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‘Good people skills always help you climb up the corporate ladder’

Make the most of every opportunity that comes your way, suggests ASM alumna and Accenture senior analyst Shefali Gaur to those who want to make it big in the corporate world



Shefali Gaur

Shefali Gaur, working as an Application Development Senior Analyst with Accenture, did her MBA in Human Resources Management and Services from the Apeejay School of Management in the 2015-17 batch. In an interview, she emphasises the importance of networking, keeping employees engaged, maintaining a good professional profile on social media and how reading authors such as Ashwin Sanghi and Devdutt Pattanaik helped her in a job interview. Edited excerpts:

Did you always want to be in this field when you were younger?

Not exactly, but yes I wanted to enter the corporate world for sure. That was something which was always on my mind. Human resources development (HR) is something I thought of when I began doing my MBA in management school and the faculty — teachers such as Manupriya Ma’am and Ishita Ma’am — provided me guidance and highlighted the importance of HR. I began by working with Ericsson in the HR department and this helped me understand the processes. But then I moved to consulting. This was very different from the HR domain. Here I understood the importance of automation and why companies were going for it. This was something that we had studied in our MBA curriculum.

What made you shift from the world of HR to being an analyst?
I somehow got the opportunities at the right time that paved the path for this transition. This was something which was not really planned. I didn’t actually want to move to consulting, just that I got an opportunity with Deloitte and they were getting me certified and that’s how it happened.

Please share your memories of management school with us.
I was in the 2015-17 batch at the Apeejay School of Management, Dwarka. The first advice that I received was to enjoy the experience of studying for an MBA as much as I could. The management school journey doesn’t just prepare you for the corporate world, it also enhances your personality and shapes how you want to present yourself to the world. The faculty at Apeejay provided me great guidance on how one should communicate, how to present oneself and one’s soft skills. Chhaya Wadhwa Ma’am and Ishita Ma’am in particular helped me add these facets to my personality.

Please share some life lessons that you picked up while pursuing your MBA?
I became a more confident person while in management school. Before my MBA, I had done B. Tech from IP University. At that stage I couldn’t make presentations in front of a group of people. But the ASM mentorship programme, in which we made presentations on a weekly basis, really helped me and continues to help me now when I make presentations to clients. The experience made me more confident about presenting my views with greater poise and conviction. There is another life lesson worth recollecting. During college, the teachers used to tell us to have at least one hobby. I’d never thought nurturing a hobby would actually help me land a job. I was into reading during my student days. This helped me gain perspective on spirituality and its connection with the corporate world. It actually helped me in a job interview. The interviewer was impressed with my knowledge of spirituality that I had picked up by reading authors such as Devdutt Pattanaik, Amish Tripathi and Ashwin Sanghi.

Please share some tips for aspiring MBA students who want to emulate your career trajectory?
I was fortunate to get the right opportunities at the right time. I would suggest, grab hold of any opportunities which come your way. Don’t perceive any job or any salary as small or low. When I joined Ericsson, for instance, I was offered a lower package than I was getting at that point. Still, I took it up and that opportunity helped me land a job at Deloitte. And from Deloitte I went to Accenture. If your attitude makes you perceived a particular job as too small for you at the beginning of your career, drop that attitude. Accept every opportunity from good brands, you never know what path it will pave.

Did the Covid-19 pandemic affect your work or industry segment?

There was no direct challenge for us since we were working online in the work from home (WFH) mode. Still, from the HR perspective, for my other initiatives, keeping our employees engaged wasn’t easy during the lockdown. So, we had to come up with new ideas to pull in more people in the engagement calls. We held engagement calls every week that included fun activities for employees. We also let the new joiners feel welcome. They have a certain image when they join the company and it is very important to maintain that perception of the brand. When they join an organisation, they know very few colleagues. The idea is to make the new joiners feel involved even in a virtual environment. So, we’ve planned special activities such as Tambola in the run-up to Diwali. Before that we held quiz sessions. Every week we do something unique to keep them engaged and entertained.

Do HR managers look at social media or professional networking profiles while hiring?
They do. I left Deloitte in April and the very next month one of the managers from Deloitte messaged me on LinkedIn asking me whether I could join back. Accenture, too, reached out to me in a similar manner. I believe it is important to maintain a good professional profile on sites such as LinkedIn.

What is your mantra to be a successful analyst and HR professional?

To be successful in our line of business, you need to have a great people connect. Since everything is online, if you don’t have too many contacts, you may lag behind. So, networking is really important. If you have good networking and people skills, the second important skill that opens new avenues these days is certification.

Aasheesh Sharma is a seasoned journalist with an experience of more than 25 years spread over newspapers, news agencies, magazines and television. He has worked in leadership positions in media groups such as Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, NDTV, UNI and IANS. He is a published author and his essay on the longest train journey in India was included in an anthology of writings on the railways, brought out by Rupa Publications. As the Editor of Apeejay Newsroom, he is responsible for coverage of the latest news and developments in the Apeejay institutions. He can be reached at [email protected]. He tweets @Aasheesh74