Ep 44: Navigating Career Challenges as an immigrant: From Engineer to Senior Vice President - Deepa
Updated: May 8
In this episode, Deepa shares her experiences as an immigrant climbing the corporate ladder, the challenges she faced with work visas, and the importance of mentors in furthering your career. She also provides insights on advocating for yourself, getting and processing feedback, and staying current on your skill set. We unpack a lot of valuable insights, including how to advocate for yourself to your managers, the importance of mentors in getting feedback and furthering your career, and how to articulate what you want during performance reviews. Deepa also shares tips on how to present to executive leaders, how to take career risks, and the lessons she learned from failure. As an immigrant, Deepa faced unique challenges with work visas and the immigrant experience. She provides insights on how to overcome these challenges and stay current on your skill set, including leveraging LinkedIn and improving your writing and speaking skills. In the episode takeaway, Deepa provides an action list for listeners to implement in their career journeys. This episode is a must-listen for anyone facing career challenges as an immigrant or looking to further their career with the help of mentors and effective communication skills. Deepa is an immigrant from India who came to the US for graduate school.
She has traversed various industries and roles from being an engineer on the manufacturing floor to Senior Vice President. She is a Customer-centric and results-oriented leader spearheading organizational transformations and continuous improvement; to the next level of growth and success. Her experience and expertise span multiple areas including Customer Success, Operational Excellence, Business Process Supply Chain – Planning, Procurement, Sourcing, Logistics, and Warehousing.
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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT OVERVIEW
[00:00] INTRO [Jump to section]
[00:43] Meet Deepa [Jump to section]
[05:18] Access to Information [Jump to section]
[06:00] Deepa's climb up the corporate ladder to VP [Jump to section]
[09:10] Being an Immigrant...Work Visa Status, constraints & Complications...Mentors[Jump to section]
[10:36] Unpack a lot- Advocating for yourself- To you Managers [Jump to section]
[13:48] The importance of Mentors to further your career and Getting feedback [Jump to section]
[15:13] Articulating what you want, Performance Review, Getting and Processing Feedback [Jump to section]
[17:47] Mentors [Jump to section]
[20:48] If you have had a long tenure in a Company and are thinking of moving...what do you do [Jump to section]
[26:29] Presenting to Executive Leaders [Jump to section]
[28:02] You are not likely to get tapped on the shoulder so how do you get the right opportunity...Well Ask for it [Jump to section]
[30:40] Failure is OK...You will learn a lot... Biggest lessons...Taking career risks...it can pay off [Jump to section]
[31:52] Challenges of Immigrant Visa, Immigrant Experience [Jump to section]
[35:38] Staying current on your skill set... Leveraging LinkedIn [Jump to section]
[38:44] Writing and Speaking skills are very critical [Jump to section]
[40:25] Episode Takeaways... Your action list [Jump to section]
[41:22] Note to your 21-year-old self [Jump to section]
PODCAST DETAILED TRANSCRIPT
Sirisha: Hello everyone and welcome to the Women Career and Life podcast. This is your host, Dr Sirisha Kuchimanchi, a former tech executive at Texas Instruments, a Fortune 200 company, a speaker, a working mom, and an ever-reader. In this podcast, you will hear stories and practical advice for you to achieve your career and life goals. I also wanna say a big thank you to our listeners for continuing to support this podcast and making it in the top 30% of Spotify podcasts. If you wanna continue to support this indie-produced show, you can either buy me a cup of chai, I am not a coffee drinker, or you can become a monthly or annual subscriber. You will find more information. In the show notes.
[00:43] Meet Deepa
Sirisha: I have Deepa With Me, who is a vice president and a global supply chain executive who's worked in various organizations Deepa and I connected at the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers Cpro, which was doing a webinar where she was a keynote speaker. We connected over LinkedIn and have had many different chats and some of the conversations We are gonna carry over to today's podcast. So today we'll be talking about leadership, and how she's grown into these senior leadership roles, but it's also looking at it from a different aspect because both DPA and I are from India and came our first generation immigrants in the US and also women of color. So we will be talking about our own experiences and how it impacts our careers, the challenges, and also the positive things that you take away from those lived experience and looking at them from that viewpoint. So the part, thank you for being here. I'm looking forward to today's conversation.
Deepa: Thank you, Sirisha. I'm excited and thank you for having me as a part of your program. I'm looking forward to the conversation as well.
Sirisha: Definitely. give me some background and for the listeners as well, and how have you got what you're doing today and what do you do at this point in.
