Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Has Arrived

For balancing digital transformation with social impact

Manwendra Singh’s career can be seen as a virtuous circle. The knowledge and skills he gains by leading digital transformation projects for companies across the globe is reinvested into volunteer social impact initiatives. Those projects then reinvigorate him to tackle even more complex and ambitious corporate projects.

“While my full-time job is demanding, I strongly believe in giving back to society in any way possible,” says Singh. “I set aside time to work with nonprofits because volunteering gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment that’s invaluable.”

At Persistent Systems, Singh helps clients tap into technology in ways that can supercharge productivity and boost the user experience. Think: establishing sustainable processes for identifying issues/bottlenecks, automation of processes and improving the user experience to replace traditional applications, solutions, processes, and reporting methods. To make sure those projects deliver, he relies on a mix of testing, feedback loops, automated change-control processes and stakeholder management that help limit scope creep and ensure communication flows.

The goals for his volunteer projects may be different, but he relies on the same management and leadership skill set. When a village in the Pune district faced severe drought, for instance, Singh and his team collaborated with Paani Foundation to develop rainwater harvesting systems that provide villagers sustainable access to clean water.

His volunteer efforts extend to the PMI community, too. He initially joined the PMI Pune-Deccan India Chapter to network and help manage its social media. But the connections quickly ran much deeper. Over the past eight years, his efforts have ranged from serving as a board member, educating management students on project management, to supporting quality of life improvements in rural villages through social services.

Each project provides motivation for the next, Singh says.

"Seeing the impact of my work on the community is extremely rewarding and pushes me to do more,” he says. “Every little effort counts toward creating a better world, and I’m grateful for the chance to contribute in my own small way.”

Q&A: Manwendra Singh on validation, “happyness” and teleportation

What’s the most influential project you've worked on?

One that stands out was our digital transformation program at my previous employer Flex. We overhauled technology infrastructure, processes and culture, with the goal of enabling more efficient operations, greater agility, and improved customer and employee experiences. The skills and experience I gained through this project will continue to serve me well in the future.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

In 2018, I was awarded the PMI Young Professional Award [now known as PMI Rising Leader Award], and I was one of the first people from India to receive this honor. I also earned the Flex Individual Excellence Award in 2019, which was a validation of the hard work and effort I had put into my role.

How are young professionals changing the world of projects now?

We’re bringing fresh perspectives, new technologies and innovative approaches to project management. We’re changing the way projects are managed—and that impact is likely to continue to shape the world of projects in the future.

What’s the biggest challenge facing young project leaders right now?

Today’s workforce is more diverse than ever before, with individuals from different backgrounds, cultures and generations working together. Managing diverse teams requires a unique set of skills, including effective communication, emotional intelligence and cultural sensitivity.

Fast forward: What’s one way managing projects will have changed over the next 10 years?

Managing projects over the next decade will require project managers to embrace AI and other new technologies, integrate sustainability and social responsibility considerations, and be agile in the face of rapidly changing circumstances.

What movie are you obsessed with recommending right now?

There is one flick that I simply cannot resist: The Pursuit of Happyness. Whenever I'm feeling down in the dumps and need a dose of motivation, I turn to this movie for some much-needed inspiration. The lessons I’ve learned from it have left an indelible mark on me: Never give up on your dreams, hard work pays off, family is important and believe in yourself.

What moonshot project would you most like to work on?

Teleportation. It might be the realm of science fiction, but I would love to work on a project that makes it a reality.

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