Optimi Group CFO Suloshini Singh and CTO of Discover Digital Yasvanth Singh share their meet-cute story, and reveal how their relationship outlasted unaccounted for plans and demanding careers.
When Suloshini started university more than 23 years ago, like many youths, she hoped to drive herself to campus. Alas, the now CFO of Optimi Group explains, owning a car straight out of school was a dream; coupled with less than stellar financial circumstances and nervous driving skills the reality would translate into an option which, she admits, she did not accept with open arms at the time. Her father searched for a lift club for his daughter instead. “There were two advertisements in the newspaper for lift clubs to the University. One option cost R40 a week and the other R45 a week. My Dad chose the R40 option,” said Suloshini.
And so, enter the person she would be seeing daily for the rest of her life, Yasvanth.
“It’s amazing, my life turned out the way it did because of a R5 difference. As an accountant, it makes me think about what’s material and what’s not,” she jokes.
Yasvanth and Suloshini cemented their friendship before officially dating. “He was the kind of guy you could easily be friends with, you know, just have a beer and chat about nothing really.” she said.
They ended up being married four years later.
Maintaining a marriage and a career
The Singhs, both c-suite executives, despite having demanding careers have managed to make time for themselves and their children. “I wouldn’t say it’s easy. We both wear a few different hats. For me, it’s mother, employee, daughter, wife…And I inevitably fail at being everything to everybody at all times. Luckily, Yasvanth is really understanding of the many things that I have to pack into a 24 hour day, so he is comfortable with the occasional pizza for supper. We have had numerous challenges to navigate together, but we are both really supportive of one another,” said Suloshini.
When the Singhs’ daughter was born, Suloshini had to write her the second part of the CA qualifying exam. She managed to pass while sleep-deprived and managing the total onslaught of those early baby days. Later on, Yasvanth completed his MBA while in the thick of fatherhood and Covid-19 complications, while Suloshini was also pursuing her own MBA.
“For me, between the ages of 25 and 30, you’re setting yourself up as a CFO. You’re working hard to make these the formative years in your career. But I was raising small children at the time too. Fortunately, I made the most out of every day and had a relentless attitude toward personal growth and development,” explains Suloshini.
Both Suloshini and Yasvanth worked long hours as their careers demanded it. “We aligned with what we wanted to achieve though and agreed to be present for our children and our pets,” Yasvanth adds.
Learning from each other’s leadership styles
Yasvanth appreciates Suloshini’s rational and calm approach to challenges at work and home. “She tends to look at things in a balanced way and without emotion, which I think would make her a great CFO. She has been a pivotal influence on me and our children,” he notes.
Suloshini says she leads through influence. She gets the best results from her team by understanding them and appreciating different ways of thinking and working. “It’s critical to know what makes people tick. Yes, you can try and make people want what you want, and have your outlook, but people are who they are. We need to deeply respect that people are different and lead based on circumstances and understanding.”
Yasvanth considers himself a situational leader. “The best interests of the people in your team come first. This seems to be a transformational and ethical way to lead.”
Because of their relationship, Suloshini finds working with other CIOs much simpler thanks to her husband being one. “They have an engineering mindset and don’t typically see grey areas.” She jokes that the CIO perception of a CFO is usually clouded by images of a Gollum-type character in Lord of the Rings, but she appreciates a CIO’s vision and tries to make their projects a reality without completely decimating budgets.
“Sometimes, I never quite understood the financial impact. I thought that the CIO’s vision would translate into an investment. But, you always have to sell your plans to the company. Luckily, before I engage with the CFO, I run my proposal past Suloshini. She steers my work in the right direction with her financial acumen,” says Yasvanth.
Happy wife (and husband), happy life
While the Singhs admit that a work-life balance is not a daily achievable goal, they agree that family comes first. They love eating out as a family, particularly at Indian and Italian restaurants. Their children are teenagers, which brings its own complexities, but quality time together is still important to everyone. “We spend most of our spare time with our children, which is important before they’re too grown up to enjoy our company. We like cooking, and we try to travel to interesting places,” says Yasvanth.
Marriage is not easy, but the Singhs have combined their strengths towards a shared vision and support each other in their areas of growth and development.