Deepa: So my background like you said, I'm a first-generation immigrant. I was born and raised. Pretty traditional Southern Indian family. I was born, raised in Bangalore, India, and I got my bachelor's in industrial engineering there and I came to the United States of America almost 20 years ago when to pursue my master's in industrial engineering. The reason I chose industrial engineering was, You know how most, most times you follow your parents, and I was the biggest fan of my dad my dad was a mechanical engineer and he was an industrialist. So I was fascinated by operations in manufacturing and I always wanted to be in it. And when I was taking up or choosing my options for engineering, not many women were in mechanical engineering. Almost none I think. And industrial engineering was pretty. Newly formed course work if I could say even that did not have many women. I think in my class, only less than 10% of us, and I'm exaggerating, 10%, maybe less than 5% of us were women. But I thought, okay, industrial engineering and management are going to be along the lines of mechanical engineering. I could probably run my dad's business someday. And that's why I took up industrial engineering. And after that, always wanted to pursue my master's. And somehow at that point, although nobody in my family came to the United States to pursue their masters, I learned more about it. And I was excited about the fact that I could maybe go to the United States, pursue my career and do something different. And that's how I came here. And got my mass master's in Michigan Kalamazoo, Michigan, which. Compared to where I was raised in a tropical country, was an extremely cold and extremely huge adjustment that I had to make. Which, when you are in India, you think you know cold, but you don't until you are in a city where it snows six months in a year and it's, the temperatures are below, zero all the time. So it was it. Interesting. It was great. It changed me as a person in a very good way. I learned a lot and it's made me the person I am today. So that's my background.
Sirisha: as you said, when you come from the tropics to the cold, I went to school in Pittsburgh, so yes, it's quite different. And you realize that you cannot buy a winter jacket in a location that does not experience winter. It doesn't work It's not meant for the weather.
Deepa: if you don't know anybody in the US you don't know what to expect and there is nobody to guide you. So that was also my problem, that when I came here, I did not know where to buy stuff. Most of my Michigan time, and I stayed there for five, or six years. I worked there as well. I can just remember the cold and the wet feeling of Michigan.
Sirisha: and you bring up a really good point. I think that's the challenge when you're a first-generation immigrant, no matter from which place you come because unless you have family or some extended friends that can guide you, that's always hard. Since we spend a lot of time on this podcast talking about carrier and leadership and finances, those are not necessarily the conversations you're having at home. Even if you're hanging out with people, that's the reason we need forums to have those conversations and find advocates and mentors to guide us through it, cuz it's very hard to navigate and why do we have to tread the same path if somebody's already figured out a way? That's what I struggle with. Why can't we get a leg up and move forward faster?
[05:18] Access to Information
Deepa: Absolutely. I think having podcasts like this and there are so many forums these days online that are available. Google is everyone's friend and LinkedIn is out there. You could reach out to people. When I started, there was nothing like that, but I'm just so excited about this new generation where they can reach out to people. And I do my best. I get so many contacts via LinkedIn, but, it's almost impossible to reply to everyone. But I do try my best to at least give back in some way because, at least with the new generation, should have access to information. That's the basic that we can do. , thank you. For people like you who are doing podcasts like this is only gonna help spread that information easily.
[06:00] Deepa's climb up the corporate ladder to VP
Sirisha: Yeah definitely. And for guests like you to share that. there are indeed information equity problems as well. We talk about a lot of equity and having equitable conversations, but if you don't have access it's the same challenge. So you are currently vice president and a global supply chain executor.
So how did you climb the career ladder to get where you are and what are the challenges you faced and how did you tackle those?
Deepa: So I think I told you a little bit about how I took up my industrial engineering coursework. I saw my dad grow from nothing to being an industrialist. All that always motivated me and somehow, I think naturally I was a very ambitious person even from the start because I always wanted to become, Executive and run a big company that was always there, even as a kid. I came to the US with the same intention. Sometimes the word ambitious, nobody wants to use it. It's not a bad word. It's a good word. You should be ambitious. Ambition can be different for different people. Ambitious is a healthy word to use. So I came here with the same ambition that I had in India and now I did not know how to get there. I did not even know the path, but I was always very intentional. I always like to think about everything in threes and five, so I'll just stick to three important things that are needed wherever you wanna go in your career. One. Be very diligent about the work that you're doing. So you have to give results. That's very important. And as you give results and people start seeing that you're excelling in your work, don't hesitate to ask for more work. So you're doing one thing. Don't hesitate to expand into other regions and, ask for extended projects, that's. Second, you have to make everyone aware around you that you wanna grow. It's very difficult for people coming from. Asian countries. I'll talk about me. I was not told, or I was not taught to speak out what you want it. That was considered not a very good thing to do, especially for girls. So I was not taught that I had to teach myself that. I had to teach myself that it's okay to say that I wanna grow into a manager or a director or a vice president. , it took me some time. It was not that I got in and I started doing all this. I had to learn that, in America, if you wanna grow, you have to be able to say that to your manager. Last, but not least, you have to do all this with high levels of, integrity, right? You cannot lose that at any point in time and stay honest. And those three things, I always kept in my mind as I went through the different steps in my career. Was it easy? Nothing is easy. I don't think so. Even for people born here, I don't think getting to any executive level is easy. I do think sometimes it's easier for some than others. So I would put myself in the others category because I had to consistently go after it, and be intentional about it. But I do wanna say also being an immigrant, I have so many other barriers that come along with my career, right?
