Ashwini Ujja

Technical Specialist, INOPC- IAPI.

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With more than a decade of experience in dealing with the Cement sector, she has garnered quite a few accolades from her customers, both within and outside of India. The communications team caught up with Ashwini to understand her exciting journey.

Known to be a problem solver, she has the infectious knack to mold freshers into domain experts. Meet Ashwini Ujja, Technical Specialist, INOPC- IAPI.

Interestingly, when Ashwini picked up her current role, the team was being formed grounds-up to support customers in select geographies, including India. The role required a thorough understanding of the product to be able to guide the customers on-site helping them navigate through difficulties, if any.

"We were inducted into the whole process by the Swiss team. A team based out of Zurich was already supporting customers for their queries, the second team was set up in India to cater to more geographies. Together, the two teams are helping our customers with a smooth deployment of EO (ABB Ability™ Expert Optimizer).”

Having started her professional career as a Process Engineer with one of the India’s largest Cement Plant, she was already equipped with the know-how of a cement plant. At ABB, having joined as a Project engineer, she learnt executing the Advance Process Control solutions to the cement customers worldwide.

“A typical commissioning process would take anywhere between 3 to 8 weeks. We facilitate this process ensuring a smooth project completion. It’s interesting to see how, despite being in the sector for a long time, there is something unique, a new challenge, that almost all the sites have.”

Location has not been a constraint for Ashwini; she has traveled far and wide even to the remotest corners for projects that she had taken charge of. We asked her to talk us through the details of an exciting challenge that has come her way and she doesn’t take long to think through it.

This was in 2014 for a customer in Italy. The project was pending for long and I was given the project hurriedly as the people deputed there earlier had to leave in between and the project couldn't start owing to multiple site constraints.  So, the point when I was entering the project was one where the customer expected me to deliver results rather quickly.

Ashwini understood the complexity of the project once she was in.

"This was a project like never before. Despite having served umpteen number of sites, the challenges that this one posed left me nervous. The fuel being inputted here was new to me posing technical hurdles. And because of this uniqueness there wasn’t much I could refer to. On top of that, my job was to convince the customer that we were equipped enough to deal with all that the site had to offer.”

I took it one day at a time, understanding the various alternatives, picking things that could add to my understanding. I wouldn’t say I had the confidence back then to see the project through, but I had to just keep going.”

With some self-help over the weeks, Ashwini was finally able to take the bull by its horns ensuring not only does the client get trained with the solution (EO) but can also see the benefits.

For the same project, Ashwini was appreciated by the customer both for her technical prowess as well as attitude. She was steadily able to turn an irate customer to a delighted one.

Domestically too, Ashwini has been winning customer’s appreciation for the value she adds to her projects. She’s also played an instrumental role in the first digitization project of a major cement player.

Being in a customer facing role that did require intensive travel, Ashwini made a choice to temporarily support from the backend when she was expecting her first kid.

"Owing to some complications, my doctor advised rest and I took my maternity leave three months prior. On resumption, I continued supporting from the back end as I didn’t know how ready I was to take up travel. But deep within, I knew that’s what excites me – meeting the customers on site, being on the field.”

Her team-mates supported her throughout this journey, pitching in wherever they could.

"The important part is we as new mothers don’t want to be seen in a different way and do not wish to have special privileges. But we do want to manage it all. The support that people around you offer, can help mothers immensely get back to their grooves.”

In my case, for instance, while I wasn’t sure myself, my manager asked me if I’d be willing to take on an on-site project.

I liked the fact that I wasn’t overlooked because of being a new mother and there wasn’t an assumption that I may not be able to travel. I was asked to evaluate the option. My manager had the confidence in me that I was struggling to gain back.”

And she didn't take long to say yes to this project.

My family took care of the kid while I was away for 4 weeks. And that was the beginning of my re-gained confidence. I knew I loved my job, and there are ways around to figure things out. When in office, I’d bring my baby to the day care, another facility that I feel is essential to bridge the gender gap in workplaces. And when I’m traveling, he’s looked after by the family. The bond, stays intact- a worry that many of us mothers go through.”

Ashwini and her husband are both focusing on their work and share home responsibilities, along with their respective families. Both, owing to the love for their work and their native places, have even stayed in different cities for longer period of time, making time to be together whenever they could.

"When people talk about the workplace culture, it’s not just reward and recognition. It goes way beyond. It is seen and felt in the smaller, everyday things that one does for their peers, colleagues, subordinates. I am immensely proud of the way ABB has offered me that support throughout. The flexibility in choosing my location when I needed to be closer to my parents, availability of a creche and not giving in to the common biases of ‘oh, she’s a mother’, has immensely helped me in my career growth.”

For other women colleagues aspiring to manage it all, Ashwini sets a good example. A part of an eight-member team, Ashwini has exhibited great commitment and pulled up challenging customer engagements successfully, gaining global recognition. She has been winning appreciation from customers and colleagues alike.
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