In an exclusive interview with All Things Talent, Ekta Singh, Vice President HR, Capgemini, spoke about breaking through the glass ceiling, of women leadership and rising above challenges, by investing in relationships at the right time.
Ekta Singh has been an HR Business Partner with more than 21 years and has progressive experience in Talent Delivery, Benefits, Compensation, Staffing and Recruiting. She holds a blend of strategic, tactical and business oriented skills coupled with the ability to develop processes.
She is responsible for providing strategic, proactive guidance, advice and expertise in HR/ER risk management and policy development. She also provides advice and coaching to all locations across US India in the areas of employment law.
Q. At what point in life did you decide to pursue HR management as your career? Was there a defining “aha moment” when you knew or did it just gradually unfold?
A. Pursuing HR was more of an ‘accident’ than a planned action. I met with Srini Y of CMC (co-founder of the training division at Hyderabad), he was the one who pulled me into HR and actually gave me the initial training. On the day of my interview, he spoke the words that convinced my decision to join HR back then. He said, “if you like to solve problems, ‘sell’ career, challenge status quo and people then HR is the place for you and of course bonus will be you will be paid to do what you like!” It has been 22 years, and there hasn’t been a day that I have regretted my decision.
Q. You are a thought leader in the corporate world. How do you think professional women just starting out in the job market can build their careers and become leaders in their respective industries?
A. In my view, professional excellence always exceeds gender. This would literally translate to “you are a professional before being a man/woman”. I am a strong believer in the concept of gender equality and that is just because someone born in a certain gender does not entitle them to a certain privilege just the same way as it does not deprive them of anything. Talking about the advice regarding careers, I would suggest:
- Don’t shy away from making mistakes, instead, take responsibility for making them and learn from them because that stays with you longer than a job well done.
- Challenge yourself; know what strengths and weaknesses are. Use these strengths to make sure that the things you aren’t good at are not a detriment. Also, knowing what you don’t like to do or are not good at is critical as you will be able to then work on it in your terms and not as a development area.
Q. What are some of the major challenges that you have faced in your career? How did you solve them?
A. Early on in my career, I faced a challenge where I was considered too young for a lead job. Today I see that trend changing and leaders actually asking to work with younger minds and often, fresh younger perspectives.
I think the biggest challenge I face today, is the balance between being a professional and being a mother. Being one of the few women leaders in the organization, we are often asked to step in, be it with clients, employees or our own internal stakeholder. It’s really great to get all the exposure, although it translates into a challenge of time and what you can do and not do. It is challenging & also an opportunity to grow professionally and personally.
“Invest in building relationships at work and find people who are like-minded; it helps a lot in anchoring yourself to the organization & also the city/place.”
Q. What is your opinion about the proverbial “glass ceiling” that exists for women?
A. I think that it depends on the eye of the beholder. If one believes it exists, then that belief restricts them but if they truly believe that it doesn’t, then there is no stopping them. When I personally faced situations where I was told I am incapable of something, I would put in double the effort to prove them wrong.
Q. While working for the Royal Bank of Scotland and Corpus Inc. in Dallas, you have lived and worked in various countries. How did your global experience help you understand the needs of a diverse workforce? What advise can you provide to upcoming entrepreneurs and start-ups that want to build a diverse workforce and promote a culture of inclusion?
A. I believe the lessons are many. I ended up studying a lot about culture seeing the western culture is a lot about ‘PROCESS/ RULES, COMPLIANCE’ but in India, it’s a lot about ‘Relationships and face to face communications. When I returned from the US and joined Deloitte, I reflected upon some critical cultural differences that made working in these two cultures difficult. I had the benefit of learning from the best of both worlds, so here is my advice:
- If you commit to a time/date to deliver a project or even a task or subtask, keep that commitment and if you cannot, share in advance and readjust the dates but never in the last minute.
- If you cannot do something, learn to say ‘NO’. It’s all right and no one holds it against you.
- Invest in building relationships at work and find people who are like-minded; it helps a lot in anchoring yourself to the organization and also the city/place.