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A Day in The Life of Vidya Laxman - Tesco India’s Engineering Director

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Growing up in Bangalore, Vidya Laxman defied cultural expectations to study computer engineering. Now one of the few female directors in Tesco India, she’s responsible for global tech operations across the brand, but still finds time for games nights...

 

I’m very particular about my morning routine...

It doesn’t matter when or where I go to sleep, I get up at 5 o’clock. I like my first two hours of the day to be mine, so I go for a run or walk. That’s my thinking time and where I get into the transcendence stage of meditation. I have a son, 17 and a daughter, 12, and I don’t want to take away time from them because I work late a lot and travel (every 5-6 weeks I visit London for couple of weeks), so I stay mentally and physically fit while they sleep. Breakfast is an omelette or oats. I like to make an effort to be well-dressed for work and try to combine Indian and Western clothes.

 

I live in Bangalore and the traffic is horrendous

It takes me sometimes one hour, sometimes two, sometimes three each way! I have a driver because I don’t mind spending money to get as much help as possible so I can give quality time to my kids. We drop them at school by 7.50am and as soon as they’re out of the car, my working day begins. The first half hour I mentally make a to-do list and organise my calendar. Then I’ll usually have a few interviews or one-to-ones scheduled.

 

Technology is always changing so my day is always changing too...

As one of the Engineering Directors at Tesco, I’m responsible for supporting and delivering solutions for our business in Space, Range and Merchandising globally. Basically, when you enter a Tesco store – everything that you see, how the store needs to be laid out, the range of products, the displays, what promotions get run— my team is responsible for delivering it. On a day-to-day basis there’s always lots of team meetings and strategising work.

 

Break times are few and far between...

I used to be very particular about not checking my emails during the first half of the day, but I’ve changed that because there’s no choice – there’s just too many things happening. I also used to say no calls on particular days. I had all these rules but I’ve not been keeping up with it. Lunch is vegetables, lentil soup, kefir, fruits and lots of coconut water. I’ll usually have it sitting in the open plan office. We have an agile methodology so there are no offices or cubicles. And because I’m always in meetings, sometimes lunch is the only time someone on the team gets the chance to talk to me. We have a beautiful campus so I try to hold walk and talk meetings as much as possible.

 

Diversity and inclusion is part of my daily agenda...

I head the diversity initiative at Tesco. We have clear goals for what we want to achieve for the year, and that’s essential. If it wasn’t already in the diary, it would slip, so it’s all very much part of my daily plan. I recently attended everywoman’s thought leadership breakfast on the current landscape for women in business in India. The biggest thing for me was that a lot of us spoke about the same goals: how do we increase diversity, remove roadblocks and have a bigger impact as mentors? Growing up in my home, my brother and I were always treated like equals, but that isn’t every woman’s experience. As one of the few women leaders in tech in India, I’m in a position where I can influence others here and globally, so I would like to mentor as many women as possible across the world and have an exponential impact on diversity.

 

What one thing would make my working day better?

My PA Asha tries to block out times in my calendar for private time, but I can’t say ‘no’ to people and I mess it up! So she would probably say it should be better time management. But I want to focus on mindfulness. I’m a very optimistic person but I was talking to a colleague and I saw the calmness in them and they told me that mindfulness helps with focus and concentration. Quieting the mind is the most challenging thing!

 

Family evenings are sacred...

I work all the way home and arrive back about 7pm. After that my phone is on silent while I’m with my family. Quality time is important so during the week I have help with cooking, and we always have dinner together with no TV. For the most part we eat Indian food: bread, veg, dal and salads, but the kids love Italian so at least twice a week we’ll have pasta, avocado toast and pizza. Then after dinner we play board games and discuss anything and everything, even diversity! The kids know I’m talking to everywoman today and gave me feedback on my answers and my daughter gives me tips on how to deliver presentations! Once the kids are in bed I spend half an hour on emails so that I don’t have to do that when I get up.

 

Winding down to bedtime at 11pm...

My husband and I have great friends and love socialising and dancing, so we see to it that we go out late, once the kids are in bed, at least once a week. Otherwise, I’m listening to podcasts to keep up with the latest new technology or leadership trends, or reading. At the moment I’m working my way through AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee.

 

To hear more from India’s most senior female and male business leaders, come to our Everywoman Forum India on 25-26 September. Click here to find out more.