I was born in Ernakulam in Kerala to a family of teachers. I come from a middle class family and it was deeply-rooted in me that everyone had to work. I always watched my mother work, and it made me want to excel.
After school I joined an automotive company in Chennai, where I was the only woman on the factory floor. However, they didn't want a woman there. They asked me to move to their IT department. I remember feeling so hurt. But I always believed in defining my own life and how I wanted to do things, so I did not let them dampen my spirit. In hindsight, it was a blessing, because I fell in love with computers.
For the first time, I was exposed to the entire software development life cycle. At work, I always took the lead. I put 100% focus to the task at hand: I planned ahead and I worked hard. And I never stopped learning. I completed certification courses at IIM Bangalore, INSEAD, and Harvard Business School. When I faced tough moments, I always talked it out. I talked to my family and my spouse, and I identified mentors who acted as a sounding board when I needed it. And I learned that as a leader, I needed to gain my team's trust and be able to stand up for them.
Today, I am part of the global executive team at SAP and I am responsible for a huge business. I have mentored many women. Sometimes as a woman we need to hear, “Yes, you can drive this; Yes, I’m behind you in case you need support.” I find my own journey so exciting, and so different from where I thought I would end up when I was on that factory floor. Learning continuously keeps me going. And I'm not stopping yet.
Uma Rani is the Senior Vice President at SAP. This story is adapted from an essay she wrote for HerStory.