[09:10] Being an Immigrant...Work Visa Status, constraints & Complications...Mentors
Deepa: I have to manage to be in a different country. I have to manage, nobody wants to talk about this, but the work visa situation is a big deal too. You have to find a company that sponsors your work visa. It's one thing to be ambitious. It's one thing to say, I wanna work. For the aerospace industry, if that's your dream as an immigrant, you can't even work in the aerospace industry because you know you're not a citizen. So sometimes you need to pick what is it that you wanna do. , it's always trying to get a company which will sponsor you a visa and then do your best there and grow as much as you can. So really being intentional has helped me. I've struggled ma mainly because I've been in manufacturing all my life, and manufacturing is not very friendly with women and you don't see many women leaders, it's getting better. Of course. Not many South Asian women. I don't know how many South Asian women you've seen in manufacturing and operations, but I have a hard time trying to find that, trying to find women with mentors and sponsors in manufacturing and operations. So it was a path that I was taking by myself without understanding where I'm gonna get, and I did not have anyone to look up to either. So to say that it's been, challenging is gonna be an understatement. But, I enjoyed the challenge. I sought out great mentors who pulled me up and pushed me forward which was helpful as well...
[10:36] Unpack a lot- Advocating for yourself- To you Managers
Sirisha: there's so much to unpack in what you just said. She touched on so many things I was going to take in bite-size. But let's start with a couple of things. I think it goes without saying, as you've said correctly you have to deliver the results no matter what you're doing that's a given and asking for the roles. So I call it being brave at work and that's what I talked about at SA when I gave the webinar, because we don't think to ask, and as a person sitting on the other side, having the conversation with my management and as sitting as a manager on the other side, I see both aspects and everyone has so much on their plate. They do not know what you want and what you are thinking. So you have to articulate what you want and then they can help you find it and, find the right mentors and the opportunity. So that goes without saying, and the challenge is, South Asian and from talking to people from different parts of Asian culture and it's not just Asian culture and sense, but it does have a high tendency to, in inculcate certain cultural aspects of being humble, not speaking about yourself, not advocating for yourself. And I struggle with it just like you did. I had this. The leader talked to me and he encapsulated my journey in the last years and said, when you started, you were so quiet, then you started to slowly flourish and now you are very vocal about what you want and it's been very intentional decisions to want to do that because it's very hard to do it and you don't have the right way to do it. You struggle with, whether am I being bombastic or showing off, but am I still delivering results? It's a very fine line. No matter which culture you're from. I think it's also a hard path for women to tread because it is a double-edged sword in the sense that it's if you ask and if you don't ask, the lens that someone views it through is so different. So I think of it as a sign of damned if you do a damn if you don't. So you're stuck in this very narrow path and it's a very perception challenge that you struggle with. There are so many articles. Research shows that it's. A fine line that you have to figure out. So you need so many advocates who still understand that you are going to do it differently and be there for you and allies to speak to you in that sense. So the other part of it is when you're looking at this conversation and people are advocating and helping you along, how do you leverage that? How do you find them? How do you get people to see that aspect?
Deepa: Not easy. You have to be again, intentional. You, you said something very good, very well. You talked about articulating it. I think I'm an extrovert and I am an extrovert, but. people assume that if you're an extrovert, it must be easy for you to talk about yourself. Easy for you to say what you want. That's not true. It's two different things. My personality is an extrovert, meaning that I could pick up a conversation with anyone. I could go, and mingle with several people. It doesn't mean that I can articulate well what I want out of my career. I struggle with it... And also I did not know anything about having mentors. And this is probably true for many people. Maybe it's better now, I don't know. But I still think a lot of South Asians or Asian culture, they don't know how to seek out mentors.
