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Cireesha Mailavarapu

Trumping obstacles Cireesha Mailavarapu way

She is used to scaling the workforce of companies, one after another. At a fintech firm, 100 employees in more than a year, done. Four years at an IT development company for 1,000 members, boom. And just a year for 200 members. Bring it on.

It is getting better with time. Different industries and landing in fresh territories to sculpt people processes from scratch thrills her. “Startup opportunities in the early stages of a career helps as you take up greater responsibilities and diverse roles,” says Cireesha Mailavarapu, the builder.

For 18 years, she eagerly learnt the business first and then tied her work to it. This practice has vaulted her to lead HR for Sodexo, a food and facility management firm, in the Indian States of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Despite the pressure, she sports an ever-smiling face. “It lightens up the organization all the time,” an admirer wrote on her LinkedIn.

The Turning Point

“Complete this first. You can follow your passion later,” parents of Ms. Cireesha, both engineers, told her. Yet she was clear about her calling while pursuing engineering: A management career it should be. Still, she excelled in college, never letting go of an opportunity to learn, to land a job at an IT firm.

But a tough decision awaited her. In 2006, she joined as a recruiter with a startup. It was a risk – a bold step as she calls it.

The IT sector was booming then, and the field of human resources was more administrative, unpopular and not a priority for businesses. An unfamiliar territory, a challenge has always pulled on her. Remember the builder who erects structures from scratch?

Since then, she has been leading HR departments without a break. Having witnessed the transformation from the administrative to the strategic HR over the years, she believes HRs are now business partners.

“They have taken the front seat alongside the CEO and drive business,” she told Keka, which provides HR tech solutions to SMEs.

The Learning Curve

In just five years, she began heading the HR department of a startup. “It was stressful, but in a startup you can really show your contribution to the organization,” she emphasizes.

Ms. Cireesha set up organization structures, roped in LinkedIn for recruitment at a time it was still not widely used. A new channel was discovered.

But how did she scale the workforce across firms and industries, rapidly and multiple times?

  • Having the right systems and processes to support growth
  • Hiring the right set of people
  • Driving engagement and performance
  • Understanding business priorities and focus

And of course, networking by learning from best practices of industry peers and taking part in events. “It is about the continuous learning we should be open to,” she suggests, adding that ‘forward-thinking’ is also necessary.

The experimenter she is, Ms. Cireesha vouches for a diversified segment profile. This means working across firms, in different industries and diverse roles. “The HR function has different priorities everywhere. Because I have moved across, I understand it at multiple levels,” she explains.

When faced with the recent industry challenge of managing talent, which is scarce, she looks inward first. “Upskilling and cross training employees can help retain them,” she believes.

Showing Results to be Heard

When the HR may not be taken seriously or heard, how does she get her voice through to the leadership? Working closely with CEOs early on has lent her the business sense and the ability to view business through the HR prism.

“It is mostly about showing results,” she quips. Plus, you need communication and negotiation skills.

But understanding the business and other functions well will give you the best mileage. After joining a role, she starts with trying to understanding the business first.

Striking a Balance  

A mother, a wife, a caregiver to parents, a manager and a business driver. The family versus career dilemma has throttled many a career, especially for women. But not for Ms. Cireesha, who believes in balancing priorities.

As the startup she helped build soared, an opportunity abroad tugged at her.

“It was my peak. But I had a newborn baby at home, so I decided to stay back,” she says. “As a mother there are some responsibilities you cannot ignore.”

Still, when you pick a career opportunity over family, the guilt can be wracking, she admits. “You learn to take some and leave others. It’s about the choices you make,” she adds.

In addition, her marriage to the son of M.S. Narayana, former actor in the Telugu film industry, didn’t stop her from having a career of her choice. “I have always wanted to retain my individuality,” she asserts.

And in the working world, women are still not taken that seriously. “We are made to prove a little more than men to reach somewhere. It can be working three-four times more just to be visible and be heard,” she claims.

Badges of Honor

  • ‘Young L&D Champion of the Year’ award at the 12th edition of the ‘Future of Learning & Development Summit and Awards, 2022’
  • ‘WILL Women in Leadership Certification : 2023’ from the Forum for Women in Leadership – WILL Forum India
  • ‘HR Leader of the Year’ award at the Talent Acquisition Conclave, 2022, organized by the IKON Foundation
  • ‘101 Most Fabulous HR Tech Leaders’ from the World HR Congress, 2020
  • ‘Topmost HR Leaders – Telangana’ award at the Telangana Best Employer Brand Awards & Telangana Leadership Excellence Awards, 2022

Career Highlights

2006 – 2010
HR Executive, PrimeSoft Solution,Inc. (IT Services Company)

2010 – 2011
HR Manager & HR Head – HighRadius (IT Product Company)

2011 – 2015
Associate Director, HR & HR Head – OTSI (IT Services Company)

2015 – 2016
HR Manager & HR Head – Napier Healthcare (IT product Company)

2016 – 2018
Senior HR Manager & HR Head – Sagarsoft (IT Product and Services Company)

2018 – 2019
Unit HR & Welfare Officer – Dr. Reddys Laboratories (Pharmaceutical Company)

2019 – 2022
Vice President, Global HR & HR Head – ETG (IT Services Company)

2019 – Present
HR Head, AP & Telangana Regions – Sodexo (Food and Facility Management firm)

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