Kavitha Tumuluri learned the meaning of hard work from a young age. As the second oldest of five, she felt she had to be a role model for her younger siblings, which taught her to be an authentic, empathetic teacher and a mentor from a very young age. Today, she is a vice president, Information Technology for Blue Yonder in Hyderabad, India. She brings an artistic and creative brain to work because she believes this will help create magic in her teams and the solutions they work on. She is always ready to embrace change.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in a relatively small city called Vishakhapatnam – a beautiful, calm beach town in the northeastern part of Andhra Pradesh, India. I received my bachelor’s degree in electronics and communications engineering along with a master’s in image processing. I moved to the U.S. to continue my education when I was offered a job as a software engineer working at Pyramid Technologies, which was later acquired by Siemens. About 12 years ago, my husband and I along with our two sons moved back to India. We currently live in Hyderabad, India along with my mother. Our favorite part of moving back is we get to enjoy the annual nine-day Navaratri Festival in October as my husband and I both love to Dandiya (dancing done at the festival).
How did you get interested in a career in tech?
Growing up, I had no perspective about technology and its impact to our lives. I always wanted to be an interior home designer. My father encouraged me to follow a path in the math and science field since I was very strong in those subjects in school. I have to admit that I was a bit angry at him but now I am happy that I pursued engineering and stayed in the STEM field. I am the first in my family to pursue engineering as a career.
What was your first job?
I was a part-time assistant lecturer at a Government Polytechnic College for Women Bheemunipatnam. I taught engineering geometric design and measurement using electronic devices. Since I joined the staff late in the academic year, I did not have much choice in the subjects I taught. My proudest accomplishment was increasing the pass percentage of these subjects by 90% by bringing in visualization and practical examples into the classroom.
How did you make your way to Blue Yonder?
I was approached by an executive recruiter about an opportunity at Blue Yonder. However, I was a little nervous as I did not have any supply chain or retail experience. I was working at Microsoft at the time and I was excited to learn that Blue Yonder’s digital platform was built on Microsoft Azure. One thing that stood out to me during the interview process was when I was asked to interview with CEO Girish Rishi and EVP, Chief Legal and Administrative Officer, Martin Felli. To me, this really showed the dedication the company’s leadership was investing to bring in the right leaders. That was the moment I knew I wanted to work at Blue Yonder.
Can you point to a critical moment in your career that really made a difference in your path?
I have multiple critical moments in my career, all catapulting me into a different orbit each time. One situation early on in my career was when my then manager said I would be a good team leader two years into my career. He coached me throughout my journey. That was my first step towards leadership!
What do you think are the biggest concerns regarding women in technology? Are there any issues you think should be getting more attention?
Having worked in both the U.S. and India, the issues around women in technology are very different. In India, usually 90% of women are studying STEM-related subjects. That’s an amazing percentage; however, the problem is sustaining those numbers into the workforce and then into leadership. Women in technology dwindles down to 20% for those with five to six years of work experience due to many stopping to raise a family and the pressures related to it. The key to success for women in India is to learn to build a solid support system around them, much like women in the U.S. do. This will allow us to have a work-life balance to continue on with our careers.
What is your proudest achievement?
I am proud to have raise two sensitive, supportive young men who are very open minded. Both my sons (and my husband!) are very supportive and believe in my career. Before COVID-19, I was traveling a lot and it would make me so happy to come home to a hot-cooked meal and all the home chores taken care of.
What is your leadership style?
My leadership style entails creating a high-performing environment and empowering my teams. I also believe in and always strive to bring a work-life synergy into my teams. I believe in enjoying the journey as we chase business objectives.
What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned and really taken to heart?
Don’t try to jump in to build solutions for the team, but rather build the problem statement with the team. Once you do that, the solutions, tools and right skillsets will automatically fit in.
How do you motivate yourself and others?
Create an ambience of collaboration and learning within the team. Collaboration and learning are both contagious and has a multiplier effect.
What’s one fun or surprising fact about you?
I used to do a lot of sewing, including making Indian formalwear and American business clothes. I don’t have much time these days to sew, but I do enjoy designing clothes!