Model N is on a mission to help its customers drive revenue growth and market share profitably by enabling them to deliver life-changing products to the world. Across both life sciences and high tech, the company leverages more investment in innovation, leading to better patient outcomes and proliferation of technology.
Manjula Mahajan is the Head of Information Technology at Model N. She is highly proficient at partnering with C-level Businesses and IT executives in establishing vision, roadmap, governance and execution strategy.
An Empathetic Leader with a Strategic Vision
Manjula likes to declare her leadership style as direct with a focus on strategy and business outcomes. She is very passionate about business goals and believes in involving the teams in defining those by keeping herself and the team accountable for tasks. In her previous role, Manjula transformed the Data and Analytics organization in NetApp from an operations-driven organization to a strategy-led organization. This was a difficult journey, which included assessing technology, processes and people making changes to all three aspects of the 3-legged stool. Being direct and having clear goals with the organization really helped Manjula drive all three parts of the puzzle.
Manjula considers herself as a driver who leads at the front. Understanding the business strategy and vision, she is passionate about building the technology strategy that can enable business leaders to improve their operations and grow the top line. Manjula is a big believer in data-led organizations and has trust in making tough decisions with the help of data for business benefits. Manjula is an empathetic leader who cannot keep emotions aside, so she likes to connect with her teams at the personal level to understand their thoughts and feelings.
Overcoming Adversaries to Broaden the Opportunity
According to Manjula, being the Head of Data and Analytics in NetApp by leading a data organization with a focus on transformation is not an easy job. Taking an organization from operationally unstable and inefficient to a pro-active and transformational organization by effectively leading the team to think strategically was definitely not an easy task to Manjula. Her career there started with the year of stabilization, followed by the year of transformation, making it clear for the team around the big-ticket items to focus their energy on. She describes that defining clear goals, communicating them, and holding people accountable against those goals was something very helpful. Manjula helped the team to create a clear strategy, followed by an actionable roadmap and drove a culture of accountability within the team that helped them get successful in their goals. As part of this journey, Manjula had to make some difficult decisions. As humans, sometimes it’s hard to communicate difficult decisions but keeping business goals in front and at the center was not that hard for her. Now that she is the Head of IT in Model N, it is a new challenge that Manjula has accepted recently to broaden her horizon. Challenge is something that keeps her going.
Maintaining an Equilibrium between Personal and Professional Life
Manjula recalls that when she landed in the bay area, she had few friends who moved a few months before her and were able to help her in getting settled. Moving in from a different country, learning everything from scratch was a challenge. She says that she had a better support system to guide her through the career journey and help her understand the compensation models, different benefits and the value of those benefits. Manjula admits that the biggest challenge for her was to get a work-life balance between family, kids and career. She believes that she is fortunate enough to have a supporting husband and understanding managers. She always likes to have an open dialogue with both of them.
Manjula asserts that she always had an open conversation between the work priorities for herself and her husband on a day-to-day basis and shared those responsibilities accordingly. Manjula knows that it’s not easy for women to trust their husbands with the kids, but she really believes that she got to trust and consider them to be equitable partners. Apart from that, she also believes in community culture. Having good neighbors, planned carpools helped her get through the initial part of her career. If for some reason, she was not able to pick up her kid from daycare in time, she was able to rely on the neighbors to help pick them. Manjula recollects the time when she had her first son, it was really hard for her to find a reliable daycare for an infant. Manjula mentions that her son used to get sick very often and staying home every other week for a few days was not that easy. Getting house help, having cooperative partner and finding the right nannies for her kids kept her going.
On the career side, Manjula reveals that she took a lot of different roles in the early part of her career, starting from being a developer to being a technical architect, doing business architecture, team management and leading different domains. She asserts that she had a lot of managers who showed their trust in her and challenged her with stretch goals. As a result, she got a chance to take on different roles which helped her in getting a holistic point of view of how IT works.
Taking Inspirations and Leading by Example
Manjula believes that her inspiration has started at home. Her mom and dad had been her biggest inspirations. She learnt to do her best in whatever she does from her parents. Manjula believed that there’s nothing that girls cannot do. “He was always my biggest supporter,” says Manjula, referring to her dad. She also feels that her life inspiration has been changing from time to time. Her first inspiration was India’s first female prime minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi. She always learnt to break the barriers from her. Her second inspiration was Michele Obama. Being humble while leading the way for the world is something she learnt from her. She further described that her third inspiration is Indira Nooyi. Getting through all the struggles and still keeping marching on goals is something she learnt from her.
Disruptive Technologies as a Catalyst of Business Development
Manjula admits that she is a big believer of automation. Collecting data and leveraging data for business insights and decision making is what she loves to do. Earlier it used to take a long time to harness the power of data and use it for business decisions. But now machine learning and deep learning has made these things easier. She believes that there are a couple of areas where these technologies are playing major roles.
Manjula pinpoints that machine learning and artificaial intelligence can help security analysts stay ahead of security threats and take necessary steps. Privacy concerns and data breaches can be spotted ahead and prevented by proactive steps. She also thinks that the speed of innovation has increased with the availability of heaps of data. “The experimentation on different hypotheses can be done at a much faster pace to come to different conclusions” adds Manjula.
As per Manjula, combining automation with machine learning is helping in reducing defects in manufacturing by increasing overall efficiency and scalability.
Bequeathing Digital Responsibilities to Cloud
While talking about the future of the industry, Manjula opines that most of the software industry is moving into the cloud in the services model. “Model N has also started their journey into the cloud and we couldn’t be more excited,” says Manjula. She also specifies that there will be a lot more democratization of data in the next few years and there will be wider use of data analytics for business insights and decision making. “COVID has brought a lot of focus on digital transformation. When most people are working remote, distributed workforce has become the need of the hour. This has invalidated a lot of historical trends and past datasets,” says Manjula. In this model, decision making has become more complex as there is a lot of uncertainty in the market. External factors are changing very rapidly expecting a lot of agility in decision making. With the change in direction, Manjula feels there will be a lot of focus in using digital technologies towards workforce transformation and enablement in the next few years. “Digital workplace is an area where there will be a lot of focus and enhancement in the next few years,” states Manjula.
Word of Wisdom for Emerging Leaders
Manjula advises new leaders to feel free to take action. “If you want to change something, start with yourself. When you start to do something, you are already halfway there, as you have taken control of your inner instinct of not being able to do something,” opines Manjula. She thinks that when people take action, they start believing in themselves. This is the first step of achievement which continuously helps to add motivation to their journey of success.
Manjula has a strong message for budding women leaders. She clarifies that they don’t have to choose between family and career. Both can go hand in hand when they are open to building a support model around themselves. “There’s no need to try to be superwoman,” stresses Manjula. She urges the women leaders to have clear expectations with managers and family members to build a community around and asked them to not feel shy from seeking help to reach out for mentorship and sponsorship.
Quote: “If you want to change something, start with yourself. When you start to do something, you are already halfway there, as you have taken control of your natural instinct of not being able to do something.”
Management: Manjula Mahajan: Head of Information Technology, Model N