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In Conversation With Reach Ladakh

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In conversation with Senior Associate Kunzang Dolma
By Rinchen Angmo Chumikchan, Tuesday, August 1, 2017

LEH: Kunzang Dolma is a Senior Associate with an IT consulting firm in Singapore. She did her schooling from Lamdon Model School and is the first batch to matriculate from Lamdon. She completed her High school from Jammu, and did her engineering from Regional Engineering College (REC) Kurukshetra, specialising in Electronics and Communications Engineering (ECE) and completed in 1995.

In 2015, she completed her MBA from Northumbria University. She has been working in the corporate world for more than 20 years. Mainly, she has been working in instructional designing, technical communication, training, knowledge management and marketing communications. 

She has worked across a spectrum of industries - semiconductors, education, hospitality, electronics, and oil & gas.

Q. How did you decide to opt for engineering and what was your aim in life?

In my early childhood days, I wanted to become a doctor and save people’s lives. But, as I grew up and started knowing more about the outside world, I became aware of engineering as a better profession. What particularly piqued my interest in engineering was that I never came across a female engineer in my student life, of course now it is a changed scenario where you see a lot of girls opting for engineering as a career. So I wanted to explore this uncharted area. As I started probing further, especially into electronics engineering, I realised that as the world was getting more technologically advanced, engineers have a big role to play in enhancing the living standards of the society.
Technology has a massive impact on our daily lives and this factor was a key reason for me to opt for an engineering career.

Q. What kind of responsibilities do you handle and what is your specialisation?

I have mostly been in training, knowledge management and communication-related fields. I have overseen technical publications and set up knowledge management framework at many leading multinational organisations.

Q. Not many people work abroad, so how did you end up landing in Singapore?

One of the main reasons for looking for a job abroad or for that matter studying hard was to make my mother proud. Being a single parent from a very young age, my mother single- handedly gave us the best childhood possible against all odds, making many sacrifices along the way. Once she even gave up an opportunity to visit Europe for the sake of her children. Even though these days you see a lot of people from Ladakh jetsetting around the world, in those days it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. So I resolved to show her places outside the Indian shores.

It was my small gesture of paying back all the big sacrifices that she made for my siblings and me. Even though we didn’t have many luxuries while growing up, we had a home full of love, faith and care. Having such a role model as my mother, we had the best upbringing.

Q. What kind of projects have you taken up/handled so far?

I was fortunate to work with many well-known multinational organisations where I have overseen the technical publications for various product lines. I have also developed knowledge management framework at these organisations.

Q. You have also worked in Delhi. What kind of differences do you see in the work culture?

One of the key differences between working in Delhi as compared to Singapore is that Singapore is more multicultural. Sometimes there are people of more than 20 nationalities working under one roof on the same project. Working in such an environment, you need to be sensitive to the cultural nuances. (I am referring to the work culture in Delhi 20 years ago. I am sure things must have changed a lot in the past two decades.)

Q. What prompted you to move from Delhi to Singapore? How the platform helped you  expand your horizon?

My main reason for being brave and adventurous, and looking for a job overseas almost 20 years back when there were not many people from Ladakh working in Delhi, let alone a foreign land, was, as I mentioned earlier, to make my mother proud. My mother is such a hardworking and brave soul who is also a wanderer at heart. I wanted to show her places that she had never visited. It was my small way of thanking her; letting her know that her efforts have not gone wasted.

Working in a multicultural society, such as Singapore, has been a truly enriching experience, enabling me to learn about the customs and traditions from across the world. It has helped broaden my mind and to be sensitive to people of diverse background.

Q. You worked as a Senior Associate with an IT consulting firm in Singapore. Why did you decide to go for an MBA?

If you are working in the private sector, especially in the technology sector, you will realise that technology changes every 10-15 years. To stay relevant and employable in the corporate sector you need to be upgraded with current skills and techniques and having an MBA, even though, was in that direction.

