Aligned Insights: Q&A with Chief Digital Officer Namrita Mahindro 

In recognition of  Women’s History Month, the Aligned Automation team is taking time to garner insight from women we admire in business and technology. From exploring their personal stories, challenges and successes to hearing about how they #choosetochallenge, this series aims to offer perspectives that can help us all nurture a more inclusive - and successful -workplace. 

Namrita Mahindro, chief digital officer at leading chemical manufacturing company Aditya Birla Chemicals, has fueled her career with a grit and determination to succeed. She started her working life on a very different path as a language translator. However, the exciting opportunity surrounding the burgeoning digital world in the 1990s presented a different calling – one she readily answered. From bootstrapping startups to transforming large corporations, Mahindro credits her success to an open mind, enthusiasm for learning and an ability to always draw upon her strengths.

Our team hosted a virtual meeting with Mahindro to hear more about what she’s learned along the way. Read the highlights from our conversation below. 

We’d love to know more about your background: what did you think you’d be and how did it change along the way? 

For the first few years of my career, I was a Japanese language translator and I quickly realized I couldn’t do that for the next 30 years. A friend of mine who had studied computer science and I decided we should do a startup. We created corporate portals and websites in the Indian market. It was a lean business, all hands on deck, so I learned JavaScript and even Photoshop to help get the job done. We did this successfully for a couple years and realized we should pursue digital opportunities in the Internet mecca of the world: the U.S. I got a job and was in the process of working out my VISA when the dotcom crash hit, so neither materialized. I ended up in the U.K. instead.

The next 10 years I spent working in digital marketing and operations in a variety of industries. Eventually I joined the digital marketing arm at Taj Hotels, a luxury hotel conglomerate with 100 hotels across the globe. After five years there, I wanted to move into something more strategic and end-to-end, which is how digital transformation became the third wave of my career. Transformation is exciting. I’ve had the opportunity to consider how a variety of functions – customer experience, supply chain, manufacturing – can be more agile, connected and intelligent. There’s a lot of work to do but I’ve had lots of fun with it.

What advice would you give to someone beginning their career now? 

I think we spend a lot of our formative years working on our weaknesses and, while it’s great to experiment and try new things, I would suggest young people look at how they can accentuate their strengths. It is your strengths that will help you carve out a niche for yourself, regardless of the function or industry.

In addition to strengths, I think it’s crucial to always seek ways you can bring your skills to the table, because people come to appreciate that. It’s important to build camaraderie and respect with your peers through the work.

How has your experience shaped the way you lead your team now?

Change has been a constant for me and, as a transformation leader, I aim to be a change catalyst. Every leadership style has its pros and cons. In India, there is more structure and, in the U.S., or U.K., there is a little less structure. From my experience, too many mandates limit innovation and experimentation, which are necessary qualities in the tech industry. While I offer guidance as necessary, I always want to allow the team enough space to go do their thing.

Why is diversity important to you as a leader?

Technology is cementing its status at the heart and center of all our lives. As technology becomes more important, the need for diversity of all kinds will only become more profound. We already see the need reflected in the workforce and also the product. Unconscious bias in AI is one example where greater diversity continues to provide balance and make the technology more precise and valuable.

Have thoughts you’d like to share?  Join our conversation about technology, inclusion and the workplace by  following  Aligned Automation on LinkedIn. 

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