Defining success on her own terms and achieving it by her own rules, Anita has set an example for many to follow

Meet Anita Sanghi, the finance leader who is smashing the glass ceiling

Inspiring, empowering and building the next set of leaders is what drives Anita Sanghi, Senior Vice President and Global CFO - Practices of NTT Data Services. As a senior global finance leader, she believes it is no more about her, but about attracting, engaging, developing, retaining and recognising team members. She is a strong advocate for women believing in themselves and taking up challenging roles in their careers.
Her advice to the new generation is to dream big and work towards attaining it without letting small setbacks demotivate them.


1. Could you take us through the interesting changes in your choice of academics? What made you study science at one point and then move to accounting, finance and auditing? 

I’m glad you noticed this. Yes, I pursued science until my 12th (ISC) with the desire to pursue engineering.  However, my parents decided I should switch to commerce - to be able to help with our family business (distributors and retailers in hardware).  My brother was quite young, and my father had just moved out from partnership business, this time to start something on his own.  Those three years were a huge learning experience, and my father realized I could do well if given a specialised education.  That was the trigger for my parents to send me to Mumbai to do my articleship as a part of my Chartered Accountancy curriculum.  It was not an easy decision to send a girl from a small city like Rourkela to Mumbai, especially in our Marwari community.  I am always grateful they did because that opened an entirely new world to me - I am happy that I was able to navigate well.

2. You worked closely with the General Manager - India Integration for IBM for 11 months. How did that experience help you grow in your personal and professional lives? 

This was a very critical decision for me and highly influenced by my manager as a leadership development opportunity I should explore.  Moving from a pure finance position to working closely with the most senior business leaders was a challenge I embraced then.  As a part of the new role, I helped drive important cross-organisational initiatives that have subsequently been replicated around other growth countries.  It was a role filled with rich learnings and one which took me a step closer to my first executive role in IBM soon after.

3. Could you tell us about the most challenging situation/s you have faced in your career yet and how did you tackle it/them? 

There were times when I thought I had to work harder than some of my male counterparts to prove myself and felt disadvantaged.  An interaction with a very senior female leader helped me find a silver lining in this disadvantage. She said women have an instinct to doubt themselves, and because of that they end up preparing more for anything they do, hence most often end up doing better than their male counterparts. This outlook helped me cope, but I still find that this need to prove myself more than my male counterparts has been a disadvantage, and a sad reality, that I try to change for the women who work with me.
There were times where my job required me to stretch my work hours. I always advise women that it is important to enrol their families into their dreams and aspirations, what the job means to them and what support they need from them.  Most often support is very forthcoming, the mistake we make is “not ask”.  My family has been extremely supportive and constantly motivates me to embrace challenges.

4. In your current role as the Senior Vice President, Finance, NTT Data Services, how do you manage the work-life balance?  

In my current role, as a senior global finance leader, I believe it is no more about me but about attracting, engaging, developing, retaining and recognising team members.  The best way to develop leaders is to actively hire the best and delegate effectively.  Delegation has a two-fold advantage, 1) no better way to develop next line leaders than delegate and empower and 2) manage your work-life balance and free up time to invest in strategy and innovation.

5. Your advice to India's youth

First, I am a big admirer of the current generation, as they are much more intelligent and driven by a purpose. This is an era of opportunities and possibilities and therefore I would advise them to dream big and pursue their dreams without getting knocked off by interim failures.  I read this beautiful quote by Abdul Kalam “Dreams are not those which comes while we are sleeping, but dreams are those when you don't sleep before fulfilling them.”
The only thing I would caution is to stay humble, respect others’ feelings, needs, knowledge and experiences- especially your parents and those who have helped you in your journey.

6. Could you share your mantras for a successful career with us? 

For me, ethics and attitude come first. These are not choices but a way of life.  I believe these set the foundation for a successful career.  I believe your thoughts shape your life, so you think negative and that’s what you attract and vice-versa.

It took me years to understand some of this.  I have erred in picturising myself as a victim of circumstances and learnt over a period of time that this state of mind can only attract more negative situations in my life. The space where I am in now is to believe in myself, always think positive and really celebrate life.  I always place myself where I want to be. For instance, there have been times when I felt I deserved to be in a more senior grade than I was placed in, the mantra I practised was “Act, dress, behave like the leadership grade you want to achieve, and very soon you will find yourself there”.  I have practised this, and this has never failed.

7. How should career women manage their investments? Would you like to share some tips?

To start with I think women have to un-condition themselves from thinking that managing money/investing is part of the male domain.  So, let’s not evade the responsibility of actively participating in managing our finances.  
Over many years I have learnt that having a balanced portfolio of investments is the best strategy coupled with a structured investment plan.  This is one area where the mind (not the heart) should be allowed to rule.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article by Anita Sanghi are her own, and do not necessarily reflect those of or its owners.


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