Q. You have been working in Singapore for the last 16 years.  How challenging is it to work in the corporate sector?

In a corporate sector – whether it is Singapore or any other place – you always have to hone your skills and keep up-to-date, especially if you are in the technology sector. Companies, technologies and jobs come and go. The only thing that remains constant is your will to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Q. Even in the modern world, Ladakh is not advanced in terms of technology. What kind of designs and application can be implemented here?

In my humble opinion, I think rather than going into specifics of technology, Ladakh first needs good basic infrastructure and connectivity, in terms of road, electricity and communication, among others. There are many villages in Ladakh that still do not have decent roads.

Next is quality education and developing a solid foundation when the children are still in kindergarten and primary. Developing an entrepreneurial mindset is also another important characteristic. The young should develop a curious mindset, which will unlock a world of opportunity in technology as well as other sectors.

Q. When it comes to technology, many technologies in Ladakh fail due to the climatic condition and do not work properly. What could be possible reasons for it and how can we cope up with that?

As I have been away from Ladakh for the past three decades – which is the most part of my working  life – I am not sure about the failure of technology in Ladakh per se, but I think having a strong basic infrastructure is key to economic growth and raising the living standards of the people.

Q. What are the advantages and disadvantages of technology keeping in mind the context of Ladakh?

Technology has helped make our lives easier by providing advanced communication, easy access to information, among others. With Internet, someone living in Ladakh has the same access to information as another person living in New York. It is up to us to make use of technology to unleash our inner creative genius and innovate.

On the flip side, however, there seems to be an addiction, especially among the youth to devices such as mobile phones. Increased use of devices may also affect vision and health.
Q. What kind of suitable technologies can be applied in different fields to yield good results in Ladakh?

Any technology that has helped to improve lives of ordinary citizens could be applicable to Ladakh, provided it does not have a negative impact on the fragile environment of the region.

As we are all experiencing the impact of global warming, the focus is now shifting towards greener technologies. Ladakh too is facing the serious effects of global warming with scant snowfall and receding glaciers. Therefore, the younger generation need to explore sustainable green economic opportunities for the advancement of our society.

For example, since Ladakh has good sunny weather for most part of the year, we should continue to look at technologies that harness the solar energy – like we have been doing since ages. When we were growing up, every Ladakhi house used to have a glass room “shailkang” to keep ourselves warm during the sunny winter days. It is not only a good green replacement but also cheaper as compared to fossil fuel as there is minimum maintenance after the initial investment.

During my recent visits to Leh, I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of initiatives involving  solar energy, such as solar water heaters and solar green homes. We should continue to look at other avenues that utilise the solar energy and other sustainable green alternatives.

Q. When we talk about telecommunication, Ladakh was digitally cut off for several months last winter. So what kind of technology can we opt so that it will work throughout the year without any problem?

I do not have much advice on this front as I have not stayed in Ladakh for a few decades. Another reason is that I do not have much exposure to such technologies myself.

In my opinion, it would be good for the engineers and leaders from Ladakh to study regions that have similar terrain and climate as Ladakh and implement technologies that will work   round the year. But, as I mentioned earlier, we first need to get the basics right in terms of communication and infrastructure.

Q. Why is Ladakh so backward in technology? What kinds of technology can be used in Ladakh?

Developing Ladakh does not necessarily mean aping the west or more developed parts of India and trying to do whatever is being done there. Instead, it means trying to carve our own identity by using our unique resources to enhance the living standards of our people.

Technology need not necessarily mean using electronics or other machineries, but using whatever resources are available within our land to bring out the best in our people.

Today, no doubt, that there is enhancement in living standards due to technological advancement, but on the flip side, the environment that we live in has been hugely affected by our way of life. We can see a steady rise in greenhouse gas emissions, especially over the past few decades. Since Ladakh still has a long way to go in terms of technological advancement, even though we are already experiencing the negative impact associated with climate change with receding glaciers and scarce snowfall, we should try to correct it by taking initiatives that have minimum impact on our fragile ecosystem.

