Hema Shah
Hema Shah

Today I bring to you, insights from the life of a fascinating high-achiever – Hema Shah! I have known her for 9 years and every time I thought I had understood the secret to her success, I was in for a surprise because a new secret would reveal itself.

Hema has an illustrious career full of adventurous corporate roles where she was given challenges which others would dread. What made Hema stand out was how she embraced these challenges even if she didn’t know at that particular instant how to conquer them. At IBM, where she had spent 25 years in various roles and retired as a Director, Service Delivery, she had built a reputation of a “transformer” because she could turn around almost anything – broken processes, perceptions, technology and struggling teams!

How do you do this Hema, I asked her. Her effortless response was – “Over the years, I’ve developed a system on how to approach such challenges. And now I really enjoy it”. So her idea of handling a challenge is to have a repeatable process and then enjoy the experience of facing the challenge head on. She applies her creativity, ensures she learns while faced with the challenge and has fun in the process of doing so – the by product would invariably be transformation. Her mantra is “Reflect on your experiences, develop your own unique approach to face challenges and create your own repeatable process to handle them in future!”

I asked Hema about the 3 most significant learnings form her life. What she shared are extremely valuable insights. And they are:

1) No matter whom you are interacting with, literate or illiterate, accomplished or starting out in life, remember, you have something important to learn from them. Respect them, especially, if you want to be successful at drawing it out. It might just be the one thing you really need to know.

2) There is never a bad decision in life. The time to think about alternatives is before you make a decision. Once made, you simply make that the best decision of your life. After all, YOU are the only one that can judge your decision.

3) Don’t expect your job to always deliver money and fulfilment. If it does, count your blessings and remember it may not do so forever. Build up your financial reserves so that you can focus your energy on your passion.

Hema’s willingness to explore her own creativity and interests keep her in a constant mode of learning and discovering new areas to experiment. Needless to say that the outcome has always been spectacular. She is the author of a bestseller called the Vital Upgrade. And I am super excited about her latest venture – her Executive Coaching Practice (http://hemashahglobal.com/)! If you have been looking for a coach, I’d say reach out right away!

How could I miss touching upon one of my favourite topics – Style! Hema’s approach to style is refreshing. She believes that it is never too late to explore personal style. “Don’t be shy, acknowledge you need help and find someone to help. Listen to the advice and then be true to yourself. We all have style by default. It conveys who we are and what we stand for. It is a good idea to have it synch up with what you really want it to be”. In Hema’s words, “I missed the style wagon while growing up. I was raised to believe, that style and looks mattered only to the vain and that simplicity would allow the inner self to shine. It was a combination of a strict convent school and a home where anything beyond the bare essentials was considered a luxury. So when I started working I adopted the inexpensive cotton handloom saris, as my work uniform, and a short cropped haircut that required zero maintenance.
That remained my signature style until I moved to the US and started working in the back office delivery team. I drew my style inspiration from the likes of Bill Gates (on the days he wasn’t meeting clients or investors) and Steve Jobs – a simple, repeatable, don’t think about it kind of approach.
Back in India, on assignment, I revelled in rediscovering my khadi kurtas and handloom salwar kameezes. Though the writing had been on the wall, I realized, only when I was leaving Delhi that Khadi and handloom are more the signature of the politicians and activists than the corporate employee. I think the only reason I got away with it is that I was an assignee into the country.”

Hema and I love discussing style. I love watching Hema create her Personal Style – her own happy place on a foundation of comfort, and timelessness, looks designed around her favorite inspiration pieces and necklaces.”

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