Ep 29: Power Skills, Create space for Others, Story Telling, Purpose -Vidya Krishnan, CLO, Ericsson
Updated: Oct 19, 2022
Hello, This is Sirisha, welcome to my podcast!
Ep 29: A lifelong love of learning through career pivots led Vidya Krishnan to find her "Why" enabling her to impact a global organisation of 95,000 people across 180 countries.. Vidya discusses growth mindset and how we can find the intersection of Talent, Opportunities and Purpose (TOP) to energise and engage us. Vidya consistently invests in People Development at work, and she continues that investment in her personal life through self care to avoid burnout and find harmony in life (not just work-life balance).
We talk about how the reframing of Soft Skills as Power Skills, provides us the ability to transfer and carry it forward into different roles. Vidya has seen the significant impact storytelling has on driving change in organisations and in her career. She is a strong advocate for everyone to invest in this teachable skill giving us all the ability to drive both small and big changes in our personal and professional lives. Most of us quake in our boots with the thought of requesting feedback, but Vidya walks us through how to request and process feedback so it can be a game changer. As we touched on weighty matters, we discussed the importance of advocacy, giving opportunities for individuals to grow as leaders and how we can pay it forward.
Vidya Krishnan is the Chief Learning Officer of Ericsson, leading Ericsson’s Global Learning and Development team as part of Ericsson’s Global People organization impacting 95,000+ people in over 180 countries around the world. Vidya just won the 2022 Women of Distinction from the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas.
Vidya Krishnan is a technology and entrepreneurial leader with 20+ years of experience in Networks, Digital Services, Learning, Engineering, Consulting, and Business Transformation Operations. She fervently believes that learning is the intersection of execution, strategy, and engagement. She began her career in engineering operations with AT&T, then worked at Nortel, building and launching wireless networks before joining Ericsson in 2009, where she has held a variety of leadership positions in Networks, Digital Services, and now People. She holds a B.S. degree from Princeton University and an M.S. degree from Stanford University in Electrical Engineering, with a specialization in how technology can uplift impoverished areas. Vidya is particularly proud and privileged to sponsor the Ericsson-Girl Scouts Alliance, a unique and growing partnership dedicated to building tomorrow’s STEM Leadership Pipeline today. She and her husband Karthik are parents to two teenagers and two dogs (who behave like teenagers). Vidya and her best friend Nithya enjoy coaching their kids’ team in Destination Imagination, a global, non-profit, creative problem-solving organization.
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Below is a transcript of the episode, slightly modified for reading.
PODCAST TRANSCRIPT OVERVIEW
[00:49] Meet Vidya Krishnan.. Zigzag Career...Pivots [Jump to section]
[07:51] How do Organizations focus on People Development...Access to Learning...Feeling challenged [Jump to section]
[12:27] Growth Mindset...Lifelong Learner [Jump to section]
[16:15] Purpose [Jump to section]
[17:12] TOP- Talent Opportunity Purpose.. Job vs Career vs Mission vs Calling [Jump to section]
[22:35] Finding your Purpose and Pursuing it...not just climbing the ladder...TOP [Jump to section]
[25:19] Finding your calling/purpose, Listening to your inner voice [Jump to section]
[28:41] Avoiding Burnout...Self Care [Jump to section]
[29:19]Harmony...not Work-Life Balance...Energy not Burnout[Jump to section]
[31:39] Power Skills , don't call them Soft Skills [Jump to section]
[33:34] The art of Storytelling..Storytelling with Data [Jump to section]
[36:25] Simon Sinek-Why, Range...Adapting to Change [Jump to section]
[39:32] Feedback..How to seek and process it [Jump to section]
[44:20] Advocacy... Three steps to even the playing field [Jump to section]
[50:41] Note to 21year old self [Jump to section]
[52:29] Takeaways [Jump to section]
[52:50] Multigenerational impact from limited access to Education & Opportunities ...Pay it Forward [Jump to section]
PODCAST DETAILED TRANSCRIPT
Hello everyone. This is Sirisha and I host the women carrier and life podcast, just like you. I've traveled way with parts, stumble a little, picked myself up and learned a great deal on my journey. Many of us face similar questions, but we don't always get to have a conversation with our friends or peers.
In this podcast, you will hear real stories that you can connect with on the challenges of navigating career in life. You must be wondering who I am in my everyday life. I'm a career woman, a mom, and an ever reader. I'm also a road tripper, amateur garden, and even a fashionist on some days. Join me in my guest.
As we have an open and honest discussion on career change, trade offs and working across boundaries. You get the idea. It's a perspective you simply may not hear.
[00:49] Meet Vidya Krishnan.. Zigzag Career...Pivots
Thank you for joining me. In today's conversation. What you will learn from our guest today is how to prevent and how the growth mindset that she's invested in has really helped her find her why the intersection of.
Talent, the opportunities and purpose, which continues to drive her and how we can work towards it. It's also discussion around how to avoid burnout and really invest in self-care and find that harmony, not just work life balance that really can propel us. be able to settle us down.
There's been a lot of reframing of the conversation around soft skills, being really power skills, because that is the skill that is transferable and that does not fade away. And one of the ones that is most important, especially as a women in tech that I find is the art of storytelling. It's something that doesn't come naturally often, but it's something that can be taught and can really drive critical decision.
Especially when we are talking about big global impact things, the ability to change, to adapt and to have multi perspectives and be a generalist sometimes can be really an enabler in driving this change. And we also talk about how to get feedback, how to process it.
What should we do from our own perspective and really talk about advocacy and last but not least, how do we pay this forward? I hope you stay tuned because there's some really great stuff we dive into. And I would love to hear your perspective on which of these many things, which was the one tip you heard, or you thought differently that you wanna share with me.
You can reach me by email at women, carry it in firstname.lastname@example.org. And I would love to hear from you.
I have with Vidya Krishnan, who's the chief learning officer at Ericsson who leads the global development and learning operations there with over a hundred thousand employees and with the spread of over 180 countries. She used to be in the technical leadership roles and she's pivoted into this people development role, which is very interesting and we are here to hear her perspective, what we can learn from her. I also want to congratulate you because she just got selected for the 2022 distinction award from the Girls Scouts for Northeast, Texas. So congratulations on that award. To start why don't you give us some background of what your career trajectory and your life's been so far and what you're doing currently?
