I come from a simple family with aspirations to break the norms. My parents have been the driving force and strong pillars throughout and have always encouraged and supported. My mother always used to state, "Do not be overly emotional, be sensible about what is the long-term benefit of the contribution you can make". When I cleared my service Selection Board for Indian Air Force, I had very less knowledge of what was I getting into. Watching Top Gun movie countless times with full enthusiasm as I joined the academy for the training, I realized the reality was very different but enjoyed my tenure. I had the opportunity to work with some amazing colleagues, all of us glued together for greater purpose and commitment.
There are very few leadership transitions one can make, like being a newly commissioned officer, having transitioned from college supervising airmen who had been in the service longer than I'd been alive and had not seen a female officer - so they didn't really knew what to call me but settled to "Sir, Madam" taken in one breath by them. I was looked upon to make decisions, this is the type of "pinch me" moment that very few young leaders in the civilian world ever experience. There are no words to describe the feeling of absolute responsibility and seriousness of the oath of office you've taken only months earlier.
The lessons I learnt in my Airforce tenure made my personality believing:
- Focus on Commitment: Say - do ratio is most important which makes the character and my accountability as a leader. Follow 80:20 principle and get going.
- Take care of your team: Teamwork in true spirit with individual accountability, it's impossible to accomplish own actions if own people aren't trained and empowered to succeed in what is being asked for them to do. It's also important to consider that sometimes, taking care of own people can mean removing them. At the end of the day, it may be better forthe team and better for the individual to help them move on to a better situation.
- Have Fun: Life can be difficult sometimes. Being able to keep our sense of humor and have as much fun as possible in the moment, can help got through the rough patches.
- Think like a customer: Customer needs evolve and if not adapted quickly can be devastating. I don't believe we can ever take our customers for granted and one way to respect them is to gain a deep understanding of what they need and want.
- Continuously build Informal networks: The development and maintenance of an informal network can be more important that the official chain of command sometimes and it always helps to know the other side of the story and remain unbiased.
- The importance of mentorship: I never had any ambition to be like someone. I always aspire to do better than what I did - Value of "Lessons learnt" and "recurring mistakes reflection" in my training helps Thankfully, I worked with some senior leaders who saw something in me and took the time to mentor me, I try to give that back to the team.
Being a Female Leader: The transition into Human Resource function from Airforce was by choice and it was not so difficult, thanks to the experience earlier, and had learnt a hard way that "magic lies outside our comfort zone".
- As a young officer I had got used to facing unconscious bias early in life, but in a spirited manner. Right from early career days saying "yes" to leading a mobilized unit and making it work, say "yes" to travel, long hours, believe me it opens a complete new horizon.
- Competence as differentiator not the gender and try to always maximize the opportunities.
- Learn something new every day, because knowledge is wealth.
- Invest in support systems at home and never hesitate to reach out for help, this has made my kid more independent and adaptive to new places and people.
- Am not a big fan of the term "work-life balance" having work as my passion, the balance came in automatically, thanks to my family for supporting me throughout.
- Continue to make career choices with full passion. Passion makes you fearless, think of career as matrix, and move seamlessly across, this helps to move up the career ladder as it brings more rounded experience and puts in positive positions.
Make an Impact: The value, HR can bring on table is immense. However, HR hasn't always been viewed in the most positive light - but there is plenty we can do to change that. Starting from getting the data correct, know the business and the customer, drive HR actions for business results and focus on employee experience.
Apply consumer and digital lens to HR function creating an employee experience that mirrors their best customer experience; make a positive impact which lasts even in your absence. Assess how critical HR's various projects are to business goals; cut that which does not support this mission. Have a point of view and don't be afraid to voice it. "To get something you never had, you have to do something you've never done."
About the Authour
Sheena is an Air force officer turned Human Resource professional with experience of more than 14 years in HR function. She has extremely fungible HR skill well demonstrated in the various roles from a Business HR to OD professional, change leader to managing IR issues across sectors of R&D, Engineering and Manufacturing & Services with global exposure. She is passionate, creative and unorthodox and brings a new perspective to any discussion, is willing to challenge established norms with empathy. She has won various awards & accolades within the organization and was listed by Talview as India's Top 13 HR influencers, 2016. From a recent assignment of VP HR in ABB India, she currently leads a Global role in ABB in Group Integrated Talent CoE based in Dubai, UAE.