Driving force behind creating such a distinctive career for yourself:
I would say that my career has shaped up to be what it is due to the combination of various factors like being at the right place at the right time, my willingness to learn, my focus on continuous improvement, or in the ability to take calculated risk and getting out of my comfort zone. Of course, the support of the Leaders, Mentors and people who have worked alongside me have also played a big part in this journey.
One common thread running through my career is the question that I ask myself and my team all the time i.e.“how can we work with our business partners in helping them succeed and make them better in what they are doing”. Whether I was in Business Transformation, Accounting Operations or in with current profile as a Risk Professional, I don’t treat myself as a support function but always believe that each one of us have a critical role to play in the success of our business partners and in the broader organization.
Biggest challenges you have encountered in your career:
I strongly believe that in the course of our long careers, we will have good times and we will also have times when things will not work in our favour. How you deal with these times when things are not working actually define you- as a person and as a leader.
For me personally, one of the biggest challenges I faced was during the early phase of my career, when I took a move from a support role to Business facing role. This was my first brush with business facing role and I was totally lost for few weeks. Everything I was doing was being questioned on how it will help the business or what value will it add. There were also questions around number of resources and budget, as the business was going through tough times. In such a case, I had to unlearn most of the things and had to spend time in understanding the business to demonstrate the value that my team was bringing to solve the business problems. During first few months in the job, I failed multiple times but at the end of it I had better appreciation of the business drivers, the value that I could add in achieving business objectives and a very supportive business partner.
My mantra to deal with failure is simple. “Fail early, and learn fast”. Be willing to learn from your mistakes and don’t worry about the fear of failure.
How has mentoring shaped who you are as leader today and the impact that it has on the upcoming youth:
I would say, giving back to society through volunteering should be on top of list for all of us who can help others in any way. It is not only what you can share and see people benefitting from but there is so much to learn from these experiences, which I think is a very overlooked aspect of volunteering. When I was working with Literacy India, we helped to create a digital roadmap for them and I learnt so much about the working of NGOs, how they manage their finances, procurement practices, working of ecommerce sites and digital market platforms.
Similarly with Freedom Employability Academy, I was mentoring a group of 15 boys and girls in the age group of 14-20 years from underprivileged backgrounds. These kids, despite their limited means had big dreams and burning desires to succeed, were brilliant, full of confidence and very savvy with social media and technology. I learnt so much about their dreams, aspirations, opportunities and constraints that they face and how we could help them and in the process create a more inclusive and equitable society.
These volunteering opportunities provide you with such a diverse perspective that is not available otherwise in your current jobs and thus they help a great deal to transform you into a well rounded Leader.
How your mother had been the first leadership mentor in your life:
My mother retired as a school teacher and raised me and my sister as a single parent after the unfortunate demise of my father at a very young age. The first thing that I learnt from her was how to deal with adversity. We had limited means while growing up and as a single parent, she faced multiple challenges on a regular basis but seldom did I see her ruffled or getting intimidated with those situations. She would take those challenges head on and always seemed to have a solution for everything.
One more learning that has stuck with me since my early years is about being ethical in our dealings. This was before “Ethical Leadership” became a fashionable buzzword. She used to say, “Money gone, nothing’s gone, Health gone, something’s gone and reputation gone, everything’s gone”. She would ask us to treat everyone with respect, be fair and transparent in our dealings.
She also taught me to dream big and not be restricted in my thinking, I learned the value of hard work, discipline and helping others despite possessing limited resources. Most of these lessons have stayed with me and have served as foundation of my leadership style, be it hard work, dealing with failures and acting with Integrity.
Major learnings and some words of wisdom that you live by and would like to share with others:
First and foremost, I would say that we need to take care of your health- both physical and mental. Spend quality time with your family and friends, pursue a passion and lead a balanced life. This always has been very important but is absolutely critical during the current times.
From Career perspective, I would say, “Think of your career as a marathon, and not as a sprint”. One advice I give to everyone who is just starting their career or who are in the initial stage of their career is to not get distracted by short term temptations and minor setbacks but yet continue to stay course with the end objective in mind.
Second, one needs to take calculated risks, especially during the initial years of their career. Perform in a variety of roles, get out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself and volunteer for roles that help organization solve their big problems and contribute to a bigger cause.
Third is to focus on Continuous learning, “Be the CEO of your own development” and continue to invest in yourself.
Last but not the least- find a Mentor or a Coach. Create a personal brand, develop professional network, and don’t shy away from sharing your learnings with others.