Thank you again for having me. Sirisha it's great to be here and my trajectory has not been a straight line. I don't think anyone's is, mine probably looks like a spaghetti mess all over the place. I do love to tell people because I mean it, that I'm in my fourth career and I hope I have at least four more ahead of me.
I started life out as a camp counselor, and I still think that's one of the most precious jobs I've ever had as a teenager. Showed me very early on how much I love learning how much I love teaching and coaching and that has stayed with me, I think lifelong. So I'm very lucky to have discovered a passion that turned out to be a lifelong passion.
So early in my life I studied to be an engineer, an electrical engineer. I never considered myself very good at it. I always found it difficult. It never came naturally to me. I think I'm lucky that I had a wonderful support system around me that encouraged me to do it because I enjoyed what it could do regardless of how difficult it felt as I was going through it. and I spent much of my early career as a network engineer. Responsible for dimensioning designing, building wireless networks. I've lived through most of the G's,1G , 2G ,3G, 4G, and now 5G, with more to come. And I spent about 15 years having roles in network engineering, building out the wireless networks of so many of the customers that we work with today,
t-Mobile at Verizon more both in the Americas, but also internationally throughout that time, I think I always had a side gig that involved learning and teaching in some capacity. It was always a passion project to work on those things and Let's see if I do the math properly, about eight, nine years ago, I wanted to pivot to make that passion much more of my profession and that was a definitely huge pivot. It was something that seemed crazy to everyone around me, everyone at work thought I was crazy. Even my family thought I was especially crazy and it was very hard to explain to myself, why I wanted to do this, but I knew for sure that I wanted to do this and it was hard, especially because I wasn't again good at it.
It's just something I wanted. So I think there's also been this thread throughout my career trajectory of having the will to do something long before I have any of the skills to do it. But here too, I was able, and I think a beautiful thing about Ericsson. You can have multiple careers in a company like this. It's so diverse. There's so much opportunity in each one building on the other and it took a while. It took almost two years for me to become someone who could be credible in the space of learning. So my third career was being a digital business leader, being responsible for Erickson's north America business for customer training, technology training.
So it, it felt very different, but it also felt very proximate that as an engineer. Here, I was now responsible for the way we teach and train engineers in technology, in our products, in our services. It really was both a technical job, a technological job, but also a very entrepreneurial job. It was my first experience running a P and L, which I think is crucial experience to have to really feel like a small business owner, if you will, inside a big company and I loved it. It was like coming home to some place I had never. It kindled, the deep passion I already had for learning on an even higher level, it showed how you could truly make a business out of it. It was a living laboratory for everything. I thought about how we lead a team, how we transform, and it was happening throughout the very time period that technology was transforming how we do corporate learning.
So it was exciting. It was a thrilling thing. And that was my third career. And then from that, I pivoted once again to become Ericsson's chief learning officer and join the people function. And that has been an incredible journey. I'm in year three. And I tell people, I still feel like I'm onboarding and learning about learning. And I have to say, yes, I'm proud to be in the people function and I don't feel that I am any less of an engineer. I feel that everything I've done in my technical career in terms of operations, transformation, digital engineering, everything. Is relevant and still informing the approach I take to my work.
Now there's a huge learning journey. There's a huge unlearning journey for sure. But I tell people I was engineering networks and now I'm engineering experiences. And so it probably looks like a Zig exact crazy line, but it has always felt very natural. So that's my fourth career. That's how I got here.
Your passion definitely comes through, especially when you talked about growth and learning, because that's, that seems to be the underlying theme. And I also like the fact that you said , you started the work before you had the skills. Research shows, it's very hard for women to take that leap of faith.
It's hard for anyone to take the .
Anyone think I agree with you do it. Yeah.
[07:51] How do Organizations focus on People Development...Access to Learning...Feeling challenged
You were always, waiting to check all the boxes off and it can be quite challenging. And it's interesting because organizations are talking about people, developments become much more stronger focus. I think COVID the transformation that everyone is seeing that as is a very key component.
There's a sort of a generational difference of what people are looking for in that careers as well. How do you see from an organization standpoint that they develop the people aspect? What should organizations be looking at and focusing on when they do this?
I think now more than ever, we have to make the future of work for everyone. I don't think it's new, that we should care about the wellbeing of people or the development of people, the growth of people. I can't imagine there was ever a time in the working world that this did not matter. I think what's happened now is that it is no longer nice to have.
It has become table stakes for a thriving business and table stakes for any enterprise to succeed without it, you have no hope and the tolerance level of everyone to work in a place that doesn't cultivate, that kind of feeling is diminished greatly. That's the effect. I think of many of the disruptions over the last few years, but especially the pandemic.
Why would people put up with conditions that don't make them feel that they can flourish and thrive? So I think that's, what's changed. It's not so much that it w is newly important, but it's more consequential than ever before because we have to make the future of work for everyone. This is why I think organizations can't afford to ignore how important it is to get this right.
We see that every element of the people experience is changing because people doing well is more and more consequence of people being well. And so this is why learning is so crucial. I believe to the future of work and the work of the future, because it is at the intersection of strategy, execution, employee engagement, and now increasingly care the self care of employees to make sure they're providing for their own growth, but the care of employees to care for their colleagues care for their teams care for their families. We really believe the growth of our people propels the growth of our company. So that's why I think more than ever, there's a recognition. Plus the digital disruption that's happening all around us is unmistakable. The World Economic Forum is saying very correctly that, half of the workforce will literally need to cultivate new skills within the next three years
and half of their skills are going to be outdated
very true. I think the upskilling, the feeling valued, feeling like you're bringing your whole self and I don't mean whole self in the way that people talk about it from not just the emotional part, using your mind to its maximum capacity, stretching yourself, stretching those relationships, trying new things.
