Rakhi Voria | ASCEND Leadership Summit Spotlight | 2018

This is a series of spotlight interviews with some of the incredible guests we'll see at the ASCEND Leadership Summit 2018


Name: Rakhi Voria
Company: Microsoft
Title: Chief of Staff to Corporate Vice President of Inside Sales

Follow Rakhi on Twitter @rakhivoria and LinkedIn.

What problem would you like solved? 

I’m very passionate about diversity and inclusion and am a big champion for advancing women. I currently serve as Co-Chair of the Women@Microsoft Board, which is designed to help Microsoft women grow their professional skills and expand career options through access to resources and tools. Leading this group has allowed me to exercise my passion for supporting, advancing, and retaining female talent in the workplace while also building partnerships with similar groups at other companies.

In terms of what I’d like to see change for women in the workplace, I’d like to see more women in middle and upper management. According to the Grant Thornton’s International Business Report, the percentage of women in upper management has been stagnant for almost a decade at 24%. When it comes to the number of women in management in general, the US ranks 37 out of 45 countries. Susan Colantuono, CEO of Leading Women, believes that this may be because career advice for women is often centered around personal branding, networking, confidence, and self-efficacy as opposed to tools to increase business strategy and financial acumen. 

As much as I love leading Women@Microsoft and participating in various women’s advancement initiatives, I look forward to the day when women’s groups don’t have to exist anymore because we’re no longer the minority in the workplace.

Advice you'd wished you'd had or had followed?  

First, emphasize your unique qualities and use them to your advantage. As a millennial and a female, there were times where I was encouraged to “hide my age to gain credibility” or “act like a man since the technology field is so male-dominated.” I don’t subscribe to the notion that we need to “downplay” our unique qualities, but rather think we should use them to our advantage. As a millennial relatively new to the workforce, I think I offer a fresh perspective that allows me to view the business in a different light than my seasoned peers and invent innovative tools, processes, and initiatives. Given that millennials are predicted to make up 50% of the workforce by 2020, why not capitalize on our strengths as being connected, tech-savvy, and energetic?

Second, make sure that the work you are doing is results-focused and measurable. I’ve had roles in sales where it was clear what my accountabilities were (e.g. revenue) and roles on the other end of the spectrum where it wasn’t as easy to see the tangible impact of my work, like business development and marketing. Regardless of the role, challenge yourself to demonstrate clear results wherever possible by setting goals, milestones, and reviews. The Harvard Business Reviewoffers great guidance on how to measure financial and non-financial success via the consideration of cause and effect and key performance indicators.

What does success look like for you?  

In terms of the ASCEND Leadership Summit, success to me is if each participant walks away more informed, empowered, and inspired to take action on workplace inclusion and equity, which is the goal of the event. We’re thrilled to host the event on the Microsoft campus and hope that this summit sparks not only dialogue and partnerships, but also tangible and powerful actions across the community.

What is your best discovery? 

Harvard Business Review’s podcast called Women at Work. It’s a six-episode podcast where HBR editors and guest experts like Arianna Huffington Susan Orlean untangle some of the knottiest issues around being a woman at work. Not only is it a great podcast for women looking for advice on how to navigate through workplace issues, but it also provides great tips for men on how to confront their own unconscious biases and create an inclusive culture. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

My biggest piece of advice would be to throw out the idea of a career ladder and instead focus on gaining a set of skills and experiences that will set you up for the long run. The traditional notion of a linear career path and “climbing the ladder” no longer exists. Because there’s no universal path to success, focus on broadening your skillsets and experiences, whether that’s through stretch projects, travel, or cross-group collaboration. 

Map out your short and long-term aspirations. For me, I’m focused on learning, excelling, and becoming a thought leader in my current position. My long-term aspiration is to hold an executive-level position managing a business. With this North Star in mind, every time I take on a new project or role, I ask myself, “Will this sharpen my competencies around creating, developing, and managing a team?”

Also, give more than you receive. Thank those who have invested in your growth and find ways to pay it forward. Most of us are where we are today thanks to support from others. While it is okay to be focused on personal growth, make sure to place equal importance on team success and developing others. There are a number of ways to do this—mentorship, time, financial contributions. I love the phrase “lift while you climb.” It’s a good reminder that collaboration is key and while we may be individually strong, we are collectively powerful.

Anything else we should know about (product launch, crowdfunding or marketing campaign, recent interview, job openings, etc.)? 

I have a strong passion for advancing millennials and women in business and write articles for Forbes on these topics. Here is the link. Feel free to read, comment, and share!

Register today to attend the ASCEND Leadership Summit on May 30, 2018 at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA. We hope to see you there!