Getting Ahead

Why Diverse Teams Are the Key to Success for This Project Manager

Adhishri Shangari, a project manager at Siemens
Adhishri Shangari, a project manager at Siemens Mobility

When Adhishri Shangari set out to become an engineer, she was lucky enough to land a position at her dream company right out of college. “When I got selected as a graduate engineering trainee, I was super excited to join Siemens AG’s new engineering startup in India for designing and building power plants across the globe,” she says. “I not only enjoyed the experience of power plant engineering, but also how a startup becomes a mature organization.”

More than 20 years later (minus a one-year stint at a research company), Shangari is still working at Siemens, the global powerhouse focused on mobility, digital industries, and smart infrastructure. But instead of engineering, she pivoted to project management—a transition that the company encouraged and helped her through. Today, she’s a leader in the project management office of Siemens Mobility India as well as the Project Management Excellence group of Siemens Mobility Asia Pacific.

“Siemens is a company with no boundaries for you to grow, and there are no limits on the impact your work will have on the world,” says the India-based Shangari.

Here, she shares how Siemens helped her pivot her career, what it takes to succeed as a project manager, and why change is nothing to fear.

What attracted you to work at Siemens, and what has kept you at the company?

Siemens is a sea of opportunities for learning and growth. I started my journey with the company as an electrical engineer but ended up getting into project management. Throughout my career, I’ve had a variety of responsibilities such as handling the IT setup for power plant projects, leading a team for transmission distributions projects and bids, and managing business excellence for the power generation group. I’ve stayed with Siemens because it’s important that I am with a company that encourages me to develop and presents me with the opportunities to do so.

What has been a key to your success?

Something which I realized in my professional and personal journey is that change is the only constant. Often I find that people fear change, but for me, it’s actually quite exciting. You have to learn how to not only be comfortable in an ever-changing world, but also to truly enjoy it. This perspective and approach is what has helped me thrive in my career.

Describe a time when you had to navigate change at work.

A great example of this is how our project execution has changed over time. Nowadays projects executed by Siemens are a mix of software and hardware. Engineers design and develop software while another team or supplier produces the hardware. Often the teams are in different countries, which means working across many time zones. The project manager and team on-site needs to coordinate all these activities to ensure timely delivery to our customers at a high quality at the agreed-upon cost. We need to continually evaluate our ways of execution to deliver, efficiently and effectively, what the customer expects and what is right for society. In many cases, we must co-create with the customer as there is no precedent available.

How has Siemens supported you in your growth and development?

Siemens helped me create a strong foundation and gave me a sense of direction. I also feel my achievements would not have been possible without the people I worked and interacted with at Siemens. I was fortunate to have good bosses who let me express, experiment, and execute what I feel is right and helped me build my confidence. I have wonderful colleagues and mentors who I can always count on during normal as well as difficult times. Siemens is not just another organization—it’s a family.

What are the benefits of working with diverse teams across the globe?

For me, diversity is not just gender, sexual orientation, color, ability, ethnic background, or age. It’s anything that differentiates one individual from another. Like every piece in a puzzle, every individual has a special and important role to play in a team for successful execution. For example, young colleagues may bring in fresh ideas, while senior-level colleagues might bring in huge practical experience that helps avoid issues they have already come across. (At the same time, senior colleagues can be equally enthusiastic to try out new things and experiment!) Together, a diverse team completes the mission.

As a leader, it’s important to understand the diverse skills and perspectives that each member brings to the table and then put them in a position to shine. By doing this you will achieve beyond what is defined. Working with such diverse teams also enriches me with tremendous learning and helps me exchange knowledge on project management topics.

How would you describe your leadership style when working with employees early on in their careers?

On a particular project, I was leading a group of people fairly new to Siemens and just starting their careers. None of them had worked together in the past, so I knew the only way to be successful was to build our bond and communication as a team. For this reason, I wanted to introduce the Lean-Agile methodology of regular stand-ups and a kanban board. Since the team was new, we weren’t bound by any previous team structure, which allowed me to quickly implement this approach. Our stand-ups consisted of exchanging and sharing interface requirements, creating transparency, and bonding between the team.

What does it take to succeed working in the mobility industry, where women are often underrepresented?

My advice is to stay focused, set clear goals for yourself, and consistently work towards them. Most importantly, be confident in the value you bring to the table. And don’t be afraid to get support when you need it. As a working mother, I know the challenges of having a family and also being ambitious. My husband is often traveling for work and, on occasion, we need to travel at the same time. During those times I rely on my community of family, friends, and neighbors to support me. It’s important to always remember it’s okay to ask for help whether it’s in your personal or professional life. Don’t hesitate or feel ashamed if you don’t know something or if you’re not capable of something at that moment.

What skills does it take to succeed as a project manager?

Multitasking, planning, collaborating, executing, and—most importantly—managing stakeholders are all significant parts of being a project manager. If those are your strengths, then you will excel in this career.