Supriya Deverkonda

Senior Specialist Analytics – Fidelity International

Supriya began her corporate career almost two decades ago in field of analytics and data science. She has actively used her analytical skills to drive business solutions backed by data.  Growing up, she faced challenges navigating through her hearing impairment and took a while declaring it openly for fear of it creating barriers in her career. She is motivated to create a safe inclusive and progressive workplace for people with disabilities like her so that they also have equal opportunities like she got.  Further as a Carer she wants to create a support system within the organization which will enable them to manage both work and home commitments.

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

I was born and raised in Delhi National Capital Region, India. I did my Masters in Economics and then M.Phil in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi in 2002 and 2004 respectively. I started my career in Data Science and Advanced Analytics 18 years back in a startup catering to CPG/Retail clients in US. Using my data analytics as key strength, I moved across domains like CPG/Retail, HR, and Investment Management.

Currently, I am with Fidelity International as a Senior Data Scientist supporting the business to drive key data driven decisions by leveraging our current data science solutions and tools. I am also a network member of Global Enable network for Employee Engagement and Support where I drive/support activities to create awareness and inclusion around Enable.

2. Who is your role model and why?

My main role models are my parents who taught me from the beginning to accept myself as “I am” and love me for myself. My parents provided me the backbone and support to fight against all odds to be self-made independent woman. They also believe in empathy, compassion, humanity, and pursuit of choices that satisfy you mentally and not worry about what society may think.

My mom belonged to an era where education and independence of women was a taboo. Despite the societal taboos and pressures, she fought against all odds to educate herself and be independent with the support of her parents. She was the only woman in her 2 years advanced professional statistician course (equivalent or more than Masters) in Indian Statistical Institute under Professor C. R. Rao in early 1960s. She then went on Ford Foundation Fellowship to study in US in late 1960s where post graduation for women was rare.

My dad fought against adverse economic situation, to finish his master’s in economics at the young age of 21. He then took on the responsibility of the whole family which consisted of 4 siblings and mother. He also pursued his passion in theater which was also not looked upon well during that time.

“My parents provided me the backbone and support to fight against all odds to be self-made independent woman.”

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

Soon after schooling, against everyone’s suggestions/views I took up Economics in my graduation and post- graduation. Though a career at that time was bleak with limited options of jobs in Government sector and very few within corporate firms like too. However, the risk paid off by landing my first job in CPG/Retail domain and then I had no looking back.

The second biggest risk that I took was in my personal life when I chose to be single unwed mother by choice going against the societal taboos and norms in India.

My biggest career achievement to date is the change that I am enabling through my enable network in my organization like creating support groups for Carers in the organization, leading India offices’ participation in the Purple Light up to align with the global office and creating awareness around disability.

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

Judgement, sympathy, or bias comes mainly from ignorance and lack of awareness. So, speak up and use your voice to remove that.

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

From childhood, I have been taught to value relationships, and keep compassion and humanity above all else. These values have been my “North Star” guiding me to ensure that my personal success is driven by the success of the business and the teams that I work with.

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

The most common myth around disability is we can’t call out on the disabilities that people have and rather use words like Specially-abled or Divyaang (In India) to address them. As calling them out by disability is disrespectful and offensive. However, we would rather be called out by the disabilities that we have as that constitutes who we are. In fact, I see the disabilities as our strengths to innovate to use other functions to come ahead in life.

“I see the disabilities as our strengths to innovate to use other functions to come ahead in life.”

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

Though I worked only out of India, I love connecting with people from different countries and regions, as they bring in their own perspectives and ideas enhanced by the rich cultures they belong to.

As I talked and shared ideas across the globe, I realized that some of the myths around disability are not just prevalent only in India but common across globe, and there needs to be constant push to bust them. It helped me to adapt to best practices that are already being followed globally within our region to build a more inclusive place.

Last but not the least, one thing that bound us globally was the passion and love to create a more inclusive place free of any bias and judgement.

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?

In India, there are lot of biases due to diverse cultures and religions, and societal pressures that lead to stigmas/fears around disability. The stigma is higher for the girls with disabilities in our society and this can inhibit people from coming out from the shadows and talking about disability openly, which hinders our efforts to create inclusion and accessibility.

The inclusion needs to start at childhood by creating awareness among parents and making education accessible to all. In addition, there needs to be a drive to develop infrastructure which is disabled friendly and accessible.

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

My two key pieces of practical advice to business leaders and allies to drive disability inclusion in business are
i. A healthy discourse around disability that helps creates friendly, inclusive, and accessible workplace is always welcome. Encourage your team and managers to attend sensitization programs around disability as part of their development.

ii. Have a dedicated mentorship program for the disabled employees with defined career paths like gender diversity or LGBTQ groups.