[13:48] The importance of Mentors to further your career and Getting feedback
Deepa: I had that problem as well. I still remember this very vaguely when, in one, one of the companies I had, I was a program manager and I was. Again, the ambition is still there, right? And I have not told anyone that I'm ambitious and I wanna grow. And I took up every project that came my way, sometimes extended projects, and I delivered everything within time, great savings and all that stuff. And I assumed when a role opened up, they'll just automatically consider me for that role. And when they hired somebody from outside, I was so sad. again for a 24, 25-year-old girl without having anyone to go to. I went, I remember going back home and crying. That has happened too. And then I stepped back and I thought, okay, how do I, what do I do? What do I do to grow without understanding how to seek out mentors? I just started talking to a few people and., somebody told me, Hey, you know what? You should find a mentor. And I'm, and this is naïve and maybe sounds silly, but I remember asking this one. What's, what do you mean by a mentor who is a mentor? Should I go ask somebody? Are you gonna be a mentor? Is that how it works? I had no clue. Over time I have realized, I know how important it is to have mentors. So I, anyone who's listening to this, say, Men mentors don't just happen overnight. You have to be close to the person.
[15:13] Articulating what you want, Performance Review, Getting and Processing Feedback
Deepa: You have to be able to have a discussion. It's two-way communication. So slowly I started to connect with people and I started to ha have discussions about my career plans. And look, this happened to me just a few months ago. What do I do? What's, what am I doing wrong? And then somebody gave me honest feedback. They were like, nobody knows what your career plans are, you're not telling anyone. And there is a process when we do the performance review and if you are. Gonna get your performance review from your manager. That's when you talk about what your plans are. Are you gonna move, are you ready to move? Are you ready to make changes in your life? What is the next step that's good for you? Have all those discussions. So it was not an overnight thing. It was from the time I was so sad about somebody else getting that role. to the time I started to articulate it was almost a year gap because it took me that much time to find people, talk to them, understand what the process is and all that kind of stuff. So I think. Finding mentors was not easy. You have to have that strong relationship. And also remember, it's a two-way communication. And the mentors also gained something from the mentees, right? I have so many mentees right now. I always gained something from them. They are 10 years younger than me. They know so much about the world. They see the world in different ways. I gain from them, they gain from me as well. I'm, I don't think you can just go ask somebody and they become your mentor overnight. I don't think that is the best way to find mentors. You have to be intentional. You have to spend time and you have to be ready to take feedback. I was open and that's, I think, was, I feel that's that was my strength. I was open to very strong feedback. I was open to change. Not change my authentic self, but whether it is, just how I communicate. Slow down a little bit. My PowerPoint presentations. How should I communicate? How should I present to the executive leadership team? So I'm just giving a few examples, but I was ready to take tough feedback from the mentors. One, seek out your mentors. Find who is that person who you could confide with, who you could be comfortable with, and then be ready to take very open feedback from your mentors because if you're not ready for feedback and if you're gonna be very defensive or if you're gonna get upset about it, then there's no value in that because mentors slowly become your sponsors as well. That's the ultimate thing.
Sirisha: And, when you talk about mentors, I did a whole season on it because, to your point, we don't know we need it. I have had tremendous mentors along the way, and some of them have been there for many years. and it's an investment, It's a safe space. You are having a conversation. You get to know each other well, but it is a slow organic growth process. It doesn't, like you say, flip a switch. You don't, it's not something you go and ask someone saying, be a mentor. I've tried formal programs, but they're quite challenging because you don't have that connection and you have to find a common ground to speak on.
Deepa: And I've been in formal programs, meaning in many companies where they started mentorship programs, and I was a mentor. I'm on it and I don't have a problem with that, but I find it challenging because you cannot help people with, a two-month mentorship program or a three-month mentorship program. My mentors, I have two or three mentors. I've had them for 10 years right now. So it's the same people I go back to and I'm open to getting feedback from them. So it's like you said, it's an investment.
Sirisha: Yes. And getting feedback. Also, it's hard for people to give feedback because they have to feel comfortable that you are going to process it with the right spirit. And if you're not willing to take it, then it's not gonna get you forward. It's about how you maybe tell storytelling, how you present, and how you stand in the room. What is your sort of executive presence? It's those things that you will not know unless someone tells you and gives you that feedback immediately. especially if you're, ambitious and want to grow.
Deepa: Absolutely. Totally.
