Beyoncé asked “Who run the world?” … We announced “STLhers do!!”

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It has been a long day in Silvassa as the Sun sets over the western shoreline of India. As many industries start shutting shop for the evening, a few facilities keep churning out products that help connect you and me to our loved ones, to our friends and colleagues, and to the plethora of online services! Optical connectivity is at the heart of communication networks, and the demand for optical components – be it optical fiber cable or the connectivity equipment that forms the network – is at an all time high. 

To cater to this burgeoning demand, STL has had to produce more, produce faster and produce it First-Time-Right! And we have more than stepped up to the challenge! 

Did you know our First Time Right (FTR) rate and Operating Equipment Efficiency (OEE) rate have improved by 5 % over the last 4 years? The direct impact of these improvements have meant that STL has been able to deliver more solutions, sooner to customers and accelerate in its journey to transform billions of lives. What made this happen?

This journey started 4 years back on 5th July 2018 at STL’s cable factories in Silvassa.  It was then that the paradigm shift occurred. Echoing the words of Steve Case, the founder of AOL and former Chairman of Time-Warner, we believed that “one shouldn’t focus on why they can’t do something, which is what most people do. One should focus on why perhaps they can, and be one of the exceptions”

With this spirit, we started a section run by an all-women’s team. We had 45 female machine operators, including a cohort of 15 young, female Diploma Engineers, who had a personal ambition to work in the manufacturing unit. They were personally motivated to defy traditional preconceptions and set new benchmarks of work discipline and job excellence. 

Was this new for us and new for India? Yes

Did it require some serious thinking? I believe it did

Are we glad we took the plunge? Extremely! 

We are glad to have led this charge in the Indian high-tech manufacturing environment, because it made sense! The all-women teams have increased productivity and improved efficiency at our plant. At a higher level, this team of STLhers has proved that talent, not gender, is what sets individuals apart. 

So what did they do, and where are they now? That cohort of machine operators ran the colouring and ribboning machines in the Optical Fibre Cable plant. The team, with members aged between 20 to 24 years old, steadily increased cable output and consistently beat quality parameters! Whether they embraced their wins, or owned up to their occasional loss, they always moved forward. Through sheer determination and a hunger for learning and growth over the past 4 years, many have groomed themselves into shift leaders and supervisors of the coloring and ribboning section. Just ask Tarannum, Sonali and Neha Kumari. And what a great example they have been to others. Today STL is proud of having over 150 female operators working in core operations across our units in Silvassa.

But was this a one time thing? Not even close! Female technicians have often displayed heightened motor skills and advanced dexterity, and we can’t get enough of it! In Sept 2020, we hired 20 women to work on our assembly lines in our Optical Interconnect facility in Silvassa. As expected, this team is doing wonders! The team recently exported a large shipment of connectivity solutions to a key European customer, boosting up new revenues! As this group of STLhers grows to 200 strong, we are counting on them to be the backbone of our Optical Interconnect assembly unit.

Let me tell you about the superwoman Surekha! 

Surekha Torawane joined STL on 17th August 2020 as an assembly line operator. Her personal objective was to financially support her family; her husband was already associated with STL for over a decade. We are very proud to see how Surekha went from being an individual contributor to leading the batch of 24 assembly line operators as a shift supervisor. She makes sure all the members in the team are aligned, focused, and committed to fulfilling STL’s promise to our customers. Beyond her role as Supervisor, she has also motivated and influenced 20 women in her village to grasp professional opportunities to earn a living and build a career.   

Surekha Says, “The price of success is hard work, dedication, and determination”. She also added her teams feels safe and as a family working at STL
         

What have I learnt from Surekha and others as their strong motivation? It’s that for a lot of us, the greatest reward is acknowledgement.We all need, desire, and want to be acknowledged when we perform well, and seek feedback and guidance when we fall short. The work environment is the one place that can motivate us intrinsically. As team leaders and people managers, we must remember that our own personal growth and the development of our team members starts with simple acknowledgment of work and efforts! 

So where do we go from here?

Today, we have more than two hundred women working in our Optical Interconnect business as assembly line operators who, until recently, were limited to being homemakers. We know that there is a long way to go before we reach gender parity in the manufacturing sector. However, these STLhers in manufacturing roles have proved to us that it is indeed possible, even plausible!

Thomas Edison stated, “a vision without execution is just hallucination”.

While accelerating our commitment to building a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace at STL, we are sure that our Silvassa model will enable more women to enter operations, manufacturing, and supply chain jobs. This is the kind of vision we aspire to execute! 


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