It goes back to the one where you said, if you didn't have the skills, you're still doing the work. I think some of that we do wanna be challenged. That's what we all did when we were younger. You went to college, you knew nothing. The whole experience was completely new, not just the living part of it, taking care of your personal stuff, but just completely stretched and I think that needs to be a continuous thing. And the transformation is so fast. Now. It isn't like how it was 30 years ago.
The excitement, like you talk about the exhilaration of learning when you're new in a role when you're new in a task, new in a project. I think that is actually the most powerful part about learning at work.
It is about. Challenge. And you learn when you are facing and confronting problems, that challenge you, it's never from a place of stagnation, it's always from this sort of inherent tension of trying to solve something and being not so much in your comfort zone, but most definitely in your purpose zone, the learning zone, where you feel that the stakes are high, but you also feel that there's a psychological safety to keep trying, keep learning and so I think companies, that's the challenge, right? We have to create conditions where there's zero tolerance for zero learning, where there is intellectual challenge in the work where we're confronting these problems and the things that we learn and actually get to do, move the needle for the business.
I think we've seen it's about people feeling that they can make the time they can access what they need and what they need can find them that they're doing it proactively and not just reactively at the speed of business, they are doing it in a way that's super relevant. So that what they learn and the skills that they build actually get put to work.
That's where the fulfillment I think comes from. And we have to create those conditions as companies for people.
Yeah. It's not the norm where you went for a training class and more often than not, you forgot what you did because you didn't ever use the skills. So it's keeping those skills active.
[12:27] Growth Mindset...Lifelong Learner
And I think the other part is when we look back right at what our ourselves, a few years ago, yes, there are measures of success that we all like to check off, but I think it's more of a overcoming the barriers and the obstacles and proving to ourselves. If we could do something that we didn't either think we were capable of or feeling that sense of pride saying, okay, I could accomplish that.
So I, I don't feel like there's a barrier to trying something else. To me, when someone asks the. Should I do this? Should I know that the way I look at it is what is the worst that could happen. Even if it turned out to be a very unsuccessful venture, you'll still learn something and you've taken some skills and maybe made some connections.
So the skills are never going to be stripped off from you, and it's not defined by your job title or your role or what you're doing.
This is the beauty of it, right out of all the things we get at work, learning and what you learn and the skills that you build and you get to put to work that can never be taken away from you.
There's so much else of the work experience that can come and go at any time sometimes, outside of our control, but what you learn you, unless you choose to unlearn it, it can't be taken away from you. I think there's an unmatched empowerment in that. And furthermore, I think we are now expanded to recognizing that learning does should and can happen in so many ways.
Yeah. Going to a training class might look like the most traditional thing, and it's still something I love to do. Don't get me wrong, but we know that's not the beginning and the end of learning. That's just one of so many different transactions. Learning truly happens when you are on the way to solving problems that matter. and there's this funny story about this that I think proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt, that learning happens on the way to solving problems, which is when the pandemic began. And we were all as companies, getting used to this new abnormal of working remotely. Everyone was busier than ever.
Everyone was more uncertain than ever in the middle of that really busy period Erecsson, like many companies got a call to engage in a White House task force. Towards solving certain problems with finding data around COVID 19 and pulling together research. So the white house approached several companies and actually, I think they formatted it as a game, as a challenge for companies to solve certain problems that they had put on their website and it was a competition to see which companies could contribute, which ideas around building search engines and algorithms and using data science to marshal together, all the different information that was there about everything from how would we build a vaccine? What were the social implications of the disease?
All this in the early stages before we had any sort of vaccine, the request came from our north American CEO, I think around 7:00 PM on a Thursday, we're looking for about 70 people to please volunteer their time to work on this task force. And by the next morning, again, 7:00 PM on a Thursday by 8:00 AM on a Friday, you hit 400 people signed up wanting to help and I was one of them. All of us were super busy, but everyone said, count me in. And they had said, you don't need to know data science. You can learn on the way to doing this work and you can see on the bookshelf behind me, there's a book called data science for dummies. This became like our textbook and all of us truly learned. We learned R we learned Jupyter notebooks. We learned how to work in data science and start solving these problems. We got together with people we had never met before in the company, and we self-organized. And we actually got it done in a few weeks and it took hours and nights and weekends and it was a labor of love for all of us. That is, to me, the most illustrative example I can think of people who are super busy. Making time to learn and work together to solve a problem that matters to them. And the key is it matters to them. So that's what we have to harness. I think, like you said, it's not learning for learning's sake.
It's learning for the sake of something that matters to you.
And I think it comes to something else, I've heard you connect with. A lot of us are talking about purpose, what aligns with our purpose, what aligns with our values. And going back to what we discussed before none of the stuff is new.
It always mattered, but I think it's being spotlighted and highlighted and people are much more vocal about it and organizations and us as individuals are also starting to own and be saying, Hey, that this matters to me this is important. And we are challenging ourselves and we are challenging the norms and the status quo which is the right way to go about making change.
So when you're looking at all of this, obviously this initiative with Ericsson in the White House, It spoke to so many people's emotions for such a hard time, nobody knew what was going on. . To your personal families, to extended families, to the community around you. So you wanna do everything you can, and you want to harness, like you said, your talents and your knowledge. Even if you don't have it, you'll figure it out. And I think that's the thing. Kids had to figure out how school was. I know not everyone had access to education, which is sad to see that sort of that inequity,
[17:12] TOP- Talent Opportunity Purpose.. Job vs Career vs Mission vs Calling
One of the things you've talked about in the past is about talent, opportunity and purpose. And that's where I see this landing. And I don't know if that's the lens that it's being looked at.
Definitely to me, when people get to a certain career stage, you might say, oh, they got lucky. Or we may think we got lucky, but there's so many things that have to come together because you have to have the skills you have to be. Somewhat in the right space, opportunity has to come in. You have to constantly think through the lens does this align with what I want to do?
You may not always get a choice to pick or choose, but there is still a thread of that behind it, right? When you have new employees coming in or interns coming in or others coming in, everyone's starting to look at companies, cultures, and seeing if it aligns with them. That's one of the first things they look at, it's not just the job, but how my employees, how my colleagues
And are they growing and are they growing in ways that aren't just good for the company, but good for them, is there that intersection? And I think that's why T O P for me is always been this handy acronym and concept. There's this beautiful line in the book untamed by Glenn Doyle, where she says the braver I am the luckier I get. and I think that's so true. And because it is an act of courage to be true to yourself, enough, to pursue and find a way to operationalize the things that you're interested in and make a viable career out of them.
