Embracing Growth and More Career Opportunity
Sowmya Ananthachary is a project director in the product development group at Blue Yonder. She draws on her 17 years with the company to share what makes her role so gratifying (hint: customer success!) and why it is important to raise your hand for opportunities and speak up as it almost always leads to growth and more career opportunity ahead.
Can you tell us a little about yourself – where you grew up, any hobbies etc?
I grew up in India but I have been in the US for 23 years now. I live in Atlanta with my husband and 11-year-old twins. I like reading and love the outdoors. We do a lot of hiking together as a family.
When did you join Blue Yonder? What did you do before that?
I joined Blue Yonder in 2002 through the RedPrairie acquisition and have been here for about 17 years. Before that I was at Verizon Wireless working as a software analyst as a liaison between the development and business teams.
What was your first job at Blue Yonder? How did your career progress from there?
I joined Blue Yonder as a technical consultant initially. I was involved in the implementation of projects for our workforce management customers. After a few years, I moved into product development. Over the last few years, I have led different teams and projects and held a variety of roles. Now, I am the director for workforce management, responsible for the execution and roadmap delivery for this product.
What are your favorite parts of your role?
My favorite part of my role is the opportunity and challenges it presents. Even though I’ve been here a long time, there are so many opportunities to learn and grow with new initiatives and projects. Especially as we move to SaaS, the product team has the opportunity to shape the roadmap and deliver products that fundamentally change how customers interact with us. We can influence how our customers use our solutions and serve their end customers. It’s a very gratifying part of my role.
What’s one piece of advice you would have given your younger self?
Speak up more often and raise my hand to take on additional opportunities. I’ve learned that no matter how good you are, you still need to highlight your achievements and look for ways to take on new projects and showcase that you are taking the initiative and acting as a leader.
How do you stay inspired professionally?
I draw a lot of inspiration from our leadership team. They are truly passionate about transforming Blue Yonder for the future and are genuinely interested in feedback from associates. I am also inspired by where we are heading as a company as we have a huge opportunity to truly transform the lives of our customers. We are a disruptor in what we’ve brought to the market and that’s inspiring to see unfold each day.
What is the best risk you’ve taken and why?
About four years ago, I was asked to lead a different product as there were challenges to be addressed. At that time, my current product was doing well, and there were a lot of exciting things happening with customers. I was disappointed to not stay engaged with that product but decided to take on the challenge of this new product, using it as an opportunity to leverage my experience with in a new area. I asked a lot of questions and had to make changes, put process in place, and bring my new team along on this journey to be successful. It was a huge challenge, but I learned so much along the way. I built new team relationships and gained credibility by sharing my previous experience. Eventually I was asked to lead both products and am now successfully doing so. It felt risky at the time but was worth it and I am glad I said yes to the opportunity.
What is the best advice you ever received?
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is to leverage your strengths. I have heard this from leaders, managers and through several books I’ve read. A lot of the experience that you gain is transferrable, and you can leverage your strengths when you go into a new situation. The tendency – especially for women – when encountering a new role or opportunity is to question if you are ready or not. I really want to emphasize that your strengths are what make you ready.
What is your proudest achievement?
I am very proud of the results of our team accomplishments. We have done major releases for strategic customers for the last few years. It takes extreme coordination when we are not co-located geographically and working under tight timeframes. We worked together, delivering value to the customer in several ways recently that I am very proud of. First, is our work with Starbucks, going live with our workforce management solution and seeing their VP of workforce management share that on stage at ICON 2019 was a very proud moment. The second example is Walmart. They came to our office and spoke to our whole team after they were fully rolled out to all stores and internationally with workforce management. Hearing how our scheduling capabilities truly impact all of their associates was incredibly gratifying to hear.
What female leaders do you admire and why?
Indra Nooyi the former CEO at PepsiCo. She climbed to the highest level of the corporate ladder a few years ago and is a visionary and outstanding leader.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. She started the ‘lean in’ movement and call to women to take action.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I plan extensively ahead of time and do a lot of prep on the weekends to plan ahead for the week. This helps me during the week so I can spend time with my family and be there for my kids at night and be part of their activities at their school. I typically start my workday very early and try to wrap up at a reasonable time so I can have dinner with my family etc. When my kids go to bed, I might pick up a few things from my workday. I also prioritize what is most important because everything cannot be done in a day and I have to remind myself of that
What book(s) are you reading right now?
I just finished Mindset by Carol Dweck. It has been on my list for some time now. It is useful in so many walks of life – leadership, parenting, life. It fundamentally changes how you think about approaching different situations and problems.
I also just read Taking the Stage – it coaches women on how they can speak up, stand out and succeed. It gives you what do you need to have that presence and own the stage.
What’s one fun (or surprising) fact about you?
I love traveling but even more so – travel planning! I love researching new destinations around the world and coming up with the whole itinerary. I planned a trip to Iceland this summer that is not going to happen due to the current situation but I really look forward to going there in the future and researching other destinations as well.