Explore why mentoring unique individuals and celebrating different personalities, characters and goals, is good for women in leadership and Hitachi.
Jeremy Brisiel is an award-winning writer, producer and host, he has more than 20 years of experience delivering creative content to audiences around the world.
Nirvana Farhadi is the business owner and strategic leader for Hitachi's Financial Services RegTech business.
This is the Studio NEXT podcast. I'm your host Jeremy Brisiel. It's time to talk about women in leadership. So let's bring in a woman in leadership. We've had the opportunity to talk to her before we're having to do it again, Nirvana Farhadi. Thanks for being with us. Once again.
Thank you for having me.
So we've talked about the women's initiative at Hitachi Vantara. We've talked about how important it is and how that has developed quickly, but it's still young. Obviously an enormous part of that initiative is to get women into leadership roles. That would be one of the goals to sort of find some diversity in that space. You are in that space. You have been on that path. How'd you get there? Let's just make it really easy. How'd you get there? What would you say were the biggest challenges and what did you find to be the keys to navigating your particular path there?
How did I get that? First of all, I'm going to tell you that I have never, ever, myself personally had a female mentor. My best mentor, well, my mentors in industry have always been men, and usually, actually, it's been men who have had daughters themselves. So they were empathetic towards some of the obstacles that I face and had the challenges. And it was unfortunate for me because, you know, there were stages in my career that I could have really used a woman who was wise and who could have helped me and instead of trying to knock my crown off, straightened it in the process. Do you know what I mean? But unfortunately, I mean, again, my background is financial services and now I'm in the tech industry, so there are actual different nuances in each sector. But from where I was, women were so immersed in trying to prove they're better, they're bigger and they can do this and, you know, break that glass ceiling, and nobody really paid attention to anybody else in the corner. Really thought about, you know, could they help? And I was too scared to ask another woman. I was much more comfortable asking a man to help me with that.
So, that's kind of how I started off. And, for me, it became something that I always said: I'm not going to be like that. I want to be able to be a mentor to both women and to men. Because I've got younger brothers, I've got nieces and nephews and what have you. And that's what I did in my career, and where I can give help, I will give help. And I think it's very much dependent on the skill sets that you bring because both women bring something unique to the table as do men. And you know, I do a lot of leadership conferences and talks and what have you. A lot of the times you just see women there. And one of the points that I raised is, you know, we need more men. We need men that are there. They have sisters, they have daughters, they have mothers. They can be more empathetic. And again, going back to my own roots where the men in my life were at such great mentors for me: It's about having ambassadors, and colleagues that we can reach out to and benefit from.
And that is great. And we've talked about the women's initiative. We'll talk more about that because Tracy mentioned there were allies there; men were allies that are part of that, which I think is a great value, in terms of commitment to the initiative to recognize that you speak to it as well. Well, with that, for your journey towards that way, what did you find and navigate? So we found mentors that were empathetic. And I think empathy, I mean, not to generalize the human condition, but I think if we all just worked on empathy, we would advance the entire species pretty quickly. I think that if there's a foundational change that we worked on, I think empathy would be the way to get there. Other than finding that, what were tools that you use, what were ways that you found that were successful? Where did you sort of meet? Some of your biggest challenges and how did you overcome those?
So really, you know, like I said, I was very hesitant to begin with to actually go out there and ask for help myself from another woman. I felt intimidated in that sense. But then as I grew in, as I developed in my own career, I found the confidence in my own abilities and skill sets and really thought: Well, I'm not going to be that way so that I am going to make the approach and really pull away the silos and start talking and communicating better to my colleagues. And, you know, talking about the women's initiative that we're involved with, I actually go and start recruiting male colleagues now, you know, and I'm like: I'm signing you up for this. And, actually, the response isn't like an "okay;" it's actually, "Yeah, I want to do that." And it's refreshing to see that. So, you know, it's a very good opportunity, a unique opportunity for all of us to be involved with.
Yeah. And it is great. It's great for them to be volunteered, but, and I think it's culturally, there's, there's been that shift I think. And let's talk about your career and the trajectory of it and the two fields that you've been in in particular, congratulations, by the way.
But there is obviously a more specific cultural conversation to unconscious bias to what that has done to people's careers, to what that has done through their networks and how we can sort of with a little nudge, doesn't need to be, it doesn't need to be a big nudge even, but to say: Hey, you're now part of this group. And most decent humans are like: Sounds great.
