In conversation with Ms. Sunita Varadan, Vice President, Jasubhai International FZCO, Dubai, UAE.
CableCommunity.com: Ma’am please kindly brief a little about your professional journey.
Ms. Sunita Varadan: Hi, I belong to Mumbai. I graduated out of College of Engineering Pune.
My first job was with Thermax Ltd. as an Electrical engineer. I spent a good 17 years with this company with different business units like Water Treatment and Cogen Power. Started with Engineering, and subsequently moved to leadership role in Supply chain. Later I took up an opportunity with the Engineering major Larsen & Toubro. Here also I was fortunate to be considered for different functions in every 2 to 3 years and could get varied experience in leading Supply Chain, Contracts, Project Management, Operations and Marketing. This was an all-round experience for me, enabling me to handle business leadership roles. My stint with Larsen and Toubro was for about 9 years.
With 26 years of rich experience in 2 professional companies with me, I was equipped to handle business on my own, and was considering an idea for a startup when I was presented with an opportunity to handle Middle East business for Jasubhai Group, a business entity working in India and Middle East in Engineering Projects and other businesses. I am with this group since over 2 years
CableCommunity.com: Ma’am, that’s great to know, please tell something about your background and family.
Ms. Sunita Varadan: I have grown up in modest background in Mumbai. I have had a very happy childhood with my parents and my three siblings. I got married the same day when I graduated, started my career and had my child also very early when my classmates were still busy pursuing higher education. But my thirst of further education prompted me to take up various courses alongwith my job and I was always found writing exams and getting certifications.
Even my MBA I pursued alongwith my job. My son and I would study together most of the time and there was in house competition as to who would get better GPA!
CableCommunity.com: Ma’am, you took admission in engineering, way back in 1987, what inspired you for engineering or what was the force behind? As in that era, being a girl and opting for engineering as a career must have been tough?
Ms. Sunita Varadan: No, it was not tough at all. Way back then, there were limited career options for those who did well academically – Either Engineer or Doctor! If I belonged to the present era, I might have chosen a more creative field. My parents never differentiated between a boy and a girl. They had a very progressive approach. When I chose engineering, they were happy with my career choice.
CableCommunity.com: Way back in 1987, what was the gender ratio in your college and in your batch, and how did you find engineering as a course?
Ms. Sunita Varadan: In Electrical and Electronics stream we had a good number of girls. But not in Mechanical or Civil. There were very few branches of engineering then. Although after completion of the course many of the girls did not opt for hard core engineering field, but moved to software and IT which were in its nascent stage then.
In terms of course content, I did not find engineering to be very challenging. It is only as easy or as difficult as any other subject – be it Economics or Accounting. But, even today I wonder why did we have to learn integrals and derivatives … Never found a direct application in my work!!
CableCommunity.com: Ma’am, what was the toughest time in your corporate life and what challenges did you face as a woman in your profession?
Ms. Sunita Varadan: I have seen many cycles of boom and recession in the long span of my career. The corporate life challenges are not gender specific. We all professionals face similar challenges in work place and are constantly looking for solutions to overcome these challenges.
Now if your question points out to whether I had to face any kind of harassment from male colleagues, then the answer is No. I was fortunate that I never had to deal with such unpleasant situation at workplace. Did I face any gender discrimination? Again the answer is No. I think most employers are equal opportunity provider. If you deliver what is expected out of you, you will be trusted with higher responsibilities.
The key here is that I do not treat myself as any different from my male counterparts and so no one has treated me in a different manner. Sometimes when you deal with the external world, there is some amount of curiosity with customers and business associates as to who is this lady that they have to deal with, since they are mostly closing business deals with men. However when they meet me, they realize that they are dealing with a professional and gender plays no role here.
Being a lady has some privileges too…Gentlemen are ready to help, like placing your bag in overhead cabin in aircraft, and I graciously accept such help… (Laughs).
CableCommunity.com: What are your passions in life?
Ms. Sunita Varadan: Spending time with friends and family, traveling, watching movies. I do not miss out on small moments of happiness. I contribute funds towards underprivileged children, but I want to start spending time actively for such causes. That’s on my immediate agenda.
I have no time to pursue a hobby as I have a lot of traveling in my work. Next on agenda is to devote time and pursue a hobby like Music. I need to bring in more discipline in these aspects.
CableCommunity.com: What is the driving force behind so much work?
Ms. Sunita Varadan: I love my work and networking. When you stay and work in the Middle East, you get to interact with people from so many nationalities and different cultures… Work wise also there are enormous challenges and it is a thrill to overcome those challenges and build a successful business. I look forward to each day.
CableCommunity.com: Ma’am how do you maintain work-life balance?
Ms. Sunita Varadan: My son is working with Facebook and living in San Francisco. We meet every 6 months. My siblings live in Mumbai and UAE and I meet them whenever possible. I spend my free time chilling out with friends and family. Otherwise Work is Home and Home is Work for me and there’s no clear divide between the two.
I don’t have a work – life balance problem at this stage of my life as my young one has flown away from the nest and I don’t need to deal with empty nest syndrome as work keeps me occupied.
Besides, I was separated from my husband long ago. So lesser responsibilities on the home front…
CableCommunity.com: Ma’am, you are a leader in your profession but how did you handle being separated from your ex-husband?
Ms. Sunita Varadan: I have lot of blessings in my life. But one aspect of my life – my marriage – did not go well. My responsibilities at work and raising my son as a single mother kept me occupied and happy as well. Trust me it’s not a difficult situation to be in.
When my son graduated from university in US, he was felicitated as the best outgoing student. In his speech in front of the entire gathering he acknowledged the rock solid support provided by his mother in shaping his future. Listening to this was like receiving a medal!
CableCommunity.com: Ma’am what is your Philosophy of Life?
Ms. Sunita Varadan: Your life is in your hands. Let others not decide its course for you. Keep your mind free of burden. And remember, Life is Beautiful!
CableCommunity.com: You are an inspiring leader in your field and many young people in the industry look upto you. Can you give a message to the young professionals? Your matra for success?
Ms. Sunita Varadan: The young professionals have a wide canvas to choose from. So choose a profession which you like and enjoy every day being part of it. Maybe you can go wrong in your choice, but you may do course correction and find the space you are comfortable in. There should be a sense of fulfilment in what you do. Look for innovation and learning. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Most important – Network – Professionally and personally. Not only through social media, but by human touch.
CableCommunity.com: You are a real inspiration, what are your plans ahead?
Ms. Sunita Varadan: I have a lot to achieve, I still have a long journey. The best is yet to come!