A global bright spark
By Kyle Bournes
Like so many other young engineers frm Ottawa starting out in the late 1990s, Sulaekha (Sue) Kolloru Barger’s career began at Nortel Networks. With a uOttawa degree in electrical engineering (’98) under her belt, she says she did “hard-core electrical engineering” for a couple of years at Nortel, at a time when the company was a Canadian tech-sector powerhouse.
By the time the high-flying firm crashed a decade later, Kolloru Barger had long since departed the National Capital Region. Her sense of adventure had propelled her to a job fair that altered the course of her life, and set her on a global path.
“I saw a need to explore — I wanted to see what other opportunities were out there,” she says.
“Out there,” initially, was a job as a network consultant with multinational telecom company Lucent Technologies, where she first acquired a taste for working on the world stage. She travelled the globe, using her engineering know-how to help companies scattered across the United States, as well as farther afield, in Asia and Europe, find innovative solutions to network problems.
Change of course
After five years, she turned down the opportunity to manage technical issue resolution for Asian accounts at Lucent in favour of a return to school. It was time to reboot, broaden her horizons and expand her skill set.
Her next stop: the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, where she completed a master of business administration. During that program, a prestigious Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship gave her the opportunity to study abroad, in Peru and Asia.
With an Ivy League MBA in hand, Kolloru Barger joined the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in 2005. She spent a year in the New York office, followed by two years in the company's Southeast Asian system, before settling in Atlanta, Georgia.
Her feet are still not really glued to the ground, however. For the past decade, she has provided management advice to large technology, media and telecommunications clients in the United States, India and Southeast Asia. She has risen through the ranks at BCG, becoming a partner and managing director in the Atlanta office. All this while raising two young children with her husband, a general manager with an American pulp and paper company.
“I get tired just thinking about what she is doing, but she has the perseverance to get the job done,” says friend and uOttawa classmate Luan Nguyen, who now works in Silicon Valley. “Sue has always been a natural leader. She goes head to head with some of the brightest minds, and has strong ability to lead the team.”
For the past five years, BCG has been among the top five on Fortune magazine’s annual list of the “best 100 companies to work for.” In 2015, it ranked second, nipping at the heels of tech giant Google.
BCG’s philosophy of encouraging staff to seek volunteer opportunities that make an impact and spark social change is a good fit for Kolloru Barger. And one cause is particularly dear to her heart: closing the digital divide between men and women.
Passionate about supporting women at every stage of their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, she sits on the board of directors of Georgia's Women in Technology Foundation. The foundation’s mission: to see women advance in technology “from the classroom to the boardroom.”
She also leads BCG’s Women’s Initiative, which is focused on recruiting and retaining female employees, in the Atlanta and Miami offices. Kolloru Barger is now joining the board of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering.
Global role model
On March 8, International Women’s Day, the uOttawa Faculty of Engineering will recognize Kolloru Barger’s efforts and achievements with a Young Alumni Award of Excellence. She will return to campus to accept her award and give a keynote address. The University’s Catherine Mavriplis, NSERC/Pratt & Whitney Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (Ontario), will preside over the event.
Kolloru Barger’s talk, titled “An Engineer’s Foray into International Business,” is open to the public. It promises to be inspiring. Maybe it will lead other young alumni to consider using their own skill sets to explore, or change, the world.
Sue Kolloru Barger is passionate about supporting women at every stage of their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. Photo: Boston Consulting Group