When Sudha Chandrasekharan took over as General Manager of Trelleborg’s facility in Denver, US, in 2020, she was already well known for her professional achievements.
During her career of more than 20 years, Chandrasekharan has held senior positions with large companies in industries ranging from aviation and manufacturing to supply chain and logistics. Her prowess and passion for growing businesses and driving profitability have contributed to the success of numerous companies, while earning Chandrasekharan praise and recognition for her leadership.
Being an engineer herself and having profound knowledge of the industries that essentially make up the customer base of the Denver facility, the General Manager position at Trelleborg really appealed to her.
“I felt it was a role where I could make a difference to the business by applying the right functional and change management techniques. I know the industries we support. I have worked in several of them.”
Chandrasekharan joined the company with the mindset of learning more.
“That mindset is what sets great leaders apart from average ones,” she says.
“To learn the ropes at a new job, you can’t expect someone to tell you what to do. You have to do the work yourself. So, leave your ego at the door and go talk to the person on the floor. Seek to learn.
During her first couple of months at the Denver facility, Chandrasekharan did just that. She cleared her schedule and joined her colleagues packing products.
“I learned so much from that experience. Not only did I learn how and why we pack our products the way we do, I also got to know the people who work here,” she says. “Some of them told me they were impressed that I cared, and found it very motivating that I joined them to pack. That has gone a long way in building a good culture here.
While being General Manager requires Chandrasekharan to manage functions such as finance, operations, product, engineering, supply chain and logistics, she also has a responsibility to lead her team with a vision that will propel company growth. That is a challenge she embraces.
“Driving the business forward with a winning team is what motivates me. I want to see my team win,” she says. “Watching my team learn and grow and creating new leaders really inspires me.”
Chandrasekharan takes great pride in her team’s accomplishments.
“Every time I see a plane take off safely, a vehicle safely transfer its passengers, or oil and gas installations perform efficiently, I feel we have contributed positively to that in some manner.”
Her vision for the Denver facility is that it will be known for its quality products and solutions, and for bringing added value to the company’s global customers.
“The value is the quality and speed to market. My goal is to see Trelleborg achieve that,” she says. Chandrasekharan has always strived to challenge herself and use her skills in ways that benefit others — something she learned from her parents growing up in India.
“When I was a little girl, my dad would tell me to get off my seat, put in the effort and make something of myself,” she says.
In a society where many women traditionally did not work outside the home, her father encouraged her to have an education and pursue a career that would contribute to a better world.
“People who can apply themselves and their skills to do good for humanity and the environment are the ones who make a difference. I have always tried to do that,” she says. Throughout her career, Chandrasekharan has been a key catalyst for networks and programs that support and mentor women in traditionally masculine industries, such as manufacturing and supply chain. She believes a lot of talented women have been deterred from pursuing careers in these sectors by the perception that physical strength is required to be successful.
“Men and women will inevitably have different experiences and backgrounds, which shape their approach to business. Diversity — from gender diversity to culture, age and race — has been shown to foster creativity and innovation,” she says. “Tapping into the insights that both men and women offer can make products and services more marketable and a business more profitable.”
Inspired by the support she felt growing up, Chandrasekharan was instrumental in founding Trelleborg’s Women Influencers program. The intention is to encourage women to pursue careers in sectors traditionally perceived to be less suitable for them, build a supportive network of mentors, create a more inclusive and diverse workforce, and to connect women in the manufacturing industry.
“This program connects women leaders and delivers unique access to thought leadership and resources that can guide and support the next generation of women leaders,” she
says adding: “Women make up 50 percent of the world’s population, yet only one in four women in manufacturing holds leadership positions. That is a little sparse for me. I’m looking for equal opportunities.”
But a culture of gender and ethnic diversity is something Chandrasekharan appreciates about Trelleborg and will continue to foster.
“Having a diverse workforce is one of our most valuable strengths. It pushes our organization forward and helps us win as a team.”
This is an article has been reproduced from Trelleborg's T-Time magazine. To download the latest edition, go to: www.trelleborg.com/t-time