We have examples of entrepreneurs and pioneers from Ladakh who are taking great initiatives in terms of water conservation and have received global recognition, such as Ice Stupas by Aba Norphel-lay and Ka Sonam-lay. We need more entrepreneurs like them who develop innovative and creative solutions that are relevant to our terrain to bring real and sustainable development to the region and put Ladakh on the global stage.

Q. What is your opinion on women empowerment? How important is it to empower women in society and how important is it for women to participate in policy and decision making?

We are lucky to be born in Ladakh where I don’t think there is much differentiation based on your gender.
There is hardly any case in Ladakh where someone is marginalised or sidelined based on one's gender. One of the reasons, in my opinion, is the absence of dowry and other such traditions which make girls a burden on their parents.

The most important action that we can take in terms of women empowerment is to provide quality education to each and every girl child. Providing sound education is the best gift a parent can give to a child.

Once women are educated, they will have a place in decision-making boardrooms. This will help in designing policies that will benefit children, families and society in general. It is not a matter of men against women, but rather complementing each other to come out with the best policies for the benefit of mankind.

Q. What kind of challenges do you faced as a woman entrepreneur?

I am not much of an entrepreneur, though I would love to be, one day. I have never considered being woman a drawback. Maybe, it was my upbringing. My mother never differentiated her children on the basis of their gender. I was never made to feel that I cannot achieve what my brothers could. So I have as such never faced any challenge being a woman.

Life in general, irrespective of gender, is anyway full of challenges – whether you run your own business or work for a business. The main challenge in today’s world is that jobs and businesses get redundant because of the rapid change in technology. The only thing that remains constant is change. So make change your friend so that you do not face disappointments.

Q. Many students do not know how it feels to be working in a corporate sector and whether they would like to become one. So, how is your life as a Senior Associate and what would you tell the students who might want to work abroad but do not know anything about it?

In the corporate sector, you get compensated for what you deliver. It is as easy to get hired in a corporate sector as it is to get fired. When you work in a corporate sector, you always have to reinvent yourself and keep up-to-date with new technologies and trends.

If you like a steady and stable life, then the corporate sector may not be the right choice as there is a lot of disruption unlike in a government job. People change their career a few times in their lifetimes, sometimes willingly and other times because of circumstances. If, however, you are adventurous, hardworking, creative and entrepreneurial, then I am sure you will shine in the corporate world.

Other important traits that will help you in the corporate world are good communication, leadership and skill. Networking is also critical, especially when you go up the corporate ladder.

Q. What kind of technology can be used for education?

Though I am in technology sector and earn a living from it, I am not much a fan of technology, especially in the hands of young children, unless you are referring to coding and stuff like that.

As a consumer, the usage of technology has been simplified so much that even a one-year-old child can operate a phone, a tablet or a computer.

In the context of Ladakh, getting young children as close to the nature as possible when they are still in kindergarten will instill their love for mother nature. Rather than technology, it is important to get our children to have their basics strong in terms of numeracy and literacy, especially when they are still in their primary stage.

Q. What are the future scope for electronic and communication engineers in Ladakh?

Sorry, I may not be able to give you the best answer to this question. But the first and foremost thing that comes to my mind is improving communication to provide uninterrupted connectivity in terms of Internet and telecommunications. This will help Ladakhis in setting up online businesses that are reliable and run round the year as you know that most of the businesses now must have uninterrupted online connectivity.

On the sunny side, I heard that there has been a lot of improvement in electricity over the past few years and power disruptions are a thing of the past.

Q. Technology is now a part of our everyday life that is helping us in every area. How important is it to be well-equipped with technology?

In today’s world, you cannot escape technology irrespective of the sector that your business deals with. It is important, especially for the younger generation, to be on the lookout for the latest upcoming technological trends and carve a niche for themselves - whether in business or corporate sector. The current era seems to be that of artificial intelligence and biotechnology.

Any message to the readers

Always believe in yourself. Being humans, we all will face setbacks in life from time to time. Learn lessons from them and try to come out stronger.

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