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“As an introvert, I developed my own style of leadership and executive presence.”

Jyothi Menon, Head – HR Service Delivery, APAC & Head HR – India, UBS (based in India):

Smriti Pandey: What was the key tipping point in your career that gave you a big boost, and what was the outcome?

Jyothi Menon: With a Bachelors in Mathematics and an Electronics Engineering degree, I was expected to start off on a technology career path. However, I realized early on that I wanted to work with people and started my career as a tech recruiter in the hay days of Y2k boom. Many firms asked me for my qualifications in HR but due to personal challenges I never found the time to pursue a formal education in this field. Despite the questions and doubts raised, I stood my ground and worked across all aspects of the human resources cycle from recruitment to exit. I believe making this choice and sticking to it was a tipping point in my career and offered me opportunities across some of the largest financial organizations, including heading HR service delivery for one of the oldest banks – Standard Chartered. In 2017, I joined UBS and got the opportunity to head India HR and regional service delivery and the experience and exposure to global processes, HR technologies, and working with global leadership definitely played a part in becoming a Managing Director and being inducted to the India Board of Directors.

How much of this boost resulted from careful planning, and how much was good luck?

Planning and working towards your aspiration is of utmost importance. I always had immense clarity on what I wanted out of my professional life. I have looked at opportunities and asked myself ‘Why not me’ and consciously pushed my way and worked towards them. That’s where I found my drive, my never say no attitude, urge to continuously learn and challenge the status quo. Luck definitely plays its own role but one has to strive towards what one is passionate about.

What factors did you consider when making your plan? What obstacles did you encounter along the way?

Over the years, there have been opportunities and hurdles that have helped me learn to prioritize and trust myself. I am a single mother and when a career opportunity came up that required moving cities and time away from my autistic daughter, instead of declining I decided to ‘Set my own terms.’ I became a weekend mother and lived out of hotels and service apartments, travelled extensively in order to make it work. Having the tenacity and willingness to do what is right and follow your passion is important.

As an introvert, I developed my own style of leadership and executive presence, always striving to be prepared and confident. The elements of being both humble by always willing to learn and improve, and at the same time ambitious by reaching high and setting challenging goals have been key. I realized that executive presence comes in different forms, that you don’t have to be the tallest or the fairest or the best looking or even the loudest person to influence a room full of people.

What is your advice for young women seeking a tipping point in their professional career?

There is no one single right answer. I found it useful to keep in mind the 4 C’s – Clarity, Communication, Collaboration and Consistency. And remember that your career thrives when you build meaningful professional relationships with a wide variety of people and not just those you directly work with. So, make sure to invest in building a grid of influence through your career journey.

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