Minal Srivastava, Vice President of Growth, Strategy and Marketing at Shalimar Paints, does not linger around the edges; she lifts the layers and is not afraid to dive into deeper subjects such as finding purpose in your career. Her thoughts stem not only from experience, but also from deep self-reflection over the years and conscious work on her personal development. She is the kind of woman who fills a room (and even a telephonic conversation) with a pure, positive energy with her soulful aura.
Clarity and Manifestation:
Minal shares her outlook on how getting the job, the respect or even the life you desire starts from first clearly knowing that desire itself. A lot of people have a generic idea of a number they want in their bank account or have sight of a ladder they intend to climb, but very rarely do they detail out for themselves the smaller, softer elements of what they truly expect or yearn from a job which will make up for most of their days. For example, do you want a job that is close to home, do you crave autonomy, do you want exposure, are you seeking a strong leader, and the list goes on. Minal advices that one needs to first be clear of this list before you start searching, else you will end up disappointed either because you will not find anything, or find something that isn’t aligned with your vision or true purpose. Minal shares these pearls of wisdom from her own experience from when she left a big brand like Apple, a move all her friends and family warned her against in good faith, at the time. She however had clarity on the fact that she was looking for something else from a job at this stage of her career. So much so, that she made a physical list of everything she now wanted from her next job. And we are happy to report that she really did manifest that list in the form of her current job right from the larger purpose and job description to the smaller details like its vicinity from her home.
We were so fascinated by this practice that we probed Minal to uncover it some more for our readers. She told us how she had identified that she as an individual, thrived in chaos; she also wanted more control over projects and more direct results to her actions each day. She realised she is someone who gets her highs from her job and is happy to fail fast and succeed fast as long as she is satisfied with work at the end of each day and can call each of those failures and successes her own. It was when she had a thorough clarity on these elements that she knew that she would not find what she was looking for in a very large organisation. Hence even after her move from Apple, she turned down lucrative offers that did not align with her vision. It was her clarity that gave her the courage to take a leap of faith and follow her gut against all odds. It’s not that the other side wasn’t bright, she added. She speaks of being surrounded by the brightest minds, a competitive environment and huge exposure up for grabs there but it just was not what she needed any more. And hence this subjectivity is what requires each one to do more soul searching themselves, to better understand what kind of place fits into their purpose at the given time.
Drawing parallels between motherhood and management:
When we asked Minal, what one thing she would want to mention on her resume that wasn’t there, her answer almost immediately, was ‘being a mother’. She shares Anvesha’s thoughts on motherhood making you a better leader and manager. She goes on to explain this to us with an example, which focuses on the fact that people trust people. She reiterates that whether you are dealing with an external client or your internal team, people need to trust you, and not just your product or company. She tells us how when she is with her son and when she tells him to eat something, he doesn’t care or trust the food, he trusts that she is doing what’s best for him, he trusts her and that trust has to be earned with every step. She draws a parallel telling us that similarly, when she tells her team, even people from another generation, to do something, she knows that they most often do it because they now trust her and her judgement.
Minal also tells us that whenever she is asked about work and motherhood, she is always sure to share that work is a lot easier for her since its more black and white. She knows that she does a series of tasks to get a certain result; while in motherhood, every day is a new grey and the results are almost always uncertain. However, she tells us that it is dealing with this regular uncertainty on a daily basis that makes you even more capable in dealing with the greys that may show up in your workplace.
Minal’s take on ‘mom guilt’ is so refreshing. She of course admits that she faced the guilt in her early years too, especially since she was constantly travelling for long periods during the first year of motherhood as she had just bagged herself a promotion. However, she informs that she did take a break for a year after and her insights from the two experiences were very interesting. She shared how during the time she was constantly at home, she wasn’t happy or satisfied and so the time she spent with her son wasn’t rich in quality. In fact, she tells us how over the years now when she has been working and then spending time with her son, she admits that she gives him better attention when they play and laugh and her satisfaction with life is projected on him instead of the opposite. She isn’t afraid to admit that if she wasn’t a working mother, she probably wouldn’t be a happy mother and being happy is most important for your child because what you feel is what you project on your child. Thus, we must recognise that quality, yet again, is more important than quantity.
The Art of Saying No Yes:
We have spoken with so many women on the subject of cultivating the practice of saying no, but Minal turns the question on its head and talks about the importance of saying yes. As a woman, she admits that very often you have a cloud of self-doubt and a list of questions and reasons why you shouldn’t or won’t be able to do something either because you believe you lack the capability for the task, or maybe you think you can’t balance the opportunity with your home. Minal, personally, made a conscious decision to start saying yes to more projects and opportunities without worrying about how she would come through on them. She confesses that she does not always have all the answers, but she now does not allow her doubts to overwhelm her. She simply takes the first step and then figures everything else out along the way.
And of course, along this way, she adds that one must not hesitate to ask for help whether at work or at home. More often than not, she says that women don’t ask or rather demand for what they want and thus men or others cannot provide that support they need. She jokingly adds though that women must also learn to accept the kind of help they receive and not try to control what they receive. For example, if you need to work and ask your husband to take your kid for a haircut and he gets the kid spikes, deal with it! Minal does admit that in some areas, she too is still a work in progress, for example when it comes to negotiation at work, like most women, she is now confident at negotiating for her organisation but when it comes to negotiating for herself she is still finding her foot in the door.
The Human Side of Interviews, Work and Life:
Something you cannot miss when speaking to Minal is her empathy and it is thus no surprise that she looks for the trait in others too, especially during interviews. She acknowledges that the education and experience are things she has already gauged through a resume, but it is the human side that she tries to connect the dots on during an interview. She watches out for a candidate’s behaviour with the receptionist or the peon and asks questions to unveil a person’s people skills. She is of the opinion that all work is teamwork and thus it is essential to hire people who understand and work well with others.
The last and maybe most important story Minal shares is that she worked hard all through life following the rules, travelling in the Mumbai local, working long hours and at the end of it she is realising that the houses she used to see through the window of the train, regular families, having regular meals, is what life is truly about. Work life balance is thus something that should never be ignored for too long. Family, love, work, purpose, health, recreation are all pieces of a larger puzzle we call life, and the moment any piece is missing, we feel incomplete. As with most things, the proportion and design of these elements differ for every puzzle, for every person, for every life. And her advice thus is to seek clarity on who you are and what you truly want and then ask for it, from your boss, from your family and also from the Universe, and you will be surprised at how much you receive.
A mind so intelligent and a heart so warm, definitely has an exciting life ahead and we can’t wait to watch it unravel.
Minal Srivastava is the Vice President of Growth, Strategy and Marketing at Shalimar Paints, India's first paint company is a pioneer in the field of paints & coatings. She is also a 2019 Awardee for the Exceptional Women Of Excellence, 2019, WEF, And has been awarded One of the 50 Most Influential Strategy Leaders in 2019 and One of the 50 Most Influential Women in 2020. Prior to Shalimar Paints, Minal lead Retail Expansion with Apple in Gurgaon, and prior to that was with Kohler for 8+ years, and instrumental in establishing the brand in India.