Meet Sargam Singh, the star at IBM Software Labs who's grown and succeeded by plugging away challenging situations at work and home. Sargam talks about her role at IBM as a Development Manager and at home as a mother and wife in an interview with us.
Thank you Sargam for sharing your mantra with the developerette group. We are certain that your experience will encourage new mothers to not only build careers in IT but also confidently take positions in leadership.
Please tell us about your work: the role you have at IBM, your responsibilities and your team.I have 14+ years of industry experience and have been with IBM for last 7 years. I joined IBM as a Project Lead on WebSphere Application Server Test team. Currently, I am a Development Manager with IBM India Software Labs and am responsible for development and delivery of WebSphere Service Registry and Repository (WSRR) product out of India. Besides this, I lead the Asia Pacific Tech Sales Support for WSRR and am a member of the World Wide Agile Leadership Team.
I manage a team of 11 people, out of which close to 50% are women. It is a very high potential team and I see a good diversity in the top performers. In my opinion, women can bring in a different kind of perspective, and are often able to capture softer aspects of people capabilities which makes them great team player and leaders.
Tell us about your family and how you integrate your work and family?
My husband works with an IT multinational as a Program Manager. Besides us, I have a daughter who is 12 now and my mom-in-law who is with us. Both me and my spouse are in a high pressure jobs but it is the strong family support system which makes managing everything so simple. Coupled with this, IBM's work-life integration culture makes it possible to deliver the best both at work as well as for my family. I make sure that I am available for every important occasion and at any time when my family needs me the most. However, there are challenges at times, when work demands more time and my family has been amazingly supporting, including my little daughter who is growing up to be a responsible teenager.
What are some of the challenges you have had to face to keep both aspects balanced?
There have been times in my career when taking some great opportunities called for a decision which impacted my family. Soon after I joined IBM, I had to leave for US for an extended period of 6 months. I made that decision after a lot of deliberation as it meant leaving my daughter behind for that long. My husband was a big support and stood by me all through. That period was very tough for me but I emerged out of it as a winner, both at personal and professional front. My husband and daughter joined me in US for 2 weeks after my assignment ended and time and distance had in no way impacted my bonding with my daughter. In fact, she looked much more confident and independent. On the professional front, those 6 months provided a boost to my career by opening up newer opportunities.
So this is one such instance, and there are times when we have to make such tough choices. We need to understand this delicate balance and take a call depending on what is more important at that point in time. Opportunities have to be grabbed, and if you want to excel professionally, you need to have your goals defined. Family interest must come first, but women often live in a self created notion that things will break if they are not around. So create a strong support structure and when faced with a challenge which calls for a decision, talk about it to your family and they will be your biggest strength to take it head-on.
Now that you have overcome the initial challenges, what is your advice to young mothers who wish to succeed in their carers?
I feel that single thing which can guarantee success is the "right attitude". I would say two things here -
Firstly, create a strong support structure, both at work and at home. At home, you need to have the confidence that things can go on even when you are away. At work, you have to build a strong team and backup which can stand by you in case of any emergency. Both these are easy to do if you have the right attitude which naturally wins love and support from people around you, be it your family, or colleagues or even a household help.
Secondly, keep your high level goals clear, both on personal and professional front. There will be times when your family needs you more and you cannot let your professional life impact that, and there will be occasions when you will have to sacrifice family time for tackling challenges on work front. The key to success is being able to successfully maintain this delicate balance. Risk Taking choices come every day in everything we do, personal or business, in many forms. It is a matter of having the confidence in your judgements and stand up for what you believe in.
Would you suggest development as a good career for women?
Certainly yes. Women often shy away from technical path for different reasons. However, women have an innate quality of dwelling deep into details of things without loosing sight of the bigger picture. This can play an important role in ensuring a very successful technical career for women. Excellence is a state of mind and it comes naturally to them. Making excellence critical in the small steps can lead to great results for the larger agenda in your personal and work lives.