How have you improved the desirability in your own eyes?
In the tech industry, we are on a journey for gender diversity and gender equality. Having worked in the industry for over two decades, I have seen how women had a harder time being seen as equal earlier. If not better at times, we have been compared to people doing similar roles. I’ve always worked on the principle of deserve than desire. This was by understanding and clarifying sometimes with my line managers what the requirements of the role were, the statement of excellence, the gives and gets of excellence. For every role that I’ve undertaken, I’ve been my biggest critic and I, myself, hold myself in my heart, per se, to the highest standards. And with that in mind, I just basically mentally tick off a checklist. When I want something, a broader responsibility, I have to be convinced 100% that I’ve checked all the boxes that I deserve this. So, every role that you do in an organization makes me look at the set of KPIs. I ask myself if I attaining those KPIs or am I doing better than those KPIs? And can I hold myself accountable as me to say, I have delivered on every single KPI. And when I know I’ve delivered, I add them and give myself the permission to design. That’s what I teach my child as well that you first deserve and then desire. And then you have to prove your desirability as well.
How can we become more compassionately curious instead of being critically judgemental? Have you seen the transition in yourself, Neha?
I think I was fortunate because I grew up under the stewardship of my grandfather. And because of the high degrees that my mom also had done, he was always very equal in his mind. He was a lifelong educator. He was a learner, even at 82 years of age, curious about anything and everything. He read every day he worked until he was physically unable to write and that had a very big influence on my life. I have always been naturally curious. And I absolutely thrive on challenges. I get bored with things being the same. In the field of cybersecurity, where I work, I cannot even begin to assume I know everything. This is a very humbling thought. When you know you don’t know much that is a very humbling thought. This requires me to continuously stay curious and continuously learn what I don’t know. And it also takes away the scope, or even have the possibility, or the audacity of being judgmental or critical. So personally, I think just growing up influenced by my own grandfather, and then being in the field that I am, you naturally need to be curious because otherwise you will become obsolete. So, you need to continuously learn.
What is one change that you have instituted that has helped you to move more closer to your goals in a very effective manner?
What I’m trying to do as I progress my career, or even coach others, is I’m trying to become bolder about communicating my aspirations. As women, we do not ask for a promotion, we don’t ask for a raise, a bigger responsibility. We expect that if we are doing everything that we are required to do, our work should speak for itself. That doesn’t always happen. It has not always worked for me. So, while I still let my work speak for itself, I’m trying to be more and more intentional in communicating about my work. Because I believe in deserve, then desire, I’ve realized that desire also needs to be unequivocally communicated, without any doubt. And, and that’s been my learning — deserve, then desire, but also then communicate that desire to people around you.
How can women create an identity and be relevant?
It’s been a journey and we are all on that journey of having that identity as a leader, but also then creating that relevance. Somewhere, in my mind, authenticity is a very, very important virtue because in the process of creating identity we sometimes mask who we authentically are. And if I’m not my authentic self, I may appear relevant or I may create relevance, but that will not be long-lived. So, while we are talking about identity and relevance, we need to ask what authentic qualities you have that you can bring to your identity as a leader so that that you can remain relevant for a longer time. And the other thing that I also believe in yes be your authentic self but in order to be relevant, you need to be current. When you’ve arrived in a leadership position, you need to continuously learn so that you’re relevant as well. So again, humility to learn and say that I don’t know, but I will learn and come back. That also is a reflection of your authenticity.
“Deserve, then desire, but also then communicate that desire to people around you.”
Now you’re challenging boundaries as a leader because as you navigate the complexities. How’s your identity standing up at this place?
Challenging boundaries happens while exploring who we can become beyond ourselves and then challenging boundaries of what your role could do to help others as well. Indians, Asian, Europeans all want to aspire and do more but that can happen only when you look at where you are. How do you look at where you are? How do you challenge yourself in terms of is this all I can do. And then what’s the example you’re setting for yourself, for your next generation, and then people who look up to you? So in order to become bigger, you also need to continuously think about your legacy? Like, is this all that I want to leave behind? So legacy becomes an important factor in how do you challenge yourself to do more as an individual, from a perspective of the roles that we do, and what you bring to that role as leaders.
I would feel I’m never satisfied with the status quo. There’s always always something more that we can do. And that actually is bringing my authentic self to say, is this enough? Is this something that we all can do? And, somewhere having the cross references of people who’ve done big things also helps – mentors, leaders you look up to, it’s not gender-centric. I mean, anybody who’s done well. First and foremost, I guess, this inhibition of “Oh, women cannot do this” is changing. Think of yourself as an individual in this profile. Can you do more? Of course, you can do. Now, what do you need to do that is the conversation. And that’s the message you pass on to people around you as well. So, I think, again, it’s cultural and the way you get brought up. Look who we are as humans, and then you know, we can never be satisfied.
When we aspire to do more, and then we encourage others to think, what’s the limit of your own potential? What are the boundaries you can challenge as a leader?
Yes, somewhere I’m thinking, the way in my mind how it works is, “Am I worthy of being a leader?” As my biggest critic, I ask am I worthy of being followed? So that becomes my Golden Compass –will someone look up at me and get inspired, what is what am I doing that’s inspiring? How am I bringing to the table? Or what am I bringing to the table that’s different from other leaders? Am I getting my hands dirty in the trenches? And if that’s what the team needs to be inspired, then that’s what I will do. If my primary goal is for the team to come together and do something, then am I being that anchor where I would go back and say, “Okay, this is what needs to be done, I will make sure you’re protected.” So, my job as a leader is to guide the team to protect the team as well as then motivate the team by doing myself what I would expect others to do, if that’s what will motivate them. There are different kinds of people who get motivated with different things – encouragement, sometimes coaching and guidance, so depends on the person that you’re dealing with, or the collective that you’re dealing with. Are you holding yourself accountable to say, “What did I do today to motivate others?”
Area Business Group Leader – Cybersecurity, Data Governance, Risk and Compliance | Asia Pacific | Microsoft Corporation
Neha Monga is the Area Business Group Leader – Cybersecurity, Data Governance, Risk and Compliance, Asia Pacific, Microsoft Corporation. Neha has earned the well-deserved “Gold Club“ recognition for her consistent high performance within her organization. Neha strongly believes that there should be no limits to one’s ability to aspire and grow.
Neha has earned the trust of people by her ability to showcase confidence with ease. This coupled with curiosity and hunger for knowledge keeps Neha motivated to constantly learn and stay relevant. She is very self-aware and constantly strives to keep herself evolving to become a better version of herself.
Read on to know what her thoughts are on leadership and creating legacy in this exclusive interview she gave for Global Coaching Lab (GCL)