Padmapriya R was born and raised in a small village called Ettayapuram in Tamil Nadu, the birthplace of a freedom fighter, Mahakavi Bharathiyar (famous poet Subrmanian Bharathi). Her love for science started when she was in school.
By the time she joined college, satellite television and the Internet had become popular.
“These new technologies made me curious about the science behind them and about new computer languages, such as WWW. That’s when I integrated my first programming language lessons (BASIC)”, she recalls.
The increasing availability of computers and the Internet pushed his curiosity and interest further. As she progressed through college, electronic devices and circuits (EDC) and microprocessors became his focus. While experimenting, she managed to develop small projects like the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) and traffic light controls, to name a few, outside of the regular curriculum. It was during the last three semesters that she became interested in high-level programming languages and database management systems (DBMS).
By the time she graduated, she realized her strength in STEM and prepared to build her career around it.
Padmapriya R is now Group Director of Information Technology, Transmitters and Output Solutions,Global Services. She talks to His history on her professional journey as a woman in tech, mentoring women and working through the pandemic.
His history [HS]: Please tell us about your professional background…
Padmapriya R [PR]: I started my career in Bengaluru, Karnataka in 2004, which was also my first experience of being alone in a new city! It was a complete change in my university life, and I was alone without family surrounded by a huge language barrier.
We were all part of a really agile team where everyone was working on everything – from requirements to development to testing and deployments, dealing with changes in real time and meeting expectations. This exposure to automating manual tasks helped me learn new languages, tools, databases and server management activities, integrating programs with different devices such as barcode scanners, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Devices, Dot Matrix Printers, etc. ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) the implementation experience was amazing and I fell in love with what I was doing.
After my marriage in 2008, I took a new job in Chennai. It was again a new work experience for global customers and learning SDLC (system development lifecycle) process, enterprise-wide project planning and publishing, budgeting, auditing, and tracking, to name a few.
Before joining the banking and financial sector, I worked for a few years in the health sector. My experience in the BFSI Sector (Banking, Financial Services and Insurance) is something I will always cherish. This is where I got a lot of business experience and worked on executing large-scale programs in retail banking and process automation.
It was in November 2019 that I joined Fiserv with the Issuer Solutions group, and the journey has been exciting. Here I have the platform to work with world leaders who inspire me with their energy and passion to achieve excellence in everything we do. I’ve also had the opportunity to build a strong engineering team over the past two years, with people eager and now excited to deliver on customer commitments.
SH: Tell us about your roles and responsibilities in the present?
PR: Currently, I am part of the Transmit and Output Solutions group and manage customer deliveries for distributed surround systems and our first loyalty platform. I am responsible for project deliveries, production support, smooth batch cycle completion, etc. I also contribute to the management of business priorities for the year, project deliveries for distributed applications, overall product and platform deliveries, application modernization efforts, security and vulnerability fixes, disaster recovery and change and priority management, with my global counterparts.
SH: How have you coped with the challenges of working in a pandemic?
PR: It was difficult at first, most of the team members being newcomers. It can be difficult to create a sense of belonging and camaraderie within the team in a virtual environment. I decided to ensure multiple contacts with each member so that they feel welcome and part of the team, beyond project deliveries.
I am especially proud of the support we have provided to our impacted associates during COVID-19 through our holistic benefits program, which addresses the physical, emotional and financial well-being of our employees at Fiserv.
SH: What can be done to attract women and keep them in the labor market?
PR: As a woman in tech, I too have gone through phases where I felt it was difficult for me to manage my work and personal responsibilities. The support from my peers and family and the guidance of the women leaders I have worked with have truly reaffirmed my belief in the value of ecosystems to every working woman.
I would recommend it to all women who are passionate about their career, tech or not. Cultivate relationships with your peers and seek mentorship from other women leaders who can help you meet personal and professional challenges.
At Fiserv, our employee resource group Women’s Impact Network (WIN) does exactly that. They work through mentorship and networking to support our female colleagues and help them manage their work and personal lives. Wellbeing at Fiserv is a holistic concept, and the provision of counseling sessions to manage general wellbeing, childcare facilities for working parents and flexibility have been key success factors in enabling our associates to be at their best in their family and professional life.
SH: What have been your greatest successes and challenges? Please share anecdotes if any
PR: Successes and challenges are relative, one without the other cannot exist. I believe that integrity and passion are key factors in turning challenges into success.
Over the years, I have experienced multiple successes and challenges as an individual and as a team member. In one of my previous roles for a mission-critical retail program, we had multiple challenges in meeting customer requirements and requests. While product testing took a year, I had to travel overseas, having to leave my seven-year-old son behind in India. But despite the hurdles, we got to production and processed around 800 integrations on day one, both for loans and credit cards, which was a success.
SH: Do you mentor women in tech?
PR: I have accompanied women for years, formally and informally. But over time, I’ve noticed that while women are hesitant to ask for mentorship, men are more proactive. I believe in proactively reaching out to the women on the team and regularly checking in with them if they need support of any kind.
Moreover, mentoring is a two-way concept, it not only helps the mentee but also benefits the mentor to improve themselves professionally and hone their own skills. At Fiserv, we have a strong mentorship program where we strengthen opportunities for our women in tech for lifelong learning and skill enhancement.
SH: Why do you think there are very few women in leadership positions in technology?
PR: Women in tech tend to take career breaks due to marriage, family planning, children, and elder care. Finally, at 10-12 years into their professional career, only a few women are advancing in their careers, and we end up with fewer women in leadership roles.
Social conditioning and family pressure are key elements in reducing the number of female tech leaders. Women are unable to prioritize their careers over family responsibilities due to limited support and the absence of a strong ecosystem.
This is why an ecosystem is important; with the right support at the right time, I truly believe that women can overcome this obstacle too.
SH: Why should every organization have an equal opportunity mindset?
PR: I believe that when everyone is encouraged to give their best at work, they feel valued, and then creativity and productivity arise. At Fiserv, our corporate culture ensures that everyone is respected, creating an environment with room for all their ideas to be put on the table and creating opportunities without bias. We all prosper, we all grow and succeed together.
SH: What do you like to do in your spare time?
PR: I like spending time with my son. I am also passionate about gardening and have a positive impact on the wider environment.
I also like to create rangolis or kolams – which is a traditional Indian way of creating patterns with natural colors.