Nandini’s father was a mechanical engineer at the power station. So Nandini’s early life was in Kalpakkam. Most people in the town were associated with the plant, so she grew up with a strong scientific temperament. When she had to move to Coimbatore in her early teens, she faced something of a shock. “On my first day in school at Coimbatore, I was asked what caste I belonged to and I drew a blank,” recalls Nandini.
Nandini did a diploma in electronics and communication from Madras University in 1986 and joined Premier Evolvics, an electronics textile processing company. She was initially responsible for purchase of electronic components. But when the company started implementing ERP internally, Nandini was selected to join the project. “Only a privileged few got to visit the electronic data processing (EDP) room. I ended up spending most of my time with the EDP team.” And thus began her love for computers and programming.
Marriage brought Nandini to Bengaluru in 1990, where she joined HP’s manufacturing division. “After four years, I sought a switch to the company’s software division.” So she was back in software.
Young professionals should seek global assignments. It helps one grow as a leader
Nandini Sabanayagam | Head of service integration for global delivery, Fujitsu
Wasn’t this shuffling between hardware and software tough? Nandini says it does require courage to get experimental. “Curiosity and keen interest in the new area helped me beat the fear of change,” she says. She also ensured she kept her toolbox sharpened, constantly learning, be it technology or management skills.
After over 11 years with HP, Nandini moved to Netkraft (now Adea Solutions), and later to GE and UST Global. As part of GE, she spent several years in the US as engineering IT leader for GE transportation. She says she wanted to experience working from the headquarters. “When you are working for a multinational in a different country, you are like a satellite division. Decisions are made elsewhere and you are mostly just executing them,” she says.
Today, at 52, Nandini heads service integration for global delivery at Fujitsu. In her six years with the Japanese multinational, Nandini has built the Europe delivery team of over 1,700 at the India delivery centre. She also chairs the Fujitsu Distinguished Engineers Programme, where she guides professionals to move into the technical career path, and grooms them. It’s important, she says, to lead with empathy, and acknowledge that people reporting to you are often far more knowledgeable in certain topics.