Born in a small town on the east coast of India, Praveena Nathawat, Head of Talent Management and Diversity & Inclusion at Ericsson, grew up a sheltered child with big dreams. Over the last 17 years, she has built a career around doing meaningful work that has a measurable impact on businesses and people. At Ericsson, Praveena focuses on developing talent for the current and future needs of the business and setting up programs to help employees reach their full potential.
Praveena is also one of the featured speakers at Plano Profile’s 17th annual Women in Business Summit on Friday, September 28 at the Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park Hotel. Click here for tickets.
Read on to learn Praveena’s advice for all women in business.
BREAKING THE MOLD
As a young adult I made a transformative decision to not get married at what was considered the “right” age and pursue my higher education so I could be financially independent and fulfill my career ambitions. As a result of this decision I was judged unfairly, and my family went through a lot of upheaval. However, I stayed very focused on who I wanted to be; my biggest strength is to block out the noise, and to stay confident and calm.
I became a manager very early in my career. I thought I was doing the right thing by helping my team with detailed and exact instructions on how to get things done. However, I was not getting the expected results. I expected everyone in my team to do things exactly the way I did them! As a result, my engagement scored very poor and I was considered a micromanager. It was a very humbling experience and I had to quickly recover to put a plan in place to change. My team taught me leadership skills as I learned quickly how to earn their respect and support.
A leader is only as good as their team. It is important to build the right team and create an environment where everyone thrives. I believe individuals thrive when they have meaningful work to do and know that with your feedback and support they can be successful. A leader’s role is to create positive conditions and continuously remove barriers that get in the team’s way.
“A leader is only as good as their team.”
Research shows that in a diverse and inclusive work environment, employees are 6x more likely to be innovative and agile, 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes and 2x more likely to meet or exceed financial targets and 3x more likely to be high performing. We are living in an increasingly complex world where corporations are trying to be more innovative and solve some very complex problems. When the decision makers are homogeneous, we lose the opportunity to innovate. The business case for Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) is very strong, but the human case is ever stronger; when people feel valued, included and accepted, they bring their full self to work.
Q&A with Praveena Nathawat
As a tenured manager, what advice do you have for women who are new to management positions?
Firstly, Congratulations! You have bucked the trend and are on your way to setting an example for others to follow. You are doing great! You are here due to your talent and perseverance. Keep your head high and don’t let the hurdles deter you from your journey. When faced with challenges, take a step back and try to get a different perspective. Surround yourself with a strong network and team members that are different from you.
“When faced with challenges, take a step back and try to get a different perspective.”
How do we continue to foster change regarding diversity in corporate America? What are you doing to facilitate this change and how can others follow suit?
A lot must change. It begins with how we raise girls versus boys, and continues through our education system and our investment in STEM. We also need to have an honest, actionable dialogue on how we are investing in underserved communities and breaking the cycle.
On a corporate level there is more focus today on D&I than ever before. Almost every major corporation in America is focused on D&I and invested in programs to help further the diversity of their workforce, yet the progress over the last decade is abysmal. I think there is a case for stronger leadership and bolder moves to make real progress. The partnership across the ecosystem of companies, vendors, government and community is key to solving the issue; it takes a village, but we are still working in silos.
At Ericsson, we are investing in partnerships across the ecosystem to solve the pipeline problem. Our partnership with Girl Scouts of America is a testament to our commitment; we helped the Girl Scouts of North East Texas (GSNETX) build the first STEM camp in this part of the world by contributing technology, resources and leadership. We also invest in mentoring programs, leadership development, career enablement and sponsorship to help our diverse talent grow and fulfill their potential. Beyond the basic compliance training, we invest in unconscious bias workshops and skill-building for our leaders on how to be an inclusive leader and build diverse teams.
What advice do you have for fellow women in business?
Whether you are a small business owner or running a large company, continuous development of your skills is necessary to your business’ growth. Do you need to be better at negotiation? Do you feel you could use more marketing skills? Go on, invest in yourself. The investment will be well worth it.
What advice do you have for women just starting out in their careers?
