Dr Shivagami Gugan- Technology Transformation Leader

Dr. Shivagami Gugan Amazon Web Services CIO Women Magazine

Dr. Shivagami Gugan is a Technology Transformation Leader with international experience in building Digital strategies, IT strategies, delivering large programs and portfolios, software engineering, service & infrastructure/cloud management, operations, site reliability engineering, and service delivery in complex, large-scale, mission-critical IT environments. Dr. Shivagami Gugan core strengths are towards fueling business growth through Technology, Innovation and Digital Transformation. 

Dr. Shivagami Gugan specializes in delivering a broad range of complex, multi-disciplinary programs Digital Transformation Strategies, application development, security, and infrastructure initiatives across large, cross-functional, and multi-cultural teams. In 2021, Dr. Shivagami Gugan was recognized by the Government of India  as an “Outstanding professional Achievement in Technology Innovation and Contributions towards Nation Building” and was awarded in the 62nd National Summit of Atmanirbhar Bharat: Vision of New India summit..

As Head of Software Engineering and later as Head of Site Reliability Engineering and DevOps at the Emirates Group IT, Dr. Shivagami Gugan led several Technology Transformation programs on Agile team transformations, Cloud migrations, DevSecOps implementations, and Building modern architectures to deliver omnichannel consumer experiences. The infrastructure and application modernization programs in the areas which were targeted for transformation yielded up to 30% engineering efficiencies and 4X times time-to-market improvements. 

Gathering from Dr. Shivagami Gugan rich experience of running large Technology landscapes consisting of more than 1000 applications, hosted in on-prem data centers and on public clouds, and supporting more than 440+ international locations, she authored the “Site Reliability Engineering Practitioner course” for the DevOps Institute. Being a Data Engineer at heart, Dr. Shivagami Gugan continues to build cloud, data, integration, devops, machine learning and advanced analytical transformations. 

Dr. Shivagami Gugan primary motive is to see organizations transform in spirit delivering true business value and a higher customer CSAT score

The Steps to Success- Dr. Shivagami Gugan

Mathematics and Analytics were Dr. Shivagami Gugan areas of interest, and it was a no-brainer that she selected Dr. Shivagami Gugan undergraduate course in computer engineering.  

“When I was in college, the Internet was in its infancy, and we wrote programs in Fortran and Cobol on shared computers. I still remember riding a bike at 4.30 AM in the morning to get some time in the college computer lab and then straight attending classes from 7 AM. From those days, I have seen that it is good to have a goal, and work on a plan to achieve the goal.”, says Dr. Shivagami Gugan. 

And the challenges to reach the heights of success? 

Working women have faced typical problems during the initial years of their careers.

“I have discussed with my  fellow women in Technology,  from other geographies and have been awe-struck that our challenges are similar irrespective of which country or what background each of us comes from. I call it a circus – the “work-life circus”and the importance of building a healthy balance  cannot be understated.

This changes for the better when kids grow-up, but the initial years of child bearing and child rearing are very challenging for a woman both at home and at the work front. A one stage I have even felt an exasperation as everyone seems to be asking for your time.  

For me, it has always been about prioritizing my time based on who needs it the most, and what is urgent and important from a “family” point of view. It’s about planning for the week, and prioritizing family and work – for example, check the parent-teacher meeting, hospital visit for your aging father, and the clashing office meetings to make the call.  Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet to solve these challenges. 

Those days were tough, there was nothing like working from home or having flexible hours. I remember even just before the pandemic struck, I used to leave home every day morning at 7.30 sharp for the senior management stand-up at 8 AM. Since the pandemic, times have changed, and it is much better to manage the work-life circus. I think a hybrid work from home will have a societal impact for the positive side for children well-being and a better family life. 

On the work front, the initial years were about establishing myself amongst colleagues as being helpful, empathetic, trustworthy, and competent. Many of my colleagues from my initial years are still my good friends.”, tells Dr. Shivagami Gugan. 

Disrupting the Traditional Ways- Women in Technology-

It’s really about how well the contributions, presence, and perspectives of different groups of people are valued and integrated with the workspace. Diversity brings in different perspectives and this leads to innovation.

