Trends like Telemedicine, remote education, working-from-home at scale leveraging digital technologies have received a significant boost in the last few weeks alone and have the potential of leveling the playing field between developed and developing countries.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of my series about how women leaders in tech and STEM are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Priya Bajoria.
Priya Bajoria, Senior Vice President, at Publicis Sapient. Priya has extensive experience in industry transformation utilizing digital technologies and innovation with a unique background in consulting & investment banking. Before joining Publicis Sapient, Priya lead Infosys’ North American capital markets business. Before joining Infosys in 2000, she was an Investment Banker with Merrill Lynch in Asia. Priya is a champion of diversity in organizations, a sponsor/ mentor of women’s leadership networks, and actively volunteers for CSR initiatives.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Inthe mid-90s, when I was graduating with my MBA degree in Finance, the Indian economy was opening up, and there were exciting opportunities available in the Banking industry. I got a job as an Analyst in the Investment Banking team of DSP Merrill Lynch Ltd, and that’s how I started my career in this industry. In 2000, I joined Infosys as they were just setting up a Consulting Practice to focus on Capital Markets. In this role, I was able to leverage both my undergraduate degree in Computer Science and my Finance background to solve business problems for clients. For the last several years, I helped grow the Banking and Capital Markets Practice of Infosys. A few months ago, I joined Publicis Sapient, where we are utilizing digital technologies to transform businesses of Financial Services firms and creating a differentiated experience for their consumers.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
I used to volunteer with a local non-profit organization in New York on their STEM initiative for middle school kids in underserved communities. One afternoon I was at a DNA extraction workshop with these kids where I got a chance to interact with a gentleman who was representing a leading Bank. A few years later, he had become a very senior executive at the bank. I was able to reconnect with him, and he has since been a valuable mentor to me in my professional career.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
There is significant activity in the area of data science/ artificial intelligence in Financial Services. There is tremendous potential to help people, whether it is providing credit access to the underbanked, leveraging alternative data sources to calculate risk, predicting credit card fraud, or reducing cases of anti-money laundering based on sophisticated analysis of historical data and projections.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My sister and I have been lucky to be born to parents who have always encouraged us to work hard and make the most of what life has to offer today. No field of study or career was out of bounds just because we were girls. They gave unconditional support as we made life choices and still continue to lead by example.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
My in-laws, who are seniors with pre-existing medical conditions, are at home with us. We have to be extra careful to avoid leaving the house at all, even for groceries. It has been incredibly challenging to secure a delivery window for groceries ordered online. In the bigger scheme of things, this is just a small inconvenience, and we are lucky that all of us are home together and have stayed healthy so far.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Everyone I speak to has their favorite websites and associated hacks to get groceries delivered. In my case, I have had to be up at odd hours at night and early mornings to somehow secure a delivery slot. In some cases, even if I found a slot, by the time I got the shopping cart ready, I had lost the slot. I can think of so many ways the whole online digital experience user journey can be simplified. But above all, I remain grateful to all essential workers, who are still doing their jobs as shoppers, delivery personnel and of course, medical workers on the frontline, thanks to whom we can continue to lead our lives at home, comfortably despite the crisis.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
Thanks to Publicis Sapient’s global infrastructure teams and the telecom networks, we have had a very smooth transition to remote working at scale, and 98% of our workforce is productive in this new normal. Ensuring the health and safety of our employees and staying close to our teams and clients, although the physical distance has been critical areas of focus in these first few weeks of the lockdown.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
We have increased the usage of collaboration and meeting tools like Microsoft Teams and are encouraging each other to join on video vs. just on the phone. The Publicis Groupe and Publicis Sapient leadership have also been incredibly proactive and transparent in their communications. To stay connected with each other, outside of regular work interactions, we are also doing virtual coffee breaks/ happy hours and even a trivia night that has been scheduled for next week.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
While working from home, working hours typically are much longer without a break for breakfast or lunch. But one is saving a lot of time on the local commute or outstation travel for work. To that extent, it does provide flexibility. All one needs to do is manage their time across the priorities at home and work. It makes it much easier if everyone at home is chipping in to share daily household responsibilities.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?
Regular exercise, yoga, and meditation have been an integral part of what has helped me. Publicis Sapient has provided us opportunities to sign-up for virtual workout classes and get subscriptions to apps like Headspace. These tools have been incredibly helpful in getting through these tough times.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Some of the best minds are working on finding a vaccine and a lot of the world’s resources are being made available to find a long-term solution stimulus plans being rolled out by the Government, especially in the U.S., should provide some stability to the economy which will accelerate the recovery
- World issues like pollution and climate change are getting a much-needed relief as a result of the lockdown
- Trends like telemedicine, remote education, working-from-home at scale leveraging digital technologies have received a significant boost in the last few weeks alone and have the potential of leveling the playing field between developed and developing countries
- Personally, this has been an excellent time for me to spend quality time with immediate family as well as reconnect with extended family across the world, with everyone being home and having at least some time to spare
From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to your family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Most people I know are concerned about what-if their health gets impacted, and the uncertainty of how long the lockdown will continue. Some families are unable to physically be their loved ones, given the local lockdowns and travel restrictions impacting international travel. The employed are worried about salary cuts, furloughs, and layoffs, while those running small businesses are worried about how long they can stay afloat. Staying connected and communicating with friends, family, and an extended professional network becomes all the more critical in these times. I believe it’s essential to understand and discuss one’s options and what-if scenarios. Finding time to learn a new skill that can help in one’s s professional or personal life will also be invaluable.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
‘’Do your best and leave the rest’’; this life lesson has really helped me. I have tried to learn something positive from every difficult experience and emerged stronger.
How can our readers follow you online?
@PublicisSapient @PriyaBajoria on Twitter
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!