Viewing Posts by Geetha Gopal
Presentation Recap: Leadership Advice to My (Even) Younger Self: Panel Discussion
Virtual Experience Series
Categories: Virtual Experience Series
By Geetha Gopal
I had the honor of moderating a featured Rising Leaders panel discussion with two of this year’s PMI Future 50 honorees, at the PMI Virtual Experience Series 2021 on 6-7 October 2021.
Future 50 is an annual list which features 50 rising leaders using bold and innovative thinking to transform the world through notable projects. Our two Future 50 panelists, Hanan AlMaziad, PfMP®, PgMP®, P3O, PMP®, King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre, KSA, and Jie Li, Project Management Office Head of Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research & Design Institute, shared their thoughts on how they are transforming their ideas into reality. Hanan and Jie Li are proving to the world that young people are actively shaping a better future.
When asked the question, "What is the one piece of advice you would give to your (even) younger self?," they provided diverse responses with so much humility. Li candidly recounted his very personal early career experience of being in the quality department and once signing off a lower quality deliverable by mistake. When he was worried about this discovery, he received timely advice and guidance from a senior colleague on how mistakes should not bring us down but must be acknowledged, faced boldly, and addressed. Li mentioned that this was a great lesson for him which he tries to practice consciously.
Hanan shared her experience of working harmoniously with the different generations at the workplace and learning from each other. She has great hopes for the future in the healthcare industry.
When asked about the important role diversity plays in making a big project successful, Li mentioned that including a younger generation in his program teams was a major contributor to its success. He recounted how job shadowing was effective, and his best practice recommendation was to pair different generations together for better outcomes.
Here are my key takeaways from these two wonderful young leaders:
Being the first Saudi to hold the Triple P certifications, Hanan is a great example of how by focusing on our goals with the right efforts, women can achieve tremendous things and be role models for others. Li, who wanted to join the automotive industry but was offered a nuclear role in which he has grown to such heights, is a stellar example of the rewards of passion and making the best use of our opportunities. I believe the younger generation will continue to grow to greater heights through such passion and commitment.
I want to respond to one question we received from the audience. The question was, “In addition to the skills you discuss, how important is luck to success?” I quote the Latin proverb - audentes Fortuna iuvat - “As the wise have always held, fortune (luck) favors the bold and the brave!”
The overwhelming response and feedback we received post event gives me a sense of deep satisfaction that this topic was truly impactful and inspirational to the next generation. Many thanks to PMI for putting together such a wonderful topic and event and for the opportunity to participate! The presentations from this program will be on demand through 31 January 2022. Visit PMI Virtual Experience Series 2021 for more details.
By Geetha Gopal
Last week, I was invited to the PMI Virtual Experience Series event held on 2 June 2021 to share my thoughts on the impactful topic of “Driving Innovation through Diversity.” It was a wonderful session with Idan Tobias, and we discussed why we think a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) mindset strengthens project and organizational performance.
Idan had a great set of thoughtful questions such as what the role of DE&I in driving innovation was, and what is one piece of advice I would give to project leaders on this topic, to recount a few. We deliberated on the strong influence of cognitive biases and the results of various studies which indicate that being aware of and acknowledging them is the first step in addressing them. I shared that I am always keen and willing to explore the unknown and untried, take up projects and solutions that are risky as long as their benefits outweigh the risks. In recent times, we have seen organizations setting DE&I as key goals which are more inclined to gender, racial and sexual diversity. I highlighted that generational diversity is often overlooked and must be considered as well. There are at least five different generations in today’s work environment, so we must be inclusive in that aspect too.
We discussed examples of organizations whose inclusive culture has resulted in their tremendous growth. As leaders we can embrace diversity by creating the right atmosphere in our teams and organization, so that anyone is able to adapt, perform their best and complement the system. Open communication, addressing concerns, promoting awareness and having a feedback culture will positively influence and make it sustainable. We also discussed on how active learning, curiosity and diversifying our skillsets will help us to grow as individuals.
Q: Would cultural diversity foster creativity in a project team and what are the factors that are needed?
R: Cultural diversity WILL increase creativity in projects. I see it as a kaleidoscope whose different views make it even more beautiful! As Idan says about his own experience coming from an organization which fosters diversity, they have seen an increase in employee participation and their overall growth has been tremendous. What's needed to encourage cultural diversity is first understanding our setup. If we don't measure, we don't know where we stand.
Q: Which is first - diversity or inclusion?
R: Inclusion comes first for me! As humans, it’s in our natural self to go out of our way to support those who make us feel included... Humanizing is a very important step in driving inclusion. Giving opportunities to those with the right attitude, willingness to learn and go the extra mile will see better results that hiring purely for technical skills.
Q: Would the speakers agree that disciplinary diversity (think cross functional teams) presents a great metaphor for cultural diversity? We're able (at least sometimes) to appreciate differing perspectives in cross functional teams in these situations and we can apply that sort of awareness sprinkled with cultural humility to our conversations and project interactions.
R: Yes, absolutely! That’s a great perspective! To give my own example, we see this all the time in IT projects where non-technical project members are as important as the technical ones, but this inclusion is not natural. The generic balance they bring to highly specialized discussions is important, and so is the disciplinary diversity aspect of it. We will miss out by excluding such diversity. I firmly believe that this is also a cognitive bias that is prevalent in practice and must be acknowledged and addressed.
It was heartening to see so many positive responses on our views. Here are some of their comments:
“I think it takes an open mind. Not everyone is willing to share with other people of different identities. (To assure ourselves that we) are not to be afraid.”
“Sometimes the obstacles to overcome are ourselves/our biases.”
“Humanizing the experience is a really powerful idea.”
“(The) danger is shutting people out by considering people ‘too old’ (with) age discrimination.”
Overall, I had a great experience, and the full presentation will be available on demand through 31 January 2022. Visit PMI Virtual Experience Series 2021 for more details.