In two years, Absa’s Roopa Bharath, Head of Technology, Finance Management and ERP, has already made her mark in the Group.
In two years, Absa’s Roopa Bharath, Head of Technology, Finance Management and ERP, has already made her mark in the Group, driving the transition the company made to merge two technical teams and transform the group onto SAP S/4HANA, something she notes as a career highlight.
“At Absa, we’ve switched to working as one team, which provides us access to all of the Bank’s platforms, speeds up and improves our efficiency, and enables us to collaborate and share ideas.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to be part of large-scale programmes that have afforded career defining growth opportunities and exposed me to different industries, cultures and systems. These experiences have shaped me.
“At Absa, the first of two milestones in our cloud journey was moving the general ledger onto S/4HANA, and the second, taking an older AVAF system to AWS Cloud, saving on costs and reducing the sizes of our databases during the migration.
“With Absa, I can explore how technology continuously changes the way businesses work and am fortunate to be able to do this with an incredibly supportive team and a line manager who says, ‘go and try’ when opportunities come up. With Absa, I can explore how technology continuously changes the way businesses work and am fortunate to be able to do this with an incredibly supportive team.
“As a woman in tech, support from colleagues is vital for success and the natural culture of equality I have experienced at Absa I’ve not always experienced in other multinationals where I’ve worked, particularly where women in technology roles were rare.
“I also love that I get to work with other parts of the Bank and learn what they do. Working on cross-functional projects that have a lasting impact on the lives of South Africans is an ongoing highlight for me.”
Asked what career obstacles Bharath has faced, she says that, initially, she grappled with self-doubt, thinking she was unable to take on challenging roles. She was also concerned about the impact of a demanding career on her family.
“However, as time went by, I reached a point in my career when I realised I wanted to do and learn more. With the support of my family and manager, I decided to take on this new role. Today, the one thing I would tell anyone is to never settle. A rewarding career helps influence your children’s thoughts by learning valuable lessons from you”.
“I was initially drawn to Absa by its culture, especially in the technology space, and how Absa has created an environment where people have the freedom and flexibility to work, have balance, and provide a platform for expression and creativity.
“Over the past two years, Absa has provided me with the opportunity to attend programmes, one being the Amara Women in Tech programme – a Wired4Women initiative – which afforded me the scope to grow my network and actually learn about the common misconceptions that women in our field face and how to address them. It allowed me the vulnerability to share my experiences and the opportunity to learn from other women, enhance my critical thinking and challenge my preconceived mindsets.
“Throughout my life, I’ve had a number of people who have inspired me and having mentors and an environment of continuous learning is mindset changing. As a mentor myself now, I encourage men and women of all ages to cross the bridges in front of them.
“Women in technology roles bring freshness and new perspectives. Being able to voice their opinions and be heard is very important and having a sound support infrastructure makes this possible. I would encourage young technologists to consider skills development around artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber skills. Tech leaders who foster trust are able to create a committed, invested,
high-performance team that embraces and celebrates diversity. Plus, teams receptive to change through effective change management programmes will be proponents to bring others in the organisation along on digital journeys.”
Fascination for new frontiers Bharath was first bitten by the technology bug in high school, at a time when schools were making their foray into technology as a subject. This fuelled her interest in automation and how positively technology can initiate changes.
“I studied an informatics degree, but knowledge goes beyond technology, and comprehensive understanding of the business end and how its wheels turn is as vital as technical knowledge. At the time, there were very few women enrolled with me for this degree and over time,
people dwindled, but my fascination with the new frontiers in process and engineering kept growing.”
Her advice to other young women with STEM career aspirations, Bharath urges women to consider tech careers as there is constant change, excitement and opportunities. Constant learning and a growth mindset are a powerful combination for women wanting to embrace STEM careers as both grow them technically from a skills perspective and as a person, encouraging design thinking and building leadership skills.
“I would encourage young technologists to consider skills development around artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber skills. Combine these technical skills with learning to be efficient communicators, and share ideas and concepts,” concludes