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Women at CEB: Ponna Arumugam, CEB’s Chief Technology Officer

11 August, 2015

Around the world, CEB employs exceptional women at all levels within the firm—from intern to chief technology officer, from associate to chief administrative officer. Many of these women have chosen to join a group called Women at CEB—a global network of women and men who care about equality of opportunity and helping women to unlock their potential.

A key component of the group’s mission is to contribute to the professional development of women. It’s in that spirit that they create meaningful opportunities to network and exchange ideas. Recently in India, Ponna Arumugam, CEB’s chief technology officer, spoke to the Women at CEB group as part of an ongoing “Leadership Chat” series.

Ponna-CEB

A thorough professional, with two decades of work experience in organizations such as Unisys, Thomson Reuters, and Symantec Corporation, Ponna shared insight into her professional journey. She openly talked about the challenges she has dealt with and how, as a busy executive and mother, she strives to achieve work-life balance.

Early on, Ponna faced some usual–and unusual–professional challenges, such as managing work while being a mother to two young daughters, and adjusting to an American corporate culture. But Ponna didn’t let these challenges distract her focus or get her down. She strongly believes that color, race, and gender should in no way affect a person’s professional growth or career trajectory.

“As long as you are smart, professional, and can separate emotions from facts, gender will never be an obstacle to your career,” she shared. This is why she does not believe there is a glass ceiling for women who choose to work in information technology.

The Value of a Mentor

Ponna also believes that a “mentor can be invaluable in one’s career” and ideally should be someone who “takes a genuine interest in your career.” She recalled her mentors who taught her the importance of networking, and stated that a good mentor is one who is always there to provide “honest and direct answers.”

The Challenge of Balance

Striking the right balance between career and family is very challenging, as it doesn’t have any set patterns. Every family has to “come up with a formula that works best for them.” And, unlike some working mothers, she has never felt guilty about having a full-time career.

While her children were young, she spent her free time with them and talked to them about her career. She acknowledges that her husband, whom she met at college, has been very supportive of her too. As someone who has been on the receiving end of snarky comments (specifically about managing her children and a successful career), she’s always taken them with a “pinch of salt.”

Her advice is to learn to have the right mindset. “If you are convinced that you are doing what you’re doing for the right reasons, then you’ll be able to take control of your life and be happy with what you have.” One way that she stays in the right mindset and on track is by planning and prioritizing—she even plans her weekends! “And sometimes,” she added, “sacrificing a little sleep is a price that I am willing to pay to maintain a healthy work-life balance.”

Special thanks to Abantika and Aasthaa for their support and assistance with this article! And, if you are looking for a career in information technology, CEB may be the place for you. We’re hiring Java and UI developers, engineers, and IT analysts in India (Gurgaon and Chennai), and the US (Washington, DC and Atlanta).

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