How does a top LinkedIn influencer utilise her strong personal brand for the larger good?

A name listed in the top 100 Women Leaders in Finance, the top 50 CMO’s in India, the top 100 Smartest Digital Marketers - Poonam Vijay Thakkar, needs no introduction to most.

Among multiple other mandates, she is also known for her roles as the Head of Analytics & Digital Communications with a large leading NBFC, Founder of #SupportSaturdays and Mentor of Change at Niti Aayog. With over two decades of rich experience in her bag, we sat down to uncover her journey.

Poonam is someone who would like to be remembered at the end of her career as a leader who uplifted other women in the corporate world and we are so happy to see her take concrete action to live out this purpose. On multiple occasions she has stood up against decisions that didn’t help create an unbiased environment capable of providing equal opportunity. She stood up questioning the status quo. As recently as on March 17th 2020, she said no to a decision that was not in favour of the safety or upliftment of the women in her organisation. She is definitely someone who walks the talk when it comes to women empowerment in the corporate world.

Mistakes often inspire more than success:

Poonam is of the belief that you can learn more from people’s failures than from their wins so instead of diving into her successes, we started with exploring her mistakes. We asked the woman who is a poster for corporate success today, what mistakes did she make along the way?

  • Not speaking up at the right time: Haven’t we all had moments after a discussion where we go back wishing we had raised our voice and said more or spoken differently?

  • Not aware of her rights as a woman: she shares that it’s important we each understand that we have rights, and that some things are non-negotiable come what may.

  • Not working on her personal brand initially: it’s heartening to learn that a LinkedIn top voice wasn’t always a success with her personal branding, which means you can start today too.

  • The art of saying no: for very long, she tried to find the best ways of saying no but she learned over time that there rarely is a good way and no just simply means no.

  • Allowing people to judge: she initially let people form false perceptions of her but today she knows how to confidently stand up for her identity and also drown out the noise when needed.

  • Living with a lingering fear: she had to teach herself to negotiate well and let go of the fear of losing her career with one wrong step.

Personal Branding advice from a LinkedIn Top Voice:

Poonam’s most basic advice is that as a professional you must spend more time on LinkedIn than on Netflix if you truly want to build your brand.

She believes it is a power place of professionals from across the globe and its benefits are multi-fold if harnessed well. Today, she doesn’t only see LinkedIn as a way to build her personal digital persona but also as a means to help the community.

Her two broad insights would be to create value through your content and via networking.

How can you as someone who is starting out implement this? Every time you post something, ask yourself, does this add value to my network? Whether your network is one person or ten thousand, your desire to serve value must not be diminished. Similarly, build a network and provide value to the people you add to your virtual journey whether it’s by engaging with their content that resonates with you, having an offline conversation or connecting them with someone you think would be useful. It’s the little things that go a long way.

What are #SupportSaturdays?

#SupportSaturdays, is a digital social visibility campaign launched on LinkedIn on August 15th, 2020. The aim of the campaign is to bring leaders from the professional community together as Ambassadors in order to further collectively extend help through effective utilization of the LinkedIn platform for the professional community members who have been unfortunately laid off due to COVID pandemic. This is the world’s first ever digital campaign run by the professionals for the professionals as a part of their Individual Corporate Social Responsibility.

On every Saturday at 11 am onwards, all Ambassadors of the campaign systematically in a synchronized way share the profiles of job-seekers in a rhythm on their individual profile pages to award a job – seeker a collective higher visibility and exposure of more than a million connections, increasing their chances of reaching out to an opportunity or a recruiter getting exposed to their CV through them. #SS team is playing the role of a matchmaker using LinkedIn platform for meaningful cause and purpose.

They started the campaign with 25 Ambassadors and now the team has grown within a months’ time to 65 Ambassadors. They have representation from Singapore, Dubai, Maldives and UK. Since the pandemic has impacted the job market globally. This is a one of its kind campaign to uplift lives and careers and most importantly build HOPE. Under this banner they have launched in collaboration with Industry CXO’s, coaches & authors a new initiative called #MentoringMondays aiming at upskilling talent through innovative Video Mentoring by experts, with a vision to impart their knowledge by effectively preparing and upskilling the job seekers for the new digital world and roles.

New Corporate Policies in 2020 – Bane or Boon?

2020 has seen a massive shift in the workplace and a lot of potential change in the future of work. The two big discussions that stood out for us are those of Remote Work and the Period Leave. There have been two sides to the coin in both cases and we wanted to learn of Poonam’s perspective on these, given her experience in the corporate world.

Remote working can be an absolute boon:

Poonam believes that the social media advent has opened up many opportunities that can be easily fulfilled from the comfort of a café or home. Gone are the days when you could work or perform only within the four walls of an office under monitoring.

The Gen Z led digital world, it’s all about your productivity, collaboration, creativity, skills and honesty and she thinks this will actually give a more level playing ground to women not only by offering the convenience to work from their homes but more so by the focus shifting primarily to performance and not the number of hours spent on your chair.

Period leave could cause long term harm:

Poonam aspires for a world where in the future there will only be leaders, and not ‘women leaders’. And she believes that if we have to achieve this state, there cannot be any reservation demarcating the strength of one from another at the pretext of a biological process. To her it’s another way to put women a level below men in the corporate world.

Where are we in this journey of gender equality today?

Poonam refers to the millennial generation as the mash-up generation struggling to navigate the new norms of the world. Most men in this generation she observes were brought up to focus solely on their careers, and for women it was a confusing ‘try to do it all’ approach used, where there was a focus on their education and more opportunity to work but still an almost single role at home to manage home chores and also bring up the children.

The good news is that with the new generation Gen Y & Gen Z, she sees that they are more skewed towards equality not only in the form of equal opportunity but also equal responsibility. They have clear goals with respect to work life balance as they have greater clarity on their life goals as a “Man and a Woman” together.

She also adds that, India is a vast and a diverse country. In Metros there is also the question of a tremendous increase in the cost of living, and meeting these needs and desires is most likely only possible if both the partners are contributing financially as a career oriented working couple. In the tier 2 cities, while education has improved, lots of women are still looking at education as a means to raise their children and not have a career of their own. On the other hand, in tier 3 cities, both man and woman work on the farmlands, but the responsibility of the home still falls in the lap of the women.

We can thus concur that times are changing, and women are slowly becoming equal contributors to the workplace and men equal contributors to the home. And that is the future of life and work we imagine and the kind of world we want to live in. Isn’t it?

More Power!

Poonam Vijay Thakkar is the Head of Analytics & Digital Communications at a large leading NBFC and directs digital transformation and innovation led Analytics for 12 Lines of Businesses. She is also the Founder of #SupportSaturdays, the world's first I-CSR Digital Influencer Campaign aiming at helping covid hit professionals and a Mentor of Change at Niti Aayog, a Government of India initiative for upskilling youth.