Sirisha: because the thing is when you're asking for the roles that you want, when you were talking about not getting it, there's so many stories that sort of, popped in. So I was talking to a friend recently who's also trying to grow into her roles. One challenge that people can have when they're in an organization I've heard from many people. We all will have sponsors, but if, you only have a single sponsor or a single point of contact that can be a hardship because you need to build a network because if that sponsor moves, and I've had a lot of people who I know who sponsors have moved, they've got stuck in their roles and the role that, this person was trying to get promoted into the senior role, it didn't even show up. There was no one to advocate for them. When the discussion came up and it became the discussion around, were you getting projects that. like the hill size or the mountain size, and it depends on what access you have. So it goes back to that access we were talking about. To get opportunities, you have to be given the right projects, but you're only given the right projects. You ask for what you want and you have to have clarity on what you want. Also, just asking is not enough, or at least you have to know what you don't want and be able to draw some clear boundaries so they can help you navigate, do some stretch roles, for you to build that network as you and it's good to start building the network, not just inside your organization because in your case you have moved companies, so you've to broaden that horizon. So what do you tell someone? Because you also often meet people not, it's not the case so much for the people who are entering the workforce in the last five, 10 years.
[20:48] If you have had a long tenure in a Company and are thinking of moving. What do you do
Sirisha: But more often than not, there have been people who've been, had long careers in a certain organization, but they're kind of thinking of moving, but it's very hard for them. process, and how to make that change. It's the risk tolerance is very low because you've never had to move either organizations or your role or your company, but you wanna try something new and they get there, but then they never wanna cross the finish line. Yeah. How can they reframe that conversation in their mind?
Deepa: you have to be very clear. When I said I was ambitious for a, for as long as I've known it. And I have been intentional and I've been intentional the whole time. Giving results, and connecting with people. We, you talked about sponsors moving out, that can happen. I know I've heard of the term create your board of directors. , trust me, you could do all that and everybody could leave. So it's good to create that board of directors so that at least you can get projects that are, high visibility big changes to the company. I and I've done all that, which is great. I think that's what I expect from my board of directors. I have never till date, and I say this very honestly, I have never till date. Gotten any role without an interview. Every job that I have gotten is because of an interview process and I have spent hours on interviews when I have, so that makes me feel good about the fact that, nobody has just handed me anything. Over just like that and said, here you go. I'm promoting you from one level to another. That has not happened. Kudos to people who get that. I know that happens to a few people, but not with me. To move companies, it takes a lot of courage and I don't think it's bad to stay in the same company. Sometimes staying in the same company could also mean slower growth... But if you're giving results and if you have those board of directors who are also in the company for 25, 30 years, you'll probably see results and I've seen that happen. I did not wanna wait, I did not wanna wait 25, or 30 years initially for the, for many years, for at least 10, or 12 years of my life. most of, the changes that I made were heavily dependent on who's gonna gimme a work visa, right? So when I changed industries, I was not intentional about changing industries. I was just looking for the next best role that fits me and my expertise. It so happened, it worked out for me. Today after being in four different industries, my learning curve has been amazing. As related to the supply chain, I have seen so many different systems do so many different products. and have had great, I have a great level of understanding. I feel like I can perform better because of my experience in these four different industries. So it worked out for me and it was good. And I, today feel good about changing industries, but again, every change I interviewed and I think that's the biggest fear, most of them. I've interviewed people just, offline asking them what makes them stay for 25, or 30 years. Some stay for 40 years in the same company. And the feedback I've gotten, they gimme multiple reasons about how the company has been so good and that they love what they're doing and all that is true. But at the end, they also add another caveat, and they're like, it's also comfort. , right? They have never put together a resume. They've never had, they've never had to interview. So they're just nervous. They don't even know where to start... I also had that problem when I was moving out of a company. First time after 13 years. It was nerve-wracking, believe it or not, Sirisha. I've never used an outside agency to put together my resume. I have nothing against it. I think people should do it because it makes it much easier. But for me, that process of thinking about what have I done for the past 15 years. , putting it all down in two pages, making it impactful, and preparing for an interview. It helped me quite a bit. It helped me look into my past and I think when people worry about how do I step out of this? Comfort zone, and I'm I say comfort zone, not because they're not challenged in the work, but you do get comfortable, right? When you're in a company for a long time, it's like family, okay? You know everybody. You know who you're talking to every day. So it's a change. I say start it. There's no harm in at least starting your resume. It takes at least two months to put together your resume. It's a good start. Give interviews, you'll fail in interviews, and then you'll know how to get better, so I think. Don't go out there thinking you want a job. Just give an interview. Just put together a resume. It's gonna help you at least think about everything that you've done in the past 20 years. If you have 20 years of experience, 15 years, whatever that is, I think it's the courage that you need to take the step, step forward a little bit every day. It's not easy though. I understand why it's difficult for many people to give an interview for a vice president role for three months. is not easy, but you know if you want it. That's again, how much can you push yourself? How important is this?
