Exclusive Interview with Mr. Vinod T. Varghese, Human Resource Director, Alstom India & South Asia

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Context: On the occasion of Women’s Day, Rail Analysis Team reached out to Alstom India Team to share their perspective on the role of Women in the railway & metro industry of India and their contribution to the sector.

Interview Insights:

Rail Analysis: Please share with our readers about your journey with the Alstom. How did you get started in this sector & can you briefly share with focal point of your role today?

Mr. Vinod T. Varghese: With 25 years of experience in managing employee relations and incorporating best practices for personnel & performance management, I have been serving as the Human Resource Director for Alstom India & South Asia since April 2017. My journey as a HR professional started through various senior leadership roles across industries such as FMCG, Financial Services, Consulting, IT & ITeS, Industrial products and EPC. Prior to joining Alstom, I was the Asia Talent Development Manager & SEA Talent Development Leader at 3M. My role included planning and executing key talent development initiatives for the Asia region. I also served as the Associate Director for Human Resources at Colt Technology Services, and Ernst & Young, and the Associate Vice President at HSBC.

In my tenure at Alstom, I have been formulating and executing strategic HR initiatives across the region. Over these years, my team has transitioned the hiring and onboarding processes to virtual platforms, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This enabled Alstom to stay true to the commitment made to continuously hiring new talent in India. Today, Alstom India is a team of close to 9,500 employees, which is a result of our never-ending effort to recruit capable talent. This year, we aim to expand our talent pool by 15% with hiring across the value chain – from production to methods, supplies, and functions, the recruitment will be a mix of engineers, technicians, and data science specialists.

Rail Analysis: From your perspective, how can we encourage more women to pursue leadership roles in their careers?

Mr. Vinod T. Varghese: While more are women venturing into various professional roles for decades now, we still see a major disparity in women across leadership positions. A great place to start fixing this imbalance is by changing the perception of women at workplaces. Oftentimes, women are subject to assumptions about their abilities as leaders, which may affect the hiring processes. Having honest conversations and sensitizing employees about these beliefs can go a long way in making a workplace more inclusive for women.

Organizations can also adopt flexible working policies that support women who need to juggle multiple facets of life and responsibilities. Initiatives to encourage women to return to the workplace after a career breaks, can also help bridge the gap. Upskilling and reskilling activities must be incorporated to keep these women well-versed with the skills of the present day and to equip professionals with the right skills to flourish in their roles.

Young women, especially in the field of heavy engineering in India, may find it difficult to navigate largely male-dominant workplaces to climb up the ladder. Being mentored by women in senior roles can help aspiring leaders to take guidance and excel in their field of work. Organizations can implement such mentorship programs that can support young women in identifying a path their can aspire to take.

Rail Analysis: What are some of the initiatives Alstom has undertaken to promote the role of women in the organization?

Mr. Vinod T. Varghese: To make the workplace more diverse and accommodating to women, Alstom has introduced the Alstom Women of Excellence summit. This summit brings together Alstom’s women into one platform to celebrate their unstoppable power & resilience. The 2nd summit in India happened in December 2021, which had over 400 women from Alstom that participated.

Alstom also organizes an exclusive mentorship program called WILL (Women in Leadership Levels). This systematic program is designed for young women to get mentored by women in leadership roles.

Alstom also believes in providing opportunities to women who had a break in their career and wish to restart their professional journey. As part of this, the RENEW Program was implemented, under which women with more than three years of experience and have taken a break for 12 months can apply to various roles in the company.

Rail Analysis: What is the importance of women’s empowerment in India and what main change would you like to see in the corporate sector?

Mr. Vinod T. Varghese: Making the workforce more diverse can improve variation in thought process and approach to work, which can accelerate productivity among corporates. With more women rising to leadership roles and young women leading and executing groundbreaking projects, the country would benefit from an economic development and increasing employment perspective.

In the corporate sector, I believe that it is not about counting the number of employees hired but making the numbers count. Corporates need to focus more on career development opportunities for young women in the workforce including the blue-collar employees which in turn helps the system grow. Our developing managers also need to manage diverse teams such that they mature talent within the team itself.

Rail Analysis: What is your International Women’s Day message for our readers?

Mr. Vinod T. Varghese: This year’s International Women’s Day themed around #BreakTheBias has the right call to action – unlearning the unconscious biases. As a society, we need to work together to erase these stereotypes around women which often restrict their professional growth. To ensure gender equality, we must work towards challenging these biases and making each other aware of rejecting discrimination. A major step towards this is understanding that women’s capabilities are not restricted to certain skills, which reduce their work opportunities to limited roles.

Rail Analysis: Any additional insights you would like to share with our readers?

Mr. Vinod T. Varghese: Although heavy engineering is a lesser explored career field for women in India, Alstom is proud to have a gender diversity of 18%. We are also happy to share that today we have over 16% women on the shopfloor, executing prestigious projects for India and the world. By 2025, the Alstom group aims to have a minimum target ratio of 28% in managerial and professional roles.

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