International Women’s Month is coming to a close, and we’re ending with an incredible interview with businesswoman and powerhouse, Vasanthi Chandrasekaram!
Chandrasekaram has more than 18 years of experience leading major Fortune 100 companies like Amazon and Apple. She has lead several teams in engineering, marketing, product strategy and P&L growth in the enterprise and consumer sectors. She relentlessly pursues her passion for driving groundbreaking technology to create impactful products throughout the world. Vasanthi is an entrepreneur and founder of RewardsPay, an e-commerce consumer payment and rewards company. Her key expertise in entrepreneurship has helped her scale start-ups and venture capitalist funds such as Ahalogy and VGV, and transform multiple sectors of business. A Harvard MBA alumna, she served on the business school’s IOT Investment Forum, bringing together investors and start-ups with key leaders in the IOT space. Her interests in the product life cycle, go-to-market, and sales- enablement strategies has shaped her experiences leading teams of all sizes to create great impact for companies across the nation. In her free time, she enjoys refining her leadership skills with her nine-year old twins.
VGV: Why do you believe it’s important to see women in C-level positions and as business owners?
Chandrasekaram: It’s absolutely important because many studies have shown the tremendous impact of women’s leadership to businesses, yet only about 25 percent are in C-level positions. There are missed opportunities when we deny women access to these leadership positions as women are known to have many leadership skills such as emotional intelligence, inspiring teams, wearing many hats and tackling challenges head on. These qualities are great assets that businesses can utilize. In addition, having diversity in leadership ranks makes good business sense as these various perspectives will offer sound, visionary leadership that is critical for maintaining a competitive edge. If you increase that diverse pool of leaders, your likelihood of having a solid, profitable business tremendously increases.
VGV: Discuss your journey as a woman in your industry. What challenges as a woman did you face, and how did you overcome them?
Chandrasekaram: Some of the challenges that I encountered were at the early part of my career. When I joined Apple, I was the first female engineer in a male-dominated division. My style of communication and working was very different to the others in the team. By listening and observing the culture, I was able to keep my calm and confident style but learn the communication styles that were effective in the team. I also learnt the value of preparation and backing up my arguments with data. This experience taught me the importance of building connections with my colleagues outside of our work environment, being pro active and to accept challenges that normally people would shy away from.
VGV: What are the advantages of having a calm and confidence leadership style?
Chandrasekaram: If you’re calm and confident whether in a board room or in the office, people will listen to you because it shows your ability to think deeply and solve problems. If you can combine this style with a consistent track record of success along the way, it can be very powerful.I also am a visionary with the ability to see the forest as well as the trees. When you can do this, you can guide your team to go from a big strategic idea to concrete execution.
VGV: How do you work to identify the strength of your team?
Chandrasekaram: My management style is strength based. It’s a form of a portfolio strategy where I crate teams that combine and compliment each other’s strengths. To identify the strengths of my managers,I observe, listen and listen. I work hard to understand each and everyone in my team, what they do well, why they do well and what are they intrinsically motivated by. I also tremendously enjoy getting to know my team leaders and mentoring them.
VGV: What advice would you give to the next generation of women business owners and leaders?
Chandrasekaram: Be prepared to embrace change and accept risks. Only if you are prepared to take risks, you will see the biggest upside. Never stop learning, the curiosity to learn new things will enable you to try new things and take on more responsibilities. I would also encourage the next generation of women to trust themselves, dream big and take on tough assignments.
VGV: How have you found balance in motherhood and your work?
Chandrasekaram: It’s a challenge that I don’t think I have fully figured it out. It’s a journey and one needs to have a long-term view of their career. There will be times, career will take priority and times we have to put our children first. I think this is one of the reasons why women make great leaders because we know how to prioritize, delegate and manage many facets of our family without taking our eyes off the prize. I also get as much support and help as possible. It is important to keep in mind that while you can outsource some parts of your family life, you cannot outsource the emotional well being of your children.
Amongst all other things, Vasanthi is an excellent leader and asset to any team she guides. Like many of the businesswomen we’ve highlighted this month, Vasanthi is intelligent, proactive, is constantly learning, and constantly shaping today’s business for a better tomorrow. If you haven’t done so yet, check out the businesswomen we interviewed earlier this month for International Women’s Month.