Sirisha: There is a parallel here, right? When you're practicing for the interview and you're practicing to ask for that next role, even with your management, you have to practice and even if you don't choose to move outside your company, I think working through that resume process will let you pivot inside your organization.
Deepa: Bingo. I did practice. I started practicing.
[26:29] Presenting to Executive Leaders
Deepa: When I was starting to give a lot of presentations to leaders, executive leaders, and one of my mentors was an executive leader in my previous company. He was at a senior VP level and I used to present to him and the C F O and all together and that's when one of my mentorship sessions, he told me how fast I speak and how sometimes I, am not very clear. When I'm saying words and he said, go and record yourself. Again, being an extrovert and being, being there and giving a presentation, two different things. You could be an extrovert and very comfortably have a conversation in a room, but when you present to a room full of leaders, you have to know how you sound. When you give an interview, you have to know how you sound. The first time I was a keynote speaker in one of the sessions in San Diego, I practiced. I wrote down the questions and I said it aloud multiple times. I recorded my hard work again. Hard work is, I don't like to use the word hard work because hard work can mean different to different people. but you have to put the F word and you have to put in time for everything. It's not going to be easy, especially when you come from a different country. as an immigrant, your accent is different. Your style of speaking is different, coming from India.
[28:02] You are not likely to get tapped on the shoulder so how do you get the right opportunity...Well Ask for it
Sirisha: You should just practice what you've done, and highlight your skills because it just articulates for you if situations change that you're ready for it. , you were talking about having interviewed for every single role. And it's the same in my case because there are people who get tapped on the shoulder, but it's not as often as we think and I think of it as also, I still go back to thinking in my mind, it's like access, right? You have to know people in your network who are going to give you an accent, and it's not easy to get access. It's like a ladder. You have to be in the first round to climb the second, third, and fourth. If you never get on the first trunk and the opportunity doesn't arise, you are not going to climb up and not get so there was this Ellen Ochoa's first Latin American astronaut from NASA, and she was the director of one of NASA's big institutions. And in her story, she says, I think she was the deputy director, was expecting to be promoted to the. But she didn't get the role and then realized the same conversation that she didn't articulate what she wanted. So it happens for everyone at every single level. If you have enough conversations with senior leaders, even their stories, you'll find that, oh, I didn't get the first one because I didn't know I had to ask. So everyone has had to ask and figure out how and it's taking that feedback, realizing what you want to do, what is important to you, like you said, integrity, but also to your values and where you want to go, and being able to be clear within that because so that you can be happy wherever you end up in whatever role you might follow through.
Deepa: Yeah, and the tap on the shoulder, it's now. 17 years since I've, been in a career in the global supply chain. I don't know who these people are who get tapped on the shoulder. I'm not one among them. I still don't know how to nail that. I don't even know how to get access. And initially in, as I started in the five, eight years of my career, I'm not gonna lie I did feel bad about not knowing people, not being in that group of, I don't know, what do you call it? The access group. I was not a part of it. I could see it. Now I'm more comfortable with it. I know that the only way out is just continuing to do my job. But don't put your head and head down and do your job. Do your job. Do be very good at it. and be comfortable articulating it and saying, Hey, you know what? I was damn good at this. I wanna grow. I wanna be here. Tell me how do I get there? And that's what we need to be able to do.
[30:40] Failure is OK...You will learn a lot... Biggest lessons...Taking career risks...it can pay off
Deepa: And I think again, the South Asian culture I'll talk about myself. We don't take failures very well. We don't like to hear you didn't do a good job. , I've gotten comfortable with that. It's okay to fail sometimes. Failures are your biggest, lessons in life and you make something out of every failure. So don't be disheartened if you fail at a project and it's not gonna take 10 steps back. So go out there and raise your hand for the toughest project when the toughest project is announced in the room without worrying about failure. , it's okay to fail. Everybody fails. People who have gotten, I've seen so many people who have failed and have gotten promoted because they took up a big challenge and they were the only ones who were ready to do it. So that also has worked out for me many times when I took up the biggest challenge cuz, which no one was ready to do. And. I did well in that and, I was recognized. So I think there are multiple different ways you can go about it. Again, tapping on the shoulder is not one that I've been in.
Sirisha: Yeah, because those skills and that experience, no one's taking from you whether you get the next role or you don't do a great job. You've learned something from it. and people recognize that as well.
