IACS hosts leadership networking seminar

ACS speakers: Bill Foster, Soma Somasundaram, Mark Hacker, Sundaram Nagarajan, Socka Suppiah and Rajan Nagarajan
ACS speakers: Bill Foster, Soma Somasundaram, Mark Hacker, Sundaram Nagarajan, Socka Suppiah and Rajan Nagarajan

CHICAGO: Indo American Community Services (IACS), a Chicago based no-profit body, hosted a leadership and networking event on Saturday, March 14 at Marriott Hotel, Schaumburg (a northeast suburb of Chicago) where ‘who’s who’ of Chicago area corporate executives participated to share their knowledge, background and experience with aspiring participants from Indian community.

The speakers included Soma Somasundaram, CEO and President of Dover Energy, Mark Hacker, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer at Motorola Solutions, Socka Suppiah, Co-Founder and COO of Saggezza and Rajan Nagarajan, Vice President Strategic Business Process Transformation at Kraft Foods. United States Representative Bill Foster, representing 11th district of Illinois, also shared his business background and experience with the audience.

Discussion was moderated by Sundaram Nagarajan Executive Vice President – ITW. The discussion focused on key attributes of leaders, influence of role models in career growth, impact of globalization on leaders, leadership and organizations, risks and rewards leaders and potential leaders embrace and finally positive or negative impact leaders have on their families and family values ecosystem.

The topics for the discussion were selected based on the questions received from the participants prior to the meeting. Nagarajan elicited views from panelists covering a broad spectrum of opinions.

Sunder Dittakavi, organizing member of IACS, welcomed the audience and introduced the speakers. Bill Foster in his speech appreciated IACS for organizing such events as they provide a forum for aspiring as well as established leaders to connect and network with industry and business peers, exchange ideas and may even meet some potential customers.

He recounted his own experience and hardship faced as a youngster trying to generate business along with his brother for his startup firm, when no such events existed. In those days, the only way they could connect with potential customers was to participate in tradeshows, which were expensive for small businesses to afford. He encouraged IACS to hold more such events to help community members.

As globalization, outsourcing, economy and jobs issues are the major topics today; panelists started the discussion with this topic. All panelists agreed that globalization is here to stay and the need of the hour is to accept this reality and work around it. Deep understanding of the customer problems whether they are national or international, creating value proposition to customer, not just a product or service is a key to survive, sustain and thrive in the globalized business world.

Another key aspect which was discussed was the ability of the leader to visit customers in the field to understand the challenges they face. This also motivates the field staff that the leaders are sensitive to their problems. Mark Hacker quoted the personal experience from baseball in his childhood days. He played the role of identifying weak aspects of his team and played the role of ‘bridging gaps and motivating players’.

An interesting topic concerned ability of the leader to handle changes. All the panelists gave real life examples of how they adjusted themselves to change. The consensus among the panelists was that change is imminent and it is the only constant. Sometimes change can be good or bad. But every adversity also creates an opportunity. Leaders are those who embrace opportunity and positively respond to change.

This may involve some risk taking. Ultimately success or failure may depend on how well the options are evaluated and execution of plan. Rajan gave an interesting quote which summed up leadership attributes as ABC viz. A – Aspiration, Attitude, Aptitude and Altitude; B- Beliefs and Behavior; C- Creativity, Communication and Collaboration.

Next topic of discussion was about hiring fresh talent. What attributes do leaders look for while hiring a new employee? Socka had an interesting quote on hiring; ‘hire for attitude and train for skills’.
Do leaders sacrifice a lot to grow and sustain into leadership roles? All panelists agree that they do.

Leaders do sacrifice some aspects of life and family to accomplish bigger things in life. That is a choice of life they make.

The discussion was followed by a question-answer session and some of the questions were addressed by the panelists.

Sreenivas Katragadda, President of IACS, gave an overview of the activities organized by IACS which included student internship program, in which selected students get an opportunity to work at US Congress in Washington DC; Women’s Leadership conference which will be held in April of this year, job fairs held in various US cities and a mentoring program.

IACS launched mentoring program at the event. This is a new initiative by IACS. Nag Vaidyanathan, from ALLSTATE insurance, stressed the need for participation in the mentoring program either as a mentor or mentee. This will help members of community in personal as well as professional development.

The Event was sponsored by Grainger, ITW, L&T Infotech and Dynamic Enterprise Solutions.

The audience included a mix of entrepreneurs, business professionals, aspiring youngsters and students who had the opportunity to interact and network with panelists and other participants before and after the event.

Surendra Ullal

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