It's usually not easy. It's usually not stumbling on something. It's usually something you have to fight for. Sometimes the things you're fighting are the well intentioned advice of the people you love saying that's not a risk. I think you should take. Sometimes you're fighting the environment that you're working in that says, how could you ever do that? And you're fighting your own. Notion of what your duty is. Okay. I'm supposed to provide for the family, which means I must stay in this job no matter what, you're fighting all of those forces that are really hard to fight, but I think that's part of what is necessary. T O P that intersection.
It was beautifully explained to me by a coach named Richard Lider, who's written many books on the power of purpose, and he drew this very simple matrix that I think governs most of us, whether we realize it or not. The X axis is success. The Y axis is fulfillment, and he says, most of us just picture our lives along this horizontal spectrum of success.
We wanna go from having low success to high success, but he said, there's another dimension. That's always acting on us, even if we failed to act on it, which is the dimension of fulfillment. And when you have low success and low fulfillment, he labeled that a job. That's just my job. I hate my job. That's not my job.
Then he said, if you have high fulfillment, but low success, he called that a mission. He said many people, who are doing very noble, but very difficult professions. Like our public school teachers, how much harder can it get? They are doing the most important, most noble game changing work to teach our children, but the system makes it so financially non-viable for them to sustain a living, doing that work.
So it's it's noble work that comes with a sacrifice so hard to sustain, but still incredible. Then he said, most of us will fall into that lower quadrant of high success, where we have a title, good compensation challenges that actually intellectually occupy us professional respect, but we will feel a sense of despair
and he called that quadrant a career and he said, a career is not enough. I want you to have this and the quadrant he spoke of was a high success and high fulfillment. And he called that quadrant, you're calling. He said, that's where your fulfillment contributes to your success and your success deepens your fulfillment, a very virtuous cycle.
He described it very eloquently as doing work. You love in the place you love with people you love on purpose. And I remembered something I had learned before that sort of abbreviated it to T O P and that's been my, simple device to remember. What does it mean to be in your calling? It is the intersection of your talent and skills T with your purpose.
Something that really does, may not be a passion, but at least it's a purpose. You really deeply feel compelled by it. And those two things together intersect with an organizational opportunity where you are making an economic differentiation by the work. He said, if you just have the T and the P it's a hobby, the O is what makes it sustaining.
There's an actual need for this. Someone's willing to pay you for this. There's a economic benefit that you are delivering to the enterprise by putting these two things together in service of an opportunity. And that's why he said it's not something that you find so much as it's something that you fight for and carve out and cultivate. And I think that really has been a guiding thread through my life through difficult situations and difficult decisions, but it really does seem to catalyze a genuine belief that the work I'm doing may not be in my comfort zone, but I'm very much in my purpose zone. And so the problems and the challenges that come with it, I gladly will tackle them because this is where I want to be.
So I think that has been a driving force for how to navigate, this crazy world of work and all the decisions that we make about how did someone wind up there and how did someone wind up there? Everyone has this very linear notion of success. Like we're climbing some mythical ladder or we're, moving left to.
But it is not that it's usually this total zigzag spaghetti mess as we go in and out of each quadrant.
[22:35] Finding your Purpose and Pursuing it...not just climbing the ladder...TOP
And I think that's what makes it fun. I'm sure you had, like you said, fighting, carve your path or fighting battles to get where you are because you have pivoted your career, but it's also within yourselves and just like across the people, because most of us are used to the linear part. That's how careers for the longest time. Now people transition and I think that's what makes it fun. More often than not, you've reached a sort of comfort zone be financially or successful your career and then you're trying to decide you continue to climb that mountain, or you take a detour and find another path that not one has traversed behind. When they climb El Capitan do you take the one that has been, or do you take the sheer face and figure out how to climb it.
Vidya: And I think sometimes we have to revisit some of the analogies and frameworks.
I can tell you on this journey that I've been on it wasn't about climbing any mountain. It was literally just blazing a trail to what I thought was the truest part of myself. I wasn't trying to climb any ladder or mountain or anything. It was this continual relentless self discovery.
What is it that really, I love, what is that thing? That, what is that work that I feel I can do that I can do endlessly that doesn't even feel like work? What are those causes that I care so deeply about? I can't imagine not working on. What is it that people tell me seem to be the strengths that I bring, and it was putting those things together to discover, okay.
If that's what I love and that's what I seem to be good at and have a chance at being better at, and this is what I care about, how can I get paid for it? What job looks like that? And I would actually go so far as to tell you, I very much didn't climb the mountain and sometimes got in trouble for it. Because as an engineer and as an engineering manager and then a director, there was a definite push, okay.
Video, you, your next step is to do this role, in operations and network operations. And here's a VP opportunity here and I kept turning them down because it wasn't on the trajectory that I wanted. And again, that was crazy for people to see. And understandably, it looked like a lack of ambition on my part.
Who do you think you are, that you were turning down these things because you are going in a completely different direction that actually had no vertical Ascension associated with it. It works out , but it was difficult because I think many of us internalize that there's some mountain that we have to climb.
When in fact, I think it's not so much about ascending a mountain as it is about almost this jungle that you're going deeper and deeper into to find out what it is that you really love to do. And the work that you can do, like no one else can do it that the world needs you to do. So I think some of our analogies have to change as well.
[25:19] Finding your calling/purpose, Listening to your inner voice
Yeah. And I think it takes a lot of courage to do that, I think this analogy still is true. You're not dreading the Monday morning and you're not waiting for Friday evening. If that's, if those, you hit those two criteria and you just wanna go to work for the challenge that it provides for the colleagues that you work with for the culture of the and that's the true calling right? To, everything you said, because that's what you should want to go to not thinking, okay, I'm gonna plan my work week around my weekend. And then it makes it topsy turvy, no matter how high on the mountain you are,
I have lived through that, and that, those were the ways that I knew I wasn't where I was supposed to be.
