Challenging life’s challenges with grit

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Deepa Narasimhan, Diversity & Inclusion Lead APJ, EMC

Unchallenged by the challenges of birth, Deepa Narasimhan has pursued her dreams with vigour and is today the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Lead for EMC Centres of Excellence across Asia, Pacific & Japan. Born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, she has overcome all challenges to successfully build her career and in the process has also become a passionate advocate of disability rights and gender equity.

Being a very ambitious woman, Deepa dreamt of having a really successful career by overcoming all the hardships of life. However, her journey wasn’t an easy one. After completing her BCA, she worked as a freelancer and delivered numerous projects, primarily from home. But she always wanted to venture out into the corporate world and fly high! Being a woman, one constantly needs to prove oneself. It was challenging since she did not get to taste success so easily. After a struggle of three years, EMC India Centre of Excellence (COE) welcomed Deepa with warmth which no other company did.

In her current role as the D&I Lead for APJ Centers of Excellence, she works closely with EMC’s Global Inclusion Office. Aligning with EMC’s D&I vision, she seeks to foster a culture of inclusion across APJ regions. Her focus areas include scaling diverse talent across functions, developing strategic diversity programs to engage and motivate talent, facilitate diverse talent acquisition strategies. She also works closely with the Learning & Development teams and Academia to integrate inclusive training modules into the current learning curriculum. Among other initiatives, she also leads key internal / external diversity and inclusion programs and events.

Aside to this, Deepa is President of DERG (Disability Empowerment Resource Group) India, network and founder member of Women’s Leadership forum at EMC India COE. She is member of various D&I Forum, and partner of KickStart and Wheels of Change, an accessible cab service in Bangalore and proactive accessibility evangelist.

She loves traveling and have so far travelled to seven countries. Deepa believes in living life to the fullest and living up to your dreams and has been an inspiration to a number of people.

High point in career

When I joined EMC eight years ago, my life took a turn for the better and there has been no looking back since then. It has been the best thing that could have happened to me. I started my corporate career as a marketing and communications professional at EMC India COE and today I have grown to become the Lead for Diversity and Inclusion at EMC Centres of Excellence for Asia Pacific and Japan. My growth has more or less mirrored my organization’s growth. There cannot be any other high point for me than this! I can relate to my work like nobody else, thus creating a natural interest for growing the practice. To work in this space, where you have to interact with people coming from diverse backgrounds, one needs to be empathetic and ensure their dignity is maintained. At EMC, gender equality resonates very well across all levels of the pyramid. We started the DERG (Disability Empowerment Resource Group) India Network in 2012. The total number of our employees with disability has tripled since then. In fact, first of its kind internship program was started for people with profound disability and it was a huge success. During this program I spent considerable time with the interns. It was great learning experience for me as well. However, it was terribly difficult for me to disengage myself and mentor them since I have been through that phase and I know exactly how they feel. My role at EMC India COE as the D&I Lead will always be etched in my memory.

Most challenging assignment so far

I take challenges as a tonic every day. My life is layered with so many challenges, right from the time I wake up till I go back to bed. But I think the biggest challenge is when the world doubts your ability. This is when one should start believing in oneself and never give up. I have won this big hurdle of my life with my will and commitment towards myself for giving an independent life to myself. But I consider these hurdles and failures as the stepping stone for success. I had to work really hard to prove my ability. This journey wouldn’t have been possible and without the support from EMC India COE, from my colleagues and my mentors. Today I am a successful professional and all the challenges have helped me enter a global role which I can relate to.

Greatest inspiration

At every stage of my life I come across inspirational people. My family, especially my parents, are the biggest support system and inspiration. I also owe a lot to my former boss Sundar Balasubramanian who always believed in my ability to make it big and gave me the strength to face every kind of challenge. Sarv Saravanan who is the SVP and GM for EMC Centres of Excellence for APJ, has been a believer in me and my contributions to EMC. Shanti Raghavan, the founder of Enable India has helped me groom to become the person I am today. She helped me transform and has made my life more beautiful. All these people have mentored me and instilled positivity in me that today I live by the phrase – Do or Die attitude!

Most important milestone in life

Today I am flying as free as a bird in the corporate world and climbing the ladder of success. Becoming the Lead for Diversity and Inclusion for Centres of Excellence at Asia Pacific and Japan is like a dream come true. There was a time when I wanted to go to office and work in a company and today here I am – leading the APJ for one of the best practices of one of the worlds largest companies in the world. I could not have asked for a more satisfying career which has so many learnings and memories. The fact that I can create many more such Deepas is extremely satisfying and gives a new meaning to my life.

Women are the better halves. What does it mean?

Yes, women are better halves at every stage of life. Not just to a man as a wife but to complete an organization we need women. The strength and willingness to achieve is what every woman can bring to an organization’s table. I believe that success stories of any company get richer if they believe in equality and create an inclusive environment with a diverse workforce.