By YKA Staff:
What does it take to navigate the labyrinth of the corporate world to become one of the most successful working professional women of today? A lot. Over a career spanning 17 years, Virginia Sharma, LinkedIn’s Director for Marketing Solutions, has carved a niche for herself. After beginning her professional journey at a multinational technology company, Virginia went on to join LinkedIn in 2014.
In her current role, she promotes content marketing and native advertising solutions to brands looking to reach and engage with professionals active on the network. Aside from work, Virginia has a keen interest in maintaining her blog, where she refers to herself as the “Desi CMO”. In her own words, building a name and reputation for herself in the corporate world and architecting a successful career was no mean task, having taken many laborious hours of contemplation and strategy, to begin with, apart from the hours of effort put into the job itself. In a Q&A with YKA, Virginia shares her choicest experiences and advice for the benefit of young, budding professionals.
YKA: We have a young audience, looking to build meaningful careers. You’ve been a marketing professional for 17 years! What’s your advice on navigating the world of work in the early years?
Virginia Sharma (VS): Spend your first six months in a new role in “listen and learn and be helpful mode”. This will not only help you build your network of supporters for when you are trying to launch initiatives, but also help you prioritise initiatives that will bring the most value to the organisation. An employee who is a fast learner, a good collaborator and focuses their time on where the organisation needs them the most (outcomes vs. activities) is always going to be noticed, appreciated, and rewarded by the management team.
YKA: Social media has become a great platform through which today’s youth find jobs and make connections. Does LinkedIn have any specific tools for students and young professionals?
VS: We have more than 40 million students and fresh graduates on LinkedIn, and they are the fastest growing demographic on our platform. Last month we launched LinkedIn Placements, a product custom made for India, which provides a level playing field for graduates across India. The Placements platform has an online assessment test, which gives graduates direct access to thousands of openings in 35 top corporates in India.
YKA: Gender equality in the workplace has emerged as a hot topic of discussion in recent times. What kind of policies would you recommend to employers to help meet gender-specific needs?
VS: I believe that a more diverse workforce helps in driving greater productivity at the workplace. A 2015 study by McKinsey & Company indicates that companies with greater gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform. Being in the business of creating economic opportunities, we (LinkedIn) believe diversity at the workplace is essential for us to achieve our vision. Initiatives such as WiN and Women in Technology are some of our several efforts to encourage and drive diversity across the organisation.
The Women’s Initiative (WiN) is focused on driving inclusion and gender diversity within our Global Sales team. WiN hosts workshops with managers to foster constructive communication and discussions on what great leadership is. To help women advance in their careers, this initiative also identifies high potential talent and provides them with executive coaching and mentoring.
Women in Technology is another great initiative within our Engineering and Product teams to help women transform themselves, their careers and the company. Through this initiative, women get an opportunity to get inspired by industry thought leaders, network with senior women in tech and become role models for the next generation of technical talent.
YKA: Finally, what are the five things you would tell your younger self if you could do things differently?
1. Sit up straight – a strong posture helps avoid back pain later in life when you become a white collar worker and spend most of your time hunched over a desk.
2. Drink more water – It keeps you looking younger and fresher!
3. Call my mom more often – I now understand how much she loves hearing from me. It makes her day. Wish I did it more!
4. Hone a talent that is unrelated to work – whether it be playing an instrument, singing, dance, art or learning to code, it helps you be more interesting than just being good at your job.
5. Don’t lead a double life on social media. Focus on being a happier person in your ‘real’ life, rather than pretending to be happy and having fun for the sake of validation and vanity.
This interview was facilitated by Webit, a global series of events that focus on digital innovation and creating business opportunities at global scale. These events further ignite the growth of local ecosystems, inspiring and empowering them to create a platform for dialogue between policy makers, enterprise and entrepreneurs.