Pioneering Paths: Umadevi Venkatesh’s Impactful Journey at RNAIPL
Growing up in a tiny village in southern Tamil Nadu, India, Umadevi Venkatesh's early dreams of a career in the automative sector seemed a difficult one. With both her parents working as farmers, and her father passing away when she was only young, a high-powered job in the automotive industry felt beyond her reach.
But strong ambition and a personal drive to succeed, coupled with a mother who encouraged and pushed her to achieve, ultimately led to dreams becoming a reality – and a remarkable career with one of the world's leading Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEMs).
Motivated by her mother's sacrifices, who single-handedly raised her and her two siblings, Umadevi was determined to make the most of her education and the opportunities it opened for her. After completing her schooling, she pursued a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from the Government College in Ettayapuram, Tuticorin District, becoming the first person in her family to achieve this educational milestone in Engineering.
But gaining this accolade wasn't without its challenges. Umadevi saw that many women in India were hesitant to look at technical or engineering careers, which were typically dominated by men. However, her unwavering determination and passion for both cars and engineering motivated her to break the mould, and lead the way for other women. Reflecting on her choice, Umadevi shares:
"While many women were hesitant to select Mechanical Engineering, thinking it was a path predominantly pursued by men, I decided to embrace it. I wanted to pave the way for other women and prove that we can excel in this domain."
After years gaining experience across various automotive industry roles following her graduation in 2001, Umadevi joined RNAIPL in Chennai in 2010. Starting out as an Assistant Engineer in Powertrain Quality Assurance, she went on to work across a diverse range of roles in the Powertrain, Stamping and Bodyshop departments, before taking on her current role as an Industrial Engineer in the Manufacturing Strategy Planning Office (MSPO).
At the heart of her role, Umadevi focuses on the application of the Japanese theory of Kaizen – a philosophy that making small, incremental improvements across all areas of the business, ultimately leads to significant long-term benefits. This commitment to continuous improvement not only got Umadevi to where she is today, but perfectly exemplifies the Nissan approach to business and work.
Since she joined RNAIPL, Umadevi has seen a real cultural shift at the plant - with greater respect and recognition from management for the hard work of female employees becoming the norm. Reflecting on this hugely positive shift towards better Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) practices, Umadevi explains:
"The culture at RNAIPL has undergone a remarkable change, with management demonstrating increased respect and appreciation for the contributions of women employees."
When providing guidance to young women considering a career within technical or engineering roles, Umadevi stresses the importance of continuous learning and adaptability – in order to stay at the front of an ever-changing automotive landscape.
She believes that "it is crucial to engage in technical work on the shop floor as well as in management roles. Continuously learning new things is essential. Be bold, brave, and passionate in your endeavours."
Thanks to the effort, perseverance and determination of women like Umadevi, the dream of a career in the automotive sector has become a reality for women not only in India, but worldwide. And the sky's the limit, with a path laid for them by early trailblazers like Umadevi.
And new challenges are on the horizon, especially in terms of sustainability. Earlier this year, Renault and Nissan have announced they will produce from the RNAIPL plant six new production vehicles for domestic and international customers, including two new fully electric vehicles.
"I am very excited to hear about this announcement and very happy that RNAIPL will be manufacturing six new models in the next few years. It will be exciting to see new RN cars in Indian roads with new technology/innovation like other OEM. I hope that this announcement will also motivate women graduates to apply and start their career in the RN alliance."