Sonal Ramrakhiani, 45
COO, Tata Technologies
Location: Novi, Mich.
Education: B.S., biochemistry, St. Xavier’s College; Postgraduate Diploma, management, Nirma Institute of Management
What drew you to the auto industry? Automotive services form a big part of our portfolio. I have been actively involved with the auto industry for over a decade now.
First automotive job: 2010. My first automotive job was working as part of Tata Consultancy Services with Tata Motors. I was also handling sales for a number of automotive customers and Tier 1s in India. I was based in Pune, and that ended up being a fairly large automotive hub in India.
Big break: A big one was when I joined the Tata Administrative Services at the beginning of my career. That was the step up to getting groomed for leadership positions.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? Having been a woman has never been a challenge for me. I have found that, as long as you’re bringing value to the discussions, customers don’t care who’s at the other side of the table. The challenge at times has been when people think that you are too junior to take on something. That ends up acting more as a glass ceiling than anything else. So it’s been more age-related. Not so much anymore, but I would say early on in my career.
You’ve been in the industry 10 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? The biggest change has been this whole transformation towards electrification. The pace of change that we’ve seen in the last five years, or that we will see in the next five years, has probably outperformed anything that we’ve seen in the last 50. And that has led to some very interesting learning opportunities, development opportunities, growth opportunities for companies like us.
What work achievement are you most proud of? Leading sustainable growth for the territory that I’m in charge of. We’ve had healthy, sustainable growth, double-digit growth. Even with COVID, we were able to ensure the highest level of support for our customers and our employees. We maintained very high levels of engagement and stood by them as a Tata company would. We stood by our employees in these tough times and made sure that there is a vision of the future.
What do you struggle with? Overcommitting my time, and my aspiration to be in multiple places and do more than I possibly have the time for. I’m always stretched on that.
Describe your leadership style. Positive and inclusive. There’s no problem that we can’t solve together. I don’t like berating people on a problem. If you fail, you fail together. If you win, you win together. I don’t believe in silos. And that’s where the whole inclusivity comes in — a deep emphasis on building teams for sustainable growth.
What have you learned from the COVID-19 crisis? COVID has been, personally, a time to introspect on the busyness that surrounds life. How much of it is important, and can you carve out time for things that truly matter? It has given me time to think about the here and now; the urgent versus important. That has been a big, big learning for me.
How do you bring your best self to work? A positive attitude has always been my big differentiator. I bring that to every interaction that I have. I encourage my team members to do that, as well. Think about what value you’re adding to the individual in that conversation. If nothing else, then it’s a sense of positivity.
Tell us about your family. My husband and I have been here in the U.S. now for a little over three years. [My husband is] probably my biggest champion. He always encourages me to think bigger and better. He’s a great partner. We have two kids. They both are avid tennis players.
If there were 25 hours in a day, how would you spend your extra hour? I’d probably go for a swim for that extra hour. Unfortunately, the Michigan weather is not very conducive to it. Swimming is just a great break. Unlike other sports, where you feel the need to talk, when you’re swimming, you can’t. It just helps me decompress at the end of a busy day.
— Urvaksh Karkaria