Cuz I felt like that I had the Sunday, they call them Sunday scaries, right? The Monday blues and Friday, relief. And I remember one moment I was actually literally on a vacation with my family. We were in a beautiful destination. I should have been completely at peace and all I could feel inside me was the anxiety about what was waiting for me when I came back and I knew, then you're not supposed to feel like this. This is a sign. You're not yet where you need to be and you need to do something about it. And we have to be courageous enough to hear those voices inside of us and dismiss the ones that are telling us you can't do this. You can't do this. I think again, I was very lucky that I saw early on that education in general is something people cannot take away from you.
So when you are carving out your trajectory, as long as you're learning along the way, you can always pivot again and learn to make a living out of it. And I think I saw that more and more. If you're good at something you become better at it, find a way to make it of service to the world. You will find a way to get paid for it in a meaningful way.
Yes. And that is
something for everyone to look through as they're learning, to see how you can make it a viable skill, because that is what everyone needs to do in the end.
O right? That's the organizational opportunity. It, you could say that the T requires you to look around and ask people you trust what do, what am I good at?
What does it look like? I am good at when you see me, in action, what are the strengths that jump out? Because we're not always good at seeing that ourselves. And in general, especially women are not very good at seeing that in themselves, the P the purpose, I'd say you have to only look within yourself.
No one else can tell you what that is for you. , it's different for everyone and no one needs to rationalize it or justify it. It is what you choose it to be. So there, you have to almost shut out every other voice and look within yourself and say, what is that purpose for me? But the O you have to look not just around, but beyond, what is happening in the world.
What are the trends? What are the situational analysis what's happening all around and where are things going to know? Of this is relevant. What of this will become a viable place to make a living? What skill sets are going to be needed here? What is the work that's going to be needed? So it's this combination of, looking around, looking inside and then looking well beyond each one of those things, T O P requires you looking in a different direction and then synthesizing it so that you can feel that the trajectory you're on is one that is going to be successful because it's one that you know, is going to make you happy.
We often hear the positive psychologist telling us, truthfully success is a byproduct of happiness. So don't try to carve out a path to success, try to carve out a path to happiness and success will be a byproduct of it. And I think that's so true.
[28:41] Avoiding Burnout...Self Care
And it's also a way to avoid burnout .
It's not immediately obvious. Yeah. Because you're working at something that is not making you. Happy. And there is a lot of talk around it. A lot of people are facing it because COVID, exasperated it. And now the economic situation with everything going on in the world, there is been like a squeeze.
So how do you avoid burnout? And in, we have to cover time for ourselves, right? How do you learn to say no? How do you do self care? How all of these things that you shouldn't leave by the wayside, because you need to do that
as well. I think more and more we're realizing that energy is a dimension of health that often gets overlooked.
[29:19] Harmony...not Work-Life Balance...Energy not Burnout
And when you are in conditions, whether they are work conditions or relationship conditions that drain you of energy and give you no energy, I think we now understand how unsustainable that is how toxic that is, how intolerable that is. And when you get to be in situations, relationships. And that really is a bit of immunity against a sense of burnout. You still have to be careful about the ways you work and the extent to which you work. But I think people keep talking about my whole life, right? People have talked about work life balance and I used to keep thinking about how do those people do balance. And then I realized it's not balance. There's no balance. The very word connotes, this stasis that everything is in this perfectly aligned stasis, where it's not moving. And there's exactly symmetric. And I don't know anybody's life that has ever looked like that. And I certainly don't know any woman whose life has looked like that. And you can hear my dog, chiming in, in the background about the lack of balance. I've only known harmony and disharmony. And I think the minute I gave myself permission to stop chasing some false notion of balance and instead start chasing a very genuine notion of harmony and what harmony was for me, which sometimes meant it's only what my kids need or what my family needs and work has to take a backseat. And other times it was the thrill of what work needed, and everyone else had to take a backseat that doesn't look like balance. That's not symmetric, that's not stasis, but it was making me happy. And I think the minute I reframed that I didn't need balance, but I did need harmony. It again, gives you, I think the permission to recognize and start measuring opportunities based on, is this gonna contribute to my harmony, to my energy?
Or is it going to drain me? And you start looking at things through that lens. And I think it acts like a GPS about your next. Yeah.
And I think it also influences the people around you, right? Your colleagues and your family. They see that, just usage talked about toxicity within personal or outside that you perpetuate that.
So everyone's feeding off of that. So that balance comes from that standpoint. I agree work life balance is a myth doesn't exist. I think it's just, it's such a misnomer. I don't even know what it means anymore.
I think it's a harmful myth.
They should stop talking about it in writing about it and talk about something else and letting people decide what it is they want to do.
[31:39] Power Skills , don't call them Soft Skills
So I actually wanted to pivot you talking about soft skills and power skills. I know there's a reframing of them, Ms. Power skills, and I'm so glad it is done that way because collaboration, attitude, there's so many things that are so important to the workforce that are more transferable than just the technical piece that we've always focused on.
So I wanted you take some time to talk about that, especially as you see it, from your perspective in the role that you are in.
Vidya: Yeah. think the, in the term power skills, I don't remember who coined it, but the analyst, Josh Burson has written about it extensively and he says, the hard skills are actually the soft skills.
The soft skills are the hard skills. And he says that because the traditional thinking of hard skills, like a programming language or something like that, he says, that's actually the soft stuff because it keeps changing today. It's one language. No, we don't talk about Cobal or Fortran anymore.
These things change. But these other skills, the ones that we used to call soft skills, like communication, empathy, execution, cooperation, storytelling stakeholder management, change management, partnership, inclusive leadership. These are timeless. They are the hard ones. They don't change. They're not soft.
They are rock steady and they are always relevant. And I think it was very correct to reframe them as power skills because what we find, especially in a technology company and I would stay in any company. These are the skills that either empower or utterly disempower, every other skill you have. You could be the world's foremost expert in anything, but if you are not sufficiently articulate or you are a jerk, you are not going to be effective and this is actually gonna disempower you.
