Rakesh Lodha

Associate Project Manager – HSBC

Based in India, Rakesh has always been passionate about creating a happy and comfortable work environment for disabled people where they can flourish and accomplish their goals. He began his corporate career almost 17 years ago with HSBC Software India, and has actively used his influence and knowledge to drive positive change within the people around him. Being the oldest sibling, Rakesh always had a sense of responsibility on his shoulders, and in a way, it has motivated him to learn and adapt quickly to varied aspects of life. Rakesh’s inspiration comes from people from all walks of life he’s met professionally and personally.

1. In a nutshell, please tell us a little about your career journey until this point.

I come from a very small village situated around 200 km from Mumbai (India) whose population is circa 2k people. My father owned small bicycle repair shop and mother a homemaker. My parents raised me well with lot of hope since I was academically inclined and performed well in school and college, I’m proud to say that education has played a defining role in my career journey.

I graduated in Electrical Engineering from Walchand College of Engg, Sangli which is one of the reputed college in state. However, after the completion of my education, I landed in a completely different field. I don’t regret it though!! My education taught me to work under pressure, it improved my analytical skills and I always make sure to apply those in my professional as well as my personal life.

I started my career with HSBC as a Trainee Software Engineer and joined ‘RPS’ (Retail Processing System) – which was a small team then and has now grown to a 200-member team within Core Banking. With 17+ years of experience, I spent my entire career in RPS taking different roles and responsibilities, making the best of all opportunities that came in my way. Currently, I play the role of an Associate Project Manager and manage L2 production support for UK HSBC. I am responsible for resolving issues faced by our customers and also the bank staff. Being fast paced at handling my tasks, I am recognized as a go-getter within my team. I have been enjoying my career with HSBC.

2. Who is your role model and why?

My inspiration comes from people from all the walks of life I meet professionally and outside work as well.

It will be unfair to pick a particular individual as my role model, but I have always most admired my father who taught me the importance of time and adaptability. Sometimes, I get inspirations from my own life, it teaches me not to always strive for perfection but to act responsibly, learn from my mistakes and attain perfection over things gradually.

“It teaches me not to always strive for perfection but to act responsibly, learn from my mistakes and attain perfection over things gradually.”

3. What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken and what’s your greatest career achievement?

One of the biggest risks I have taken is to join IT Industry despite a non-IT background. Since the beginning of my graduation, I was very passionate about my career and being an electrical engineer, joining IT was quite daunting at times.

I am proud of my role and contributions to HSBC. My best achievement is that I have been able to delight the HSBC customers by giving them the best banking experience through my work. Despite all the hurdles in my personal and professional life, I have been able to strike a perfect balance between the two.

4. In a short sentence – what would you tell your 18-year-old self if they could see you now?

Position and success will come and go, but people will remember you by your behavior and your attitude towards them, so always be kind and maintain a good relation with people around you.

5. How has your personal journey shaped the way you navigate your career?

Being the oldest sibling, I always had a sense of responsibility on my shoulders and in a way, it has motivated me to learn and adopt quickly to varied aspects of life. As I come from a rural background, I find solace in the simplicity and peace in rustic life. However, once I moved to Sangli for higher education, I learnt how to cope up with a fast-paced city life. After joining HSBC, it gave me a surreal experience to work with international teams and broaden my perspectives about the western and modern culture.

I feel I’m a hybrid package now. Picking the best aspects from various cultures, I can help myself, my peers and people around me better.

6. What is one myth or misconception surrounding disability that you want to see debunked?

It is a myth that people with disabilities are ‘special’ and should be treated differently.

The label of “special” in reference to a person with a disability does not convey equality. Expectations for success should not be underestimated to accommodate the “special” label that is associated with people with disabilities.

“Expectations for success should not be underestimated to accommodate the “special” label that is associated with people with disabilities.”

7. How has connecting globally with people in other countries/regions influenced your thinking or approach?

In the world of Fiber Optics, fastest internet connections and various tools available to communicate, it’s very easy to connect with people globally. I have also been to the UK and got an opportunity to closely observe and understand the British culture.

I have learned to connect with people at a deeper level and be empathetic. Putting myself in my colleagues’ and customers’ shoes has inspired me to strive for extraordinary results.

I strongly believe one should strive to connect with people from varied backgrounds and cultures. It greatly helps us to collaborate with them and effectively get our work done.

My biggest takeaway from all these experiences is that everyone is doing what they think is right based on their perspectives. My role is often to simply showcase others’ perspectives.

8. How do you think driving inclusion in your country or region differs from other parts of the world? Are there unique challenges or opportunities?

With the other forms of diversity, disability inclusion goes much further than just making sure you’re meeting the quota or doing your work. Disability inclusion is about creating an inclusive workplace where people feel welcome and comfortable and where they are seen, valued, and appreciated for what they bring to the table. Despite of their differences but including their differences.

At HSBC, I feel included. I got recruited through a special drive for disabled professionals. My manager makes sure that I don’t face any difficulties in day-to-day work. There are various forums where our voice has been heard and actioned.

9. What are two pieces of key practical advice that you would give business leaders and allies to drive disability inclusion in business?

People want to be welcomed, not ‘tolerated’. Our environment should reflect sensitivity, inclusivity, and celebrate each other’s differences — both visible and invisible.

Creating a culture of diversity and inclusion is more than simply a “good” thing to do, from an ethical standpoint, “it makes good business sense”.

1) Increased employee retention and productivity – Companies want their employees to stick around. And they want them to care about their work. Employees with disabilities are more dedicated and less likely to leave the job compared to other peers.

2) Building a good reputation – In recent years, customers/clients have come to value companies that show commitment towards diversity inclusion. These companies demonstrate that they care about their employees and, as an extension, their diverse clientele.

Our bodies and minds are affected differently by age and possible diseases. It is therefore almost impossible to shed our physical and mental complexities while at work.

The Coronavirus has given people a tiny glimpse into the lives of people living with disabilities. Hopefully, this will make people more aware of what they go through every day and help them make disability inclusion a priority.