Thanks in part to Mastek’s 'Open House' environment dreams can come true.
As a young trainee, Sunder Subramaniam never dreamt he'd be attending the London 2012 Olympics but then he did have a memorable introduction to the culture of Mastek. One day, early in his stint at the company, Sunder was reading a book in the office library when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around, and a smiling gentleman politely introduced himself, and then proceeded to have a casual conversation with Sunder. The gentleman was Ashank Desai, then chairman and managing director of the company. “As a trainee, you never expect to be chatting with the CEO or CMD,” says Sunder. “But Mastek shattered those stereotypes. I am amazed at the openness of the leadership team and the value Mastek gives to the individual.”
Mastek felt like home to Sunder because the values he encountered in the company were similar to the ones he grew up with. Born an only son in a hard-working middle class family, Sunder always had the freedom to express his creativity and individuality. His mother discouraged mediocrity, and inspired him to excel in both academics and extra-curricular activities.
Not surprisingly, throughout school and college, Sunder was an achiever, excelling in academics, dramatics, sports, group discussions and extempore oration. But his parents made sure that he stayed grounded and sensitive to the society around him. “My dad was actively involved in social work. And from a young age, I was encouraged to contribute to society, understand and propagate India’s culture and traditions, and make a difference to people’s lives.”
Springboard to success
Mastek’s nurturing and open environment was just the platform Sunder needed to translate his early successes into professional growth. And destiny played a hand in bringing them together.
“I was at the Millennium Business Park on some work, and I happened to visit the Mastek office. I am not sure why but I was drawn to it.”
On my next visit to MBD, a Mastek recruitment drive was in progress. And they played the Mastek anthem. I heard it, and I knew I had to work for this company.
Mastek lived up to his expectations. The projects were challenging, the work exciting, and the colleagues warm and friendly. “From day one, I was in awe of the environment Mastek provided its employees – open, respectful… everyone worked hard, but also enjoyed life to the fullest.” Sunder flourished. In his 10 years at Mastek, he has worked in a diversity of roles: pre-sales, designing solutions, delivery and consulting assignments, technical work on Oracle technologies, business analysis, and, business intelligence.
He is also on the company’s recruitment panel. Mastek, for its part, has been quick in recognizing his talent – naming him for a variety of awards, including Best All Rounder at Work, High Performer of the Year, Fire in the Belly and Heart of Mastek 4.0.
A moving experience
While Sunder grew professionally, he also found several opportunities to develop other facets of his personality. “I found extra-curricular activities on a larger scale to grow and contribute.” He became part of the organizing committee of the monthly and quarterly meets, and anchored several of them; wrote articles for the company magazine; contributed ideas to the Centres of Excellence; played the violin for the in-house band called C#; co-ordinated and led the Mastek brand campaign at the Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon (SCMM).
But, of all the extra-curricular activities, what had the deepest impact on him was his involvement with the Mastek Foundation, and particularly his work to help those affected by the tsunami on India’s southern coastline. Mastek had raised funds from employees for the tsunami victims. And Sunder was asked to accompany Ashank and Sanjay Mudnaney, Head of Communications, to see the impact these contributions had made. “It was a touching experience. To actually see the difference we have made to real lives. People who lived in thatched-roof houses now had a concrete roof. We could see how every rupee we had raised was contributing to improving someone’s life.” He was so moved by the trip, that he returned to Mumbai and made a heartfelt presentation about it during the next monthly meet, much to the appreciation of his colleagues.
In the light of day
For the past few years, Sunder has been spending a lot of his working time in the UK. It has been novel experience, shaping his personality in ways he hadn’t foreseen. “Everyone cherishes an overseas assignment and I was no different. I wanted to get out there, face the customer and contribute from the front. But I had to wait my turn.”
When his turn did come, it was during the peak of the British summer. “I landed in the UK one afternoon. Tired after a long flight, I went off to sleep. When I woke up, people were returning from work, but it was still day. Then we sat down to dinner, and it was still day. And at 10pm, when I finally turned in to sleep, it was still day.”
Long days weren’t the only new experience for Sunder. For the first time in his life, he had to live away from his parents. “I was living with strangers and colleagues. It was new to me, and you have to learn to adjust to different people’s routines, and share responsibility. These experiences helped develop team spirit and bonding.”
In the UK, Sunder was acutely aware of a larger responsibility "The flag bearer".
He not only represented Mastek and its values but was also an ambassador for the country.
“When I am abroad, I consider it my personal responsibility to be the best I can.” Be it as a radio-jockey at one of the Asian radio stations in Leeds or as a violinist at the UK Runtime event, Sunder does his best to showcase the rich culture and traditions of India.
Sunder is not just an ambassador of the company in the UK, he is also the face of it back in Mumbai. As part of an outdoor branding campaign, a photo and a quote of his, is featured on office buses. “Often people I interview or meet tell me that they have seen my photo on the buses.” Once, a client, who remained in touch with Sunder on Facebook, long after they had completed the project, saw the picture of the bus on Sunder’s profile and commented that he was the perfect ambassador for the company. “Such moments fill me with pride,” he says.
Sunder believes that Mastek offers its people plenty of opportunities to learn and grow. “You don’t have to be stuck to a specific role if you don’t want to. The business is changing rapidly. We face new challenges every day and people can find avenues to contribute,” he says. “There are always opportunities to interact with different sets of colleagues and teams. CoEs are active and provide peers, working on different projects, the opportunity to interact and share knowledge. Several technical and social forums internally encourage cross-functional sharing.”
Being seated behind a desk was never Sunder’s idea of a career. “To stretch your boundaries, you have to take risks,” he says. “The best thing about Mastek is that it provides you a safe environment to do that.”
Mastek 4.0, he believes, takes this culture to the next level. “With Mastek 4.0, I am my own boss in an entrepreneurial sense with ability to execute ideas freely along with the responsibility and ownership that comes with it.”
Planting and cultivating for tomorrow’s dreams
Sunder’s professional dream is to successfully lead a large organization.
He also wants to become a motivational speaker -- travelling the world and touching people’s lives with the power of speech. “Words have the power to heal, to give comfort,” he says.
Personally, he wants to be close to nature and animals. His dream is to build a mini-forest near his home and encourage local wildlife to thrive on it. “I love the environment, and I love animals. I would be happiest working with agencies and NGOs active in these areas.” He is already involved with NGOs that are dedicated to causes he holds dear: • Hariyali, which sensitizes people to the natural environment, and • Thane-SPCA and PAWS, which provides care and treatment to stray and wild animals “We lead lives completely disconnected from nature. But, once you put your hands in the soil, a connect happens,” Sunder says with passion. In his love for animals, he is inspired by Gandhiji’s words: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man”
Spirtually, his goal is to never lose his smile. “I want to heighten the sense of dispassion in my life; to give my 100% in whatever I do. Come what may, I would like to go to sleep every night with a smile on my face.”