Ramya Sampathkumar, Chief Digital Officer, GMMCO LTD.

In a corporate setting, most leaders are usually one out of the following two types: Leaders who are quite cogent in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of their team members, helping them amplify their strengths while working on their weakness through transparent, frequent, and frank feedback. Such leaders roll up their sleeves and get the work done themselves as a method of mentoring and they garner tremendous respect. The team works hard to ensure that they do not let the leader down.

Then comes those leaders who are good friends with the team. They mentor through encouragement and teaching patiently and are excellent in communication skills. They shield their team from difficult situations and have earned the team’s undying loyalty. The team most often tend to follow their leader if they move.

While each has its own perks, the sum and substance to being a true leader is not someone who takes people where they want to go, but one who takes them to where they ought to be. Ramya Sampathkumar’s leadership style is a mix of these two, slanting slightly towards the former. “I believe that a good team comprises of members with the right complementary skills and do not expect everyone to know it all. I like to challenge them by appealing to an area that is meaningful to them. I teach through doing, provide guidance that is direct and clear, trust my team immensely and only intervene when asked for and where my support will help.”

Scaling the Career Graph

Currently the Chief Digital Officer at GMMCO Ltd., Ramya joined the company 2 years ago. “They reached me with an opportunity that was too difficult to pass by! The JD shared with me showed GMMCO’s commitment to digital by creating the role of a CDO with precise expectations, wide-ranging responsibilities, and a free hand to start the practice and drive the digital strategy.

I was managing the business development for IoT & Engineering for the Manufacturing & Utility sector, suggesting transformation opportunities for the largest of our customers. When the offer came in from GMMCO, it seemed a natural progression to go to the other side and take on the challenge to execute such a transformation. The thrill to own a transformation program, to deliver it, and manage the necessary change to make it successful, and to do it with a company of such repute as GMMCO and be part of the CK Birla family were all compelling factors to make the move,” she informs.

Ramya believes that digital leaders should own change management to ensure successful adoption and achieve the desired digital transformation. To this end, having a well-defined Project Charter with measurable and signed off business outcomes expected is a great start. She stresses the importance of not compromising in choosing the right partners for the program implementation.

“The cost of setting right an implementation that has gone askew is very high from an economics, time and reputation perspective. Having well-defined processes that are consistently followed is a must. The process itself can be tuned for your organization’s working culture. And finally, monitor and measure post-implementation. A digital program does not end with the rollout. It begins there. Hence having an eye on issues faced, adoption rates, user feedback and KPI data is important to ensure that the program is successful and that your organization truly benefits from it. It will also help plan subsequent enhancements or any pivot needed,” she clarifies.

Keeping the Axe Sharp

Keeping her skill set updated and polished, Ramya never misses a chance to be part of business meetings, because it keeps her on top of business strategy and understands any changing scenario. She also networks whenever possible, leveraging her past peer connects through chats and the occasional calls. She also makes herself available to have a power chat with other group company tech leaders and external tech leaders and reading up on what other dealerships or competitors are doing successfully, looking at ways to learn from their experiences.

An ardent traveller, Ramya used to frequent several short vacations and one annual long vacation. However, the current pandemic, and the subsequent lockdown, has opened up more free time for her, enabling her to expand her interests to wide-ranging trivia, hair styling, reading more and increased TV time.

“I also run and do cardio boxing to help keep my mind and body fit”, she says.  “These activities are a great way to have a positive mind-body connect and rejuvenate before heading back to work. However, I would say that spending time with my kids is the best way to wind down.

I have become deeply engrossed in learning the art of drawing kolams, an old tradition of using a mix of ground chalk powder or ground limestone and rice flour to draw intricate designs in front of the home on a slightly wet floor. I was captivated by the history and aesthetics around it but the designs that I am trying out using dots with lines and curves seem to build skills such as dexterity, pattern solving, understanding symmetry, and other benefits like mindfulness and fitness too. Especially during the lockdown, this interest helped calm my mind and provide focus to all the right things at hand: support for the business, keeping our teams engaged, and our families safe.”

In retrospect, Ramya says that the past decade has witnessed her career graph move from a managerial position to a leadership position while teaching her to temper her reactions and the value of empathy. “It has taught me the great thrills of taking risks and how much we can learn from failures. This helped to take on challenging assignments in new programs & practices.

I have learnt to be more patient and applied it to investing in people that can lead to a win-win situation over time. It has taught me to rely on and even seek support and know that there is no bravado in doing it all alone. This has resulted in my great belief in the power of collaboration, and knowing that it is the result, rather than recognition, which matters.”

“Various experiences have revealed that we have more in common than not, and to reach out to people to support and to learn. It has taught me how to balance between duty and passion knowing they are equally important. I never give up on a task due to family commitments or give up on family time due to work pressures; instead, I use all these other learnings to keep up with both. Above all, I know enough now to be extremely grateful for my support system, my close family and friends, great colleagues, my life experiences, and the best spouse!” Ramya concludes.

Currently Reading

Ramya is currently reading ‘Ikigai’, ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari’, and ‘Draupadi’.  After completing a Carnegie workshop, she is reading an oldie but goodie, ‘How to win Friends and Influence People’.  She just flipped the last page of ‘From Sand and Ash’ and ‘A Hundred Little Flames’.

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