Magazine article HRMagazine

Indira Sovakar Empowers HR

Magazine article HRMagazine

Indira Sovakar Empowers HR

Article excerpt

Working in HR takes "a tremendous willingness to learn and take on new challenges," says Indira Sovakar, senior vice president of HR in the Delhi, India, office of Genpact, a global professional services and IT firm.

She should know.

Sovakar, who grew up in a family of high-achievers in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India, took a circuitous route to her career in human resources- one where taking risks and being curious helped her succeed. After earning a bachelor's degree in hotel management and a master's degree in English literature, Sovakar worked in the hospitality industry before being drawn into HR "by accident." >

She joined Genpact 17 years ago as an insurance trainer, teaching new hires about the U.S insurance industry's products and processes. Later, she worked as an HR generalist and business partner before becoming an executive at the company, which was formerly GE Capital International Service, a business unit within General Electric. Genpact became an independent entity in 2005. The company reported revenues of $2.57 billion in 2016 and employs more than 77,000 people in over 20 countries, with key offices in New York City; Palo Alto, Calif.; London; and Delhi.

Sovakar recently spoke to HR Magazine about her career journey.

Family Values

My family was heavily oriented to academics and science. My father is a computer engineer, and my mother has a master's in mathematics. My grandparents are both doctors. Basically, everyone in the family has advanced degrees.

I attribute my endless curiosity and problem-solving skills to the constant buzz of interesting projects my father used to work on. My love of the arts, especially painting and singing, is probably a direct influence of the city of Calcutta where I was born, and it plays a big role in my pursuit of work/life balance. Finally, my constant striving for excellence-to the point of being labeled a perfectionist-is clearly a result of my mother's extremely high academic standards.

Building the Basics

My first job out of college was in the hotel industry. It set the foundation for all that I have done later in life. I joined as a management trainee in an 18-month assignment that involved rotating through every department-from cleaning toilets in housekeeping, to chopping onions in the kitchen, to standing in the sweltering heat of the laundry room. We were expected to gain an in-depth understanding of each department during our two-week stints, and the managers quizzed us on the most arcane aspects-just to see if we had made the effort. Once I completed my training, I became a product manager for one of the premium properties. I had to deal with CEOs, movie stars and heads of states to ensure that their stays exceeded expectations.

Words She Lives By

I think there are three key learnings that have stayed with me all my life. First, no job is too small. Go deep in whatever you do and pay attention to detail. Second, there is no "rocket science" in most jobs-unless you work at NASA, I guess. You can learn anything if you put in the effort. And finally, learn to effectively communicate with and influence others and to build an executive presence. That's a skill you develop fast when you have to tell a tired, cranky CEO of a Fortune 100 company who just came off a 15-hour flight at 3 a.m. that you do not have a room for him because you overbooked. (Yes, this actually happened to me!)

How HR in India Is Different

My view is that fundamentally people are the same around the world and they come to the workplace with a desire to learn, grow and succeed. …

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