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Women in Business Q&A: Divya Ghatak, Global People Operations, GoodData

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Divya Ghatak oversees global people operations for GoodData. She has extensive leadership experience developing strategic people operations for diverse global businesses, with a special focus on employee engagement, talent and leadership development, corporate culture and organizational collaboration. Previously, Divya led talent and implementation of people strategy for SaaS and Collaboration at Cisco Systems, assuming HR responsibility for a $4.5 billion, 4,500 employees global business. Prior to Cisco, she served as Director of Human Resources for North American Operations at Tavant Technologies, where she led multiple organization design changes as the company moved to a global delivery model. Divya has also founded and served as CEO for Venturis India, an executive search firm that placed candidates with multinational firms in India. Her passion is building amazing experiences where talented people can perform at their best. Through her data-driven approach, Divya will focus on measurable impact and align people processes with company brand, culture and goals.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have always valued being courageous in the face of challenges and learning from every opportunity. Growing up, my mother was my primary role model. She led our family and raised me while working two jobs. She taught me to value my education, hard work and being resourceful to stand out. I also had the privilege of living in three countries during my life so far, India, Canada, the United States, and working in more than 40 other countries. The specific values and worldviews from each country have taught me to understand and connect with people with different cultures or perspectives other than my own.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at GoodData?
Three previous roles gave me the experience and understanding I need to excel at and love my work at GoodData. At Hewitt, despite just starting my career, I was immediately able to work alongside executives from Coca-Cola and other world-leading brands who were setting up their country operations in India. They taught me to own each project and think strategically about the big picture.

Founding my own executive search firm gave me an appreciation for what it means to own an entire business, from securing a customer, to managing employees, to developing a long-term strategy for success, and so on. At Cisco, I was exposed to new challenges daily as I worked across five distinct businesses, including Enterprise Routing & Switching, Consumer, Service Provider, Collaboration & SaaS. I worked across 39+ countries as we managed several acquisitions, during which we were exposed to a variety of cultures and important best practices. I am especially appreciative of the experience I gained bridging people and aligning their goals.

These experiences grew my entrepreneurial spirit and continued to push me to learn from different cultures and business models. Today I adore the opportunity I have to help build and grow GoodData!

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at GoodData?
As a small company, the level of impact and the speed at which we can move is incredible. Our lack of bureaucracy keeps us agile and continues to support our culture of fast-paced innovation and growth. The support from our CEO and leadership team for our people strategy, highlighted by our GoodVoices program, illustrates the importance placed on empowering our people to put their own stamp on the organization. The unusual opportunity to both affect the business strategy long-term as well as enabling and strongly driving employee experience has been extremely rewarding for me.

The incredible growth we experience here is itself a challenge. We need to build the ship and accelerate growth at the same time, all the while retaining top talent in arguably the most competitive talent market in the world.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in technology?
Women should be bold in their aspirations! We need to celebrate how far we have come and how much we are capable of impacting business. Women's leadership has finally come of age as some of America's most prominent corporations such as Oracle, GM, IBM, Yahoo, have women CEO's and almost all have women in their C Suite.

However, we still have a long way to go. Our biggest challenge is not having enough role models and mentors. Women should actively mentor and encourage one another to promote women in leadership! Women must also continue to grow their industry knowledge and skills, valuing ongoing self-improvement and lifelong learning.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
I have learned that my biggest strength is my passion and orientation towards action. Over the years, I have learned the importance of reflection and listening and the need to balance acting and listening. This self-understanding has improved my ability to lead and influence entire organizations, even in high paced competitive environments.

I've used these lessons in building the foundation of GoodData's people operations in GoodVoices. Leadership must be able to hear and take action on candid feedback, which is what GoodVoices facilitates. We collected and shared employee feedback internally, clarifying where we were and building trust and transparency moving forwards. The company came together, adapted and began its ongoing process of projecting everyone's voices. In our continuously evolving environment, this ability to adapt strengthens us.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
A work life balance is a myth. It doesn't exist, but that is actually a good thing. I have found work that is so fulfilling and have built a family that I love passionately. This pushes me to go the extra mile for both. I believe that once you develop the right expectations, goals and mindset, it is possible to make the right choice for your personal life and your work. However, women need to be realistic - You must recognize your life as a series of experiences rather than as a moment. It is also important to recognize the changing phases in your life. At times I have focused more on my family and at other times I have focused more on my work, but the important thing is that you must have confidence in your decision and recognize the opportunities that evolve throughout the course of your entire life.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I believe one the biggest issues in the workplace is that women can be too accommodating. While accommodation can help with collaboration and building trust, women must make sure to stand for what they believe in and to stand up for themselves. Women do not need to apologize for everything and in fact, should stand up for themselves and communicate clearly.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has played an essential role in my professional development at every phase in my career, but it was only mid-career that I started actively seeking it out and after that, that I started mentoring others. I wish I could have began both sooner! Working at Cisco, I saw women in top leadership roles who maintained both strong family lives and careers. They helped me understand and aspire to be successful at both. Today, I am so happy to have an amazing and incredibly supportive family, as well as an exciting and demanding job at GoodData.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Two female leaders jump out to me today: Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Arista President and Chief Executive Officer Jayshree Ullal.

Sandberg inspires me because she is a leader in a very innovative field of technology with repeated successes. She uses her gender as a strength and gives back to the community through her thought leadership and advocacy work. Lean In inspires women to speak up with confidence in order to impact their business and their lives.

While I was at Cisco, Jayshree Ullal was a SVP with whom I was immediately impressed. Her integrity, personal charisma, technical prowess and comfort in her own skin imbued her with the authentic characteristics of a true leader. Today she is President and Chief Executive Officer at Arista where she helped build the company from the ground up. Her work and commitment to her values continue to impress me today.

What do you want GoodData to accomplish in the next year?
I want the GoodData company culture to reflect the innovation and customer obsession of our people and our product. As a Software-as-a-Service business, GoodData's focus will continue to be on developing the product for the best and fastest results and customer experience. After recently raising our Series E funding round led by Intel Capital, GoodData will focus on continuing to grow the employee base. We also plan to maintain our efforts of making GoodData one of the best places to work by continuing to expand the management development options and internal education programs. For us, investing in our people is an investment in the product, our customers and our long term success as a company.

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