So I think there's a unprecedented recognition that power skills are truly vital, not just to conditions at work, but to strategy. They are actually the game changers for how all the other skills get applied to moving the needle on a business strategy. And I think that's why we are prioritizing them so very much at Erecsson.
[33:34] The art of Storytelling..Storytelling with Data
Yes. And the one that stands out to be most is storytelling, because I think as technologists engineers, it's not something that comes naturally in everything, even data needs to be told with a story. There's actually a book, I can't remember the author's name, she used to work in Google and she talks about telling data through stories, storytelling with data, and she's given talks on it and that's what she's worked on.
And it's quite fascinating to see how a pie chart versus a, this chart, even that simple story of storytelling can really change how decisions are made and how it impacts, the future. But I think there's the other lens of storytelling is when you're just conveying the message. So how does one acquire these storytelling skills,
cause it's not something you learn in school or it's not through the normal norms of learning it.
I think it is something that can be learned. I think it's a shame that they are not taught in school. So I do think first of all, the it's not. It's not correct that they're innate. They do may become more easily to some people than others because of maybe what they've been exposed to or what they've seen in their families or the practice that they've had, but they can be learned by anyone because there is a technique, there is a best practice, it is teachable. And so I think that's the first thing to recognize someone saying, I'm not good at it. It's just not me, someone else is good at it. Actually that is changeable. That's the soft part. You can actually change your proficiency in this, by engaging with it. Storytelling at the end of the day is really about creating shared purpose and communicating an idea that is so important that you need to mobilize other people and enlist other people into it. And the only way to do that is to have actually first clarity of thought and the way we teach storytelling, it's very much business storytelling.
So what it's trying to do is frame how you use inductive and deductive reasoning. To first have a logical flow of what you want to say. The messaging, it requires so much preparation. It's almost storyboarding before storytelling. Sometimes we think of the storytelling because we imagine this very persuasive speaker and dynamic and everyone listening. But actually that's almost the symptom. The cause is the thought that's gone into it. The choice of words, the idea itself, refining it, understanding the flow, how it should come across, how it should be articulated through data, what data actually work and make a user get captivated. And don't, these are all teachable.
So I think it is critical. And I think it's one of the most important skills, especially a technologist or an engineer could possibly ever have. I think it's vital to a leader because it's the way you show what you stand for as a leader. I think it's important for anyone who's operating in a place of driving change.
And I would say that's most of us today, very few of us work in jobs where our job is to maintain the status quo. It's not really part of the norm anymore. So most of us are working in the intersection of execution and change. This is actually the instrument of change
[36:25] Simon Sinek-Why, Range...Adapting to Change
And understanding what that brings, it goes to, you've probably heard this Ted talk by Simon Sinek on the why. Yes. Why it, why is it important? And I it's so classically done when he explains what apple sell and Dell cells and the other cell, it's the why part that differentiates it. Because when you're trying to drive change to an organization, people have to feel not that driven to it, but want to be part of it. And how do you get them engaged as part of the solution and wanting to provide those solutions and, pulling that wagon together, but not just , pushing it around.
You're so right. I read a quote once that said humans are not resistant to change. We are the most adaptable species on earth.
We are resistant to change that we don't feel part of. And so in that sense, storytelling is about how do you generate a very authentic feeling in someone that they are part of what you're saying, and they're part of the change. And that is all about starting with why as Sinek says, right? Because when you believe in what someone believes in, you're much more willing to ponder whatever it is they're activating.
And so I think this is such an essential tenet of storytelling. It's this art and science. I think that combines communication with psychology, with clarity of thought and logic. And I can't think of anything more relevant to anyone in any field because everything we do, I read this beautiful book called range, and it talks about how most of our problem solving environments today are not kind they're wicked.
They don't just benefit, the more expertise you have, the better off you are. You don't need just depth. You need this range of skills. You need the breadth of experiences. You need people. Who've had all these weird experiences to come together because you never know what it is. You're gonna draw upon in order to come up with solutions.
Think of problems like climate change, there's no easy solution. Think of racial inequity and poverty and disparity. There's no easy solution. Think of all the political strife. There's no easy solution. These are wicked problems and they require this diversity and range of thought, but that thought can't actually synergize with anybody.
Else's thought if it's poorly expressed. So literally storytelling becomes the mechanism for collaboration to happen effectively and at scale.
I love that book by David Epstein in the range, because I've read it a few times and that's a great book, a story when he talks about Tiger Woods and Roger Federer.
He uses that as an example, but that's the one that sticks in my mind and how maybe stepping back, how being a generalist is not a bad thing. You don't have to be an expert, everything because you can pull all these skills and like what you're calling these wicked problems. You are going to need all these different skills to bring all these thought processes, because it helps to look at it at a broader scale, but to convince people to join you on this bandwagon, you need to be able to tell a story.
And I think if anyone took away anything from this episode, they need to learn and figure out how to tell a story and figure out what their, why is, why for the story and why for their own purpose. I think those would be the two key takeaways to say, if you can define that, then that. will enable you in whichever way you're going, we call it, your calling, your fulfillment, solving the problems, whatever it is.
I think that is the way it should be done.
[39:32] Feedback..How to seek and process it
So if you go switch around that, we all look for feedback. We ask for feedback from people like peers, managers and stuff. As you said, you were trying to define what your talent was. How do you go and have that conversation? How do you do it in such a way that you get what you want,
cause sometimes you have to process it. To be Frank, there's also some biases, right? Just like all of us when people give you that, so you have to filter it. I think I heard someone once say, take what you want and leave what you don't want. You don't have to take everything that it's, even when I'm giving feedback, it's you don't have to take everything.
I tell you, there is a bias in it. So you have to choose what you take and what you don't want and where you want to go. Maybe different from where I think you need to go even to your own career conversation, when they're putting you in a certain career trajectory and you are like that's not where I wanna go.
Yes. The feedback is appreciated probably, but not necessarily for what I want to do. So how do they go about having that conversation and processing it?
I think you're right, that all feedback is contextual. I'm trying to remember the speaker and I think the author of the book, there's a book called the calling and the author.
