Stories and Viewpoints
By: Niki Kapsambelis
March 17, 2022
As the chief instructor of the Indian Air Force Academy, Mahesh Sharma was responsible for onboarding and training women cadets in combat roles. It was an experience he describes as a turning point in his life, one that underscored for him the value of diversity, equity and inclusion in building a more sustainable world.
“It was a different and challenging experience altogether,” said Mahesh, given the perceptions many people have about working with women, particularly in nontraditional roles such as military combat. “But what inspired me the most was the resilience, grit and resoluteness of women coming from all walks of life.”
It would help inform his viewpoint for the rest of his career: “I was more determined than ever in advocating women empowerment,” he said.
Today, as a talent development partner for Viatris, those experiences and others are top of mind for Mahesh, who spent nearly 25 years in India’s Air Force before entering the corporate world, where he took those lessons with him.
During his military service, his travels took him to different parts of the globe “where, besides the wonders, I also saw the dark underbelly of human suffering, ravages of conflicts and the universal need for better health,” he recalled.
As someone who had always taken an interest in science, Mahesh began to realize that it was the key to unlocking good health and alleviating human suffering, regardless of borders. He entered the pharmaceutical industry because he believed its goals aligned with his own.
“For me, career is a string of opportunities and experiences shaped by unrelenting discipline, passion and vision to serve people and planet,” he said. “The means taken to reach the destination are as important to me as the destination.”
Changing careers was difficult and took Mahesh out of his comfort zone, but he felt that it was a risk he needed to take to realize his vision.
“I feel much stronger having gone through that, and it was a great learning experience for me,” he said. “The purpose in life, to me, is how to be more useful to people and enable them to lead healthier and fulfilling lives. The more we learn, the more relevant we become.”
A member of Viatris’ Women Employee Resource Group (ERG), Mahesh said the group will drive innovation by promoting an ecosystem of inclusion, psychological safety and personal growth.
In acknowledging International Women’s Day, he noted: “to me, it is a day of resolve to become a better colleague, husband, father, son and a better man.”