Business Today

Software Sultana

Gomatam's trained musical ear has helped hone her business skills.
twitter-logoGoutam Das | Print Edition: Sep 15, 2013
Sumithra Gomatam, Senior Vice President, Cognizant
Sumithra Gomatam, Senior Vice President, Cognizant Photo: H. K. Rajashekar/

Sumithra Gomatam is a vainika. She grew up in Tamil Nadu learning the veena - and over the years, listening to the distinctive resonance of the string instrument helped her in unintended ways. It sharpened her listening skills and shaped her thinking - qualities she uses in her line of business today.

Gomatam, 46, is Senior Vice President at Cognizant Technology Solutions, India's second-largest IT services company. Her listening skills fit well with the company's remote delivery model where staff attend to customers in different time zones over the phone. That is just one of the skills that make her a great leader. She also has enormous conviction and the ability to execute.

It is a myth. How much of yourself you want to give determines how far you can go.
Gomatam has built Cognizant's software testing practice from about 800 people in 2004 to over 23,000, one of the largest in the Indian IT industry. She also heads service delivery for business units such as insurance, life sciences, media and entertainment, which together account for 50 per cent of the company's over $7 billion revenues. "Her energy and ability to just keep challenging and the firmness she exhibits in dealing with situations make her stand out," says Lakshmi Narayanan, Vice-Chairman of Cognizant. "She is a bold decision-maker."

Gomatam showed signs of being a leader early. She joined Cognizant from TCS in 1995 and played a part in many of the company's milestones. In 2005, Cognizant wanted her to drive testing. "We had phenomenal growth in the following years. It is an area where Cognizant is a leader in the marketplace globally," she says.

 Has being a woman ever been a drawback? In nearly two decades with the company, Gomatam says she has never faced the glass ceiling. "You have to give a lot of yourself to meet clients overseas. How much of yourself you want to give determines how far you can go," she says.  

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