By Ronald Hedley and Shachi Rai Gupta

 

Ibegin by asking Shachi Rai Gupta what transformation means to her, and she starts off by saying, “I define transformation as a process of conscious evolution. The pursuit of growth and evolution is a common theme, which is deeply embedded in my personal and professional journey so far.”

Shachi, a self-proclaimed Bohemian nerd, brings with her a blend of business technical skills. As a strategic program and transformation leader, for the past 13+ years, she has spearheaded multiple global scale programs, business intelligence/ analytics platforms from ideation, implementation to adoption across decentralized matrix landscapes across multiple domains in CPG, agribusiness and food production companies. With regards to her personal life journey, she says,

I have been fortunate in having had an exceptional African, Asian, and American odyssey, spending a third of my life in each continent, where the rich, diverse exposure and experience has equipped me with a unique open-minded and open-willed perspective

Shachi currently serves as the Senior Global Director: Commercial Business and Digital Transformation at Mars, Inc. She sees a connection between her life and work experiences. The key is transformation. She adds, “When I talk about transformation, I feel that having a breadth of varied experiences gives you a lot of perspective. It also makes you very receptive to new ideas, assimilating them and picking and choosing what fits and what doesn’t.”

On educational background and foundation, she goes on to say, “I consider myself a business technologist, and I am a big supporter of STEM as foundational education. Strong roots in STEM education, as well as my initial grounding in the discipline of building use cases and co-writing programs, has helped me develop the prowess to have an end-to-end view of cross-functional data, processes, systems and middleware integrations.”

She then points her praise to a holistic approach on the subject. “The practice of proactively thinking of and covering all routine, alternate and exceptional scenarios, user experiences and interactions have enabled me to holistically and effectively lead product/program development, which consider the entire value chain with the user at the center. The digital transformation initiatives I drive are based in design thinking, hyper-collaborative teams, analytics and agile development, where development is iterative, evolutionary, and focused on incremental improvement and flexibility.”

“Balance,” she says, “is another key driver. When leading any transformation or change, you need to build your left and right brain skill sets. As a change and implementation program leader, one needs to have paradoxical skills, where at one end you are a visionary, and at the other, you are grounded enough to transform that vision into a reality. You need to be detail oriented, logical, and adept at finding patterns and connecting the dots.”

She continues, “At the same time, you need to have inherent EQ skills to lead change, form an authentic connection with influencers/stakeholders, and articulate/communicate value-add win-win propositions. I believe that strong stakeholder and team relationships are fundamentally  trust driven through authenticity, credibility, reliability and conscious awareness of the me (my purpose), us (team purpose), and it (bigger/company purpose).”

She goes on to say, “The fallacy of any functional transformation, evolution or growth is to expect a linear path. Our job as transformational leaders is to know it isn’t, hold true to our vision, have agility and lead our teams through the non-linear growth.”

Shachi points to the real crux of the matter. “People are at the heart of it all and leadership, to me, is focused on being collaborative, inclusive, transparent, empathetic and empowering. Throughout the course of my career, I have managed multiple cross-regional and cross-functional teams, where I have tried to build a balanced, nurturing, and empowering work culture, which encourages free thought and brainstorming, while aiming to create a challenging, detail-driven, and mentally-stimulating growth-conducive environment.”

She gives a personal example to help drive this point home. “I am a big believer in having clarity about your ‘whys?’ On the personal transformation side, I did something recently which is not mainstream; I chose to take a ‘conscious pause.’ My mom had been diagnosed with cancer in 2016, and though she has fully recovered, I came out of the experience with an epiphany, a need to de-layer and to figure out my ‘whys’ and the direction where my life was headed. I chose to return home to India for six months.”

She goes on to explain the impact that this decision had. “I had deliberately not planned any additional travel, and my intent was to go back to basics and get to the core of what my drivers are. I would wake up in the morning and NOT look at my cell phone, which had been so tied to my work. I loved it because I was able to remove all the noise. My ‘why’ was about finding joy in every moment. I had shifts where I asked myself the all-important questions: How do I stay in the present moment? How do I come from a place of abundance instead of fear? How do I stay authentic, listen and [remain] connected to my center, always letting my inner compass guide me?”

Shachi has now been back to work for six months, and she remains introspective. She says, “I need to be authentic and courageous because the kind of work I do is about forging genuine, authentic connections, not about forming those relationships just for the sake of it. That doesn’t sit well with me.”

On the subject of procurement transformation, she says, “Our function is evolving, where we are shifting to create a hyper-collaborative environment in close partnership with the business stakeholders, supply chain, R&D and our suppliers. The key transformation themes for me are as follows:

GO LEAN – AUTOMATE – SIMPLIFY

KEEP GROWING – ANALYTICS – HARNESS

STAY IN CONTROL – COMPLIANCE – PROTECT

“There needs to be a proactive shift of attention and energy from a siloed/narrow focus, to an end-to-end view internally, and to cutting edge best practices and technologies externally. Coupled with a deep understanding of the current organizational ecosystem, objectives, cultures and matrix, the most important step is to marry the possibilities with the organizational reality. My focus is to drive business and digital transformation through the lens of improving overall functional effectiveness, efficiency, user experience and insights.”

As we conclude, she shares a favorite quote from Maya Angelou, which she has adopted as her mantra for staying on course: “Do your best until you know better. And once you know better, do better!”