“As a Woman in Technology, I feel we can do more in terms of having women in leadership roles. Of late, I do see the number of women programmers increasing which is a positive trend, but there is no proportionate growth in the leadership rungs of technology. Women make up around half of the population, and it doesn’t make sense that there is a negligible representation at the senior levels. 

I also think women can help fellow women by building a sisterhood network to mentor each other and break the unconscious bias that often exists. These barriers are self-made and can be broken down by consistently working with a plan. It helps to build a good network of friends, neighbors, and family, and not hesitate in approaching them and taking their help when we need it. Society is quite helpful for a working woman, provided we are open to seeking help.”

The Big Difference-

“I think women are even today held to a different standard. Women themselves want to be treated special. I have seen women who are either too loud or too soft. They are seen as being too emotional or not emotional enough. There are several badges that are given to women, it’s disconcerting because you feel it. It’s the environment we live in, whether we like it or not. And this ranges from every business event you go to, to every social event you go to, and there has to be a constant conscious pull for everyone to not let this bias steep in.

As a woman in Technology, Dr. Shivagami Gugan can advise that if we consistently and systematically work on learning and being innovative, we keep our knowledge with the technology advancements and contribute beyond our job profile without looking for quick results – we can break the glass ceiling. It’s a glass ceiling after all – and companies are all changing for the better in breaking this bias.”, explains Dr. Shivagami Gugan. 

What is Leadership All About?

“I think the fundamental role of a leader is to look for ways to shape the decades ahead, not just react to the present state, to empower your team to accept the discomfort of disruptions. When you grow up the ladder, it is true that you start feeling lonely. Most of the things you handle are people-confidential or business confidential, so it’s necessary to have incredible courage. You need to have a backbone, stay focussed, learn your subject matter continuously, and execute from a long-term vision for the company.

There are a few fundamental mantras that I have followed which have been successful for me. A leader need not be a superwoman who knows it all. Dr. Shivagami Gugan is someone who has the TRUST of the team, and who respects the team, and firmly believes that the collective wisdom of the team is far superior that the wisdom of one person

The primary duty of a leader on the team front is to make sure that the team has clarity in the vision and is motivated. There is no need to micro-guide the team, be closely aligned to coach them, and remove impediments that the team has it beyond the circle of influence.

The other key facet is to have the ability to identify quiet quitters or the people who are disengaged to go beyond the call of duty. Once you build a team with mutual trust and discretionary effort, as a leader you can watch the team deliver amazingly well once they are rightly empowered.”, illustrates Dr. Shivagami Gugan. 

The 5 Mantras of Success!

The mantras for success are context-bound and should make sense to your context. For me my core mantras are:

1. Integrity

The compass of a person is the core integrity, at work or outside work. Aristotle said leadership cannot occur in the absence of three things—logos, pathos, and ethos. Logos is logic—making a rational appeal. Pathos is emotion—making an argument that resonates with people on an emotional level. Ethos is super critically important, ethos is character. If the team doesn’t trust the leader because they have shown a lack of character, they are less likely to follow them and embrace their ideas. Even if they do, it will be due to fear, with a shallow commitment.

2. Competence and Confidence

A leader has to be competent in his field and build up the courage to speak up the ideas. This

advice is along the lines of what Wharton professor Adam Grant wrote in his bestselling book, Originals. A leader originally is a person who “champions a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better”. Their ideas may be priceless, but it is still meaningless unless they can advocate the ideas effectively.

3. Never Stop Learning

To challenge the status quo and remain competitive you will need knowledge. With Technology changing at a trail-blazing speed, there is a need to constantly unlearn, relearn and reinvent yourself. 

4. Building Networks and Empathizing people

Building a good network and nurturing the same is important for achieving meaningful success. Being humble and helpful and generous helps in building long-term networks and this mantra is applicable as much to personal success as it is to professional success. 

5. Closing Remarks

Shivagami suggests that having clarity in the goals, believing in a few core values in life and constantly adapting and learning and being empathetic and diligent will lead to happiness and fullfillment in life. Success is a by-product that will come along.



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