For revving up quality and safety in the auto industry
Archana Parvathy has always been fascinated by how the technological systems she uses in everyday life intertwine—how all those zeros and ones come together as a cohesive unit. That sense of wonder and curiosity were part of what drew her to her current role at tech giant Bosch Global Software Technologies.
And she didn't hesitate to apply that problem-solving mindset on a project developing software for iBooster, the company's new braking system. Parvathy wasn't just coordinating efforts between Bosch's technical experts and customers, but also getting herself up to speed on the product. The payoff? "The project gave me a platform, which showcased me as a potential leader to the management," she says.
The experience was also helpful when Parvathy took on the responsibility of defect reduction moderator for her entire department—a high-profile role that came with equally high stakes. "There was a critical need to redesign the defect reduction strategy," she says, as the project team was looking to win back customer trust after a series of plant-delivered defects.
By studying the previous year's trend, Parvathy developed a plan to control the defects more systematically while measuring ongoing progress. She was confident her plan would curb defect numbers, while also reducing potential rework and cost. But it also meant implementing a new process—and the team was vocal in their apprehension. "The biggest challenge was changing people's minds and helping them understand why exactly they need this change—because everything has to be systematically connected to the flow of the work they do," she says.
To sell through her vision, Parvathy helped stakeholders envision the immediate benefits, explaining how defects could improve in just weeks and months instead of years. And she focused her team on smaller project milestones to allow for close monitoring and fast course correction. The result? Defects were slashed by half just one year later.
Parvathy aims to eventually apply her skills to the industry's next great frontier: self-driving cars. "I would love to work in the vehicle safety project of a self-driving car—innovating and improving the efficiency, performance and, eventually, the customer experience," she says.
Q&A: Archana Parvathy on challenging the status quo, machine learning and trusting your vision
What's your project management superpower?
Never settling. I try to challenge every situation until I'm convinced. I've seen many instances where my questions on a topic influenced management to make a different decision in the end.
What's one way you see managing projects changing over the next decade?
Machine learning is going to be a gamechanger, and it has already started enabling data-driven decision-making in other fields. There will be a lot of technological tool support for project managers to make a decision. However, it's fundamentally their strategic thinking that will ensure these tools help them deliver success.
What's the biggest challenge facing young project leaders right now?
There are teams or systems that work on outdated approaches, and young leaders must challenge the approach while not disrupting the business. This is quite a big challenge, as it's not so easy to convince and bring in change, especially when something has been working for years. But it is also inevitable that the approaches have to evolve with time and that happens through leaders who foresee the future.
What's a must-have skill for rising leaders?
Be patient. Everybody cannot be at the same pace, and you need to allow time for you to understand your team and, at the same time, for the team to have a better understanding of your vision.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to your younger self?
Don't allow any external inputs to shake your thought process. Rather, use them to refine your vision and move forward. Make progress every day, even if it is minuscule. Every drop counts.
Listen to Archana Parvathy share advice she’s still following as a new leader, as well as a message of encouragement to other women project leaders in tech.
One [piece of] advice—I would say every new leader has to possess patience. Be patient, at least initially, when you are taking up this new role of people management or project management. I think you have to be patient because a team is actually a mixture of talents. Everybody cannot be in the same place, and you need to have the patience with your team. Understand them and understand the positives or strengths of each and every one of them. This time is really required for you to understand the team, and at the same time, for the team to have a better trust in you.
Trust your vision. It’s you who [has] to be confident and think, "Yes, I can do it." Make a clear plan, and make sure that you progress every day. Let it be maybe a smaller one or bigger one. That’s not a problem—even a minute, minimal progress from what you have done yesterday. Make sure that you make even a smaller progress every day, because this gives you a lot of confidence. "Yes, I’m working on [it], and I’m still connected to the vision, and I’m running toward it." So that gives you a lot of boosting and, ultimately, achieving it.