Emerging Leader Spotlight: Rakhi Voria

Emerging Leader: Rakhi VoriaEvery month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what she is doing to take the lead in her career. We invite her to share how she achieved her current position, what obstacles she encountered on her climb, as well as tips for how to be a rising woman of influence.

This month we shine the Emerging Leader Spotlight on Rakhi Voria of Microsoft.  As the Worldwide Inside Sales Business Manager, Rakhi is responsible for the program management of new inside sales center launches, integrated business planning, and orchestration/direction of leadership team activities. In addition to her day job, Rakhi has a passion for advancing women in business/technology. She is currently the Co-Chair of the Women@Microsoft Board as well as the SMSG Women US Chapter, a 2,000-person organization designed to help women grow their professional skills and expand career options, and was recently featured as a Career Contessa and profiled in The Seattle Times. Rakhi earned her M.Sc. from the University of Oxford where she was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar and her B.A. from Colorado College, where she received a full-ride as an El Pomar Scholar.

Job title: Worldwide Inside Sales Business Manager
Company: Microsoft
Favorite leadership quote: “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.” – Jay Danzie.

Why did you choose your current career path?

As I mentioned in my Career Contessa piece, growing up I had explored internships across various fields (journalism, politics, business, etc.) and frankly, I enjoyed aspects of all of them. Ultimately, when choosing a career path, my goal was simple: I wanted to work for an organization that was changing the world, whose values deeply aligned with my own, and that didn’t force me to leave my personal passions and interests at home.

When I attended a Microsoft recruiting event at the University of Oxford, I was inspired by how its technology and people have made an impact all over the globe. Microsoft’s mission says it all: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” Technology has the power to change the world, and I wanted to be part of that change.

What is the next step you plan to take in your career to develop your leadership skills?

I just took on a new role as Business Manager for the Worldwide Inside Sales team at Microsoft as a way to develop my leadership skills and take my career to the next level. As a Business Manager, you’re working for a leader as their “Chief of Staff” in a sense, allowing you to get a helicopter view of the business, be deeply integrated into their leadership team, and have a seat at the table when making critical business decisions and strategizing on future growth prospects. You’re an extension of that leader, representing them in meetings and directing/orchestrating activities among the team. Given that I have aspirations to hold an executive-level position managing a business s myself one day, I thought being a Business Manager would help me see leadership in action while sharpening my competencies around creating, developing, and managing a team.

The Business Manager role was a position that I had my sights on for a while now, and it was especially enticing that it was on a newly formed team responsible for driving Microsoft’s inside sales across all products and geographies. I had never worked in a start-up environment, nor had I had the opportunity to have a worldwide position, so I thought this would be a way to challenge myself to be more agile, nimble, and strategic while also giving me exposure to different ways of conducting business around the globe.

What are some top tips you can recommend to other women who want to be recognized as high potential emerging leaders?

First, I would encourage you to identify a set of experiences and skills that you are looking to gain as you think about managing your career. For me, it was finding a new role on a start-up team that would give me executive exposure, global opportunities, and help me refine my leadership skills. Once you have identified your own “North Star,” you can start communicating your aspirations to mentors and managers so that they can support and invest in your growth.

Second, emphasize your unique qualities and use them to your advantage. As a millennial and a female, I’ve been told to “hide my age to gain credibility” or “act like a man since the technology field is so male-dominated.” I don’t subscribe to the notion that we need to “downplay” our unique qualities, but rather think we should use them to our advantage. As a millennial relatively new to the workforce, I think I offer a fresh perspective that allows me to view the business in a different light than my seasoned peers and invent innovative tools, processes, and initiatives. Given that millennials are predicted to make up 50% of the workforce by 2020, why not capitalize on our strengths as being connected, tech-savvy, and energetic?

Next, make sure the work you are doing is results-focused and measurable. I’ve had roles in sales where it was clear what my accountabilities were (e.g. revenue) and roles on the other end of the spectrum where it wasn’t as easy to see the tangible impact of my work, like business development and marketing. Regardless of the role, challenge yourself to demonstrate clear results wherever possible by setting goals, milestones, and reviews. The Harvard Business Review offers great guidance on how to measure financial and non-financial success via the consideration of cause and effect and key performance indicators.

Finally, thank those who have invested in your growth and find ways to pay it forward. Most of us are where we are today thanks to support from others. While it is okay to be focused on personal growth, make sure to place equal importance on team success and developing others. There are a number of ways to do this – mentorship, time, financial contributions. I love the phrase “lift while you climb.” It’s a good reminder that collaboration is key and while we may be individually strong, we are collectively powerful.

Connect with Rakhi Voria on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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As Operations and Marketing Manager, Angie Klein is responsible for maintaining the day to day operations of  Be Leaderly.com. Angie manages all aspects of training program logistics, registrations, SEO, financials,  monthly newsletter, social media engagement and customer service.

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