A piece by EH*V Summer 2021 intern, Akshadha Gupta, on women in leadership.
"I was lucky to have mentors who helped me plan and pave my path in this field." - Ms. Niharika Vats
When it comes to gender equality in the workplace, many corporations tend to be male-dominated. Breaking into these industries has been challenging for women throughout history- is this still the case in 2021? I had the wonderful opportunity to talk to some women in leadership positions to answer this question.
These interactions provided a plethora of insights and learnings- I learnt about skills that can take one a long way, prioritising responsibilities, seeking out for opportunities and a lot more.
I spoke to:
- Ms. Usha Subramaniam, the Global HR Director at Grundfos, a leading developer of water pumps specialised in innovative and sustainable solutions.
- Ms. Niharika Vats, the Head of New Business Development at Hawk Ecommerce, helping businesses to harness the power of digital marketing and advertising.
- Ms. Anu Khanna, a Business Growth Specialist at ActionCOACH, guiding businesses to better time management, building ecient teams, and increasing their profits by unimaginable margins.
- Ms. Radha Mulani, an Associate Partner under India’s leading business service providers. (I felt that being from India, I’d resonate more with people with the same experiences growing up and chose to interview these people) Their journeys definitely weren't easy, but they overcame the hurdles along the way. Here is what they had to say about their experiences and what they have learnt along the way.
Akshadha Gupta: Why did you pursue your chosen field? Niharika Vats: “Right from my childhood, I had good communication skills. I proactively participated in debates, and bagged many certificates for the same. I also took part in theatre, dramas and plays. I even hosted an event for Tamanna Foundation, a school for the handicapped. From the beginning, I just knew that there is something in me, and a career in communications would be the right fit for me. Being a very impatient person, I didn’t find a zeal in a desk job, and catering to end-to-end communications felt like a better fit for me.” Usha Subramaniam: “I initially started out in marketing & business development, and I guess the reason I switched to HR was because of an experience I had in my previous role. I was involved in training and people development activities, and I realised that I really enjoyed that role, which consisted of improving performance, and engaging with new people. And because of that, I shifted into HR, whereas the original intent was completely dierent”
AG: How did you plan for this career? NV: “I started with a very minimalistic job in marketing in Pearl Global Industries, a huge export house, and I was placed there directly from Pearl Academy. I was a marketing executive there, and had 2 mentors who introduced me to fashion and social media marketing. Prior to that, I did many backend jobs as well, such as influencer marketing. If I recall correctly, when I started, I didn’t even know how to CC someone in an email. I’m grateful for my intern mentor, Ms. Riddhi Arora, who took me under her wing, and made me aware of the potential I had in marketing. I was lucky to have mentors who helped me plan and pave my path in this field.” US: “I didn’t have a planned career trajectory but I was sure of a couple of things- I wanted to do something that was challenging, that required me to step out of my comfort zone. If the task at hand doesn’t challenge me, I easily lose interest. This has always been the case throughout my professional journey.”
AG: In your professional journey, what are some of the key challenges that came your way? NV: “The main challenge I faced was remaining patient. Clients aren’t necessarily easy to deal with. Some are finicky and some are understanding. Knowing how to work with them, and reaching a satisfactory solution within limited time is a challenge.” US: “There have been many if I’m being honest. Balancing my personal and professional lives was one of them. I had to leave an organisation as I wasn’t able to relocate because my family needed me at that time. Understanding dierent cultures, dierent people, their approaches and mindsets can also be a challenge. How do you influence and connect with them? These are the important factors and not always easy.”
AG: How did you overcome these challenges? NV: “Communicating with your client or team member, the basics remain the same- you have to understand their thoughts, wishes and skillset, and keep your patience. Being understanding and patient is something that can take you a long way.” US: “ For personal matters, you seek the support of your family and close ones. For professional matters in a workplace, then you need the support of your colleagues, teammates and your superiors. One thing I’ve always practiced is starting conversations. If there are problems, the solution lies within the people engaged in the problem. It’s just about discussing it so that a solution can be found.”
AG: Given the chance, is there something you wish you could have done dierently? US: “This is a little hard to answer. If I look back, there are things which I would’ve preferred to
handle differently. Like they say, hindsight gives you 20/20 vision. However, all of those choices and decisions got me where I am, and I’m happy for that.” Radha Mulani: “I feel as if I should have focused more on my education, my master’s degree, before heading towards a corporate setting. I definitely would have planned my educational path more thoroughly.”
AG: What do you enjoy about your work? NV: “Going the extra mile, for each and every client, developing those connections with different people working in different sectors.” US: “I enjoy the fact that where I work, we’re making a difference in people’s lives, a difference in the way they work, their mental wellbeing. Making a visible difference certainly pushes me.” Anu Khanna: “I help business owners make more profits and turnover from their company. When an owner turns around and says, “You know I was about to close the business”, and now their company is making 100% more profit, there’s nothing more satisfying. One of my clients’ wife told me they never used to go on holidays before, and now they do. They even bought a camper van and are on the road most of the time, because he doesn’t need to be in the oce anymore. Making a difference hands on, and that motivates me to do more of what I do and better.” RM: “My work is very sales- focused, and target driven. Leading my team towards fulfilling these targets is definitely something I enjoy.”
AG: Is there some advice you’d give to young people such as myself? NV: “Whatever you undertake, be it your studies or your job, always give it your 100%. Don’t make decisions in haste.” US: “Always keep learning. It doesn’t necessarily mean formal learning. Learning to be able to listen, to interpret, to reason, to understand. Have a mindset that lets you dig deeper, know more and explore.” AK: “Create a future you want to live in. The world is filled with opportunities. When you think you can, you can; and when you think you can’t, you can’t. Sometimes when we think and have a dream, we unconsciously limit ourselves. So dare to dream big, set big goals, take actions from those goals, and live the life you want.” RM: “Be curious and seek out opportunities. Learn from the person sitting in front of you. Make use of any and all resources available to you.”