Finding joy in continuous improvement

Finding joy in continuous improvement

Sayali Kulkarni, quality lead at the KONE R&D unit in Pune, India, started her career as a system engineer and consultant, and got to be involved in multiple process transformations as well as agile coaching. Many of her career moves were unexpected, but turned out to be hugely enriching and enjoyable. Now working in quality assurance at KONE, Sayali finds joy in the continuous improvement of products, processes, and ways of working. Seeing the impact of her own work is also an important daily motivator.

Always expecting change

Hi, I am Sayali and I work as a Quality Lead in the R&D unit in Pune, India. In addition to my quality manager work, I also help our unit leadership team. This involves participation in deciding on the vision and OKRs, working on the unit goals, and tracking progress.

I was born in the central part of India, in a city called Nagpur, and raised in multiple small towns across the country, Because of my father’s job, our family never stayed in one place for long. I changed schools multiple times and therefore have never been too attached to any one place. I do not ever think that anything is set – I always expect change.

I always expect change.

I have worked with a lot of different transformations in my career. I believe everything in life is very interconnected: my childhood and the way I was raised are reflected in my career choices. I have chosen to have a career as a change agent and worked a lot with process transformations. I am attracted to the idea that every big transformation is made of many small changes.

“Though it was unplanned, I like it”


I graduated as an engineer in computer technology, which was quite a usual choice for many. My first employer was one of the largest software service companies in India, where I spent 5 years in the division of automotive embedded services serving a large Japanese manufacturer. I had various roles there – from developer to tester and test lead, but I was mostly involved in the simulation of electronic controllers in the automotive industry. I must admit I never planned to have such a job, but as often happens at the beginning of working life, the start is not what we may have imagined. Nevertheless, I found this job very interesting and liked what I did a lot. Here I learned for the first time the Japanese concept of “Kaizen”, which means continuous improvement. During this time, I did an Executive MBA program in General Management from IIM-Calcutta, a premier management school in India.

“I like to improve things and the quality of products and processes”

Next, I switched to building a career in quality assurance, working as a senior consultant for 8 years. I took on multiple roles, for example related to internal audit and support of CMMI implementationThis taught me to be very attentive to details as well as to cultivate the habit of cross-checking everything. I’ve heard people say that this is not a very glamorous area of work as it runs in the background, but I disagree – I find it fulfilling and enjoyable.

My next company was a French investment bank, where I joined the transformation office to help with the agile transformation. I got to do a lot of agile coaching there.

Visible impact of my work

The story of how I joined KONE is quite interesting. During the pandemic, I began to look for a job in Pune to be able to live in my own house instead of paying the high rent for the place in Mumbai. I got a call from KONE very soon after updating my CV, but I was not sure if I was the right person for a job in quality assurance in a manufacturing company. However, when I saw the description of the role, I realized that my experience matched it very well, as the job was for KONE’s Digital Services division. It was interesting to join a solid brand but a much smaller team than before (around 100 people in Pune at that time) and to be able to see the impact of my work directly.

All my previous companies had over 100,000 employees, and I had felt that the results of my work remained invisible. The culture at KONE is very different – it is nimble and agile. I would say in Pune it was similar to a start-up culture, without the risks of a start-up. Here I am able to see the direct impact of my work, and that brings a kind of satisfaction I never had earlier. I also think that working closely with real products that impact people’s lives so directly adds excitement to my work.

Here I am able to see the direct impact of my work, and that brings the kind of satisfaction I never had earlier.

Evolving all the time

My responsibility as a quality lead includes improving the quality of products, which breaks down into the quality of work and processes. In practice, that means that I coach, guide, collaborate, and work together with the teams to organize all the small pieces that lead to a great product to run seamlessly. Building a culture of continuous improvement is a joy. I also support teams in their agile journey. One of the most important things to ensure the quality process is of course the team spirit and dynamics – motivated people, with the right skills, good communication and teamwork. A respectful and open culture plays a key role here. KONE is the first company where I see people with very diverse backgrounds, especially in education and work experience. Here we have people from embedded electronics, hardware, software, UI/UX design, product, business, and many more areas working in each product team. That’s fascinating.

I think our team in Pune has achieved a lot during the past few years. During the pandemic, we had never seen each other, so it was a big achievement to finally meet in person, and eventually start to feel like a “team”. We have also improved our agile maturity a lot, though there is still a lot to be done, and I am happy to see that this leads to greater products and a stronger focus on quality.

The working mom formula for wellbeing


Having a small daughter, I take one day at a time. I try to stick to the high-level plan and keep plan B and plan C ready for last minute changes. It helps to be prepared and to inform the stakeholders and family members well in advance about the possibility of such changes. I have accepted that I cannot be perfect in all areas of my life. I don’t try to do everything myself: I ask for help and outsource as much as possible. I do not compromise my sleep. I also make sure I have enough “me” time: I like to read a lot, as that was a habit I got from my childhood. All my family members were readers and therefore we had to have respect for undisturbed reading time. Reading helps to get knowledge from many different areas and to see everything from multiple perspectives. I also do painting – an Indian folk art called “Madhubani”. Maybe I should do it more, as it really relaxes me.

I have accepted that I cannot be perfect in all areas of my life. I don’t try to do everything myself: I ask for help and outsource as much as possible.

My biggest learnings

  • Do what you like and do it the best you can, do not look too much at others or compare yourself with them.
  • Your career is not a sprint; it is a marathon. It is a long journey, so use your energy smartly, it is ok sometimes to save your energy for the future.
  • Keep learning. When you learn, you can’t go wrong.
  • A unique mix of skills is vital. Each individual has multiple skills and qualities that are not always visible, but those are needed to differentiate in your career.
  • Not everything can be achieved in a short time.
  • Focus on your own self-development and enhancing your knowledge.
My favorite quote is “Stay hungry, stay foolish” by Steve Jobs.

If you are looking for your next growth opportunity, visit our KONE career page, we want to hear from you!

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