Be bold and confident. You are as smart and talented as the person next to you. Honing your presence, communication skills and appropriate humor will help you stand out. Early on in my career I was asked to take notes, pick the menu for team outings and other random things that, frankly, no man on my team had to do. I learned to say no politely and use humor to make my point. Speaking confidently and precisely will build your executive presence and position you for leadership roles, if that’s what you want to do.
“You are as smart and talented as the person next to you.”
What advice do you have for women who are unhappy in their current position and feel stuck?
We have all been there! I personally felt very stuck during a period in my career not so long ago. I had developed this helplessness that is not like me. It took a good shake from my mentors and family to get me out of my funk and find the courage to look for a job externally. Seek a mentor and get some guidance. Take a hard look at what you don’t like about your situation and be purposeful about your job search. If you are feeling that you are not getting the recognition/promotion you deserve, consider initiating a career conversation with your direct manager. Stay open to feedback and input on what will help you get to the next step in your career. Feedback is a two-way street, so how you ask for feedback and how you react to it will have a big impact on the quality and genuineness of the feedback you receive.
How do you achieve work/life balance? What tips do you have for fellow women in business struggling in this area?
Work/life balance is the holy grail! I don’t have the right balance every day or every week, but when things are getting out of control, I reassess and decide what needs to drop off from my work and personal priorities. I have learned to outsource things that I feel are not worth my time. It costs money, but I am willing to pay for it because when I am less stressed, I am better at my job and in my relationships. Things like cooking family meals over the weekend and dedicating time to plan ahead keep us sane at the Nathawat household. We are lucky to have great neighbors who help us when my husband and I are running late, and we often carpool to and from school and activities. My parents stay in the United States over the summer to help out. The point is, don’t be afraid to ask for help or to rely on others. Saying no is another learned skill for me. I learned to decline social and other invitations just as much as I accept them.
“Work/life balance is the holy grail! Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to rely on others.”
What role do women play in business? How do they drive change and results?
That is like asking what women tennis players do differently from men tennis players! Jokes aside, I think the burden on women in business is heavy. We are role models for the next generation of females who aspire to be in business, and with this comes the realization of the need to drive for change and make progress on the diversity of our leadership teams, company executive boards and employee base. Championing boldly and doing everything within your means to help other women goes a long way.
“Championing boldly and doing everything within your means to help other women goes a long way.”
Join us at Plano Profile’s 17th annual Women in Business Summit to hear more from Praveena! Click here for tickets.
PLANO PROFILE’S 17TH ANNUAL WOMEN IN BUSINESS SUMMIT
Learn how North Texas’ Wonder Women have been a driving force in their industries and what it takes to go above and beyond what is expected.
Bringing together over 400 of the most respected women from global enterprises, non-profits, government and SMB businesses of the North Texas community—Plano Profile’s Women in Business conference celebrates, unites and empowers DFW’s leading ladies.
This one-of-a-kind learning and business event features special guest speakers, panel discussions and ample networking opportunities. This is your chance to learn from the best and share your best.
It’s time to play a bigger game.
MEET OUR SPEAKERS
Merrilee Kick, CEO/Founder of BuzzBallz/Southern Champion
Jana Etheridge, Managing VP, Chief of Staff and Customer Office, Financial Services, Capital One
Myrna Estrada, Vice President and Regional General Manager for Safeco Insurance
Dana Beckman, Director of Corporate Affairs at Alliance Data
Praveena Nathawat, Talent Management and Diversity at Ericsson
Maxie McCoy, author and writer obsessed with giving women the tools they need to believe in themselves
Lauren Przybyl, Fox 4 Good Day Anchor
Jasmin Brand, CEO of Launch DFW and President at Darby James
10:30 am – 11:30 am Registration and Networking
11:30 am – 4:00 pm
- Keynote Speaker
- Networking / Break-out Sessions
- Panel Discussion
- Networking / Break-out Sessions
4:00 pm – 6:00 pm Cocktail Party
While the event proudly celebrates the progress and success of women in business, gentlemen are welcome to attend and learn from our powerful female leaders.