[31:52] Challenges of Immigrant Visa, Immigrant experience
Sirisha: And you were talking about, the challenge of being on an immigrant visa, which a lot of the layoff stories are evolving around that. I even see articles on b BBC talking about it and everywhere else because that is a challenge that, when you go through that process to get to find a job is very hard. The experience of being an immigrant. We've been talking about sort of the challenges. I think the positive side of it, one of the huge positive factors is because you have lived in multiple cultures and have different lived experiences, that can be a huge boom when you're dealing with, working with different people, working across cultures, say you have customers across the globe. I think the nuances of figuring out and understanding, the global perspective bring something to the table.
Deepa: the globe is big. So it's you do have to try to learn different cultures and that was something that I was very interested in. So I did spend time with people all over the country, all over the world. As I worked in global companies. So that benefited me. , and I'm glad you touch on work visa because nobody seems to talk about it when somebody asks me, and I'm always very honest about it when somebody asks me, what was your dream job? My, answer would always be whoever gave me a job was my dream job at that point when I graduated, and I am sure it's true even today since the layoffs have happened, I've seen multiple. Students or multiple multiple folks with the H one Visa asking me for help. And the unfortunate thing about that is they have one month or two months max. I don't know how mu how many, how much time they have now, but I think not more than two months. And the H one Visa transfer process itself is a month. And we know that it's not easy to get a job in two months, right? You have to put together your resume. You have to apply. , you have to get an interview. It's just not an easy process. I don't think there is a solution to that yet. I hope we have some kind of a solution for that in the future, but that's another reason why I think immigrants seek out jobs, which are more, safer, if I could say. And no job is safe. I know that, but, what they will lose is big compared to a citizen who's born here or a citizen just in general, right? And especially in amongst the lot I know about Indian passports, I know people who come with an Indian passport, it takes a much longer before they become residents of citizens. So they are in that situation for a very long time. So they have to combat that for a very long time. So I do understand the problem. taking that risk as well, right? If you are in a comfortable job, and when I say comfortable, not because it's comfortable, because you're not doing much just because you have a visa. This company sponsors your visa. You don't wanna get out there and look for another one because what if that risk doesn't pan out? And if you lose a job in a year, now you're starting the process again. It's challenging and we don't talk enough about the whole immigrant visa situation. It's. just worse year after year. It's not gotten easy. You think that it gets, it'll get easy since I started, but I only think it's gotten worse and so many people have gone back to India in the past couple of months because they couldn't find a job.
Sirisha: Yeah. A lot of students that are graduating, cannot even apply for roles because, yeah. All percentages of them are even available. and for those who get like when I got laid off, like I was able to go on a spouse visa, but even to transition back to H one was enormously hard the company didn't know how Deon sponsored this consulting company and it, became very touchy and sticky points. So I think it still goes back to, I know for a fact that a lot of people do not make transitions because their work visa status depends on the role. So once you move, it restarts the clock.
[35:38] Staying current on your skill set... Leveraging LinkedIn
Sirisha: So they're very heads talking about. I think everyone needs to stay current on their skill set and their resumes. Not that you'll get laid off or this thing, but I think it's best to be prepared. If a role or an interview comes by or some recruiter reaches out and you think you do not want the job just to go and do the interview, it may be the right, because I know a lot of people who move with no intention of ever interviewing, but end up in a great role or a different role, so that gives you practice and keeps you fresh.
Upskilled and you are all positive note to take the role, not just for practice, but I think you just continue to expand your network and we have to hedge our bets. It is a risk tolerance game at some point, right? Even as ambitious, as you're, you are hedging your risk, so you have to see what is right for you and you're hedging between. Family and all your other commitments as you're trying to figure out what that looks like.
Deepa: mean, You take a risk when you're leaving your country and coming here already, right? That was a big risk and I did not know anybody here. I do understand that when you're very young, the risk that you're taking is only on yourself. As you grow, and you build a family, now the risk becomes you. It goes on to your family too. But again, if you don't take risks, there is no gain. I, for anyone who's listening to this, would also recommend everyone to have a good LinkedIn profile. Be a lifelong learner. It's never enough. Learning is good at any point in your life, right? Don't get comfortable because you have a title of a manager or a director, or a VP. Even to perform at whatever level you are at, you have to continue to learn. And how do you learn you don't have to sit in a class to learn, but you have to seek out information. And that is also something that's gonna set you apart from the rest of the group. It doesn't mean that you're you're never gonna get laid off and you're not gonna get impacted by a RIF in a company that is, unfortunately, it's under no one's control, but at least if. Up to date and if you are constantly learning, you could reach out to different job posters and you could reach out to different companies and talk about what you can do and what you've learned over the years. So continue to learn every day. I would highly recommend that and keep you're LinkedIn up to date. There's no harm in doing that.