Exactly. Absolutely. You know, that's that the way to go.
As you go forward as a woman in leadership and with the initiative, what do you hope to accomplish next? Or what do you, what do you see on the horizon in this space?
Well, I hope that first of all, the message has had a lot more and there's more inclusion and more collaboration. But also we look at the people as individuals and what skill sets they bring to the table. If you want to look in nature for example, you know, a rose, it's destined to become a rose. The weed is destined become a weed. You know, we're all unique individuals with different facets to our personalities and our characters. And as a manager of somebody in leadership, I, if I'm a good leader, when I can identify how to utilize my employee skill sets, you know, whether they are female, whether they are male, that's important. So do work on those skills and putting them in place in the right position that they can flourish and flower.
Right. And that which is a great leadership bloom, flower. A lot of great metaphors and analogies there. There is a Mark Twain quote that I think is about a fish climbing a tree ... But I'm not sure that I'm right on that. So I'm just going to mention that I'm probably wrong about something. But basically the idea being, if you judged a fish on how to climb the tree, you wouldn't think was very good fish.
Exactly. I have never seen a fish climb a tree. But, hey…
That'd be the point at which is why his quote is probably not that at all. But it is great to look forward and to understand … to see people where they are and help them achieve the next thing for them.
With that in mind, what do you hope to achieve next since you've done so much already.
Being at NEXT.
You know, for me, I'm always like a sponge, so you know, life enthuses me. I want to learn constantly. I've been very fortunate in my career to have been in situations where everything has been evolving rapidly and I've had to learn, you know, so it's never stops. So it's the learning process. I'm never too old and ugly enough to learn. I'm always open to learning new ways and new possibilities and just continuing to really reach my own potential and present the best that I can and step up to the best person that I can be for myself. And offer that.
We talk about leadership, we talk about women in leadership, but what do you find impressive about leaders? What do you, if you were to define leadership in three qualities, what might those three be?
I think what I find, you know, if you want to look at politics, for example, and you've got someone who's running a country, right? But then you've got someone who's an actual leader. People look up to them and an impressive qualities and leaders, I think it's, they are ready to pull up their own sleeves and do the work. I think that's, that's a great quality. They are, they're able to listen, listening, as you know, we're all so quick to have our opinion and voice our own opinion. But do we really listen to what the other person is truly saying? And when we listen, do we actually hear it? So listening and hearing, um, and those are some of the qualities that are very important. And leadership and empathy. You know, we've, we touched on this earlier, but being able to put yourself in somebody else's shoes is a good skill.
So, I mean those are all, those are tremendous leadership qualities and both in men and women. So, one more sort of topic before we go in, in the community space that you work in, how do you find that those qualities are exhibited or what do you do in the community to work, to help mentor or to do other things like that?
I get approached to do a lot of mentoring both for young men and women. I go out and I lecture at universities. I'm part of a lot of women's initiatives outside of Hitachi itself. I've done that throughout my career. So a lot of talks and really talking to, to these young people who kind of look up to you … internships as well is something that I do. A lot of people have come and worked for me to kind of get that experience and see what it is like to work for a woman. You know, and I've had many of those. I've been very fortunate to have that because I learned from them as well. You know, it's, as I said, I'm always learning, so it's, it's great.
It is great. It keeps the days more interesting.
It does and it's the fresh perspective, right?
If you've signed off on not learning anything else, then I don't know what you're doing with most of your time.
From day to day. It's just the same thing over and over again, which seems to me a little bit tedious. So I'm glad to hear you are doing that with a women's initiative that's a little bit young. It's only a few months old here at Hitachi Ventura. What would you hope that it's next couple of steps are? How do you hope to see it evolve?
I think what I would like for us to do, I mean it's very young as you said, but I'd like us to get more involved in our social innovation projects as well. And actually get out there and really mingle with other people in industry as well and see what their perspectives are. To get more involved in industry and these initiatives and expand as much as we can and scale what we're doing too.
Always to scale.
Always scale. That's what happens when you work for a tech company. You just think about scaling.
Let's see how do we scale it? How do you scale good things? That's always a great challenge. And something to look up to. Thanks so much for being with us.
Thank you so much.
Always a pleasure.
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