Gauri Das is an engineer who now works as an HR professional with a master’s degree in both human resources and psychology. Communication wasn’t her strong suit while she was growing up in a rural town with a vernacular education and an introverted personality, but she is now an international speaker. Despite her fears, she pursued opportunities, which led to her appointment as Vice President of Human Resources for a European bank subsidiary. She now takes tremendous delight in encouraging others to realise their untapped but boundless potential. She motivates them to apply what they’ve learned in the past to propel them forward in the future.
Gauri is a strategic HR leader with more than 15 years of expertise in developing and integrating HR strategies with business objectives. She assists companies in establishing the correct culture, increasing performance, rethinking the employee experience, and enhancing capabilities. She has extensive experience working with both start-ups and established businesses. She thrives in a high-energy, growth-oriented workplace.
She works as a mentor for students and young professionals at a variety of institutions, including IIT Bombay. She is a dynamic speaker who has appeared as a keynote speaker and panellist at several national and international events. She is a TEDx speaker who discusses how to develop a possibility attitude. She was the Membership Coordinator for the Mumbai Chapter of the Professional Speakers Association of India (PSAI).
She serves on the advisory boards of several institutes and non-governmental organisations. She enjoys writing and has had articles published in prestigious magazines such as the TOI, Economic Times, People Matters, Human Capital, and others. She is a strong advocate for women’s empowerment and is the founder of the Leaders Lifting Leaders Leanin circle. She’s also the new National President of the WICCI Future of Work Council. This council focuses on identifying and preparing women with the skills they will need in the future.
She enjoys networking and finds enjoyment in getting to know individuals beyond their online profiles, which is why she is a member of the Navi Mumbai LinkedIn Local core committee. She has received several honours and honours, including HR 100 under 40, Economic Times Young HR Leader, Top 10 global women in HR, Top 200 worldwide voices in leadership, Top 10 prominent women in India to follow on LinkedIn, 10 must-have LinkedIn connections, and Linkedin Person of the Year.
Below are highlights of the interview conducted between Gauri Das and World’s Leaders:
As the female leader, what challenges have you faced?
I have been blessed to have supportive family members and colleagues around me. However, at times, I do face biases. The road to success is very long and tiring for women because they have double the responsibilities. At times, they are not taken seriously since many men around have a notion that women can’t be great professionals. Many men have not seen their mother or wife working, and hence the whole idea becomes unacceptable to them. At the same time, I have noticed that women also need to take many steps for their own growth. Women shy away from networking, taking risks and speaking up. These are important elements of gravitas and are extremely critical for making a mark for yourself. While society as a whole needs to support women, men must become sponsors for women. Women themselves need to raise their game and put in their 100% for that big responsibility. Having mentors and sponsors within and outside the organization, being ready for opportunities, not trying to be a super woman and continuous learning are some of the things women need to focus on.
As an HR professional, what advice would you give to leaders to get the best out of their teams?
In my view, you need to connect with teams at 3 levels, which are 3 H for me. Head, heart, and hands People value autonomy. That helps them explore, be creative, and have individual ownership over multiple aspects of their work. This helps develop a connection with the head. When you tell them how their work adds value and its relationship with their purpose, you have their heart, and finally, when you have their head and heart, hands support. 3H is my mantra of leadership and with this comes empowerment, empathy, and openness to diverse thoughts. In my view, these lead to great performances and innovations.
Tell us about your vision for the leanin circle Leaders Lifting Leaders.
It is a community powered initiative with a vision to create an open, inclusive platform for advancing the learning and career goals of women professionals. We are driven by the belief that each one of us makes a difference in the lives of people. Hence, everybody is a leader.
We co-create opportunities for each other in: Branding/ Networking/ Experiential Learning / Mentoring.
I began my journey in a small village, studied in a vernacular medium, and faced numerous challenges along the way, which is why I want to help every woman achieve her professional goals. For me, diversity is not only gender, but there are so many other things to look at e.g. cast, education, region, or even economic status. Since I came from a small village, many times, I was made to be excluded, and I want to stop this discrimination for any reason. It should be equity and not equality. I believe in a culture where merit is the only differentiator.
What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken as a professional?
The greatest risk I have taken as a professional is to enter the zone of human capital, though I am a qualified computer engineer. I was told by many that I was wasting my engineering degree and that HR is not the best place for an engineer, yet I wanted to do it. However, over the years, I have realised that some of the must haves for HR are analytical skills, business acumen, human skills and stakeholder management. Engineering has definitely helped me with an analytical bend of mind, which makes me get the best for the organisation as part of the human capital team.
How do you balance work and life responsibilities?
For me, work-life balance is all about work-life integration. In a hyper-connected world, all lines between work time and personal time have been blurred to better unify the two so they complement each other. Of course, it comes with flexibility from both sides. In a rigid environment, it is difficult to bring out your best.
What advice would you give to emerging entrepreneurs and enthusiasts considering a career in an industry?
My advice would be three Ds
- Discipline: Discipline, in my opinion, is the link between a goal and success.Consistent efforts, no matter how small, compound, and the power of compounding is enormous. Having a cheat day once in a while will still be fine since we are not machines but humans with emotions, but we should soon be back on course.
- Determination: This D has a significant impact on our success, or lack thereof. Life is not easy, and all of us have our own share of ups and downs. We fall, but the capacity to get back up and get going is one of the most important skills in life. Once we set our eyes on a goal, we must put in untiring efforts on the same.
- Direction : While speed is important, moving forward in the right direction is crucial. We must keep checking our bearings every few miles on this journey known as life.This can be done through regular checks on our goals and achievements. Also, mentors play a very important role here, and they have the capacity to pull us back if we happen to venture into the wrong direction.
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