Where is it? Raw goddess is the name of the author. And she quoted this beautiful African proverb that said be careful whose head you lay your lap. And what that meant was, be careful who you give access to, to give you feedback that you're really gonna internalize. Not all feedback is created equal.
Now, sometimes you can get very compelling feedback from someone who does not have your best interests at heart. So you're right. That you need to be having a sense of discretion over. Sometimes the message is valid. Even if the messenger is biased, and things like that, it does matter. But I think my take on feedback is very much, even more valuable than pure feedback is future focused attention.
When you really believe that someone has your best interests at heart, and they're giving you feedback, it's input to consider all feedback is just input. You decide what part of that input that you wanna act on, and you have to weigh your own input constantly in that process. As I said some of the most difficult decisions I was making about what I did wanna do and what I didn't wanna do.
I was getting feedback from all the people that I actually very much trusted and looked up to and admired and who I knew cared for me, including my family. Are you crazy? You wanna do this? You wanna go from this to this? Why, this is not a good move. This is a risky move. What do you know about this? They weren't wrong. And I chose not to act on it. And it was because I knew in that case, especially I had to weigh the feedback that was coming from me of what was making me happy and what wasn't. And so I think when it comes to feedback, having the conversations with people are very important because our ability to move, through the world of work is not just about doing a good job.
Of course it demands doing a good job in the day job and the job that we have , but it's also about cultivating the image of what is it that we stand for. Do emanate the signal of this is what I care about and And at least in my own crazy trajectory, if I'm brutally honest, the things that I did as side gigs, which were adjacent or even orthogonal to my day job and I did them after hours and I, them on the side, in many cases, those became the things that opened my new front door. Each time I made the. That is a tricky balance, because imagine telling you know, your manager that you are an engineer and you've been an engineer, you're an engineering manager, you're doing your job well. And you wanna pivot into this thing that you've never demonstrated that you have any competence in. You have to understand that very few people are gonna say, okay. And so there was a period when I knew it had to be on my own time and on my own dime that I invested in myself to learn about learning in my case. And I think we have to be, again, it comes down to also the courage sometimes and having the circumstances and the privilege to be able to make those investments. We don't always, not everyone has that, but believing that you're worth it and fighting for that, self investment, if you will and not expecting that you're going to get all green lights from all the people around you. I think that's part of it. Sometimes feedback is about being able to impassionately, listen to people you do, and don't trust. Tell you what they really think of you and be able to synthesize it all, but also be true to yourself on what you'll finally decide to act upon.
Should be with this clarity of what you're expecting from them. You shouldn't, I think just give someone else the control over how to steer your life.
Very true. I think it's about the control part, right? Because you can choose to completely let all of it go if you change your mind and that's perfectly fine.
[44:20] Advocacy... Three steps to even the playing field
It is your life that you are choosing to make the decision. Yes, there's family, this community, there's everything that impacts it. But I think you touched on another part, it talks about advocacy.
We talk about mentorship and we talk about our careers and things like that, but there's not a lot of discussion around advocacy and advocates and who they are and how do you find them? And yeah, the other part is very often the people who advocate for you are not the people you would necessarily expect.
You said, like someone, yes. That you may not be aligned with giving you feedback, but that might be the most critical feedback. Or in some cases you hear of them being the advocates for you and not the person you're expecting to advocate for you.
Yeah. It's very true.
And it's very challenging to figure that out.
I feel like now we are talking about advice for early mid-career, people who are trying to find that even for, figure out how do you decide what it is you wanna do? How do you upskill? How do you find those right opportunities, but how do you learn to advocate for yourself?
How do you use and strengthen your voice when you're doing this.
First I think advocacy of that nature is not just for early career or mid-career, and I'm probably neither one of them, but I still think I need this advice and I still intend to act on this advice. So I think that's the first thing. I don't think there's any stage in which we don't need to act on that advice, but I think the advocacy, as you said, just mentorship, which is about guidance and coaching, and then there's sponsorship, which it's about action and advocacy and we need both. And this is I think, a critical tenant of the work I'm proud to be part of with Ericsson and the girl Scouts where it really is about being a champion and an advocate and an activist on behalf of girls and this to me has to come from three things. First. It has to be access. I think a real advocate and sponsor gives people access. You can see me and you can see me as I am my authentic self. All of the failures, all of the quirkiness. I don't try to project this fake illusion that, oh, look, she's so put together.
She has it all. No, I'm not . And so I think first of all, it's accessibility, so people can see you and learn from you what you're doing well, what you're not doing well. And I think that's crucial accessibility. The second is access, which means you actively are working to create opportunities, to recruit people into things, to give them chances, to prove themselves, even before they have shown you, they can do it.
I think that's the key that every critical juncture in my life, someone was taking a chance on me. Someone was definitely taking a chance on me. Someone gave me the chance to work in learning before I had ever really proven that I could. Someone gave me the privilege of joining the people function at Ericsson before I ever had a chance to really prove that I could.
They took a chance on me. Of course, I hope I showed, every reason to take that chance, but they did actually take a chance on me. So I think access is the second part of that. We have to create access and opportunities for people, and sometimes it means taking a chance on people.
And then I think the third part of advocacy is making sure that the access we create is enriching, giving people access in the form of opportunities that just create more and more toxic conditions. That's not access, if anything that's, I think almost undermining . I think we need to make sure that we don't just create access, but we create enrichment in the access.
The access has to be generative. It has to actually create learning and improvement and give those people a chance to shine. I think that's what advocacy means. I think that's what we have to be for each other. And we are entering a world of work. That's more multi-generational than ever before in human history. So this advocacy has to come literally across generational boundaries. I think nothing less than that is going to allow people to flourish.
Yes. And I'm glad you pointed out that the advocacy is not only for early and mid-career, everyone needs it and it's an equal opportunity platform. One of the guests I was talking to Alaina Percival. She leads just a co-founder and CEO of women who code it's non-profit organization, which creates basically a diverse and equitable place for women to find a platform to gain not only leadership skills, but also network amongst themselves. And lot of research shows that men sometimes are promoted for potential, but women for their skillset. And there, she talks about access. Unless someone is given a platform to, to shine or not shine, whatever that may be, unless you've given that, how do you even take that next step? You're not on an even playing field. If one person is given the next step. It's just by the sheer factor of giving that opportunity, you've already given them a heads up. So unless you level that playing field, and I'm not trying to just focus it and access that piece, but it needs to be equitable because that is the only way we are going to drive this diversity.
