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Making a Difference the Janani Prakaash Way

Making a Difference the Janani Prakaash Way 

Music, yoga and writing. Can these make you better at HR?

She lets inspiration trickle in from many sources.

Including from within. “So, a lot of mentorship, I must say, is from a huge inner source,” suggests Janani Prakaash, head HR at Quantela Inc.

A professional for 17 years, she believes in breathing excellence into every action of hers. “Whatever you do, you do it well,” she says. Prepare a cup of tea or a business presentation, put your heart into it.

Out to make a difference in the lives of others, Ms. Janani practices gratitude every day and strives for success as a collective goal.

Early Moorings

In 2004, Ms. Janani was in Chennai when the tsunami struck the east Indian coast.

A social work student then, she tucked a notebook and a pen into her backpack and set out. Little did she know her relief work would change her forever.

For the next 10 days, Ms. Janani offered psychosocial support in Tamil Nadu as part of a volunteer group from her college. It was a different world, outside the safety of home and away from the familiar.

The flood swept away any semblance of normality.
The houses were wrecked, trees were uprooted. People lost their savings and children. Landscape was strewn with overturned cars, bent poles, tattered clothes. And just like that, lives were shattered.

“Yet they offered us whatever little they had,” recalls Ms. Janani. This moved her.
“How could someone be so generous even after losing everything!”

It was about gratitude, she felt. Be grateful for everything you have. “Until then, I took a lot of things for granted.”

Ever since, the realization of gratitude has fueled her resilience through tumultuous times as an HR leader. “Gratitude helps me be bold during tough times. This is important for organizations when they battle uncertainties,” she explains.

“The feeling of being anchored to something comes from gratitude,” she continues. “It confers the feeling of abundance and offers a positive outlook. When you believe you have enough, only then can you give to others. As an HR leader, you are the giver of emotional support and solutions.”

The relief experience also strengthened Ms. Janani’s belief in empathy to forge bonds. “In HR, you need to understand and acknowledge others’ world views. This can help prevent conflicts,” she says.

Striking a Chord 

Ms. Janani’s learnings from music are no less. A trained vocalist, veena player and a teacher, music has brought discipline and perseverance into her life and HR practices.

Patience is another virtue, plucked from grueling hours of rehearsals. “In music you may not get a note right in the first go. You practice and practice to get it,” she says.
Music also lets her stay in the present, detached from the ghosts of the past and the expectations of the future. “If your mind wanders – in music or in life – you may falter.”

As in a musical troupe, she views every member in her team as unique and integral to the symphony of crafting positive employee experience. “Nobody is big or small. Everybody is part of the puzzle. Even if one piece doesn’t work well, the entire team may suffer.”

Also, in musical performances, multiple things happen at once. Several musicians are performing. The vocalist tenderly balances shruti, layam and talam. The nervousness, excitement and fervor. “To top it all, you must add beauty to the performance,” she says.

Similarly, simultaneity of factors marks corporate life, she believes. And her ability to make sense of disparate elements in music to weave art comes handy in HR too. “Recognizing the unseen patterns helps me make informed decisions.”

Everyone’s Success, Your Success 

Initially, Ms. Janani felt the quest for success was an individual project. But six years into her career, she felt an ecosystem operated for you to be successful.

“Success is a factor of many people coming together for a cause,” she explains. “And success is not really success if it’s just one person’s.”

She began asking herself: Which people should be part of her journey? What is she offering them? What’s the bigger purpose of the journey?

She fondly recalls a Tamil proverb which says that if you feed children of several other families, your child will be fed too.

Bundle of Virtues

Among the many values she stands by, Ms. Janani stresses excellence. “When you continually display excellence, people start emulating you. Role modelling excellence is the key.”

Next, preparation is important. Though an avid speaker and writer, Ms. Janani still prepares well before presentations or meetings.

Third, plan as much as you can, she suggests. “If you’re not making plans, you’re just letting the day or the month or the year take its course without your taking charge.”

Also, she believes in having a versatile personality, with pursuits in different fields. “You generate a share of transferable strengths and qualities from one area to another.”

Emphasizing learning, Ms. Janani says, “It’s not like you arrive at a position and you can stay there forever. You need to learn new things continuously because the world is changing rapidly.”

Breaking the Shackles

For at least the first decade as an HR professional, Ms. Janani thought gender identities didn’t make much difference at the workplace.

“I grew up in a family where women worked. My parents supported me and my sister to excel,”
she recalls.

But then, she noticed many women were not that forthcoming, bound by both personal and professional limits.

Through her research for diversity and inclusion initiatives, Ms. Janani discovered factors that held women professionals back.

First, woman who grow up alongside inspiring women who work outside home tend to manage life changing events well while continuing their jobs. Second, having mentors from an early age helps them cross barriers.

While navigating through life events such as marriage, relocation and childbirth, most women continue to step back in careers.

How did Ms. Janani trump such barriers? Anticipating, planning and seeking help have been her antidotes for these, be it managing a leadership visit or childcare. She credits neighbors, colleagues and close friends for the support.

And as for her preparation to becoming a leader, she says, “I believe in being an expert in my craft. I always prepared well for every meeting, dressed up for the occasion and spoke with confidence, keeping the audience’s interest in mind. I also tried to understand their concerns. These helped me gain their trust and confidence over a period of time.

Aware of the barriers, Ms. Janani has also taken upon herself to inspire other women. “At any given point, I am mentoring at least a couple of women. Every individual is unique. I push them to gain newer experiences.”

Career Highlights

2021 – Present
Head HR at Quantela

2012 – 2021
Associate Vice President. Earlier, Executive Manager; Manager; and Assistant Manager – Talent

2010 – 2012
Lead – HR Generalist at Pega Systems India

2007 – 2010
Sr. Executive, Human Resources at Applabs Technologies

2006 – 2007
Specialist, Human Resources at iNautix Technologies India 

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