As part of our ‘Women in HR’ special interview series, we want to highlight the personal stories, professional challenges, and career aspirations of women leaders in Corporate India. In this story, All Things Talent speaks to Sonam Lama, People and Culture Head, CARS24, as she talks about her professional journey, her tryst with unconscious bias and how she overcame it, how being a better version of herself pushes her to become a better leader, and the importance of knowing your worth as a woman.
One of the best things about being in HR is the opportunity to build a network and meet people from different walks of life – not only was I supposed to meet new people but the key to a successful and professional relationship is to engage with everyone at work.
Q: Sonam what is your personal story? What made you want to be a part of the HR industry and what opportunities/challenges have it presented you with?
A: When I first started my career in ad sales, like every other individual, I was trying to break the glass ceiling of the corporate world while simultaneously figuring out what interested me. This particular role helped me understand how business was executed on the ground.
But what really intrigued me was the opportunity to interact with a variety of people through interviews to build my team by hiring sales managers. Instantly, I realized that more than the full-time job at hand; I enjoyed this particular part of my job profile. With luck on my side, I immediately grabbed on to the opportunity that came my way – the position of a recruiter under the IJP program in Gurgaon.
Soon, I learnt how recruitment, while very important, was just a peek into the HR function. One of the best things about being in HR is the opportunity to build a network and meet people from different walks of life – not only was I supposed to meet new people but the key to a successful and professional relationship is to engage with everyone at work.
Another opportunity to grow came along when I had to shift gears from recruitment to other functions and simultaneously fight the demons of perception about the field of HR – it is an easy life. I am sure the situation remains the same in our fraternity.
Q: What is one lesson learnt that’s unique to being a woman? Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of your career?
A: One thing I have learned over the years is that I had an unconscious bias, where I felt women would be never treated as equal so just go head-on aggressive. However, with time, and the great fortune of having excellent people around me, I learned that it’s not always the case. With logic and a calm mind, I could convince most of the people, and mostly that’s what people care about too.
One piece of advice I wish someone gave me – Nurture the network of your people, it’s the key.
Q: As someone passionate about engaging people and enabling learning, how are you encouraged to both be a leader and help others grow as leaders?
A: For me, these are intertwined and correlated – it’s only when you help others grow and are not afraid of them as a competition, you are a true leader. That’s when you also challenge yourself to become a better version of yourself. I identify this to be a scalable model, otherwise one ends up being a bottleneck not only for others but also for themselves.
So being a better version of myself truly pushes me to be a leader (doesn’t necessarily mean I have to manage a team).
It’s only when you help others grow and are not afraid of them as a competition, you are a true leader. That’s when you also challenge yourself to become a better version of yourself. I identify this to be a scalable model, otherwise one ends up being a bottleneck not only for others but also for themselves.
Q: Any advice on how women can ask for a raise? How can we show our worth?
A: Ask, don’t wait! This was the advice my product head gave me and it is just so simple. Earlier I used to wait, contemplate, or keep replaying the conversation in my head, now I just ask. I show my worth by the problem I solve for the company. Knowing your worth and making everyone else recognize it simultaneously is the most important thing in any job.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge for young women on a leadership path?
A: Finding Balance. I think maintaining balance is a big part of growing up in this world, with so many people gunning for the same goal. The biggest challenge one faces is to maintain balance without the fear of losing out.