AN INTERVIEW WITH SEETA HARIHARAN
General Manager and Group Head of Tata Consultancy Services(TCS)
by Nita Patel PE
-“Soar! Claiming Your Power and Getting What You REALLY Want” –
Although each of us may travel different paths or have different talents, Seeta Hariharan believes we all share a “desire to soar as high as we can, as high as our talents and hard work will take us, with the only limits being those we may place on ourselves.” This is the key message Seeta shared with an audience of over 200 women in technology at the IEEE WIE Forum USA East 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland on 1 December 2017 (view excerpts at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRTnKFhwvH8) Seeta has done just that – that is, soared. Today she is the General Manager and Group Head of Tata Consultancy Services’ (TCS) Digital Software & Solutions Group, where she oversees operations for the strategic growth unit focused on helping banks, retailers, telecom firms and cities address digital transformation. Seeta sets the strategic path for the unit, establishes product direction and ensures that the software they design and bring to market meets commercial enterprise needs.
Although Seeta has worked in engineering and technology her entire career – including IBM and now TCS — and has been granted 23 global patents, she admits that when growing up, she didn’t imagine she would become an engineer. She thought she would be a doctor. However, the smell of formaldehyde in zoology class coupled with her teenage instincts led Seeta to engineering. She recalls, “The smell of formaldehyde alone, much less the dissection exercise, convinced me, ‘I’ll never get through medical school. I need a Plan B.’”
She contemplated two options — either become a professor or an engineer. “When I discussed the options with my parents, they immediately said, ’Seeta, you should become a professor.’ So like any good teenager, after listening to my parents’ sound advice, I immediately did the opposite thing and studied engineering,”
This was her unique path to engineering. But since choosing the field, she has no regrets. She loves creating products (her first creation was an ISDN switch), conceiving new technologies to solve problems and impacting people’s lives for the better.
Along her career journey, Seeta has benefited from a number of mentors. Her most memorable advice was given to her by Jim Northington, a strategy executive at IBM. He advised her not to look back once she had made a decision, but instead trust, believe and act as though the decision was the right one. To this day she believes his advice has been incredibly valuable and transformative for her leadership.
Throughout her career, Seeta has looked for roles and opportunities that help her develop new tools and experiences, tried to leverage her strengths to their fullest and sought out mentors to help point out blind spots. In addition to seeking mentors and developing the self-confidence to receive their critical and supportive advice, she practices continuous learning, reads constantly (her favorite book is Jim Rohn’s 7 Strategies for Wealth and Happiness), associates with people who drive her to higher levels of excellence, pursues her joy and embraces challenges. Her mantra is, “Self-confidence is the rocket fuel that allows us to soar to extraordinary heights, and doing what you love is the spark that ignites it.”
Seeta advises us to “know that you can soar as high as you want” and that “the only limits are those that we place on ourselves.” To drive that message home, she shares the African proverb, “If you think that you’re too small to make an impact, imagine being in a room filled with mosquitoes.” “Never underestimate your power,” she says.