Veena Ramagopalan: From an Indian Naval Officer to a Corporate Leader
Clearly Blue’s #Gaggle is proud to feature its interaction with Veena Ramagopalan, an inspirational leader who translated her experience in the Armed Forces into a successful career in coaching and mentoring leaders.
Veena Ramagopalan is an ex-Naval officer from the first batch of women officers of the Indian Navy. After her experience in the Navy, she has worked with various companies in senior strategic roles. Her experience spans Strategic & Process Consultancy, Business Excellence, Quality Assurance & Quality Management and includes in-depth subject knowledge, implementation experience of various quality models like CMMI, ISO 20000/ ITIL, and Six Sigma.
Veena is Co-founder, Director of Inroads Leadership Development. She is passionate about connecting with people and supporting them by sharing her experiences. She enjoys engaging and inspiring women leaders to help them accelerate their leadership abilities and integrate seamlessly into the organization.
Clearly Blue chatted with Veena about her experiences in the Navy, her mantra for overcoming patriarchy in the workplace and lots more! Read on to know more about this amazing woman.
CB: You have about two decades of experience in the corporate world and in Defence. What skills from your previous work experience were most helpful or practical in your current role?
VR: My experience in the Navy made me really “comfortable with uncomfortable”. The environment expected me to pick up different responsibilities and adapt to different situations. There was always a constant change. The key skills which have helped me with various transitions in my career are:
Have the right attitude and the mindset, embrace change with an open mind. Look at change as an opportunity for growth
Transitions and changes helped me to explore new things and be a lifelong learner
Be confident and believe in yourself
CB: Did you face any gender roadblocks in your career? What advice do you have for people who face such roadblocks?
VR: Women were a minority when I joined the Navy. People would constantly keep an eye on me and, sometimes, I felt that people were just waiting for me to fail. Another roadblock that I have faced in the corporate world is proving myself over and over again and sometimes being underestimated in spite of my years of experience or the credentials that I have. My advice to people who have faced similar roadblocks is:
Speak up and make people around you aware, if things are not fair to you
Be assertive and don’t let people make your choices and decisions for you
Master the art and skills of whatever is necessary to do the job you are required to
It’s not about “gaining” titles alone; it’s about “earning” respect wherever you go
CB: The corporate world is still overwhelmingly a man’s domain. What skills and behaviors should women who want to make themselves heard in a conference room full of men, or even in a boardroom, exhibit?
VR: It is very important that you speak up and make your presence felt. It’s not just about attending meetings and being visible. It’s about actively participating in the discussion, challenging the ideas and making sure your ideas are also heard. It’s important to have a strong authentic voice which is heard by the people around you.
CB:If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?
VR: It’s all about accepting us women as who we are. Behind every successful man, there is a woman. But behind every successful woman, it is the battles and challenges she had to constantly fight on her own; with people at home as well as in the professional world, and life in general.
CB: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
VR: In the last five years, I have been on a completely new journey – starting my own company which was not my forte before. It’s like starting your entire career from scratch. Each day brings something new for me and pushes me out of my comfort zone. I’ve learnt that the best way to keep ahead is to be constantly learning and adapting to new opportunities which come in front of you.
CB: What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
VR: When I see young girls today, I often feel that their decisions are made by the people around them. My advice to them is:
Take ownership of your life and give confidence to people around you that you can take care of your own
Whatever choices you make in life, be at peace with those decisions
CB: What is the book you’ve given most as a gift and why?
VR: One book which I’ve been recommending and gifting to people is Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. It is a very interesting book which talks about how your thinking can drive success in your life. She introduces two kinds of mindsets in the book – the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. The fixed mindset says that your success comes with your innate abilities or the talents that you are born with. The growth mindset says that success is dependent on your ability which can be developed through hard work and effort. There is nothing static in terms of what you can achieve and what you cannot.
CB: When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
VR: I go back to the moments in life where things worked out for me and ask myself what helped me do that. I draw confidence and energy from those moments and go all out again. It’s all about having a positive mindset. Failure is inevitable in everybody’s life. How you overcome that with a positive mindset is what matters. Believe in yourself and give yourself the confidence that you can overcome this obstacle as well, just like you have done in the past.