“The primary idea is to focus on the problem and not the technology involved”, says Sowmya Choragudi, this year’s Soliton of the Year. With a beaming face and an excited tone, Sowmya talks to us on her experience and journey at Soliton so far- how she manages her life as a mother and a team manager, and much more. Excerpts from the interview:
1. Congratulations on winning the Soliton of the Year award. How do you feel now and what was your reaction to the surprise video of your daughter congratulating you?
I feel so happy and elated! This definitely wouldn’t have been possible without the entire team’s support. And it was very emotional to see my daughter being part of this great moment! The fact that Soliton could rope in my entire family to be part of my success made the moment truly memorable!
2. Can you tell us about the key activities that you were involved in, in the past year?
The past year, we won a project from a new customer, opening a new business channel. Executing this project with a new team, along with challenges like language barriers and COVID restrictions, made it a very important engagement last year. But it was also a project which gave me so much satisfaction and pride to work on.
Apart from this, I’ve mentored Leads on Product Development Life Cycle and Silicon Validation Lifecycle, both of which are my key focus areas. I’ve also been part of Training Programs for Senior Engineers and offered supported to the recruitment team.
3. The Soliton of the Year title is awarded to a person who has made the greatest impact, inspiring others. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
To be frank, I have many! But to cite the most impactful ones – it would be Ganesh [Ganesh Devaraj] and Mekhala [Mekhala Devaraj]. Ganesh inspires me by the immense trust and faith he places in the entire Soliton team, and Mekhala for the unwavering support she offers through thick and thin, for any Soliton. And of course, my entire team, who always back me up, inspiring us to march forward!
4. What are your goals for the year ahead – personally and professionally?
Truly speaking, I put my trust in the Leadership Team to lead the path ahead and we’ve already set some great targets for the upcoming year. The customer we worked with last year has opened a lot of opportunities and areas to explore. So, all of us are looking forward to more customer-wins from this channel, and to cracking more complex projects! On a personal front, I want to learn to play the keyboard!
5. Your team has also won the Team of the Year award. How happy are you for the team and your thoughts on being able to lead the team to this?
The team has really grown as individuals and together as a team. I have just been a guide in this process. They are able to bond better and of course have scaled new heights in terms of technology and domain knowledge. So, kudos to the entire team!
6. Can you briefly tell us about your journey so far with Soliton?
It’s a 15 year-long journey! I initially wanted to get into a public sector company but couldn’t, despite having an excellent score in a national entrance exam. My entry into Soliton was through an acquaintance, and thanks to my excellent scores. I started working in the support team of the camera division (an earlier BU of Soliton). I was so attached to it that I would get so angry when bugs were reported!
I then moved on to Test and Measurement, where I grew as an engineer. Later, I worked with our director, Arjun , who was very instrumental in honing my people skills. This helped me build the bond with my team, which I count on even today. So, through these 15 years, it has been a transformational journey from a naïve techie to a team manager.
7. What does Excellence mean to you?
Excellence defines the quality of work that Soliton does. Be it our products, offerings or even aspects such as documentation, I believe that they must be of top-notch quality, as the brand of Soliton is attached to this. I emphasize this always to my team and make sure this comes out best.
8. Having transited from WFO to WFH even before the pandemic, what were the key lessons/ changes that you adopted to bring in the connect within the team?
Working from home puts on a tight schedule, leaving very thin lines between work and home. So, the key learning is to devote sufficient time for family. While at office it was easier to connect, maybe just over a cup of tea or heading to someone’s cabin. But in a virtual scenario, I feel we must spend equal or sufficient time to connect on the personal front with people than just projects or deadlines. Follow up calls or fun events help build this faster and better.
9. What does your typical day look like?
I start my day at 5 am and attend to my household duties. I also set aside some time in the mornings for my key focus tasks before my team gears up and tend to my daughter’s needs once she’s up. I close my day at around 7.30 or 8 pm and sit with my daughter to help her finish her homework. Any critical tasks, I attend to before I go to bed. This is a typical workday. Weekends are exclusively for my daughter, thanks to a deal that she made with me! ?
10. What are your other interests/hobbies?
I love to cook! I try different recipes and my daughter is always the first one to test! My childhood dream was to be an astronaut, so I binge on a lot of movies related to such subjects during the weekends.
11. What is your most memorable moment in Soliton?
During my initial years, I messed up one of the projects, resulting in a costly rework for the team. Following this, I met Ganesh to discuss this. I was pretty nervous, even thinking to an extent that the company would fire me! But the question of ‘why did this happen?’ never arose. We discussed only how we could go forward and set this thing right. After that conversation, I was awed by the trust he had in his people and the team. This makes it memorable.
12. You mentioned that you wanted to get into a public sector company. Looking back now, what do think life would have been if things were different?
There is not an inch of doubt when I say that I am extremely happy to be part of Soliton, because I couldn’t have asked for a better place. The kind of family environment and support that is offered here is what makes it a great place to work, and I look forward to more such years here!