Sirisha: And even better, they should leverage their LinkedIn to build that brand. You're building your brand inside your company, start writing articles, posting or commenting. Start small. I know it's very hard to get on it because we feel the Stung of war between work and being. Invincible on LinkedIn sometimes, but it does help to share your expertise because if your situation changes or somebody might tap you on the shoulder I talked about that opportunity. If they see that there is something that you're speaking to and you could put it towards your expertise or learn something new, and if you wanna pivot, it's a place to gain access to someone else who's going to help you build that network. Yeah. LinkedIn is so powerful. mean, There are so many ways to take advantage of it that you. look into leveraging it as well.
Deepa: Absolutely. And I wanna double click on that.
[38:44] Writing and Speaking skills are very critical
Deepa: Writing and speaking skills are very different skills, and I think it's important to have both good writing and speaking skills. So anyone you know who wants to grow, please invest in your communication, whether it's writing or speaking. That was something I also learned over time... It's very important if you wanna grow if you wanna excel. Those two skills are very important. I didn't take a special course, but, when I started realizing that's important, I spent a lot of time listening and reading books. I even today spent a lot of time writing and making sure that my sentences are coming out well, and it's making sense. You have to be short, you have to be concise, and you have to also be impactful. With say, providing an impact with fewer words. Brevity is something that we all need to learn, and especially when you come from South Asian culture, you tend to write long sentences to get to before you get to the point. So brevity is very important.
Sirisha: Yeah. When someone gives you a letter and says, you've written a 700-word letter and says you need it in three 50, you're gonna think about which words you're gonna put and what is the message. So even before you do a presentation, any conversation if it's a critical one, think of what the output you want is. What are you asking for and then phrase everything around that? it's not about taking advantage of making it transactional, but I. Really, someone is going to appreciate you being clear on what your ask is and how you come across. Yeah, absolutely. I think we can spend hours chatting some more, but I wanted to sum up some of the things for people who are listening, Deepa and I have been sharing sort of the immigrant, the South Asian experience what we are trying to say is in the essence of everything, you have to be good at what you do.
[40:25] Episode Takeaways... Your action list
Sirisha: Seek out, mentors. Be very clear on what you're articulating for no matter which culture or if you are, a citizen or you are from here, make sure you're able to articulate with your management, even to yourself what you want. First, you have to understand what you want before you can tell someone else what you want, and then make sure you ask for it and it's okay to make mistakes and fail at everything you might try, but you're always taking something away that you're getting. Just taking risks, and trying new things. Interviewing you need to be doing. It's going to seem completely overwhelming what we might have told you. So pick out of all of this one thing that two months, then maybe pick another piece from one of the episodes of this one, and then slowly make yourself a goal plan and execute.
Because we make all these new year's resolutions and it's very hard because we overwhelm ourselves. We just need time for ourselves to chill, relax, take some time, and not go crazy doing.
[41:22] Note to your 21-year-old self
Sirisha: What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Deepa: Oh, wow. So what a great question. I had just turned 21 when I came to the US just, a few months out. I remember this just very clearly in my head. Landed at Kalamazoo Airport. No clue. I came with nothing with two bags. A lot of dreams, two bags. , I did not know what, just the basics of what I'm going to eat and where am I gonna go and who am I gonna stay with? Then I still remember eating a burrito and Taco Bell. I did not even know how to eat it. At the end of that day, I was so stressed out. I thought this was the end of my life and I was just, in tears that night. I thought this was the biggest mistake I made. So to my 21-year-old self, I would say chill out. It's all gonna work out.
Sirisha: So true. just go with a sense of adventure and it'll be fine. And what is the one word you would use to describe yourself?
Deepa: Passionate. I always go after everything with a hundred per cent passion. So I think that would be the right word to describe. Describe me.
Sirisha: And that comes across so clearly. So for those of you listening, Deepa shared so much.
Deepa, can you share your information so people can get in touch?
Deepa: the best way is via LinkedIn. I'm very active on LinkedIn. They can find me as Deepa D and reach out to me. This is an indie podcast, and if you enjoy the content, you can help me with production by supporting me. You can buy me a cup of chai. I'm not a coffee drinker, or you can enable me by subscribing to either a monthly or an annual plan as well. Thank you for doing this. And don't forget to share this episode and put in this reviews what you liked.
Sirisha: What was your key takeaway? That's really what I wanna know. I wanna know how this is impacting you, and what infinitesimal changes you're seeing in your life. You can always reach me through Instagram by sending me a DM at Women Carrier and Life. Thank you so much for tuning in. See you next.
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