It's not about . Saying, oh, I'm going to promote a women. No, it is not about that. Give them the access like you said to shine and make it a challenging or enriching environment, because that is what makes them want to give the next person the access, because that is how we are going to lift ourselves up.
An environment where you have their back, and I think that's what I'm saying for me, it's first be accessible so that they can see how human you are and understand that it's totally attainable and there's nothing mythical about you and there's nothing, perfect and this is reality. I think that's so important. And then the access has to be to opportunities that. They get to prove themselves. And it has to be taking a chance on people and many consulting companies. I think this is the way they attract so much talent. People join those companies, knowing they're gonna learn that they're frequently going to get assignments where they are sink or swim, rather than first, I prove that I can do the job and then I get the job. Problem with some of those environments is there's a lot of people who sink. And so that's why I think the third thing is you got to have their back so that they don't sink and that is where learning happens and that's where growth happens. I think that level of advocacy is no longer something to be seen as a nice, to have special gift, but rather it's got to become more and more what we expect from one another. And especially I think what women, especially senior women in a working environment give to each other.
We always say it takes a village to raise a female leader. This is how we have to be the village for each other.
Yeah. And like you said, it's not a privilege, but it should be something that is expected and when so many people are sinking, you really need to look at your own organization and introspect and say, what is it that you're not doing for it to be a successful place?
Yes, Completely agree.
[50:41] Note to 21year old self
This is a question I ask every one of my guests. What advice would you give your 21 year old self for their future and career in life and to be successful or what the definition of success may be?
I think it would be trust yourself. There was so much time that I didn't, but deep down, I knew what I loved.
I knew where I was gaining and where I was draining. And I think I would have told myself, trust yourself even more. Don't doubt. Don't be afraid.
Listen to that infusion that we don't think about much.
There are many voices in our heads, right? There's the one that's constantly criticizing you.
There's the one that's telling you, oh, you're an imposter, wait till they find out. And then there's that one that I think is a lot quieter and sometimes not as loud, that is actually truth. And it is an act of courage and maybe even an act of discipline to get past those loud voices of criticism, to the one deeper inside of you.
That is actually telling you, I love this. I don't love this. This is making me feel good. This is not, this is giving me energy. This is not, we tend to stop listening to that one. We even sometimes we'd lose the ability to hear it at all.
That's good advice. I think we should all listen to it. Listen to our own inner voices as you call it. Yeah. And what is the one word you would use to describe yourself?
learning. I still very much feel I'm all of this is just a big learning journey. That's why I love learning. That's why I love to work in this space and I feel that I'm constantly learning about learning. I'm constantly learning what my next is and learning what I need to unlearn. So I think that has been very much the red thread.
That's what makes it fun and keeps you so much energized. You can totally see the passion coming through
lucky I get to work in my TOP every day. Yeah.
Sirisha: I think that's what for people to take away, is to go figure out what the TOP and find that opportunity to define themselves and see, and look for advocates and make sure for those who have the platform to do it, make sure that they're making the playing field level, be it men or women, or whichever diversity workforce you look into to make that an even playing field so that people can all have a saying.
[52:50] Multigenerational impact from limited access to Education & Opportunities ...Pay it Forward
Their career and that trajectory because when we think of career and trajectory to me, I start it's more in my mind. It's like it impacts families. It impacts multi-generational families, it's not just, Hey, I take home a paycheck. It's that if you are the first college student in your family, then the next generation and the next generation COVID, to me, I think the impact is yet to be seen two to three generations from now, for those who didn't have access to education, because families like say in India or in the, us, wherever they didn't have the opportunity or access because of economic reasons and were pushing for education.
Once you take a step back, it's hard to catch up, because the mom very often is the one pulling those pieces together and you've impacted multiple generations and it is very disheartening to see that
as things go by.
I think it's a horrific tragedy, how the conditions, have deteriorated for so many working mothers for, especially disproportionately for minorities and those who are economically disadvantaged and their feeling of being unable to continue in the workforce is I would say it's such an, a threat to our future wellbeing as a society. And we have to recognize that creating conditions where everyone, but especially women who really are, the heads of their families, they are the change agents of their communities. They are role models for the next generation where women feel that working at the intersection of their developing talent, their purpose and meaningful access to opportunities is not a privilege for a few, but a birthright and the ultimate act of self love. because when you do that for yourself, you are able to be there for your family and your loved ones in a completely different way. In terms of financial enablement as well as wellbeing, as well as being taken care of and being, feeling a sense of belonging. We to treat that when I talk about making the future of work for everyone, that's precisely what I'm talking about.
Those bold things are benefits that are now becoming table stakes.
Very true. I think you said it's eloquently. It's important that everyone has that irrespective of where they are. I see myself like, having had a fairly privileged life, whether economically or not, but educationally for sure
and that puts a burden in a way. And it is something that I have to own to see that, what do you do for the others? Not just your immediate family, because you have to pass it on it's a luck of the draw that you pull the long story, you pull the short straw. So what do you do now?
You have to pay it forward, right? You have to pay this forward because you realize that education is maybe that one thing that the more you get, the more it grows, the more you share it, the more it grows, it never diminishes. It only pays forward and you have a duty, not just a responsibility, but absolutely a sacred duty to make that possible for people who don't otherwise have it.
Thank you, Vidya. This has been a lot of fun. I really enjoyed chatting with you and learning so much as well.
And I think if anyone took away anything from this episode, they need to learn and figure out how to tell a story and figure out what their, why is, why for the story and why for their own purpose. I think those would be the two key takeaways to say, if you can define that, then that will enable you in whichever way you're going, we call it, your calling, your fulfillment, solving the problems, whatever it is.
I think that is the way it should be done.
And I would love to hear your perspective on which was the one tip you heard, or you thought differently that you wanna share with me.
You can reach me by email at women, carry it in email@example.com. And I would love to hear from you.
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