, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/in/nirupachander/