Employee stories

Navigating challenges, empowering others, and embracing growth

As VantagePoint’s GRC Practice Lead, Chaitra Venkattesh is no stranger to taking risks and overcoming challenges when it comes to navigating the world of finance and technology. In this career story, Chaitra delves into the nuances of leadership, the power of effective time management and what keeps her focused, motivated and inspired.  

What or who inspired you to pursue a leadership role?  

Back in 2015, my manager at the time introduced me to technology and got me started with finance technologies in particular; she was probably one of the strongest female leaders that I have worked for and inspired me to be a good leader. I also get inspired by seeing everyone on the team doing well. 

What advice would you give other women who aspire to become leaders? 

Learn to communicate better.  

As women, we tend to lean towards a more emotional style of communication. We take our work too seriously, and then your work kind of becomes your personality altogether. Avoiding this early on in your career helps, as well as keeping an objective mindset when it comes to communication. 

My advice in general would be: if you say something, do it. So, if you say you're good at something, make sure you are. Nowadays, it’s very easy to call people out and point out gaps. In a leadership role especially, you have to be true to your word, just follow through with what you say you'll do and that's enough. It'll take you a long way.  

Tell us about a recent milestone you’ve achieved that others might not know about you. 

I completed my sustainability and climate risk certification, which was a tough one. I'm not the kind of person to speak about my achievements so that's probably taken the backseat, but it’s a good personal milestone. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman in leadership (throughout your career)? 

When I started my career at the age of 19, I struggled hugely with not being able to get my thoughts out there despite having really good ideas. I don't know if it is due to being a woman (or being a brown woman) but once I moved out of India, I had a hard time being taken seriously so that kind of threw my confidence off a little.  

During this time, I benefited from mentors who guided and shaped me. As I’ve continued to develop into more of a leadership role, I still occasionally struggle with being interrupted in a conversation, but it is getting better. 

Does your confidence increase when there are more women in the room? 

Unfortunately not. It doesn't matter who is in the conversation it matters how much you're heard. I don't know how much of this is the same in the world outside of work, but in nine out of 10 organisations that I have had interactions with, more often than not, I am the only woman in the conversation. 
So it's on me to develop that gravitas and to make sure I'm speaking sense. It’s sometimes much harder work than just showing up, so preparation goes a long way. As a woman, you need to probably do six extra things that somebody who's not a woman might not even think of. 

How do you balance your personal and professional responsibilities as a leader and how has VantagePoint supported you in these moments? 

I like to work so I have definitely had struggles trying to separate myself from work, but VantagePoint has contributed hugely to my personal life. I started my job in Amsterdam, knowing that I would have to move to the US at some point which wasn't something I decided on a whim. The company have been super supportive of me moving to the US and doing what I need to do to keep my family together which has meant a lot to me.  

What matters to me is having the freedom of choosing where I want to live my life which is something VantagePoint allows you to do, they are genuinely interested in seeing you be comfortable and not struggling to juggle things. 

How do you stay focused and productive in the face of distractions and competing priorities?  

I don't get distracted very easily but what helps me is my notebook. I make a list of everything I need to do through the day and just do it. I think the biggest lesson you learn growing into this position of leadership is that you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. So sometimes it takes you three hours to complete a task that you probably have to do about six hours of research on to start with but the fewer the excuses are, the better the quality of your work. You could probably spend 15 minutes grumbling about how much you must do or just sit down for 15 minutes and finish the task.  

My biggest piece of advice for anybody struggling with time concerns is if you have a task, put it in your calendar and if it's in your calendar, just do it, no distractions. If it's in your calendar it means you’ve got to do it or you’ll probably end up having to do it at 6:30 pm which is not the most pleasant thing. 

How do you balance short-term and long-term goals as a leader?  

I don't like over-planning my months, I do plan my week, though. I spend about an hour on Friday, planning the next week, and sometimes the week after. I try to make goals every six months; my last goal was to finish my certification and thankfully that went well. Next, my goal is to learn French. 

I do like the quarterly revenue planning concept, you plan for three months, you achieve it, and then move on, so why can’t we do this with both our professional and personal lives? Audit, review and see what went wrong and what worked.  

It's almost impossible to understand how things will go long-term, so you might as well just be open to contingency planning, do what's in your control and move on.  

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader? 

That is a very good question. It’s difficult to stay motivated 100% of the time, there is a high chance that at some point you’ll be like “What am I doing with my life? Should I find a new job? Should I just quit working? Should I go and run off into the mountains?”. 

So, what helps me is taking time off, even if that's just the weekend, not looking at my phone or anything work-related. You need to get away from something for it to have value to you when you return to it. It's very similar to when you travel for a month and then you come back home and you're so happy to be back home. The more you work, the easier it is to feel less motivated, but taking three steps back (maybe by even just going for a walk) can really help. 

When in doubt, just close your laptop and walk away for a bit; if that needs to be for one or two days, speak to your manager about taking a break.

If you ever feel like you're overwhelmed, take a step back, take a breather, and come back refreshed otherwise, you're going to be snappy at everybody and it’s easy for kindness to slip. 

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion and our corporate social responsibility

Find out how we are building a culture of equality in our workplace.

Find out about our culture