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Dec 2010

Case study: Devika Mohotti, IBM Australia

Devika Mohotti ACMA, business operations executive of the growth markets unit at IBM, is involved worldwide in all regions except North America, Western Europe and Japan.

Devika Mohotti, business operations executiveShe works with senior leaders to ensure smooth operations of the application management services unit by ensuring a solid management system, which addresses both the strategic and immediate business objectives.

She has worked in this role for the last two years, having started her career in the IT industry and then worked with IBM since the mid 1980s in a more traditional financial role. She speaks below about how she has achieved her success.

Strategies for success

I think women tend to think, ‘If I do my job really well I will get there’, but it doesn’t work like that. There might be other people who don’t perform as well as you but who have the traits that are right for a particular job. You need to learn the rules of the game: do your homework about what’s needed to get that promotion, who makes the decisions and how they perceive you. Then work on your objectives.

Developing confidence

I’ve come across too many people who don’t have enough self confidence. You need to work out what you’re good at, or what you want to be good at, develop that and make sure that’s what comes across to others. I also believe women need to ask more. If you need a position on the board, go and ask for it. If you need a pay rise, go and ask.

Being in a minority

For many years, it was challenging to find a professional role model both within and outside organisations, presenting a challenge to find the right behaviour and right approach. It’s not always easy to follow a leader if they have a completely different background.

‘Women need to ask more’

There weren’t many women in leadership roles in the 1980s and, when the recession hit in the early 1990s, a large number of women in Australia took the opportunity to have some time off, leaving a large gap at higher levels. Additionally, being Asian born, I haven’t found many female role models.

Getting advice and feedback

I’ve always been strong on getting technical and personal feedback. You need to seek people to work with who can provide constructive advice and give you another perspective on yourself. Find a handful of people you can build up a rapport with, regardless of their age, gender or background. Networking helps, but you need to be proactive and draw people in rather than wait for them to approach you: networking is a two way street.

Mentors and role models

I rely on a range of mentors and role models for different issues. I have people who guide me on situational challenges and leadership issues. Then I have people who mentor me on the technological aspects, because the technology changes dramatically and, the higher up you go, the less opportunity you have to keep abreast. I also have people I rely on for advice about personal issues.

The importance of CIMA

CIMA brings common sense into the world of business, which is not as common as it should be. CIMA thinks business first and the numbers next. It’s very unique in developing people who are both finance and business trained. There’s something in the CIMA formula that builds a certain type of person, someone who has natural business acumen. There aren’t that many CIMA people around in my region, so on a number of occasions I’ve been sought for particular roles because of my CIMA qualifications.

'CIMA brings common sense
into the world of business'

Getting more women on the board

I believe we could get more women at board level if companies changed the way they do things and looked at employing part-time directors with a speciality in a certain area. So you might have an individual who specialises in ethics, for example, who makes sure that conflicting members of the board talk well. The board and the whole company would benefit as a result.

Supporting and developing your team

I have a coaching leadership style. If I see something that could be done differently I’ll tactfully, sometimes silently, help the person concerned understand and achieve it. Then I’ll take a step back and let them complete it.

You need to know where to draw the line: if you spend all your time trying to help everyone, you don’t achieve things yourself, so you have to get the balance right. I like to let people step forward and stretch themselves a bit.

I believe it’s important to support my team because otherwise there’s going to be a big shortage of people who are capable of the senior roles. Being supportive and helping people develop will help to build the leaders of tomorrow.